Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: relationships (page 1 of 2)

Some of us don’t need a gay son to change our minds.

Ohio senator Rob Portman has become the latest Republican to reverse his opposition to gay marriage.

Why the switch? Like other Republicans, one of his kids is gay.

“It allowed me to think of this from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman told reporters during that interview.

Before I get started, let me just say that this is a powerful argument for coming out. Closet cases, take note.

Senator Portman: I’d like to say good for you for not turning your back on your son. Many parents of gay children do, and it puts them at higher risk of suicide. It’s always challenging to change deeply held views, and you did it. Well done.

But — you didn’t change your mind until this issue affected you personally. It’s like that king in the story of St. George. When the commoners’ kids get sacrificed to the dragon every day, it’s unavoidable. But when it’s the princess’s turn, then — holy crap! — it’s time to do something! I don’t find the king to be a terribly commendable character. Maybe if his reasons for doing the right thing were a little less egocentric.

Do you think that next time you have a moral decision — health care, euthanasia, climate change — you can remember this, and maybe just imagine what you would do if you or someone you love were affected, instead of needing to have it play out?

I suspect that if you did this, you might not be a Republican for very long. But give it a try, okay?

UPDATE Jon Chait:

Portman ought to be able to recognize that, even if he changed his mind on gay marriage owing to personal experience, the logic stands irrespective of it: Support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind.

Matthew Yglesias:

It’s a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people’s thinking. And good for them.

But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don’t just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son’s eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn’t that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn’t to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It’s to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don’t have direct access to the corridors of power.


To be sure, I’m genuinely glad Portman has done the right thing, and can only hope it encourages other Republicans to do the same. What I find discouraging, though, is that the Republican senator was content to support discriminatory policies until they affected someone he personally cares about.

What about everyone else’s sons and daughters? Why must empathy among conservatives be tied so directly to their own personal interactions?

Meme alert: Any good man and any good woman

“Do you think it’s true that any good man and any good woman can make a relationship work?” a friend asked me today.

“No,” was my immediate response. I’m a good man, and my relationship with a good woman didn’t work. I guess it depends on what you call ‘good’. But if you go there, the whole proposition gets untestably vague. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh,” she said, “I was in a relationship with a Jehovah’s Witness guy once, and that’s what he said.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s odd. They used to say the very same thing in the Mormon Church. Exact same wording and everything.”

Unless he was actually a Mormon guy, and she got mixed up. But she should know, wouldn’t you think?

Like I say, I don’t believe it. Maybe two good people can tough it out, but will they be happy? I think the extra effort is going to cost them in other ways.

But let’s not go too far the other way, and say there’s a “one” out there for you. I’m with Dan Savage: there is no “one”. But there are lots of .8s and .7s. Then you round up to 1.

And I think it helps if you can start as close to 1 as you can. My wife and I are about a .995 for each other. And that makes it so much easier and nicer.

But it got me thinking: Why would it benefit a religion to have this “any good man and any good woman” belief? I have one possible answer.

Religions operate well in a ‘bubble’ — an environment where only positive information gets in, and disconfirmatory information bounces off. People inside the Bubble continually reaffirm to each other that life inside the Bubble is good, and life outside the Bubble is dangerous and scary. It’s very nice.

For the concept of a ‘bubble’, this video is worth watching again.

There can be lots of bubbles. Utah is a bubble for Mormons, as are parts of Idaho. But when your religion doesn’t have a geographical majority, the most effective bubble is a family. Marrying outside your faith is a killer for religious bubbles. It helps you see someone else’s point of view too well. That’s why religions explicitly forbid it.

Now imagine that you’re a member of a minority religion, and you’re only supposed to marry within your faith. The dating pool is going to suck. (Mormon YSAs: amirite?) So the “any good man and any good woman” idea is a way to convince people to settle for someone of the same religion who’s not right for them. It’s amazingly effective at building bubbles — as well as miserable but occasionally functional relationships.


