Don’t offer ‘thoughts and prayers’, for God’s sake!

I’m on the mailing list of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the nation’s premier peer-reviewed scientific journals, on account of a letter to the editor I wrote five years ago. (That’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Today’s inbox contained a link to this recently published paper (emphasis mine):

The value of thoughts and prayers


A standard response of both policy makers and private citizens to hardships—from natural disasters to mass shootings—is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Critics argue that such gestures are meaningless and may obstruct structural reforms intended to mitigate catastrophes. In this study, we elicit the value of receiving thoughts and prayers from strangers following adversity. We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.

“Willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers”, eh? If so, how much?

Fig. 1 suggests that, on average, Christians value prayers from a priest at $7.17 (SE = 1.09) and prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36 (SE = 1.01). These values are significantly different from zero (z = 6.56, P < 0.001 for prayers from a priest, and z = 4.30, P < 0.001 for prayers from a stranger). In contrast, the nonreligious are “prayer averse”: on average, they are willing to pay $3.54 (SE = 0.81) for a Christian stranger not to pray for them (z = −4.34, P < 0.001). Likewise, they are willing to pay a priest $1.66 (SE = 0.75) not to pray for them (z = −2.22, P = 0.027).

I must say, that’s quite a statistically robust analysis!

Keep watching this site for a PayPal link. Not only am I willing not to pray for just about any atheist you can name, I would be willing to offer group discounts not to pray for large groups of atheists.

Not-to-Pray Price list

  • Individual atheist: $3.00.
  • Family of atheists (up to 6): $10.00.
  • D-list celebrity: $25.00.
  • A-list celebrity: $100.00.
  • Small liberal arts college: $1,000.
  • National university (Div I): $10,000.
  • Hollywood: $100,000.
  • Other fees upon request.

My goal is to become the Jeff Bezos of not praying for people.

Of course, as a Christian, it is my obligation to love my neighbor as myself. One could say that it is a Christian imperative to pray for all sinners, both religious and nonreligious, anyway.

But if I’m found out, what are they going to do, sue me? As the old saying goes, No harm, no foul!”

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