Blinded by the Light
March 10, 2005 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Things are looking up for London. With the launch of and with just a few quiet minutes alone, you can pray for a specific area of London and if we all get together, we can complete the 24/7 Shield of Prayer.
posted by Arch Stanton (23 comments total)
A Prayer Shield, because God loves to cause those "natural" disasters, but can be dissuaded from poking your particular anthill if you propitiate him.

Then he'll concentrate his efforts on smiting the heathen with, oh, big waves, providing you and your righteous friends a chance to show them (and their orphaned children) that your Invisible Sky Ghost is bigger and more of a badass than their Invisible Sky Ghosts.

My grandmother just turned 81, she's been a Christian of one Protestant denomination or another all her life, and when I recently tried to explain why Jesus creches on public property are demeaning to non-Christians, she derisively accused the ACLU of trying to "protect the opinions of minorities". (And yes, she thinks only Fox News gives her the straight story.)

Lately, as a part of her Sunday School studies (yes, they have Sunday School for all ages) Grandmother has been reading the Book of Genesis. At dinner recently, she remarked that she was somewhat shocked that Genesis was, in her words, "so immoral".

I guess it's because of stuff like that, that the Catholic Church wasn't so keen on Gutenberg or the Protestant idea of Christians reading the Bible for themselves.
posted by orthogonality at 10:00 PM on March 10, 2005

Is today "bash the Christians day"? If so, then I didn't get the memo.

Just to make it clear, not all Christians believe in "prayer shields".
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:08 AM on March 11, 2005

This is compelling evidence that Andy Kauffman is alive and well.
posted by mullingitover at 3:01 AM on March 11, 2005

Every day I am newly struck with awe regarding just how much God doesn't exist.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:09 AM on March 11, 2005

Does this have anything to do with those, "Church, but not as you know it," posters that are suddenly appearing at Tube stations? Popping up like warts on the face of a much-loved Zsa-Zsa Gabor? The posters with the funkier-than-thou guitar-playing Christian?

Thinking about it, this could fit in nicely with my "Pay A Tramp To Pray" project, whereby (for a modest commission) I will seek out members of London's homeless, and provide them with a can of Special Brew, in return for them babbling a barely coherent prayer for a punter's soul. Maybe LondonPrayer will let me take out a banner ad on their site.
posted by veedubya at 3:32 AM on March 11, 2005

Gacked from their website (go to it and click on the teensy little © London Prayer URL at the bottom) -- instead of an "About us" page, you get a marquee containing a large lump of boilerplate legalese starting with this:
This service is provided by ChurchInsight (a trading name of Endis Limited, a private limited company incorporated in England (Company Number 04072126) and having its registered office at 182 Histon Road, Cambridge, CB4 3JP, UK (“CHURCHINSIGHT”) on behalf of LondonPrayer.Net ("London Prayer") whose office is at to you ("you" or "user"), subject to the following terms and conditions of use ("terms of use").
Apparently I'm not supposed to post anything defamatory or illegal on their site, but I'm not sure because the terms and conditions of use run to 2060 words and apparently a lawyer got paid for writing every last one of them.

I wonder where they got the money from? After all, this is in a country where according to the 2001 census:
Fifty-eight per cent of people in London gave their religion as Christian, with the highest proportion in the borough of Havering (76 per cent). Thirty-six per cent of the population of Tower Hamlets and 24 per cent in Newham are Muslim. Over one per cent of the population of Westminster are Buddhist, while Harrow has the highest proportion of Hindus (19.6 per cent) and Barnet the highest proportion of Jewish people (14.8 per cent). Over eight per cent of the populations of Hounslow and Ealing are Sikh.
Sixteen per cent of the population of London say they have no religion, including 25 per cent in the City of London.
It's worth noting that a large majority of those declaring themselves Christian are in fact non-observant (attend church once per year or less) by American standards. So what is this website actually about? And why is the owner apparently a limited company and not a charity?

Strong suspicion: those whacky rich American evangelists are at it again.
posted by cstross at 3:47 AM on March 11, 2005

Just to make it clear, not all Christians believe in "prayer shields".

Why is that? Do they think it's superstituous nonsense?
posted by biffa at 4:11 AM on March 11, 2005

The issue of prayer is far more nuanced to the Christian than it would seem to the outsider. Each denomination takes serious issue with methods and beliefs of other denominations -- for instance, to the Protestants, a prayer to Mary is a heresy.

