Q: Rick when you wrote be back in January, could you say that the thesis of your letter was there is nothing that fails like prayer. Would that be fair?
00:33 That is probably correct and it was based right after the (Virginia)mining incident.
Q: Why do you feel so strongly that nothing fails like prayer? Well, when I access and make my opinion about prayer I use reason.
I make it independently of established belief and authority. And so when you do that you see many circumstances were it didn't work. It didn't get answered. And that's what plays into my decision.
Q: Does it bother you, whether its me at ten o'clock or a preacher in a
story that's run or in the newspaper that attributes that has happened as a cause and effect from prayer?
Not directly. I'm very happy for you or someone else to have an
opinion that differs from mine on all sorts of subjects. The only time it would a bother is if I feel it is connected or representing something more or further. Some type of intellectual oppression by dogma and if it goes that far then I have a problem with it. But generally no, no problem.
Q: But it bother you that night? (Night of Virginia Mining Accident)
Well, like I told you I thought it was over covered and we talked
about that generally. But in addition, it bothered me a little bit because of the high level of those people who were so concerned about their relatives. Their husbands and their fathers. And how honestly and earnestly they were praying to their God to save them and prevent them from harm. And how joyful they were when they believed it to be true and a couple of hours latter, sure enough it wasn't true. So to me the process of prayer not only failed it put them through some severe agony when it was supposed to be helping them. So that bothered me.
Q: So is that hard for people... We are on different sides of the table
personally on this issue, so is that difficult for people who don't or for yourself who don't believe there is significant power in prayer that people put so much emphasis on it... do you find it counter productive for people to put so much emphasis on prayer.?
Well if it fails it seems like it is not productive. You know,
after the Katrina hurricane and all the disaster there were calls for a day of prayer by the Governor of Louisiana. I read someone's comment on that and they said a pair of helping hands would be more useful than a pair of praying hands at that point. And it wasn't prayer at that point that was going to get into the boats and go out and help these people out of their stranded houses. And so to that extent if prayer causes hesitation of action in a time we need action then I think it is counter productive. But I have no problem with someone believing that its going to work or that it did work in any circumstance that we can talk about.
Q: Does it make difficult for you, in a community where a large part of the
community believes in prayer, to try and have a conversation with people about that? That some folks are not even open to discuss one side and the other and have a dialogue about that?
Q: About prayer?
About prayer or religion? Lets say prayer. Not everyone is as easy
to talk about it as you are. Because I think not everyone respects that people can and do have different approaches to the subject. That in my case if subject comes up...my general rule of thumb, if it comes up for any reason I'll try to discuss it with them. I try not to confront them I try to let them know I use reason, I fell very comfortable, in fact I fell unencumbered by my position and by my opinion.
Q: But when you hear, whether its a preacher or an activist lay person, talk
about religion or prayer and go on and on and on... Do you find it driving you even further away from considering that prayer might work?
Any proponent of an idea that gets in your face or becomes
unpleasant usually harms his advocacy. So that can happen. Of course you know in plain life around here you generally don't have a problem. I don't find people coming to me and bringing up the subject a lot. But when it does happen there are some that you can talk to better than others. And so yeah, I have a simple definition and litmus test and it can be summed up at the smell test. But I mean I'm choosing reason and if something passes that test, it is the same what I make a lot of decisions in my life not just all important things perhaps, I use reason and I make my mind up so it feels good to me and it seems logical. So, if...when they are unreasonable or don't use reason its harder for me to talk to them about it.
Q: We talk about prayer, religion, faith a lot in East Texas. For you and
people who think like and might be afraid to speak out, do you find a shallowness in people who as soon as they hear something say, let me pray for you. Or, I'll get someone to pray for you.
Well I recently had some medical issues and a lot of people told me
during that time that they would pray for me. And some of them knew my opinions about prayer and some of them did not and I welcomed them. I said their offer of prayer is appreciated. I don't find when I'm out and about that....you said did they take it out of the church or synagogue or whatever, more than they should. (08:23) They only time I personally have a problem with it is when they try to expand and ignore my constitutional rights. The first amendment specifically. That bothers me. And there is a lot of that and there has been and probably will be and we'll be talking about that for a longtime. But I support a strong separation of church and state.
