Last Monday evening, I attended a community forum panel discussion about “does god answer prayers?” I wanted to hear what the atheist member of the panel said.
Panel members included:
1. A retired Presbyterian minister,
2. A female Jewish Rabbi (this lady),
3. A Messianic Jewish Rabbi/pastor (this guy), [Note: Messianic Jews are Jews for Jesus and are not recognized as Jewish.]
4. I didn’t hear the word atheist said all evening, even during the moderator’s intro of him. He authored this.
I would say the panel was a representation of the religious minorities in this community. Most people in this county are Nones in that they claim no specific religious group, but few are atheist. Other than that, most others are Christians: Evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and Baptists.
The atheist, retired minister, and moderator were all board members of the Community Forum which sponsored the event. That explains the atheist’s presence on the panel.
It would have been a better panel if it had included a Baptist or Evangelical Protestant, a Catholic, and no atheist or ‘Jews for Jesus’. I think that would have better represented the religious demographic of the overall community.
The three panel members who were religious ministers agreed that god answers prayers. If there were 100 of them, they would all have agreed.
However, having an atheist on the panel may have contributed to attendance. He was why I attended. People enjoy controversy, which was obviously avoided at the cost of quality.
The moderator said that this was the best-attended of the forums thus far. I counted slightly more than 100 attendees.
I felt disappointed with the atheist, an older PhD dude, who said, “God does not answer prayers.” Said like that left too much wiggle room for existence. Gods don’t answer prayers if gods don’t exist.
He offered empirical research evidence, which he said proved that god did not answer prayers. He did a good job of staying on topic and not offending anyone, but that should not have been his goal. The research evidence he mentioned proved nothing, much less the negative (not answer prayer) he proposed.
The Messianic Jewish Rabbi spoke in typical bible-belt, fundamentalist rhetoric. At one point he said that he would make a poor Southern Baptist because he occasionally enjoyed alcohol. I thought that if he removed his little cap and told me he was Baptist, I’d believe him.
His evidence of god answering prayers was that someone with stage IV cancer was cured with prayer. The pastor did not give a name or say if any medical intervention occurred. He also cited Chick-fil-A as further evidence. He said it was the top selling fast food business despite being closed on Sundays, but he was wrong.
The eat mor chickin business is currently reported as 7th in the fast food store sales behind Micky D’s (#1), Starbucks (#2) and four others. While Starbucks is a lightning rod for religious criticism of everything from their holiday coffee cup designs to the occasional idiot store manager, they are doing ok. Number 8 is currently Dunkin’ Donuts, another coffee empire.
The Presbyterian could cure insomnia. He said the amount of faith one has contributes to the likelihood of a prayer being answered. This idea of needing strong faith to be good enough for god translates to god plays favorites.
When the real Jewish Rabbi and Cantor stood up, she did the best of the four, despite (or maybe because of) frequently wandering off topic. Once she had to ask the moderator to repeat the question she was answering.
She wore a stiff, black, sequined, kippah or yarmulke that stood-out in her abundant bright blonde hair. Her floor length, straight, black dress with long sleeves was attractive, but in good taste and appropriate for a person of her position.
Bar none and by far, she was the most attractive Rabbi, or Cantor, I have ever seen. Her focus was more on style of, and reason for, prayer. She did not present arguments about whether god answers prayers, which she seemed to take for granted.
She favored chanting or singing of prayers in the original language (Hebrew in her case), a proposal I support over the random, impromptu wanderings of many long-winded lapses of reality proffered by Evangelicals and Baptists.
While there was potential for interest, the vanilla, shallow, and predictable comments of panel members were disappointing. Maybe the community forum should pray for enlightenment and better clerical participation in similar future endeavors.
Look both ways and reflect on what is real. Mind the gap.