As a former Christian (evangelical) , I do have trouble understanding why modern people believe in the religion, but it seems uncouth to mock the belief system so scathingly in a public forum. Arch has given a chance for a more mature discussion of the concept of a prayer shield.
posted by NickDouglas at 4:49 AM on March 11, 2005

There are obviously loads of weird and freaky things that people claiming to be christians get up to and quite often loads of hilarious and, sometimes quite scary, examples are linked to on metafilter.
In this case don't really think there is anything that remarkable about a website that is about christians praying. (shock horror!)

Maybe we could balance it out with a link to website dealing with the heroic and noble things done in the name of atheism.
posted by jaksoul at 4:51 AM on March 11, 2005

Well spotted, cstross. Endis is an internet company based in Cambridge (UK) specialising in 'bespoke applications for banks and brokerage houses'. However, they also seem to have a sideline in religious software, and have produced a software package called Insight ('Endis Insight' .. geddit?) which they market to individual churches who want to set up a website. Most of their clients seem to be Baptist and Pentecostal churches in London and East Anglia.

I agree with you, there is something slightly mysterious here. The main Endis website doesn't seem to make any mention of their religious software -- I wonder why not? Perhaps they are afraid that the banks and brokerage houses will take fright?

However, I don't think this necessarily means that the whole London Prayer business is being managed by some shadowy religious organisation in the States. It simply means that the website has been designed by a commercial software company. As to your question about 'where is the money coming from?' it's worth noting that many evangelical churches in Britain are actually fairly wealthy, (a) because many of their members tithe their income, and (b) because their overheads are fairly low (so that most of their income can go, in evangelical-speak, into subsiding 'mission' rather than 'maintenance', unlike the Church of England, where most of the money donated by the faithful has to go towards propping up the church buildings and paying for clergy pensions).
posted by verstegan at 5:03 AM on March 11, 2005

Hey, every day is "bash the Christians day" for me, tddl. Actually, "bash the religious" would be more accurate. I have to follow my faith, you see. It just seems right to me.

I always enjoy "wacky believer" links and it's nice to see that my erstwhile home town is being looked after. I'll know who to thank when a tsunami fails to smite the Thames barrier and drown the city.

jaksoul: I like the idea of linking to a website dealing with the heroic and noble things done in the name of atheism. We could follow that with links to sites dealing with the heroic and noble things done in the name of "not believing in magic teapots", "not believing in Santa Claus" and "not believing in invisible space camels". Imagine the fun!
posted by Decani at 5:13 AM on March 11, 2005

Decani: I don't understand what you're saying. Your beliefs (or lack of) have a clear and direct influence on how you live your life and the choices you make.
The point I'm making is that alot of energy and attention is focused on the many hypocrisies within Christianity (which is fair enough) but very little on the equally bullshit hypocrisy found in the atheist or new age movements.
posted by jaksoul at 5:51 AM on March 11, 2005

jaksoul: I was just having a bit of fun with the idea that a group of people who simply happen to share a lack of belief in something constitutes a "movement" which one might expect to do movement-y things together.

I think the reason a lot of energy and attention is focused on the many hypocrisies within Christianity is because, er, there are many of them and they have had - and continue to have - a visibly deleterious effect on humanity and human progress. I really don't think the same can be said for atheism (I trust we're not going to go the "Stalin" route here...) and I confess I'm not at all clear what "bullshit hypocrisy" you are referring to with regard to the atheist "movement". (There really is an atheist "movement"? Could you send me the registration details? It sounds like the sort of thing I might be interested in.)

I'm also utterly baffled as to why you lump "New Age" and atheism together in the same sentence. That really does strike me as exceedingly odd.
posted by Decani at 6:17 AM on March 11, 2005

bullshit hypocrisy found in the atheist or new age movements

Like the shit done in the name of moral relativism. Or Marxism. Or eugenics. Or radical environmentalism. Or anarchism. Or Randianism. Or nihilism...

Would you agree with me that every belief system has caused horrible acts of inhumanity?
posted by NickDouglas at 6:29 AM on March 11, 2005

Yeah, I would agree with NickDouglas here and say that I think your being pretty selective/naive with your criticism of belief systems (which is kind of my point).
posted by jaksoul at 7:05 AM on March 11, 2005

Hey, every day is "bash the Christians" day for me

Yes, Decani, I'd noticed. It was tiresome on Monkeyfilter, it was tiresome on Viewropa, and it promises to be equally tiresome here. Can't you find a different song to sing?

