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Category: prayer doesn’t work (page 1 of 2)

Circular reasoning and prayer


By all means, continue.

Thank goodness these people are off the streets.

Praying perpetually to save society

In 12 years, the music has never stopped at the International House of Prayer — a leader in a small but growing movement dedicated to perpetual prayer.

Young people have flocked here from as far away as Britain and South Korea, convinced that their prayers, joined in a never-ceasing stream, can push back evil forces that threaten to overwhelm society.

“It’s probably one of the fastest-growing movements within the broad evangelicalism,” said Brad Christerson, a professor of sociology at Biola University who studies charismatic Christianity. “They’re really engaging a new generation of young evangelicals.”

IHOP, as the church is known, sees prayer as a form of “spiritual warfare,” battling demons who keep a constant hold on parts of society. Continuous prayer is a way of extending that struggle around the clock.

“What we do opens and shuts doors to angels and demons,” founding pastor Mike Bickle said recently.

I guess it makes more sense than the typical view of prayer, which is that you’ve got a sort of inept god who can do anything, but still needs a steady diet of increasingly desperate coaxing and prodding to get him to do the things he already knows he needs to do.

This Dominionist view of prayer, though, seems to be that god’s more powerful than society-destroying demons, but you need to keep feeding him prayer energy to help him level up or something.

Never mind. I don’t get it. The whole idea is weird, and I’m very glad these people are off together in a building somewhere, doing effectively nothing for long periods of time.

Prayer ban: Like a burqa ban, but with prayer.

France, what am I going to do with you? You know I love you, right? because you’re so cool, and you have a great language and everything. But I’m all torn about this.

Paris ban on Muslim street prayers comes into effect

A ban on saying prayers in the street, a practice by French Muslims unable to find space in mosques, has come into effect in the capital, Paris.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant has offered believers the use of a disused fire brigade barracks instead.

The phenomenon of street prayers, which see Muslims spreading mats on footpaths, became a political issue after far right protests.

Sure, they’re praying, which is stupid and useless. And it is unsightly having people clogging the streets like this.

I actually feel kind of embarrassed for those people, groveling around like that. But as obnoxious as public prayer is, banning it will heighten tension, and turn an annoying (but relatively harmless) public performance into a political football — or even an opportunity for civil disobedience. That brings in the sympathy. Shoot, even I’d be sympathetic to some non-violent civil disobedience on a issue of conscience.

There must some way of fixing this without some ad hoc law seemingly targeting Muslims. If all these people praying in the street is a problem, how about prosecuting it using an existing law? How about obstructing a footpath? Blocking traffic? Noise pollution? Littering?

Okay, that was reaching, but I’m trying to help here.


Sandra points me to this episode of Dinosaur Comics.

Click on the image to go to the whole cartoon.

It reminds me of something George Carlin said about prayer:

If you insist on praying, what you need is a Magical Wishing Ferret. You can ask him for anything you want. He works by the power of confirmation bias, so if you don’t get what you want, you’ll never notice.

O-Day Hijinx: Part 1

I talked to a lot of interesting people at UWA’s Orientation Day. It’s a day when university clubs have their big membership drives. Religions, eager to counter the effects of learning, have their booths as well, and — oh joy — one was a contingent of Mormon missionaries. So I took some time off helping the UWA Atheist and Agnostic Society to have a chat.

They’re fun to talk to, but I can never get used to how uniform their thinking is. You could get the same line of patter from any of them. I suppose atheists say the same things, too.

Here’s the first in a multi-part series: Trolling teh Mormons.

‘Moroni’s promise’ still not evidence

I can’t do much better than profxm’s takedown of this drivel from the Mormon Times. A guy named Lane Williams bemoans the fact that some journalists have decided that atheism is interesting and worth writing about.

As disappointing as it is to say this, reporters may not be able to do much better than provide a balanced conduit for atheists in the modern world we live in.

Dontcha hate when that happens? I mean, balance? But have no fear — since journalists are providing a ‘balanced conduit’, he’s going to use his journalistic influence to unbalance the balance, or something like that.

So my point today, really, isn’t so much about reporters; my point is to use the opinion format of this blog to take a public stand because so few news reporters can or do so.

Way to go, Lane. That’s what journalists should do — argue their side, regardless of how true or well-supported it is. And here’s where things go awry.

Mormonism’s last evidence sits in the power of the Holy Ghost that comes to the hearts and minds of those who seek God through earnest, submissive prayer and faithful action. It is an “experiment” successfully repeated millions of times around the world.

Prayer is not any kind of experiment. As I’ve pointed out, it relies on bad sampling, since everyone who doesn’t get a revelation is either struck from the sample, or told to repeat the experiment until they get the “right” answer. Test subjects are told what emotions to expect, so bias enters the picture. And so on.

You can’t use a ‘holy ghost’ to confirm the existence of a god. They’re part of the same story! That’s what you’re trying to ascertain. It’s like saying “I know Santa Claus exists because I prayed to him, and one of his reindeer told me.”

