Brother, can you spare a prayer?
I know that I'm cynical. And jaded. And sarcastic. But I am humbled before the most audacious of websites: The Information Age Prayer.
Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.
Yes, for mere pennies a day, you can "subscribe" to have a computer pray for you. Not surprisingly, I have a few issues with this.
First, I have yet to meet anyone so busy as to not have time for a prayer. Ever. Perhaps not in church. But who, exactly, thinks a computer is a good substitution for that?
Second, what person religious enough to worry about forgetting to pray would be comfortable bringing in a computer to pinch-hit? Who exactly subcontracts their religion to a machine?!
Third, and perhaps most disturbing of all, he has some subscribers. Not a lot. "A lot less" than 50, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. But he's only been up for a week! And if Americans have proven anything in the last decade, it's that we can be talked into buying almost anything sold as convenience.
Will the new mark of frugality be saying your own prayers, rather than paying a computer to do it?
Now that I'm done ranting (for now), I simply must get you to review some of the highlights of this site. I think my favorite part was the glib advertising of the packages. You can choose from popular options such as:
- Protestant Daily Prayer Package "Get 8 prayers in one bundle": The Lord's Prayer, The Morning Prayer, 5 Get Well Prayers and Peace Prayer for the low monthly price of $19.95.
- The Complete Jewish Package: Morning and Evening Shema, 5 Get Well Prayers and a Prayer for Peace for $25.95 a month.
- The Hail Mary Prayer: "Subscribe for 10 a day, or purchase as many as you need. Conveniently sold in multiples of 10. Less than 7 cents each." (Though if you're really serious, you'll get the computer to say a full rosary for $49.95 a month.)
- Prayer for Financial Help: Pray for Economic Stability (a discount rate, natch) for $3.95
I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Am I the only one who finds the sentence, "These prayers now on sale" to be utterly and completely beyond horrific?! And I'm agnostic!
For even more macabre humor (of the "It's so awful that I simply can't look away" variety) check out the FAQs, where the founder has clearly anticipated all of our pertinent questions.
Are the prayers meaningless? Will subscribing make a difference?
As with all prayer, the final results are up to God as everything follows His will. We make no claims regarding the efficacy of the service, however it is our opinion that the omniscient God hears the prayers when they are voiced, as He hears everything on this Earth. The omniscient God knows exactly who has subscribed and who each prayer is from when their name is displayed on screen and their prayer voiced. He is also aware of all donations to charity from each subscriber and we can surely make a difference in these charities supported.
Are prayers blasphemous if voiced by a computer?
We recommend you contact your local clergy for a personal answer, however we think that Information Age Prayer is a new and exciting way to connect with God.
Is it wrong to charge for prayers?
The fees assure our customers that we are the most reliable service provider for Information Age Prayer. While most companies only donate a small portion of profits to charity, Information Age Prayer donates a full 10% of revenue to charity before subtracting our operating costs.
I'm not sure whether this guy believes what he's saying, or if he is, in fact, the one true Cynic, come to show the rest of us the way. Perhaps, while he's at it, he can lead the capitalists back to the righteous path of making money of people's ignorance and laziness.
Whatever the reason, you have to admire this founder's twisted brilliance. He's tied religion in with bulk consumerism in a way that puts televangelists (past and present) to utter shame. He's giving us the ultimate convenience product: An affordable relationship with God without lifting a finger -- or a rosary or prayer mat. How can the average American resist that kind of sales pitch?
I truly hope I'm wrong, but I do think this guy will make some money. Some people will do it ironically. Some people might consider it for their less-than-religious children, which is an actual reason given on the site. Some people may just be self-important enough to value their time over prayer. Who knows?
But I think his best profits lie in pandering to bailout recipients. You know, AIG and the lot. Heck, right about now, I bet that GM and Chrysler executives are willing to try anything to save their collective hides.
Okay, sarcasm aside, I have to say that this site disturbs me in a profound way. It is sort of a shell-shocked fascination. I keep switching over to read it. Perhaps if I read it enough times, someone will finally admit it's a joke.
But it's not. And there is something luridly American about digitizing prayer for profit. So perhaps I can still make the big league cynics yet. (Does that position come with health care?)