Anyway, welcome to Metafilter, and I hope you stick around longer than you did on Monkeyfilter, where, if memory serves, you were banned after about six weeks.
posted by verstegan at 7:26 AM on March 11, 2005

Hey, I didn't know that people were banned from MeFi? What gives?

I just thought that maybe god smote them down or something.
posted by mooncrow at 8:00 AM on March 11, 2005

verstegan: If memory serves me, I didn't do that much christian-bashing on either MoFi or Viewropa. You found a couple of examples, certainly. There may well be a couple more, I wouldn't deny it. Sorry you found what I did do to be tiresome. What can I say? Anti-religious activity is a very important part of my life, but it's certainly not the only one and I think you know I found a number of other "songs to sing" in my short time at MoFi. Pity they gonged me before I got to the first chorus, but hey, so it goes.

Apologies for allowing myself to be briefly derailed. Let's get back to the topic of the thread, shall we? Who will pray for Tooting Bec?
posted by Decani at 9:16 AM on March 11, 2005

Decani: We could use more irreligious thinkers and shakers here, so welcome to the flock ;)
posted by baphomet at 10:09 AM on March 11, 2005

The American's are building a Prayer Shield as well. This one seems less expensive and equally effective.
posted by srboisvert at 11:17 AM on March 11, 2005

I'm really tired of the view that equates science with a religion, and thus, "just another worldview". It's not - science is a method for understanding, it's a process, a way of understanding things, for making progress and making sense of the universe around us. Above all, science is most definitively not a "big book of facts", immutable and never-changing. The scientific method makes predictions, and tests them. It is empirical, and, best of all, scientific theories and experiments work and give the same results no matter whether the participant believes in them or not. A result that does not correspond with a prediction does not threaten to destroy science, it extends it. The ultimate arbiter of truth in science is nature; the ultimate goal of science is to understand all of nature's truth. It is not necessary to ascribe a motivation to nature to understand it, to posit intentionality, or to believe that man is somehow "chosen" or "special" in any cosmic sense.

Faith is the polar opposite of science - it requires suspension of disbelief and critical enquiry, it abhors empirical evidence, does not predict results, let alone allow them to be reproduced, and, cannot admit of inconvenient facts that contradict its orthodoxy. Furthermore, it is structurally incapable of admitting its own inconsistencies, logical fallacies, and contradictions, for anything that is not covered in the ancient texts that form the core of belief for the people of the book is pronounced to be "the will of God" and thus beyond man's feeble understanding. It is thus a Hermetic body of knowledge that requires that its adherents simply swallow it whole - it cannot be tested empirically, and, above all, requires that its adherents simply buy into its tenets, no matter how wacky or untestable they may be, no questions asked.

Show me someone on board an airplane who says that science is no more valid a "belief system" than religion, and I'll show you a hypocrite. Faith in an invisible superhero in the sky never kept an aircraft in the air, but the scientific principles discovered by Bernoulli, Coanda, Cockerell - and testable by you and me - do so every day. And get this - they would do so even if these guys hadn't discovered them - but it still wouldn't be the work of an invisible superhero in the sky.

As for it being uncouth to mock religious belief in a public forum, I think it's the lack of skeptical challenges to religious claptrap and the patently ridiculous notion that all belief systems are equally valid that has gotten us into the ridiculous situation of having to fight a rearguard action to keep "intelligent design" out of the classroom. Believe in whatever fantasy or myth you want to in your spare time, indoctrinate your own kids in the evils of skeptical enquiry and godless science if you must, but please, when it comes to trying to raise the next generation of rational thinkers, keep your superstitious nonsense at home.

As for a mature discussion of the concept of a prayer shield ... I'm sorry, I'm not sure I see what there is to discuss. Perhaps we could discuss the equally valid concept of a fairy shield or a little green aliens shield or perhaps just a plain old "happy thoughts" shield?
posted by kcds at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2005

Wow, kcds. That was really well thought out, intelligent, and coherent, three adjectives not usually used to describe comments on the internet. Thank you for your contribution.
posted by Arch Stanton at 3:56 PM on March 11, 2005

kcds: eloquent, incisive and true.

Your second paragraph should be tattooed on the forehead of any person who ever advances the fatuous notion that science and religion are "just different worldviews", or any similar variant of such woolly-minded nonsense.

I'm joking, of course.

It should be branded on their arse.
posted by Decani at 4:22 PM on March 11, 2005

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