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The Absurdity of Prayer

000ike
Posts: 11,196
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6/24/2015 12:03:53 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
It's not often that religion posits a claim that is empirically falsifiable -- and its persistence is owed to that general non-evaluability. I believe, however, that the efficacy of prayer is one such evaluable claim, and we should take advantage of that.

Speaking generally, prayer is used as a means of attainment, a first resort for acquiring things we want. I can anticipate people denying this and insisting instead that the function is a connection with God, but I speak specifically of THOSE prayers that include requests, and that are motivated chiefly by some exigence (e.g. praying your teams wins, praying that you get the job etc.). Now, I'm not suggesting that Christians outrightly believe that they can gain anything they wish through this "divine request," but rather that the practice must have some causative function, some practical result for which it is observed, however slight or subtle or transcendent in origin. This means, then, that this process is somehow important to the eventual attainment of the desire, and that without it that desire would not be equally as attainable (otherwise, the prayer has no function or efficacy and is a pointless exercise).

For this reason, what is posited (tacitly) is that christians who pray regularly should get what they want more often than non-christians (especially atheists). And this is a measurable, fully evaluable claim.

On the likely chance that such a claim is falsified by a well-conducted study, would that mean, then, that those imploratory prayers (designed with the motive of attainment and the expectation of a practical result) are utterly absurd at their core?
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
dee-em
Posts: 6,473
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6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is eithernot there or he just doesn't care.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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6/24/2015 9:00:59 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?

Because they hear wonderful stories about prayers being answered from the earliest developmental years and the belief is ingrained. Confirmation bias is a great thing for belief. Remember, an attitude that was not the result of reason cannot be undone by reason.
dee-em
Posts: 6,473
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6/24/2015 7:24:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?

It's the triumph of hope over experience. Besides, there are more types of prayer other than intercessionary. Many people pray just to give praise and thanksgiving, for example.
Double_R
Posts: 4,886
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6/24/2015 10:42:26 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Absurdity is definitely the word. I always wondered how people can on one hand thank God for landing a job or finding $100 on the floor, then on the other hand use free will as the excuse for all of the horrible things in the world. God either intervenes in our affairs or he doesn't. If he does then first of all there goes free will, but also considering all of the horrible things he seems to have no problem with why on earth do you think he cares about you? If he does not, then why ask him for anything?

But I guess confirmation bias clouds all of that. When you pray and get what you want... Thank God! When you pray and don't get what you want... God must be answering your prayer in some other way. When you pray and the most horrible thing happens... God works in mysterious ways.
Cryo
Posts: 202
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6/27/2015 4:05:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 9:00:59 AM, dhardage wrote:
At 6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?

Because they hear wonderful stories about prayers being answered from the earliest developmental years and the belief is ingrained. Confirmation bias is a great thing for belief. Remember, an attitude that was not the result of reason cannot be undone by reason.

Well come on now we all know that isn't true, right? I was never reasoned into my Christian beliefs, but I did reason my way out of them, as have many people about many beliefs.
dhardage
Posts: 4,545
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6/29/2015 8:32:12 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/27/2015 4:05:29 AM, Cryo wrote:
At 6/24/2015 9:00:59 AM, dhardage wrote:
At 6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?

Because they hear wonderful stories about prayers being answered from the earliest developmental years and the belief is ingrained. Confirmation bias is a great thing for belief. Remember, an attitude that was not the result of reason cannot be undone by reason.

Well come on now we all know that isn't true, right? I was never reasoned into my Christian beliefs, but I did reason my way out of them, as have many people about many beliefs.

Your attitude was probably formed by indoctrination but I can't say that for sure since I don't know you. Once a person becomes capable of critical thinking but refuses to do so, they are then functioning on something other than reason. The saying might not be 100% true, but look at all of the people who want to believe stuff that anyone who looks at the facts will know is wrong. It is a very valid observation of the religious mindset.
ethang5
Posts: 4,104
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6/30/2015 12:13:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 12:03:53 AM, 000ike wrote:

It's not often that religion posits a claim that is empirically falsifiable -- and its persistence is owed to that general non-evaluability. I believe, however, that the efficacy of prayer is one such evaluable claim, and we should take advantage of that.

Speaking generally, prayer is used as a means of attainment, a first resort for acquiring things we want.

Which is precisely why they fail to work.

Jas 4:1 - Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
Jas 4:2 - You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
Jas 4:3 - You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

This is like a patient telling a doctor that a drug did not work even though the doctor said to ingest it and the patient rubbed it on his skin. A necessary condition of the solution working is administering it as the doctor prescribed. No?

I can anticipate people denying this and insisting instead that the function is a connection with God, but I speak specifically of THOSE prayers that include requests, and that are motivated chiefly by some exigence (e.g. praying your teams wins, praying that you get the job etc.).

