When Christians see something wrong in the world, they often get together to pray about it. In America, we even have a National Day of Prayer, May 1. This year, there's also going to be a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It's kind of a laugher, as there are somewhere between 41,000 and a billion Christian denominations on earth, and the bitter hatred between many of them has fueled the war forges for as long as we can remember. I suppose we can be happy they're trying to do something about that.
Of course, that's the problem with prayer, isn't it? It doesn't seem to do very much, other than make people feel good about having done something. If the Christian god was answering the prayers of his followers, we'd expect to see the evidence, but we do not. Social science has been separating people by religion for years, and there's just no evidence that anybody is getting special treatment from some unknown force. Christians pray for healing, but they're just as sick as the rest of us. They pray for peace, and unfortunately, they don't practice it very well. They pray for rain, and droughts continue. Prayer just doesn't seem to work.
With this in mind, Foundation Beyond Belief had a crazy idea: A week of action! In a press release on April 24, the 501(c)(3) organization announced that it has "designated April 24-30 as a Week of Action during which local groups have scheduled service projects to improve the lives of others in some tangible, meaningful way." The idea started with Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom, who felt like the National Day of Prayer was so much hokum. He said:
"If prayer is expressing a hope that things go better, the way that humanists do that is they get out there and they act. Just sending words up into the ether expresses our opinion but doesn't have a real impact in the world. If we want to have real impact in the world, we should do something."
The week of action actually kicked off a little early, with the Humanist Community of Central Ohio's blood drive on April 23. On the 24th, the Pikes Peak Atheist Families and Peak Atheists will collect items for a domestic violence shelter. So far, there are 23 events scheduled around the country, and surely more will follow as word spreads.
The good news for local humanist communities is that there are a lot of things that don't take a lot of people, and can even be done by individuals. Unlike prayer, even the smallest charitable action has a measurable effect. For my own part, I'll be sending a special donation to two local charities I admire. It's not much, but at the end of the week, I'll be able to say I've done more than all the millions of people who will be "sending words up into the ether" on May 1. I'm encouraging everyone reading this to do at least one thing this week to honor the Week of Action and show that actions matter more than prayer.
If you don't have something local in mind, there are plenty of good options on a bigger scale. Personally, I like the idea of both spreading awareness and giving to charity at the same time. I know of two great organizations which do just that. One is Be Secular. Over the past months, this company has been heavily involved in organizing the secular community and raising awareness of secular charity. They also donate substantially to groups like Camp Quest, Secular Student Alliance, and Recovering from Religion.
I spoke with Shanon Nebo, president of Be Secular. She had this to say about the "Week of Action:"
Positive action for our global community has to be about so much more than promises and good intentions. Foundation Beyond Belief recognizes the need for tangible effort, and Be Secular supports this Week of Action and their many other endeavors for change by donating 50% of profits from customer designated sales.
If T-shirts aren't your thing, there's also a new and growing movement to make secular radio happen. Secular.FM is an online 24/7 streaming radio station broadcasting secular and atheist content. It features some of the best podcasters in the community and is growing every week. They are largely funded by listener support, and 25% of that money is donated to charities. Last month, they donated to Foundation Beyond Belief, and this month, it's Pennsylvania Nonbelievers. Tanner Campbell, of Secular.FM, told me he hopes to be syndicated on the FM band by 2018. (Full Disclosure: I am a contributor at Secularite.com, a blog network founded by Tanner.) If you want to contribute to this cause, visit them at this website.
The secular community may be small now, but it's also growing fast, and making the kind of connections that will enable us to do more and more good in the world. It won't be long before people will laugh at the idea that Christians are more charitable than secularists. Please join me in acting during these next 7 days, even if it's just sharing this article on Facebook or Twitter, or donating a dollar or two to secular radio. All these small things add up, and every one of them is better than the entire National Day of Prayer.