When we see someone in trouble we want to help. But when we bring God along, it is often counterproductive.
Suppose a person has suffered a terrible loss:
“I heard you are in need, I’m going to pray for you.”
“I heard you are in need, what can I do to help?”
Each friend is acting lovingly. They both want to help.
To be fair, the Christian may pray and also offer practical help.
But what does religion add?
It deflects responsibility: “your problem is in God’s hands.”
It corrupts empathy: “God gave you this problem so I would have a purpose today.”
It corrupts friendship: “I’m here to help you, but only in ways approved by Yahweh.”
It encourages judgement: “God gave you this problem because you did something wrong”
It encourages solipsism: “My prayers to God will be heard, even though yours were not”
It discourages listening : “God knows what your real needs are, not you.”
It distracts us from each other: “Let’s focus on this passage from Isaiah”
It offers false consolation: “God took your baby girl to heaven to help the angels.”
It threatens you when you are in need: “You must have faith or God won’t help”
It guilts you: “You should have prayed more.”
It trains you to think wishfully: “God please help the medicine work better this time.”
It encourages superstition: “God likes you to show your faith, so wear your crucifix.”
It discourages critical thinking: “You only need faith”
It denies evidence: “Trust God, even though that didn’t work last time”
It gives permission to stop caring: “God decided it wasn’t meant to be”
It discourages our best efforts: “Whatever happens, it was God’s will”
It denies us our hard won accomplishments: “Thank God, you did it. Praise the Lord.”
God may exist – I don’t know. The reports are inconclusive. But even if a God does exist, aren’t we better off ignoring the conflicting claims about what He might want of us – at least until those claims can be reliably verified?
Isn’t that a fair request?
We should be able to simply ask, “What can I do to help?” without assuming
an invisible, unaccountable authority is randomly limiting our options.