I am pleased to announce that Miss Perfect and I are married!

The wedding was on a lovely Saturday afternoon, just a couple of weekends ago. The bride was radiant in her dress, the groom dashingly handsome in tails. After photographs and dinner, we danced all night. It was a beautiful day with family and friends.

I used to have a hypothesis about weddings, and it was that they’re intended as a stress test for the relationship. If your relationship could survive the planning, the organisation, and the negotiation of a thousand details, then you passed the qualifying round. But this wedding wasn’t like that at all, mostly because Miss Perfect did such a great job of organising things, and we fully agreed with each other on colours, typefaces, flowers, cakes, and music. We worked together to make invitations and menus. There were only a couple of times throughout the process when we asked each other: Why are we doing this again?

Why were we getting married? Secular atheists don’t need marriage. We’d been living together, sleeping together, building our home together for the last five years. We were already both committed to each other for the rest of our lives. We won’t change, we told each other. We won’t start acting ‘married’ — wait, is that a bad thing?

Okay, so if nothing is going to change, then why go through an elaborate wedding and become married people?

And the answer was simple: It was a chance to throw a really great party. No, really; great clothes, a choir, music, pomp. Especially the pomp. What a great opportunity to gather a whole bunch of people together (even family and friends from America) and have a whole day to celebrate love and relationships.

But the thing about that — after the wedding, for a couple of days, we were on a huge high from the outpouring of love from everyone and from each other. It was like being on a serotonin water-slide, riding on waves of affirmation from everyone.

We noticed another thing after the wedding. We felt like more of a couple. Of course, we walked around the house saying, “Hello Mr” and “Hello Mrs”, enjoying that unfamiliar strangeness. But we also felt more solid somehow. More established and grown-up. Our relationship was official. Society approved. Which is silly, but that’s how it feels. It feels like being real.

Marriage equality has been on my mind. Washington’s gay-marriage initiative passed last month (and I was pleased to have voted for it). However, in Australia, it’s still not legal. The marriage celebrant even had to include this little gem in her bit:

Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life …

which discriminates against not only my gay friends, but also my polyamorous friends. Seriously — isn’t that the kind of thing adults can decide for themselves? We have a long way to go, it seems.

So amid the wedding buzz and all the friends and the food and the love, and above all, my beautiful bride and I entering into a new stage of our relationship with a shiny new official status, I thought: Screw anyone who would try and prevent someone – anyone, I don’t care who – from having this, from feeling this way. It’s too wonderful to stop. Seriously — find me someone who thinks this. I’ll slap them upside the head and ask what’s wrong with them. Consenting adults in a loving relationship shouldn’t be allowed to have this amazing experience? Just because you don’t like their kind of relationship? Get out of town. This attitude isn’t just bigoted; it seems to originate from a kind of viciousness that’s worse than mere bigotry.

There are many arguments for marriage equality. Some involve hospital visits and wills, and some involve basic fairness. I’d like to add one to the list. Having a wedding is wonderful. So is the way you feel about your partner and your relationship afterward. That should be for everyone.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Our wedding booklet contained this snippet:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.’ Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 2003

A mixed-orientation marriage that works?

So there’s this gay guy, right? And he’s Mormon, and married to a woman. Sadly, not as uncommon as you’d think.

But the story of Mr and Mrs Weed is a bit different because they both knew going into the relationship. He’s come out of the closet to tell their story.

I guess the premise of this post is to share that not only am I homosexual, but I’m also a devout and believing Mormon. And that I’m very happily married to a woman, and have been for ten years now.

And for the first time, we’re talking about it publicly.

So he’s gay. She knew about it. But they’re in love, have three kids, and a working relationship in which they both seem very happy, including a functioning sex life.

This story has garnered a lot of love among Mormon women on Facebook. Friends of mine are saying

  • I loved this xx
  • Very very very cool.
  • I think he is a hero.

