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Why prayer doesn’t work

March 7, 2008
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There was an interesting response to my post on Huckabee calling it quits. Of course, the comment called into question my statement that prayer does not work, so I feel the calling to defend reality on that subject.

First, the commenter made the point that:

regardless of what you believe, saying “prayer doesn’t work” is a very broad statement.

over 75% of Americans consider themselves to be some type of Christian. do you really consider the majority of Americans to believe in something that doesn’t work?

Yes, Michael, of course I call into question the validity of prayer, even if 75% of Americans believe in it. First, Americans represent a fairly small percentage of the Earth’s population, and whether or not this small percentage of the earth believes in the efficacity of prayer, that belief does not in any way prove that prayer works. Through the course of humanity, you could choose any of the things that the majority of humans believed in, but were proven wrong through science, or evolution of ethics: flat earth, slavery, evil witchcraft, astrology, earth as the center of the universe.

The simple fact is that when it comes to unproven belief, a majority of belief is not ever a proof of validity or reality. A majority of the Chinese population feels that Communism is valid, a majority of the Indian population thinks that Vishnu is a real god, a majority of Nazis thought that Jews were supposed to be wiped out. That does not mean that any of these were correct, as they were not supported by evidence of any kind. Volume of belief is not a proof of the validity of those beliefs.

Then, another commonly offered argument:

Huckabee himself said, “Throughout my life, I’ve found that there are sometimes three possible answers to our prayers–’Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Not Now.’ I would like to think our prayers were answered with a ‘Not Now.’”

God is always there. how He works isn’t always immediately clear.

Believe it or not, Huck is not the first to propose those three answers. So, he thinks his prayers for the presidency were answered with a “Not now”. What if he never gains the Preidency? With the number of votes he got, it’s more than probable that it will never happen for him. Where does that leave his prayers? I’ve heard more than I like, “Th Lord helps those that help themselves”. Well, what about Mike, who busted his ass, was more than honest about his beliefs and how they would affect his presidency, and labored against overwhelming odds because his word was god’s word? Mike helped himself, held god’s word in his heart, and got nothing. What does that say about the validity of prayer?

It’s very easy to say that “god works in mysterious ways”, but that’s nothing more than a cop-out used to ignore failure despite prayer. So, what if Mike got the nomination? He and all of his followers would have credited god for his success, and all thought of his supporters, his campaign managers, and his donators would have went right out the window because he prayed for a win, and god delivered one.

So, you can see the double-edged sword of belief: if you get what you prayed for, the thanks is gods, no matter how much real work you put into it. If you didn’t get what you prayed for, the answer was “no” or “not yet”, despite  all the work you put into it. Therefore, the work you put into something you want has no effect on whether you get it or not, it’ all based on god’s whim.

Then, you have to take into account the importance of what you ask for, in the grand scheme of the world. For instance, there’s uncountable people in Africa dying of AIDS and starvation. What are the chances that none of them are praying to god for relief, for the lives of their family?  Slim to none, I would say. So, will AIDS and hunger be wiped out because of their heartfelt prayers and belief? Of course it won’t! It will take the hard work of their government and charity groups to help those poor, beleaguered people! Prayer will do nothing for them, but Mike Huckabee can pray for a government position and have the fucking hubris to think for even one second that his prayer will be answered in the affirmative?

No matter what you people pray for, there is always someone with a more worthy request, and that person has no more chance of having his/her prayers answered than you do. You have exactly the same chance of forgetting the prayer and having the desired results manifest as you do of spending all of your time praying for the desired result and having your desires manifest. The best part is that you have the out of “god works in mysterious ways” which allows you to forget god’s failures and concentrate on the times when your prayers are answered in the affirmative.

Show me, michael, some proof of an answered prayer, and this has to be far above and beyond the percentage of folks who believe prayer to be affective. Sorry, man, but that argument is weaker than anyone would care to admit

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