Many atheist criticisms of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, often hit familiar themes. But occasionally someone brings up a good point I haven't seen before. Mark at Proud Atheists has an excellent post up called, "'I’ll Pray For You'." He notes that the Bible specifically instructs people to pray secretly, and condemns forms of public prayer as hypocrisy. Yet numerous Christians feel free to ignore these instructions.
Liberal forms of Christianity do not adhere to biblical literacy, and basically pick and choose from biblical teachings. This is also true of the largest conservative Christian denomination, the Catholic Church. Its practices are founded on tradition and church teaching. The Bible is important, but in a subsidiary role. If you doubt this, here on Saint Valentine's Day, see if you can find the biblical doctrine of Catholic sainthood. So maybe we should give those Christians a pass on violating biblical instructions on prayer. But what about the huge numbers of evangelical Protestants, especially here in the U.S.?
Many evangelical, fundamentalist, and conservative Protestant Christians venerate the Bible as the literal word of God. The basis for their faith itself is Sola Scriptura, it rests on scripture alone. Millions of these believers are so convinced of the divine authority of the Bible that they reject multiple branches of modern science in favor of the Genesis creation myth. The Bible's words guide their thinking all sorts of areas, such as in their hostility to homosexuality. But for some reason, these same conservative, Bible-believing Christians, are among the worst serial public prayers around. Not only do they refuse to obey biblical instructions to pray secretly and unobtrusively, but they hold prayer meetings & prayer breakfasts, demand that students be allowed to pray openly in public schools, and get offended at the suggestion that public prayers at school events such as football games might not be a good idea. Worst of all, some of them even preach on television and pray in front of millions of viewers, making their prayers as obnoxiously public as possible.
The Bible calls people who offer up public prayers "hypocrites." What should we call people that take their belief in Biblical literacy to ridiculous extremes, yet refuse to obey clear, simple Biblical instructions on how to pray?