This blog post for FFRF was written the day after the horrific mass murder on June 12 at an Orlando nightclub and initially appeared on Seidel's Facebook page.
You've just heard the terrible news about the shooting in Orlando. About 50 are dead, many more injured in this "domestic terror incident." Because you are human, you feel a deep and powerful empathy toward our brothers and sisters in Florida.
Families are broken, children are orphans. The violence is quite literally senseless — we aren't equipped to make sense of it. And you want to "do" something. Anything. You want to help. You "need" to help.
But don't squander that overwhelming compassion on prayer. The affinity you feel, the sympathy that drives you to help, is what makes us human. If you pray that sympathy away, you've not only done nothing to help, but you've assuaged the motivation to do something while doing nothing. You've replaced our shared humanity with whispers to your fictional friend.
Yes, the prayers will make you feel better. But only because you're overcoming your humanity in the name of religion. And know this, the prayers will do nothing but make you feel better. They will have no impact — none — on the real world. More religion is not the answer to the world's problems. We could do with a lot less, in fact.
So instead of wasting your humanity on your god — the same god who, I might add, let this happen — actually do something. Here are a few options:
1. Donate. Find a secular charity like Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Oxfam GB or the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence or Foundation Beyond Belief or the Foundation For Peace or any one of the hundreds of charities that spend their money helping people and not promoting a religion.
If you can't afford to donate . . .
2. Call, write a letter or email your elected officials at every level of government and ask them to protect LGBT citizens, change the ease with which the mentally ill can get a gun, and enact a ban on assault weapons. If you can spend two minutes praying, you can spend one minute googling their information and another making a call. Do it.
3. Do literally anything else. Speak out against anti-LGBTQ bigotry on social media or in your family. Be kind to a stranger. Hold the door for someone. Give up your seat on the bus. Smile at someone who looks sad. Give someone a compliment. Or tell someone a hard truth. Or donate blood. Any of these will have a bigger impact than all the prayers ever uttered.
Stop fantasizing that talking to yourself will change things. Start living in this world and help us work to make it better.
Andrew Seidel is a staff attorney for FFRF.