Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Online pay-to-pray draws reaction from religions

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review-

God listens, but does he listen to a computer?

A Boston-based company hopes He does.

Information Age Prayer sells prayers for a fee on its Web site, www.informationageprayer.com. For $3.95 a month, for example, people can ask for financial help -- and a computer-generated voice in Boston will appeal to the Almighty through a set of speakers.

The 23-year-old lab worker who started the company in March studied math, not theology, at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Still, James Mcarlos knows enough to acknowledge that his service is a supplement, not a savior. His Web site warns prospective customers that the Prayer for Financial Help is "not an alternative to fiscal responsibility."

"You can't expect to simply sign up for this service and never pray again," Mcarlos said. "This service is a way of just letting people relax a little more, if they feel like they should be doing something else, or praying more."

Pastors, priests and rabbis scoffed at the idea, saying that prayer must come from the heart, not the hard drive.

"It's rather ridiculous. That's not God's intention," said the Rev. Bill Themelaras, prayer pastor at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, a nondenominational church in Wilkinsburg. "Paul tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. That's the prayer of a man or a woman, not a computer."

Mcarlos said the for-profit company donates 10 percent of revenue to charity, though he would not provide figures. He said he was inspired by a story he heard about a Dutch artist who had an answering machine for God. He declined to reveal how many prayers he has sold, but said people from 155 countries have visited his Web site.

The rest is here-


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