Atheist Ramblings - 3.5

From approximately January 2000


...Prayer is often touted as one of the primary strengths of religion and theism. While some studies on prayer have shown it to have positive health benefits, others have shown the benefits to correlate strongly with similar placebo effects, so the jury is still out.

...But an issue I take with some is the concept that prayer has an actual perhaps even measurable effect on the universe.

...A problem with that concept takes a two pronged approach. Either the person praying caused god to 'change his mind' and do something he may not have done otherwise, or god was going to do it whether or not the person prayed.

...The idea that a person's prayer could cause god to do something seems antithetical to several tenets of theism, the primary one being that god is unchanging. But if the prayer doesn't cause god to do something he wasn't going to do anyway, why pray? God would do it anyway.

...An apologetic often used in response is that god was going to do it, but also knew the person was going to pray... which conveniently eliminates the whole 'free will' bit.

...But if god does answer prayers by interacting with the world, that interaction must be measurable. Even if god is not measurable (being outside of space or time or whatever), his interaction with the universe, if they cause a change, must be.

...Apart from the above health placebo effect, no other studies have found any correlation between praying and events. No change in events beyond random chance have ever been seen (to my knowledge and research). Good things happen to people regardless of if they prayed or not. The lottery does not disproportionately hit the faithful over the non-faithful. Sick people who pray do not 'miraculously' get more healthy than statistically expected (one-in-a-million cancer patients have spontaneous remission... its not a miracle, it just happens).

...This despite god's claim in the bible that prayer can move mountains and other miracles.

...This is not meant to say that people do not feel stronger in themselves because of prayer. Prayer can have some very positive personal effects on mood and opinion. But the same things happen to people who meditate or who pray to pagan or other gods, so any claimed benefit cant be reliably attributed to any specific god...

...When prayer is used to support one's faith, I have often found an interesting dichotomy.

Prayers answered are proof of god's love and goodness.
Unanswered prayers happen because of our failings.

...A self fulfilling turn of events. In either event, the person sees the handy work of god, when it is nothing more than the person assigning reasons to random chance.

...Is prayer good? No better than any other self help regimen. And unlike many other methods, it requires a possibly unhealthy belief in myths and superstitions.

...Meditate or talk to the wind, it will have the same effect without as much psychological baggage.