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Praying for College Students? 10-10-10 August 9, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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So, apparently there is this thing called 10-10-10.  On August 10th, 2012, at 10AM, for 10 minutes, people are supposed to pray for all of the students headed off to college in a few weeks.

I never understood things like this.  I mean, I don’t believe prayer works, but even if I were to lend some legitimacy to prayer as an idea, are prayers which are done at a certain time, by many people, about a particular thing supposed to be more powerful?

Is this akin to getting a bunch of people to sign a petition to the president? (please sign that, BTW,if you already have not.)

Well, let’s take a look at Matthew 18:19 (ISV):

Furthermore, I tell you with certainty that if two of you agree on earth about anything you request, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven,

So, the book of Matthew claims that any two people who get together for a cause, and pray (appeal?) to sweet baby Jesus (or perhaps in his grown up avatar of old-bearded-white-guy.  Sort of like The Dude, but not as cool) then he shall do your bidding.  Something like that.  I personally never gave much thought to mentally controlling the universe through imaginary friends.

Image from the TV show ‘God, the Devil, and Bob.’ Apparently God (right) is an old hippie and Satan (left) was me in grad school. Except I drink beer. And I don’t have horns. Maybe.

What is clear here is that such a thing as 10-10-10 is not intended primary as a petition to the lord and creator of the universe.  It is intended as social media.  It is intended as a media campaign to get people to think about something.

Just not to do anything.

Because there is no reason, empirical, logical, etc, to think that prayer can accomplish anything.  Rather than waste time praying, we need to do.

And there are things we can do to help freshmen starting in college.  Hopefully, we have already worked towards giving them the best high school education we could, including excellent intellectual foundations in science, writing, and study habits.  Hopefully their parents, friends, and the world around them generally have given them good models for rational thinking, self-challenging, and emotional strength.

But now that there are people going off to be more independent, most for the first time, we can begin trusting them now.  We have to start thinking of them as adults, treating them as adults, and give them the wisdom of adult understanding of the world.

This means a healthy scientifically-based understanding of sexuality and safety.  It means at least a basic understanding of personal finances.  This means expectation of leaving your likely-parochial worldview; a preparedness to meet and interact with people with vastly different worldviews than they know.  It means these and many more things.

But in general, if we are concerned with students and young people in general, we need to be working, not praying, to make the world around us better.  We need to be educating ourselves, challenging our sacred or merely closely-held beliefs, and we need to address real problems head-on.

No god is going to help us.  Because if a god exists, it is clearly not interested in getting its ‘hands’ dirty.  The paltry, megalomaniacal, jealous god of many scriptures is not one I would depend on, even if I thought ‘He’ existed.  All evidence points to the only way we are going to get through this life is through mutual effort.

If I were the type of person to try and liberalize scripture to some warm-fuzzy interpretation, I would take Mt. 18:19, quoted above, as an ecumenical, almost secular message about working together.  It would mean that our actions, working together, would be the hand of some god, rather than our own effort.  But that is simply overly-metaphorical and ultimately anti-humanistic.

So, the next time I have a beer in my hand I will tip it in salute to all the new freshmen out there, as well as those getting ready to enter the “real world” at the end of the year.  Remember to challenge yourself, question your assumptions from time to time, and to get out and actually experience the world and other people.

Go out and have some (or a lot of) consensual sex, learn new things, develop a quirky hobby, listen to new music, read something not assigned by a professor, and occasionally have all night sessions of philosophical or personal discussions. In short I think students should learn, enjoy life, and transcend what they currently are.

Don’t take advice from conservative-minded people who seem afraid of “temptation” and leaving your confines of a tiny, religious, worldview.  More and more young people are leaving religion.  Let’s help that trend accelerate.  With the SSA around, I know that there are excellent people already doing so.

What do you think we can do to help students prepare for college or for life-after-college?

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Comments»

1. Amanda B - August 13, 2012

This is excellent. I believe in God, but I probably spend more time reading your blog than I do in church. Posts like this remind me of why. Thanks!

2. shaunphilly - August 13, 2012

Wow, can I take that as a compliment? I mean, I spend more time falling from cliffs than in church, but these things are relative.

😉


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