I can see why they’d think that because his story is tremendously affirming for the beliefs of Mormon women, two core beliefs in particular:

  1. Gay people ought to abstain from gay sex for the entirety of their lives, and this is proof that it can work!
  2. Sex isn’t very important to a relationship. Why should men get to have the kind of sex they want, and why won’t my husband quit bugging me about it?!

So you can imagine the Facebook fury when I tell them that this is a terrible idea, and I give the whole thing ten years.

Am I a hater? No, I just realise that sex is important, and while you may be able to bury yourself in the kind of lifestyle you think you should want, a lifetime is a long time not to be getting the kind of sex you really really want. It’s a setup for cheating, and then he’d be the bad guy for a) having gay sex, and b) cheating.

Sure, it can be pulled off, and I hope they do. But how does it sound to you? Let’s just say there was a church that only allowed gay people, and you really believe in it, although you’re straight. If you really really tried, could you find a nice person of your own gender that you liked and respected, and maybe even have sex, even though you know you don’t find that kind of sex appealing? You probably could, especially if you regarded it as a sacrifice of faith. (And if you believed that God would fix everything in the life beyond.) But acting contrary to your orientation is just that — acting.

The Mormon angle is bugging me, too. They’re making this decision because, yes, they love each other and want a family. But they also believe the Mormon Church is the One True Church, and it’s telling him that gaysex is wrong, and that he should abstain. I’m a big believer in informed consent, but it needs to work all the way around; they know what’s going on with each other, but they’re not aware that the church is — frankly — a mess of men’s opinions, built on lies. If this man came to realise that, the anguish might be considerable. Or not, if he felt lucky to have been with his wife, which he well might. But you need to know, you know?

He writes movingly about God’s love for gay people:

I want you to know that God loves you, and that even though you are attracted to people of the same gender, you are a completely legitimate individual, worthy of God’s love, your family’s love, and the love of your friends. You are no more broken than any other person you meet. You are not evil. You are a beautiful child of God.

This would be news to the God of the Bible, who couldn’t stand gay people, won’t let them into his kingdom, and has commanded that they be killed. But I guess since Mr Weed has come this far, he’ll believe in whatever kind of god he needs to. Theism is so often projection and wish-fulfillment.

Another sad thing: despite the author’s best intentions, this will be used as a stick to beat gay people. “Hey, this guy can do it. Why can’t you?” Mixed-orientation LDS marriage is one of the tragedies of the Mormon experience, and this may tip a few people to try it. (It should be noted though that the author doesn’t recommend this lifestyle for everyone.)

Maybe they can manage it. I really hope they do — we don’t need more unhappy relationships. At this stage, he’s a data point. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My hope is that they can keep it together, or at least work together and remain friends, when he moves on to his real sexual orientation in his early-to-mid forties.

Another thing: Notice how he talks about ‘authenticity’, and claims that by having an LDS lifestyle, he’s being authentic to himself.

No, you’re being authentic to the Mormon Church. I’ve written before about how Mormonism is so all-consuming that Mormons often conflate their own goals, desires, and even their identities with that of their religion, so much so that when I insult the church, they think I’m insulting them. This is another manifestation of that.

Creepy Jehovah’s Witness video

Uh-oh! Looks like little Caleb has brought home some competing fiction! Mom knows that her Bible fiction won’t survive against it — it’s far more interesting — so it’s time for a guilt trip at the family table! (Fast forward to 2:58 for the video.)

Maybe AC Grayling was wrong — he suggested substituting ‘God’ with ‘Fred’ or some other name, just to show how silly the whole thing is. But ‘Jehovah’ sounds pretty silly to me, and they’re still buying it.

I imagine this is intended to help JW parents remove unwanted elements like ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘critical thinking’. It’s really terrible parenting, but it’s disguised as good parenting. Notice that Mom doesn’t yell or scream, or throw the toy in the trash. What she does is much more sinister: she manipulates the boy into caring for the feelings of an invisible bronze-age Hebrew deity, and acting accordingly. Check him out; he’s absolutely gutted.

Do you want Jehovah to be sad?