Q: I'm also assuming that it bothers you too when they try to explain things
that have happened because of God's will or because of prayer that you intellectually have not found evidence there that that is what happened?
It doesn't bother me I just don't agree with them perhaps depending
on the circumstances. We are generalizing, I also don't want to generalize about all people I run into because its not true because there are plenty of exceptions. But I will accept your premise that there are, you didn't use the word majority, but I think there is probably a majority of people that in the area, Smith County or whatever, that believe in a monotheistic god. They may be Muslim, they may be Jewish, they may be an Abrahamic God in that sense, but that doesn't mean we can't go exist or I have a problem with or you were using the term does it bother me...no. Its just they have their beliefs and I have mine and that's why we live in a country that can have different beliefs and different religion.
Q: When I talked to Dr. Toussaint, even he admitted that prayer is such a
big subject even people in the religious community have a hard time getting their arms around it. One of the things he said was we have to step out in faith and let God be God. From a religious point of few is that something you can accept from people who believe in prayer?
Its funny that you said that, I don't consider myself a religious
expert by any means. But I grew up in a Protestant Christian tradition and I had many years of indoctrination and exposure to it just like a lot of people here have. And there are different ways to approach a discussion, debate or argument about any religious subject and on is within a paradigm within their religion. In other words using their holy text as a basis of discussion. The bigger one that I am more interested in is not using the holy text but just using reason and other means to determine. (11:21) But within the holy text, there are, at least in the Bible, I can't speak for the Muslim or Jewish versions and all the others that may exist, but in the Bible there are verses that make me wonder how to reconcile what they say when they pray to God and they don't get it answered. I mean I've written a couple of them down. Matthew 21 says "and whatever you ask in pray you will receive if you have faith." It doesn't say some of the things it says whatever. In a similar verse in Mark, I mean John 14 it says "whatever you ask in My Name I will do it. That the Father may be glorified in the Son." And the Mark 11 says, "therefore I tell you whatever you ask
in prayer believe you have received and it will be yours." So when I saw
those people in West Virginia a week or two ago, they look pretty earnest, they looked like they believed. And the really looked like they believed after they got their prayer answer, they were exclaiming such. Very jubilantly, and I understand why they would, but that prayer wasn't answered, clearly. They didn't pray for those guys to die and not make it out. And just in the last day or two there have been a couple of others deaths in West Virginia mines. And in fact prayer is not what's going to keep them from dying. The Governor did an executive order that said we are going to stop all mine operations until we make it a safer place. So that is what is going to help those miners. The lack of oxygen or the bad air is what killed those guys, and if they would have been saved it would have been the rescuers that would have saved them. Not the prayer. So its another example, I mean there is an unlimited number of examples, but its a recent one. A dramatic one and an unfortunate one for those people who had to suffer twice and then go back to their church where they were ringing their bells and wonder why it wasn't answered.
Q: So you really believe that everything that is going to happen, happens
for a natural reason?
Prayer itself is a subset of a belief in a deity. I don't think you
could have prayer to a non deity. The point is I don't see prayer working and every time that it is alleged to work I see coincidence that as...that there are always one or more logical, in fact even more probable reasons why the event happened. So yes I think things are going to happen and I don' think that prayer is going to change those events. I think the helping hands rather than the praying hands might change some events help someone better but I don't think we have ability to do what I said in those verses I read.
Q: So when you talk about the faithful and prayer, I assume that for many of
them prayer brings hope. Where does your hope come from?
Well it depends what you mean by hope. There are times that I can
see that prayer and the concept of their religion is hopeful or brings hope at a time that you might not have hope. But I use the same process personally, in other words I use my logic, my reasoning and my intellect to say you know what is the probably out come here. In other words am I going to die or am I going to live. And when I was laying in the hospital you know I thought you know is pretty dismal, its a dismal point of view if you have some problems and so you go its likely I'm going to live. Because... And you list the reason in your mind. But a prayer, that didn't save the miners, wouldn't have made any difference. It was the doctors or the nurses or the medicine or the procedures that got me out of there. So that's what I use.