I was walking along my street on a Sunday morning when Plato joined me in my journey. He did this quite often and I was not surprised. Hi, I said, as I unplugged my earphones and hung the cords around my neck. The road was clear of traffic and the only signs of activity were the churchgoers who swarmed the street at every intersection.
We walked on silently until Plato, who had been studying the churchgoers with keen interest, pointed to a group waiting at a junction and asked: Who are these people and where do they hurry?
– They are Christians—a religious philosophy, I replied as we walked. Their philosophy surrounds the worship of one God. Today is their holy day. Those people you saw are journeying either to or from their places of worship. The magnificent building you saw at that turning is called a church, it is one of the places they worship.
– Do they not all worship in one place?
– No. There are many variations of their beliefs. Each variation proclaims itself to be the true philosophy and condemns the others as false. The Christians are incapable of all worshipping in one congregation. This is not a matter of size, but of principle. If such an event was arranged, arguments as to the procedure and practice of appointing their priests, the dressing of their congregation, the manner of offerings and tithes, the solemnity of the music, their attitude towards the sick and the poor, even their holy day and so many other theologies will arise and may lead to bloodshed.
– Ah. They must be a riotous lot, Plato said. Is that the reason for the noise we heard in the building yonder?
– Not at all. That was the sound of prayer?.
– Prayer? Why does it have to be so violent?
– That wasn’t violence. That indicates the level of their intensity. When the Christians feel so strongly about a personal issue, they invariably turn to God. They communicate with God through prayers and plead, cajole, threaten, bluster, flatter and praise him in turns in an attempt to force his answers to their requests.
– Tell me more about their prayers.
– Christians are not the only religionists who have a concept of prayers. Muslims and Jews do so too, as well as some pagan philosophies. The Christians, however, are unique in being the most consistent at wielding it as a tool of their philosophy. They brandish it as a sword and hide under it as a shield. They are proud of this fact and they believe the greatest gift they can make to an individual is to pray for the person. They have prayers of adoration through which they flatter God, prayers of expiation through which they acknowledge a breach of their principles and beg forgiveness of God, prayers of supplication—the most widely used—by which they petition for their personal needs or intercede for others, and prayers of thanksgiving. They start their day with a prayer and end it with one. At the beginning of an event a prayer is in order, and a prayer rounds it off. In the middle of the night, their voice is raised in prayer; at the workplaces; school assemblies; political rallies; hospital visitations and every aspect of their lives is infused with a prayerful element. Prayers are an important element in the Christian worldview. It is possibly, the only single aspect of their diverse philosophies in which they are united.
– Has it occurred to them that they do not treat God with the respect he deserves? Do they not insult his intelligence and trouble him by their constant haranguing?
– How is that? I asked, puzzled. Their scriptures admonish them to pray without ceasing.
– Let me show you in figure the nature of these prayers. Take any manufactured device, for example, look at the device in your hand. What you refer to as a phone.
– I see it.
– It is a most splendid creation. It is beautiful. It functions well and can fulfill the purposes required of it. It was designed to make your existence comfortable and save you labour and time. Do you agree?
– Of course.
– The designer must have contemplated the purpose and form of the device mentally. He then sets his thoughts down on paper and expends immeasurable time structuring every aspect of the device to make it workable and useful. He considers potential problems and outlines how to solve them. He reflects on the environment in which the device would be utilized. If he is a careful designer, he designs it to match with every challenge that may arise in that environment. Is that right?
– Satisfied with his ideas, he runs a test of the device. He notes the problems and makes adjustments where necessary. He ensures that the device is perfect and needs no further input from him. To prevent the user from accidental damage to the device, he provides an instruction book for the user. Having been satisfied, he then hands over the device to the buyer and proceeds to concern himself with other things.
– Now, suppose a buyer gets his device—a phone. He admires the packaging and he reads the manual. He is so impressed with the beauty and intelligence of the design that he decides he cannot make use of the device without first consulting the maker. He then writes to the maker asking for help in using the device and explains to the maker that he will not switch on the device until he gets the maker’s consent. Do you suppose the maker will take him seriously?
– The buyer is obviously a joker.
