‘Pray for Turkey’ came the cry on social networks, occasionally making reference to the lack of media coverage directed towards places away from western Europe. Wrong on the first count, arguably partly right on the latter. It really depends on what newspapers you buy.

Doubtless today we will be instructed to ‘Pray for Bangladesh’ following yet another barbaric act by the fascists of Islamic State (ISIS). The terrorists took hostages in a cafe and proceeded to kill them before troops entered the building. Prayers are the last thing people need at a time like this.

For one thing, there is no evidence that praying works, other than via some kind of placebo effect. This is because there is no evidence whatsoever, except a bunch of contradictory scriptures prepared at a time when no one knew what was going on. And by any measure, that’s no evidence at all.

The ISIS fascists are the worst of the lot. They carry out barbarous acts in the name of their God but given the bloodthirsty nature of their scripture of choice, they probably regard themselves as the true believers. If the Qu’ran is hardly a model of peace and love, neither is the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament was said to have killed a mere 2,821,364, although estimates of the real number take it nearer 25 million, what with Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines and fiery serpents. It is worth pointing out that Satan only killed 10 people in the bible and even they were part of a bet with God. Who is the bad guy in all this?

No one is talking about banning religion – we are free to believe in things even if they are palpably untrue as long as they don’t impact on anyone else – but it is surely time for reason to be tried as the basis for running the world, living our lives by the things we know to be true. It is probable that there is no celestial dictator directing our lives above the clouds so that should give us hope for a brighter day.

Don’t pray for Turkey or Bangladesh. Do something useful like joining the National Secular Society for a world in which religion is accorded no special treatment or privileges, where people are free to believe but more than that where people are free not to believe and not be dictated to by those of “faith”.

God, as we keep seeing, is not great and he’s probably not real either. There are better things to do than pray to make the world a better place.