How stupid! Jehovah’s a big guy; he can look after his own feelings. Or is that a not-so-subtle threat? You don’t want Jehovah to be ‘sad’ with you, do you? Remember how we read about the Midianites? Jehovah was ‘sad’ with them, too.

What if you disobey Jehovah, and play with toys he doesn’t like?

I’ll turn horrible and old like those poor fuckers Adam and Eve!

Even creepier is how the kid is encouraged to be Jehovah’s ‘friend’. People sometimes talk about having a ‘relationship’ with their favourite deity, but what they don’t realise is that it’s hard to make a relationship work when there’s a significant power imbalance. When the other person in the relationship has all the power in the universe, knows everything you do and think, imposes arbitrary moral demands on you, and will ultimately decide your eternal future, that’s not a relationship. It even goes beyond ‘abusive relationship’; it’s a hostage situation. How is this a model for successful relationships?

You made Mommy very happy!

Hmm. Something about her seems familiar.


Afterwards, they sang “I Am a Slave of God”.

UPDATE: Hey, look what the Internet made! A Sparlock t-shirt!

Best of all, Café Press will give you a 25% discount if you use the order code 3XNEYLRKATMK. Apparently.

Celebrate this, the best of all possible worlds!

How I first realised I was straight

Lots of people say that sexual orientation is pretty much determined from birth, and you can’t chose it or change it. I’m willing to accept that there’s an element of choice and circumstance in who we’re attracted to, and nobody’s 100% hetero or homo, but I think I can say I’ve always known that I’m a straight guy. My moment of realisation occurred in first grade.

My Year 1 class was a tough place. I had a really sadistic teacher, and this was poison for a “pleaser” child like me. I wanted to do well in school, escape the wrath of Mrs Allen, avoid this one kid named Chad who hated me and wanted to pound me, and try not to feel powerless.

There were lots of kids in my class, but this one girl Paula was a newcomer. I noticed her appearance in class matter-of-factly, as just another kid. I distinctly remember one day working at my desk (probably with crayons, a brand new box of Binney-Smith Crayolas with 64 colours and the electric sharpener in the box). All the other kids were doing their thing, too, working in groups, or moving about the room. And then Paula walked past my desk, and said off-handedly, “Hey, Lover-boy.” And kept on walking.

What made her say that? She couldn’t have meant anything by it; it was probably one of those crazy things kids say all day long. Yet its effect on me was crystallising. It was as if a droplet of boiling hot oil had been dropped into the pool of water in my deepest self, spattered and swam, and made me dizzy. I felt confusing desires and weird attractions. I felt drawn. In that moment, I knew: I liked girls and I wanted their attention.

I don’t remember seeing her again — the tape cuts out at that point. But when people say they “always knew” they were gay, I believe them. My girl-likingness was always in me in supersaturated form, waiting for some kind of seed around which to coalesce. I don’t think I chose to be a straight guy.

It’s a relationship.

Occasionally I talk to people who identify as Christians, and they’re into God and Jesus and all that, but they somewhat paradoxically claim that they’re not “in a religion”. What’s with that?

Somehow, it doesn’t clear things up when I explain that God and Jesus are religious beliefs, so they’re in a religion, sure enough. No, they say, it’s a relationship.

Can you have a “relationship” with someone who isn’t a real person? Then I remembered objectophiles. Some people fall in love with objects, as did Erika Eiffel, who fell in love with (and married) the Eiffel Tower. Before that, she was in love with a crossbow. Other objectophiles have formed attachments to rollercoasters, videogame characters, and public buildings. Their attachment seems visceral and very real. You kind of have to stand in awe of the variability of human sexuality.

And yet, the object of affection is not a sentient being. The relationship is all in the lover’s head. And:

Interestingly, Objectum Sexuals – they call themselves OS people – believe their love with the objects are reciprocal and that they can telepathically communicate with them.

Sound familiar? Some women think they’re marrying public landmarks. Some think they’re marrying Jesus. Similar delusion.

