November 14, 2007

Georgia Governor Prays for Rain. Nothing Happens. Big surprise.

As promised, Georgia governor Sonny Perdue led a mass prayer yesterday. About 250 true-believers showed up to join him in asking Jehovah to give them water, please, because the entire state is on the verge of turning into dust and blowing to Kentucky. That would be bad; there are face-biting rattlesnakes in Kentucky.

So these people prayed and sang and waved their hands in the air like Jesus just don't care (there's video available, but you'll have to watch a commercial first) and... nothing happened. Not a drop of rain fell from the sky.

A rational person would probably be thinking, "Hmmmm, that didn't work." Not Sonny, though. His reaction to the vast cosmic indifference that inevitably greets supplications and mystical gestures?

Gov. Sonny Perdue wasn't the least bit discouraged Tuesday after his hourlong state Capitol prayer vigil for rain ended with the sun shining through what had been a somewhat cloudy morning.

"God can make it rain tomorrow, he can make it rain next week or next month," Perdue told reporters who asked him if a miracle was on the way.
Or he could make it rain in a year or a decade or a century or... not at all. In fact, I'll go with that last option. We have a pretty good idea about how this whole rain thing works at this point in history, and here's a tip: mumbling and gesturing at the sky has no part in the process, and no spirits, ghosts, goblins or unicorns are involved. Believing otherwise is usually deemed superstition, and rightfully so, unless you happen to believe in the same ghost as the Guvnah, in which case it's called religion. Someone swinging a dead cat over their head to make it rain is crazy; somebody singing songs to a 2,000 year old dead Jewish carpenter is spiritual. Got that? Glad I could help straighten that out for you.

Perdue draws an interesting conclusion from his notion that rain and the lack thereof is the result of divine intercession:
Perdue said after the event that Georgians have not done "all we could do in conservation" and that the drought was an attempt by God to "get our attention."

"Hopefully we will be better conservators of the blessings God's given us as he gives us more [rain]," the governor said.
See, he can't tell when God is going to make it rain, but he knows what Jehovah is angry about this time. It couldn't be that Jehovah is angry about the poor conservation practices of a century ago when lumber companies were busy stripping Georgia of its pine forests, and it isn't that swine farms have been dumping animal wastes into rivers for decades. It's not that Jehovah is angry at Georgia for electing Perdue governor, for that matter. Sonny knows different, even though he hasn't a clue when said deity is going to end the punishment. Thinking like this bring to mind for me an image of a little hamster on a squeaky wheel going round and round in Perdue's head.

It also brings up a basic problem I have with the concept of prayer; it's a good way for people to feel like they're doing something about a problem without actually doing anything at all. The religious will object to this, but I don't see a bit of difference between prayer and wishful thinking. One may as well be daydreaming about one's fairy godmother waving her wand. It accomplishes every bit as much. For those who object, this latest bit of religious hand-waving is a case in point. Where's the rain? Now, in all fairness, rain does appear to be on the way; it was predicted before the latest prayer vigil ever took place. It isn't going to be much, though.
"We're not going to break any drought," said meteorologist Robert Beasley. "But it's better than nothing."
Meanwhile, is there some coherent plan for the future coming out of all this praying and singing and gesturing? Nope. Not a word about finding new ways of getting water to the people who need it.

A few protesters, concerned with this rather egregious violation of church-state separation, tried to drive their point home at the event, but they weren't allowed to get too close:
Twenty-two protesters were forced to stay more than a block away, out of earshot and out of sight of the prayer service, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. They were members of the Atlanta Freethought Society. Signs include "Hail Priest-King Perdue" or "Pray on the Church Steps, not the Capitol Steps."
Why were they kept away? The Atlanta Freethought Society isn't exactly a violent group of people, and they have a very good point. For the governor to lead a prayer service at the capitol, and an all-Christian one at that, is clear endorsement of a particular religion by a government official in an official capacity. Of course, the right to peaceful but effective protest is like all rights these days. You only have it if your local government feels like giving it to you, and if you hold a view that isn't shared by that government it's off to the "free speech zone" with you. This is what America is turning into, and certainly a bunch of people who question the existence of Jehovah and the efficacy of ritualistic supplication aren't going to be allowed anywhere near a pray-in held at the building for which their taxes pay. Didn't we have a revolution in this country over "taxation without representation" once? Maybe that was the "old" history, before the revisionists started turning the revolutionaries into religious figures.
It was a head-scratching experience for some observers, as state Rep. Melvin Everson noted.

"I know we're on the Capitol steps," he told the crowd. "And it's quite all right."

"This isn't the first day he's been on his knees in prayer for rain," Cagle said of Perdue. "This is not a ceremony. It's an action of calling the entire state to pray."

The event was billed as an interfaith ceremony, but only Protestant ministers spoke.


So, let's face it; this prayer thing has been tried a couple of times now and it isn't alleviating the drought. It's time to turn to Tlaloc. Let the child sacrifices begin!

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