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    Posted September 3, 2014 by
    Dallas, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Guns and children

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    The (in)efficacy of prayer


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     TXBlue08 has been writing for several months about atheism, and felt the need to speak up here: 'It just seems ironic to ask Americans to pray when we really should to be examining our obsession with guns. We do not need assault weapons in the hands of our citizens, much less our children. My sympathies go out to the 9-year-old girl, who will have to live with guilt the rest of her life, and to the Vacca family. But I think we should try to do something that will make a difference, for example a change in our own lives or a request to lawmakers for sensible gun policies. If we are truly a nation that believes "love thy neighbor," then why do we have to live as if our neighbors are our enemies? Why would we allow our children to handle weapons that are used exclusively for maiming and killing?'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    The family of the 9-year-old who accidentally shot an instructor in Arizona while learning to shoot an Uzi recently asked "all compassionate Americans to pray for their children and the entire Vacca family." I therefore offer this:


    Dear God:


    As a compassionate American, I was asked to pray for the family of a shooting victim as well as the children affected by the accident. I'm not sure what the hell you're supposed to do about this, God, or what it even means to pray, but first, a little background. I know you will be horrified, but the parents of a 9-year-old girl apparently thought it would be an enjoyable family activity to train their child to shoot an Uzi. As a result of their poor judgment, the young girl accidentally shot and killed her instructor.


    WTF? You might be thinking. That’s what I thought, too. Why bother praying for children if they are raised in a culture of guns and violence, where kids shoot assault rifles before they’re out of elementary school. Is this how we protect children? Love and nurture them? Someone has dropped the ball.


    What should I pray for? Should I pray that you make children physically stronger so that they can fire guns without harming people, at least the people they don’t intend to harm? When children are grown, should I no longer care if they are immersed in a culture that values the—misplaced--right of men and women to bear arms above human life?


    Should I pray that you will remove the girl’s conscience so that she will not remember that awful day? It hardly seems fair that a child should pay for the sins of her parents.


    Should I pray that Americans stay the course and defend their rights, at any cost, not only to own guns, but to own weapons that shoot 600 rounds per minute? If the sole purpose of a weapon is to inflict bodily harm or cause death, then you may wonder why a civilized society advocates for policies like open carry and the right to bring guns in restaurants, on campuses and even in your houses of worship. Apparently nothing spreads your son’s message of love and peace quite like firearms.


    Contrary to the prayer some folks will send up to you, this is not a political issue. This is a parenting issue. This is a morality issue, a religious issue, a humanist issue and a social issue. If we are to love our neighbors and foster harmony, especially in this time of so much international discord, shouldn’t we ask that our lawmakers and citizens put aside their own special interests and do what is best for children and for our nation?


    It seems to me that prayer is just a wish, an ineffectual and impotent hope that something will change without putting forth the effort. What is it that we want to change? Our sense of guilt? It hardly seems right to allow our conscience to be eased when we take the right to another’s life. Prayer is not an action. It is not a solution. Shame on us, you must be thinking, for not taking responsibility for our self-inflicted wounds.


    I know as a nonbeliever, my “prayer” doesn’t mean much in the religious sense, but I thought I’d give it a shot in hopes that those who do believe will understand that speaking a few sentences aloud or in their heads does absolutely nothing. Not a thing. Unless Americans are willing to put the best interests of our children and our communities first, we will continue to be a nation of people just wishing to be absolved from our sins.


    Deborah Mitchell is a writer and the author of Growing Up Godless: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids without Religion.

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