‘Accidental’ affairs

There’s a story about a cowboy who told the doctor he’d never had an accident. He’d been bitten by a snake, though.

“Goodness,” said the doctor. “Wouldn’t you call that an accident?”

“Nope,” said the cowboy. “The varmint meant to do it.”

What called this story to mind is a curious article in today’s Deseret News:

Facebook is a breeding ground for accidental affairs

Lawyers are using Facebook as a source for evidence in an increasing number of divorce cases, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Of lawyers surveyed, 81 percent noted this increase.

Accidental affairs” are suspected to be the growing result of these online connections, Nancy Kalish, psychology professor at California State University told Bloomberg.

Kalish has found most Facebook cheaters did not set out to have an affair, and even sustained happy marriages before they strayed. But “our brains often romanticize the past, in ways not entirely within our conscious control,” according to Bloomberg. “Recollecting people, places and experiences can affect our neurochemistry.”

“Accidental affairs”? The term smells of the evasion of responsibility. Spraining your ankle is an accident. Having an affair is a string of careful decisions. It’s not an accident, though it might be a mistake.

I used to consort with a group of people who believed in supernatural beings, unseen agents that could influence your behaviour with their lascivious whisperings. For people who believe in such beings, the reasons we do things must be terribly mysterious! You’d never know if you really thought something, or if some succubus had implanted the idea in your brain.

And with your locus of control that far removed from yourself, it would be anyone’s guess why you do the things you do. I remember a talk by a church leader where he said that he’d never give a woman a ride home in a car. He’d go home, get his wife, and then give the woman a ride (in the car, I mean) with his wife right there. Now, props for avoiding temptation, certainly. But how did he feel about thinking that — just because of mere physical proximity — the decision to go for the gusto with this lady was no longer entirely his? How did she feel with a man who wasn’t sure he could control himself?

If someone’s flirting on Facebook, wouldn’t it be better to admit that they’re doing it because they want to? At least then they could get an honest glimpse into their own desires and their horrible marriage, and get some idea of what to do next. Instead of claiming, oh, it was an accident, I didn’t mean to. Perhaps even thinking that some external being caused the temptation. And then praying to another one to help them sort it out.

I just can’t imagine going back to thinking that way. Now that I think the responsibility for my actions is my own, my reasoning about my actions is a lot more direct and controllable. No mysterious beings. No vicarious expiation, either. Just me.

Why get married? A straight guy reflects…

I have an announcement: Ms Perfect and I are engaged! I proposed on Christmas Eve, and amazingly she said yes, despite knowing me for years.

Members of my family were pleased. At last, our relationship would have legitimacy! (No, they didn’t say that. They said, Have the wedding in winter so we can come to Australia in summer!)

Before the engagement, we lived in delicious sin as a committed couple, ready to spend the rest of our lives together. Now, post-engagement, we’re living together as a committed couple, ready to spend etc. No difference, really. So why did I decide to do this? It’s not like we had to get married. Besides the ring, some photographs, and a certificate, things won’t be noticeably different. And as Dean once said, secular atheists don’t need marriage. But I could think of a few reasons why I might want to be married.

It’s a party. Okay, we can always have a party. But not one as theatrical. Or cinematic. So it’s something.

Okay, next reason. It’s a narrative of how your life is supposed to go. You grow up in your middle-class suburban home, watching movies with weddings and thinking, “This is the goal.” That’s not very good either, but we’ll add it to the pile with the other reasons.

Having children out of wedlock would be a stigma, but that’s only an issue for a few more years, as all the people who think this will assuredly die off soon. So let’s move on.

How about this: It’s a way of making your relationship public and real. Well, what about now? Aren’t we already public and real? And yet…

It’s like I don’t really have a reason at all for wanting to be married, not a reason anyway. But all the little reasons add up, plus an urge that says, “This is what I want to do. With her.”

