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The Lord's Prayer - A Critique

07 March 2013, 15:06

Let us pray…

"Our Father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us,

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever,

Amen".

Wow, but this prayer speaks volumes about the religious! It starts out with an incantation that sets the mind of the devoted into a mode of complete subjugation by adopting the paternal hierarchy. And Christians, as we’ve seen, like the idea of paternal discipline. Why not Teacher? Or Great Spirit, as the native Americans supposedly say? Change the title and the dynamic changes. If it were an inanimate entity such as Life Force, how would that impact the “relationship”?

Then the believer expresses the wish for a new kingdom. Now this is a problem – for the rest of us, for the environment, for major world issues – because this simple wish signifies a desire to withdraw from reality into a mythical future where all is perfect, and by aligning himself with the top dog, er… god, the believer assumes that all imperfections will disappear. When the rapture comes, all aircraft controlled by religious pilots will crash, the trains will stop, farms will die. This is also naivety in the extreme, because there is no certainty that the domain of said god is any less troubled than that of the world. After all, we hear about a war in heaven in which the devil is cast down, bickering angels, and then the experiments that God has conducted in creating evil (yes, he did, he said so apparently).

Again, aligning himself with God’s will on earth as well as in heaven is just a dynamic that results from the alpha-male strategy being promoted by the religious. It always provides assurance when you’re in the good books of the strongest kid in the playground. And anyway, who is to know what God’s will actually is? Who is to interpret it? Praying that God’s will be carried out is actually requesting that humans somehow be directed or driven to act in compliance with it – which contradicts the notion of free will; it’s not free will if it’s done because God agrees to make it so. This is a very confused prayer request indeed.

What is “daily bread” and why should it just be given to us? Why is nothing promised in the prayer in exchange for it? Surely we should be offering something in return, like proper stewardship of the planet that God reportedly created? The values expressed here are terribly vague, but seem to point to an expectation of God to support us. What happened to working for a living, and contributing to society and the world through one’s efforts?

Forgiveness – always a good idea, so this is good. But you don’t need to be religious to understand that.

The temptation and evil bit is interesting. Not “lead us away from temptation,” but rather “don’t lead us into it in the first place”. What does this say about free will and sin? It seems to suggest that God is partly responsible for our sins, since the prayer asks for him to modify His normal behaviour, which is to lead us into it. No, Father, no – stop leading us there! As for delivery from evil, I’m reminded of Solzhenitsyn’s words where he describes the line between good and evil residing in the human heart – how can we be delivered from something that originates within us?

And the last bit is just buttering up the big guy for good measure.

So all in all, the Lord’s Prayer is just a confused petition to retreat from the natural responsibility required of anyone living on a finite-resource planet – in other words, from reality. It provides no guidance on good citizenship and positively encourages us to be passive recipients of all we need to survive.

What I’ve just realized about the Lord’s Prayer – there’s no gratitude. It’s all about me, me, me, interlaced with praise for a deity from whom we hope to get something, whether it be bread or eternal life. And the best bit is that there's nothing requested in it that can be tested - unless you're a breadless pauper starving on the streets.

Here’s an alternative:

“Great Spirit that resides in all,

We thank you for the abundance of Earth,

Which we shall tend and care for,

as we hope to be cared for when in need.

We commit to do unto others

as we would have done to us,

and to exemplify the virtues that we hold high.

Until we, too, return to the dust of which Earth is made

And provide nourishment to those who follow beyond.

For the earth belongs to all, and to the earth will all return

For as long as life remains”.

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