I am not a person of faith, and there are times when, amidst the aggressive religiosity of American life, including things I think are systematic problems with religion and politics*, that I have some empathy for the New Atheists. But honestly, if there is a group of dudes more obnoxious than smartest boy urbanists, it’s the smartest boy atheists.
Anyway, the whole “thoughts and prayers” thing strikes me as yes, a legitimate critique. It’s generally very nice to pray for somebody, and if a person genuinely believes that God intervenes, then thanks for doing that, and the rest of us really don’t have any business being nasty and trying to shame people for practicing their faith. You can’t conclude that they haven’t supported the right policies or donated money just because they are praying, too, just like you can’t conclude “liberals never help their individual neighbors” because one liberal neighbor didn’t help you that one time. (I do, my husband is honestly the most helpful man you will ever meet, embarrassingly so).
HOWEVER, you can ridicule Paul Ryan for his thoughts and prayers all you want because you know for sure he’s not going to pull his head out of the NRA trough.
This situation always reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:
So there is a terrible, terrible flood, and a religious man refuses to evacuate, saying that God will take care of him.
The flood waters rise, and soon he can’t evacuate because his car is flooded. The sheriff comes in a boat, and says “Hop in.” The man responds, “No, no, God will take care of it.”
The waters continue to rise, flooding the first floor. The man has to take refuge on the second floor. Soon, the National Guard is at the second floor window, urging him to jump in their boat. He responds, “No, God will provide. God will take care of me.”
Water, continuing to rise, eventually drive him up to the roof, where a rescue helicopter comes by. Its crack rescue team tosses a rope down to him. He refuses, again, reasserting his faith that God will provide.
Finally, the man drowns, and since he is generally a good man, he goes to heaven, where he meets God. He said “God!! I prayed to you! I had total faith that you would save me! Why did you let me drown?”
God, who in my mind sounds like Rodney Dangerfield in this joke, says, “Dude! Come on! I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”
If there is a God, she’s got a sense of humor.
*There are systematic problems with everything, so whatevs.