As I weighed up my reasons for marriage, I found myself (not for the first time) considering the situation of gay guys and gals, and wondering why they might want the same thing. I also reflected on the reasons people had for denying them marriage.

Why do they need marriage? say the Moral People. Why don’t gay people just live together? Well, we ‘just’ lived together, and it was lovely. But I decided I wanted to do it ‘for real’. What if someone had come and told me we couldn’t, because their god disapproved? And since theism is massive projection, they mean ‘because they disapprove’. I’d tell them to get bent, and I’d hope any gay couple would do the same.

Well, we’ll give them a civil union, the Moral People continue, but we won’t call it marriage. Isn’t that good enough? What’s the difference? Well, is a civil union a marriage? I’d say no, it’s not. So what is a marriage? A marriage is where they say “It’s a marriage.” If they don’t, it’s not. And that matters to me.

And I guess that takes us to a Big Reason for marriage. Marriage is the way our society confers favour and approval on relationships, and some of us — however iconoclastic and rugged we be — desire it. We want the whole thing, cake and ring and all, however silly and clichéd that is. Religious conservatives (ever the tribalists) know something about societal approval too, and they oppose gay marriage because they don’t wish to confer societal approval on those types of relationships.

At least, I think this is what’s going on. I have no idea if this is what goes through the mind of a religious conservative or not, though, because strangely not once in any of the many discussions I’ve had on this topic has one of them ever said this. They come up with log-stupid arguments about reproduction, polygamy, or incest, but they never say ‘I can’t stand them and won’t have them in the club’. Either they’re ashamed to admit that’s the real reason, or I’m totally off-base. But I don’t think I am.

How lucky I am to be a straight guy, able to marry the straight girl of my dreams. How unfair that not everyone can have what comes so automatically to us.

God is good, as long as you keep expectations low

If anyone wants to convince me that a god exists, prayer studies could be one possible avenue. So I noticed this headline:

Prayer May Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

And how ‘may’ prayer ‘help’? By preventing abuse? No, nothing quite so concrete.

Prayer can help victims of domestic violence deal with their situation and emotions by using coping methods such as venting, a small new study suggests.

It included dozens of people in abusive relationships who were interviewed by Shane Sharp, a sociology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The racially diverse participants came from different regions of the United States, were mostly from Christian backgrounds and had varying levels of education.

I wonder if the abuse victims were mostly Christian because of availability. Not the greatest track record on gender equality or anything.

One finding was that prayer offers “a readily available listening ear” to people who were boiling with anger.

“If they vented their anger to their abuse partner, the result was likely to be more violence. But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal,” Sharp said in a university news release.

Prayer also offers domestic abuse victims an opportunity to see themselves as God views them.

“During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their senses of self-worth that counteracted their abuser’s hurtful words,” Sharp said.

Is anyone else underwhelmed by this? Say you’re the all-powerful creator of the universe, and one of your beings (or believers) is suffering horrifying abuse in a relationship. You’re capable of doing anything to help. What will you choose? Maybe — stop the abuse? Turn the abuser’s heart? (The god of the Bible can change people’s feelings, you know.) How about a mysteriously vague heart attack for the abuser?

Or will you… give the abused spouse vague positive feelings? Until the next cycle of abuse. Thanks a lot.

I don’t suppose I’ll be getting many gloating messages from believers about this study. It’s interesting about prayer, just like other studies are interesting about placebos, but in order to believe that a god was behind the effects, you’d have to believe that God is watching case after case of abuse while doing nothing real. How many cases? Surprisingly many, according to this estimate from the Australian Department of Statistics.

approximately one in five women (19 per cent) have experienced sexual violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15 and one in three women (33 per cent) have experienced physical violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15.

If prayer helps abuse victims, then this is a strange definition of ‘help’.

When people talk about the power of prayer, let’s remember that the only benefit we observe is the kind of stuff that people could imagine up anyway, even if no god existed. If this god does exist, he could surely do better. But for some reason, he won’t. Skip the god. Better to talk to people who are there to help this kind of thing.

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