– The buyer, however, takes himself seriously; the instruction manual has told him to write the maker if he has issues with the device. Will such a buyer not believe that the maker’s existence revolve around him? Will he not believe that he deserves every minute of the maker’s attention for every little detail regarding the device?
– He will. He will assume the maker is on standby to attend to him.
– So he writes the maker everyday and ignores the device. The device stays idle and cannot fulfil the purpose for which it was created. In the process of time, the buyer will surely complain aloud and blame the maker for giving him a useless device. He will envy and hate those who are able to make use of their devices; he will become dissatisfied and spread stories of the uselessness of the device and begin to look for another product.
-On the other hand, he may resign to a life without the device, and assure himself that the device was not meant for him. He will admire others who are able to use their devices and comfort himself with the knowledge that the maker has the power to do and undo, to give and to take away, to make some happy and others miserable all for the maker’s own end.
– That again is a possibility.
– What do you think will happen if a third party shows up claiming to have a direct connection with the maker? What if to prove his point, the third party writes to the maker and that same day the third party is able to take the previously idle device and make it function?
– The buyer will obviously welcome him and praise him as an excellent fellow.
– Will the buyer not make any required payment to the third party to ensure an uninterrupted use of the device? Will he not call the third party a priest and a shepherd? Will he not utilize the device as the third party directs?
– The buyer certainly will attend to the needs and desires of his rescuer. He will not use the device without the third party’s go-ahead.
– Will the third party not assist the buyer in the gradual use of the device as long as the buyer believes that his requests to the maker will be answered only if he goes through the third party? Do you think the buyer will be convinced by anyone that the third party is a charlatan and that the letters to the maker are a sham?
– As long as he is able to use the device, he will not believe anyone who argues to the contrary. He will refer to his evidence and say: if this man is a charlatan, why then can I use my device? Why does it work for me?
– What if you point out others who do not go through third parties of the sort and who are having a happy time using their devices. Will he not say that they use the device at their peril and future destruction certainly awaits the device?
– Surely. He will only be too glad to point out the error of their ways.
– What do you think will be the reaction of the maker if he was to take note of these events? Will the maker not be extremely vexed? Will the maker not explain that the device was perfect and needed no further input from him or anyone else?
– The maker will be justified. However, Plato, what of accidents that the maker could not have foreseen? It should be okay for the maker to attend to the requests of the buyer in such situations. Will he not expect that defective devices should be returned back to him?
– That is correct. Now, if the maker was able to design the environment in which the device was to be used, will he not design a hospitable environment? Or will he design an environment that will prove damaging to the device? Will he provide an environment that will make the device unusable?
– Certainly, if manufacturers could control the environments of their products, they would use it to their advantage. Their products will be indestructible. He would have structured the environment to accommodate the device in every way.
– If he has designed a perfect product in an environment which cannot damage the device, will he expect daily requests from the users of the product asking for the help the device is expected to render?
– Definitely not.
– Will he not be surprised to see a volume of letter at his door asking for advice and help in using the device or in achieving the purposes the device was meant to fulfill? Would he not feel insulted and chagrined that the buyers of his product are ignorant and undeserving of the device?
– That is bound to happen.
– This allegory describes the nature of these Christians and their belief about prayer. They seem to be an undeserving lot who expend much time and energy seeking God’s attention instead of concentrating in utilizing the powerful brains he has given them. Their prayers are an insult to God. They have made him into an incompetent manufacturer. They do not stop to contemplate the inherent impossibility of an omnipotent God creating an imperfect person. They rely instead on their priests to guide them in the use of their brains and allow themselves to be deceived.
They think their prayers are flattery but God has no use for it. If he listens at all, they are mere irritating noises. Every prayer is a statement that his products are defective. Why should he then answer these prayers?
Look at the rest of nature. Each living organism utilizes the device it has in existing successfully. The birds fly, the fish swim and the rest of nature glorifies in their existence. The mere functioning of their bodies is a satisfaction to their maker. He does not need any further prayers or obeisance.
These Christians are a mutation of nature. They indulge in lazy prayers and complain when an answer is not forthcoming. However, there is nothing to answer, the products are functional and the environment is perfect. The buyers are defective.
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