I'm sure that many readers have heard that Thursday, May 1, is the National Day of Prayer. It's supposed to be a day when believers of all faiths gather to kneel down and pray for healing, hope and peace (at least, I certainly hope that's what people would pray for).
I do appreciate the sentiment, and I know prayer makes those doing the praying feel better, but unfortunately prayer is one of the most objectively ineffective and useless forms of assistance. Other than making those doing the praying "feel better”, numerous studies have shown time and again that prayer fails to benefit those who are prayed for, and at best it is no better than a placebo. As an atheist, that just seems like a tremendous waste of time and personal effort, which I'd prefer to see spent in a more unselfish and demonstrably beneficial way.
For the last two years, I've participated in the National Gift of Life Day (see centerforatheism.org), which is an organized effort to get atheists, agnostics, and non-believers to donate blood. A single donation of whole blood is one of the most effective proven ways to save lives. It's also a demonstration of selfless sacrifice and altruistic caring about the rest of humanity. I don't know who will receive the blood I donate --he or she could be black, white, asian, gay, racist, Christian, Muslim, or atheist -- and I don't care. I am willing to stand on my feet, giving freely and openly of my own flesh and blood to provide a direct and demonstrable part of myself for the benefit others, as opposed to all those on their knees who are wasting their time doing something that benefits no one but themselves.
I realize that there are some, for whatever reason, who cannot donate blood (sexual orientation, travel restrictions, disease history, etc.). For those who are unable to donate, there are many other things you can do on May 1 to help - volunteer at a local blood center, encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and everyone else you can to donate, publicize the National Gift of Life Day on your blogs, your websites, your calendars, and everywhere else. Don't just sit around. Make a difference for the good of humanity.
Show the Kansas City metro area how ethical, caring and significant the atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and other non-believers can be. Stand up and donate, and show everyone the way to effectively and rationally make a difference in the world. Do more than bend your knees in ineffective prayer on May 1st – open your hearts to give the most effective, heartfelt and lifesaving thing you possibly can, donate your blood to save lives.