By Cass R. Sunstein
After a tragedy, it is common for people to send “thoughts and prayers.” Skeptics argue that it’s much better to do something more tangible – to send money, to volunteer, or to press for reforms that will reduce future tragedies.
In the context of gun control, the idea of thoughts and prayers has become a parody of ineffectual and even pathetic responses to horrific events. Some people decry thoughts and prayers as doing nothing – except to make bystanders feel better about themselves.
But for those who think and pray, what are the actual effects of thoughts and prayers?
Here’s one speculation: Because thoughts and especially prayers focus people on human suffering, they spur concrete action. They’re not pathetic at all.
Here’s another speculation: Thoughts and prayers turn out to be a substitute for concrete action. They give people a sense that they have done something significant when they actually haven’t — and therefore make them unlikely to do anything else.
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