Millions of Mormons, including me, would say that God answers prayers because of their own experiences with the Holy Ghost and prayer. Therein lies our evidence that God lives. I assume other religious believers feel much the same way.

That’s part of the problem. Many other religious believers feel the same way… about their mutually incompatible, multiply conflicting religious claims! Anyone who knows about science has heard that anecdotal evidence is not data. And notice the bandwagon fallacy. If this is the best Mormonism can do, they’d better give up their scientific pretensions.

Then he says, in a hushed voice, deep with portent, “I know.”

I study Shakespeare and have many books that have inspired me for years, but when I read the Book of Mormon for the 30th time or so and experience a deep, almost mysterious reassurance no other book has come close to giving me amid trial, I know.

I have experienced many joys of human interaction at holidays and in evening activities, but when I experience the quiet, soul power of priesthood blessing called down on a dark night, I know.

I am only one flawed journalist, but in the midst of the atheism debate that Gervais and others continue in our public space, I must say something. I know.

No, you do not know. You’re just certain. There is a difference. Even if your claims were coincidentally 100% right, you still would not know that they were true. Knowledge does not come from intuition or feelings. Knowledge comes from observation of real-world phenomena. And this kind of evidence is nowhere to be found.

This is my beef with religion and supernaturalism. It is such a lazy way of thinking (or not thinking). You take your own beliefs and preconceptions, and just assert them over and over again without trying to back them up with any real evidence. You get to feel all spiritual and believing. But it stops you from learning anything.

Prayer is a strange concept anyway, but this…

God is good, as long as you keep expectations low

If anyone wants to convince me that a god exists, prayer studies could be one possible avenue. So I noticed this headline:

Prayer May Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

And how ‘may’ prayer ‘help’? By preventing abuse? No, nothing quite so concrete.

Prayer can help victims of domestic violence deal with their situation and emotions by using coping methods such as venting, a small new study suggests.

It included dozens of people in abusive relationships who were interviewed by Shane Sharp, a sociology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The racially diverse participants came from different regions of the United States, were mostly from Christian backgrounds and had varying levels of education.

I wonder if the abuse victims were mostly Christian because of availability. Not the greatest track record on gender equality or anything.

One finding was that prayer offers “a readily available listening ear” to people who were boiling with anger.

“If they vented their anger to their abuse partner, the result was likely to be more violence. But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal,” Sharp said in a university news release.

Prayer also offers domestic abuse victims an opportunity to see themselves as God views them.

“During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their senses of self-worth that counteracted their abuser’s hurtful words,” Sharp said.

Is anyone else underwhelmed by this? Say you’re the all-powerful creator of the universe, and one of your beings (or believers) is suffering horrifying abuse in a relationship. You’re capable of doing anything to help. What will you choose? Maybe — stop the abuse? Turn the abuser’s heart? (The god of the Bible can change people’s feelings, you know.) How about a mysteriously vague heart attack for the abuser?

Or will you… give the abused spouse vague positive feelings? Until the next cycle of abuse. Thanks a lot.

I don’t suppose I’ll be getting many gloating messages from believers about this study. It’s interesting about prayer, just like other studies are interesting about placebos, but in order to believe that a god was behind the effects, you’d have to believe that God is watching case after case of abuse while doing nothing real. How many cases? Surprisingly many, according to this estimate from the Australian Department of Statistics.

approximately one in five women (19 per cent) have experienced sexual violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15 and one in three women (33 per cent) have experienced physical violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15.

If prayer helps abuse victims, then this is a strange definition of ‘help’.

When people talk about the power of prayer, let’s remember that the only benefit we observe is the kind of stuff that people could imagine up anyway, even if no god existed. If this god does exist, he could surely do better. But for some reason, he won’t. Skip the god. Better to talk to people who are there to help this kind of thing.

Mom and Dad pray while sick daughter dies

Here’s another guy who really believes in his religion. In this case, that means someone ended up dead.

A US jury has found a man guilty of killing his sick 11-year-old daughter by praying for her recovery rather than seeking medical care.

The man, Dale Neumann, told a court in the state of Wisconsin he believed God could heal his daughter.

She died of a treatable disease – undiagnosed diabetes – at home in rural Wisconsin in March last year, as people surrounded her and prayed.

Neumann’s wife, Leilani Neumann, was convicted earlier this year.

The couple, who were both convicted of second-degree reckless homicide, face up to 25 years in prison when they are sentenced in October.

Reckless homicide is a good way of putting it. Having a child means you have to take care of them. They can’t do it themselves; they count on you. When you instead subject that child to a horrible and unnecessary death, there ought to be legal consequences.

And that goes for people who use alternative medicine instead of giving their child real medicine. If that child is harmed through a parent’s inaction, there should be consequences.

Getting better

Lucky for me I was living in a country where medicine is easily available. If I were living somewhere else, I could have died. Donate to Médecins Sans Frontières so sick people can have access to medicine they need.

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