“In prayer, you should stay silent.” ”No, you have to pray out loud!”
“Your thoughts, you share with God alone.” ”No, share them with the crowd!
“Your prayers must follow models; you can’t make them up yourself!”
“If prayers are from the heart, then leave the Bible on its shelf!”
“Your prayers are adoration to the lord, thy God, above!”
“If you ask, it shall be granted, be it health, or gold, or love!”
With all the disagreement on the proper form of prayer,
It’s enough to make you wonder if a God is really there.
So, yeah, the New York Times Sunday Magazine has a story today entitled "The Right Way To Pray?", with the tag line "Americans aren’t sure they know how to talk to God. Fortunately, there is plenty of instruction available." Not "Many Americans", or even "Most Americans", let alone "Some Americans". Americans. So I guess I am not sure I know how to talk to God. Fortunately or unfortunately (see how easy that was?), there was this article to enlighten me.
(Oh, there was also a link to the comments section, with the phrase "How do you pray? Share your experiences." Again, the assumption is there, taunting me.)
The article, predictably, found that the "plenty of instruction" often disagreed (but one is left with the notion that, no matter how you do it, it is better to pray than not to... even though the author does not pray, himself). Even better, the comment section disagreed. Not nearly enough atheist voices among them for my taste, but that is just me, and you will recall from above that I do not know how to talk to God.
Anyway, I have come up with a solution.
Part of the problem, of course, is that these people are talking to a fictional entity, and asking for advice, or saying how cool He is, or asking forgiveness of Him rather than of the person they slighted. They aren't getting answers, because they might as well be asking the Cat in the Hat. So, it seems to me we need a Living God. And heavy though the burden may be, I am hereby declaring myself to be a god. Maybe the only one, for all I know, but I do know that I exist, and that I can give advice, and that I can declare myself to be a god.
So. The first question, then, and the reason for me being a god in the first place, is this silliness about "what is the right way to pray?" No more asking a mute god and getting to make shit up; I am a god that will actually give an answer. There is a right way to pray, and as soon as I decide what it is, I will let you know.
Ok, I have decided.
First, I don't want you praying to me at all, although I will tell you how to if you must. You see, most of the stuff people pray for, I can't give you. I'm not omnipotent, nor omnipresent, nor omniscient. There is a name for the sort of god who is those things. Fictional. Me, I'm just me, although I am now a god. Because I said so. Exactly the same authority as any other god.
So, no praying to me except in conditions which require you to. For instance, if a different religious group gets permission to pray in public school, and in order not to violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment you need to have an official prayer to me (by the way, in situations like this, I not only will accept your prayers, but I will demand them--I am not a fickle and jealous god, but if I were there would be plenty of precedent). If your principal or superintendent doubts your religious sincerity, have them call me. I will assure them that, yes, I am a god, and yes, I require a very particular prayer ritual. Should they question it, I can only ask that they likewise question any and all other religious rituals from other gods.
The ritual? Oh, it is fairly simple. You take a relatively small animal (a large rabbit, for instance, or a small lamb), and have two strong people hold it firmly. While shouting, loudly (if at school, I require the public address system to broadcast the entire ritual), the verse "The Octopus Gods", repeatedly, but slowly, stab the creature with a well-sharpened number two pencil. The goal is to get it to scream, loudly and horribly, as it dies. If it takes a while, repeat the poem.
I very seriously do not anyone to pray to me. I sincerely hope this ritual is never used, not even once. But it is the only proper way to pray, according to this self-declared god. And if any other religion gets their prayers in public school, I want mine there too. Well, actually, I don't, but the law is the law, and if one religion gets in, we all do.
It occurs to me that there are some other benefits of being a god. For instance, one of the chief uses of gods these days is as someone on whom to foist unpopular or immoral decisions, like "God told us this was our land", or "god hates fags", or "god wants us to kill abortionists". Well, I'll have none of it. You see a guy with a "god hates fags" sign, I can guarantee he's lying, and I am happy to be quoted by news outlets. No more "god was unavailable for comment" (wouldn't that actually be nice to see in a story); next time a tortilla gets scorched, Fox News can call me to confirm or deny. Hey, I won't lie--if I actually did do it, I'd admit it.
I can't really offer forgiveness, but then neither can the fictional gods. I can, however, tell you to go and beg forgiveness from the people you hurt, and to work to make it right again. Yeah, not what you want to hear, but the alternative is admitting that all that praying to the fictional gods was just to make yourself feel better.
Hmm... Just thinking.... I may have to change the "tip jar" into "tithes and offerings".