Most of my tag-ees have posted their quiz answers by now, and there are some interesting answers, and some new books (for me, at least) and some that you might have forgotten.

Over at Ozarque’s place, they have an interesting discussion going about religious language. (Today’s is basically one nasty guy attacking everyone, so go back a day or two.) There is one particular notion that struck me as really interesting, and that is that Christians feel guilty about evil in the world. Not that they should feel guilty, but that they do. Most of the folks discussing this are not Christians, of course. Here’s the argument: Jesus said that if you have just a little faith, you could move mountains. Christians pray for peace in the world (for example). If they had faith and prayed right, they would be able to create peace in the world. Since they have not been able to do so, they have messed up, and feel bad about it.

They are talking about language, and are specifically forbidden to discuss theology, but hey! We’re talking about knitting, right? So we can discuss theology if we want to. And here’s my problem with this: I don’t think they’re talking about prayer.

It’s the same problem I have with folks who come into the store talking about how their science experiment “didn’t work.” If you put a bunch of ingredients together with the expectation of a certain outcome and think you failed if you get a different outcome, then you are not doing scientific experiments: you are cooking.

If you say certain words with a certain attitude, and feel responsible for the real-world outcome, then you are casting spells, not praying. “Prayer” assumes the existence of God. Otherwise, it’s magic.

Since I assume that Christians believe in God, and do not think their prayers are magic, I don’t think they’re going to feel guilty if their prayers don’t “come true.” For me, this lends the discussion of how Jesus’s remarks on mustard seed make Christians feel a sort of surreal air. Just as I didn’t quite know how to help the customer who wanted “a poster of the spectrum from black to white.” If your premises and definitions are very different from the person you’re talking with, it makes it hard to have a sensible discussion.

So — for the religious and irreligous of whatever persuasions — do you think prayer and magic are the same thing? Do you ever feel guilty for the inadequacy of your prayers?  Do you think we all sound this far off when we talk about religions other than our own (I’m thinking specifically about the many discussions of Islam you can hear nowadays)? Just curious.

On the knitting front, I am heading out for a long drive tomorrow, and a long drive back on Monday, and there will be another driver along, so I might get to do some passenger-seat knitting. Thus, I am debating whether to begin some project with long stretches of unshaped one-color stockinette. Today. After work. In between cleaning the house and packing the car. Any ideas?