Well, Christians (and the Bible) agree with you here. So who are you debunking?

Now, I'm not suggesting that Christians outrightly believe that they can gain anything they wish through this "divine request," but rather that the practice must have some causative function, some practical result for which it is observed, however slight or subtle or transcendent in origin.

Yet you don't feel that in a test of it one needs to follow what is prescribed? Do you care about the accuracy of your results? Or is the test rigged to churn out the result you prefer?

This means, then, that this process is somehow important to the eventual attainment of the desire, and that without it that desire would not be equally as attainable (otherwise, the prayer has no function or efficacy and is a pointless exercise).

False dichotomy. The only reason for prayer is not attainment of desire, or a bettering of the chances of desire fulfillment.

For this reason, what is posited (tacitly) is that christians who pray regularly should get what they want more often than non-christians (especially atheists). And this is a measurable, fully evaluable claim.

I see no reason why this should be true. Can you offer one?

On the likely chance that such a claim is falsified by a well-conducted study, would that mean, then, that those imploratory prayers (designed with the motive of attainment and the expectation of a practical result) are utterly absurd at their core?

Yes. But just like the silly patient, you would have only demonstrated that rubbing the medicine on your skin doesn't work, not that the medicine doesn't work. If you conclude from this "test" that prayer doesn't work, you would have committed a logical error.

There are other bigger problems with "testing" prayer. But this one here alone is fatal to your argument.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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6/30/2015 5:20:46 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/30/2015 12:13:30 PM, ethang5 wrote:

1. My argument is for a specific type of prayer - those including requests (praying someone overcomes illness, or that all goes well on some venture etc.) --- I tried to make it clear that prayer can serve a different function, but my target is THIS sort of prayer with THIS function. I apologize if this wasn't clear to you.... though you briefly acknowledged this early in your post but afterwards it seems like you forgot about it.

2. By targeting THIS sort of prayer, I'm not just grasping at straws since the vast majority of christians have at some point used prayer for the function of attainment.... and in fact praying for things one wants (particularly for noble desires, like someone's health, survival, success etc.) is presented as a legitimate and accepted component of the Christian dogma.

I can tell you feel the need to repudiate something in this post because it scrutinizes prayer (or in reality, one very salient aspect of it), but nothing you've said has been in disagreement with my post. If there's nothing you begrudge in the OP (save that it's written by an atheist sneering at a curious religious practice), then it's perfectly okay to say you agree :)
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Cryo
Posts: 202
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6/30/2015 11:19:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/29/2015 8:32:12 AM, dhardage wrote:
At 6/27/2015 4:05:29 AM, Cryo wrote:
At 6/24/2015 9:00:59 AM, dhardage wrote:
At 6/24/2015 7:47:28 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 6/24/2015 2:41:40 AM, dee-em wrote:
Intercessionary prayer does not work. Studies have been done on the efficacy of such prayer and they consistently fail to show any effect. The classic example is that of amputees. Over the centuries millions of such unfortunate people must have prayed for God to heal their limbs, yet not once has God answered a prayer and regrown an arm or a leg. The only conclusion is that God is either not there or he just doesn't care.

So why is it that people continue to pray, requesting for things they want and then thank god if they happen to get it? Are they just not thinking about the meaning and purpose of this method hard enough, or thinking about it for very long?

Because they hear wonderful stories about prayers being answered from the earliest developmental years and the belief is ingrained. Confirmation bias is a great thing for belief. Remember, an attitude that was not the result of reason cannot be undone by reason.

Well come on now we all know that isn't true, right? I was never reasoned into my Christian beliefs, but I did reason my way out of them, as have many people about many beliefs.

Your attitude was probably formed by indoctrination but I can't say that for sure since I don't know you. Once a person becomes capable of critical thinking but refuses to do so, they are then functioning on something other than reason. The saying might not be 100% true, but look at all of the people who want to believe stuff that anyone who looks at the facts will know is wrong. It is a very valid observation of the religious mindset.

My Christian beliefs were forced on me yes, and fortunately, over time I was able to see my beliefs for what they were and come to my own conclusions about religion. I agree that it explains the majority of religious people though. I was just being nitpicky :)
Sooner
Posts: 1,012
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7/29/2015 2:49:45 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
This means, then, that this process is somehow important to the eventual attainment of the desire, and that without it that desire would not be equally as attainable (otherwise, the prayer has no function or efficacy and is a pointless exercise).

----Response----

I'm Agnostic and my brain flatlined for a minute on this one momentarily.

When I was young I asked my dad for things sometimes. Sometimes I just spoke to him. This Analogy basically says if I talked to dad and asked him for things that I should just stop since our neighbor's kid has a lot. Circus music cued...
Ignoring problems doesn't make them go away.