Thank God Prayer Doesn’t Work!

Good Atheist remarking on a campaign to pray for liberal politicians makes the following astute value judgment:

It’s a good thing prayer does absolutely nothing (well, other than waste people’s time I suppose). If it did, can you imagine the kind of world we’d be living in? How many times have people prayed for terrible, deadly, or awful things to happen to other human beings, or for entire civilizations to decline and fall pray to the sword of the lord? Sure, most of the time people pray for fairly harmless or even unselfish things, but if it did indeed work, the world would be subject to the random whims of the faithful. Luckily, the power of prayer is an oxymoron, but that hasn’t stopped Conservative Christians from adopting it in a last ditch effort to get liberals to “change their minds” about things.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    To me, one of the most offensive things a theist can say is “I’ll pray for you” As if my feelings and beliefs do not matter at all. I usually explain, “What if I were a devil worshipper and I said that I’ll sacrifice a couple of babies for you? How would you feel about that?”

    But then, my feelings and beliefs probably don’t mater to them. At least not enough where they think to consider them.

  • anti_supernaturalist

    God is irrelevant to prayer — you can pray whether it exists or not. Miracles are irrelevant. You are meant never to get a response from God.

    what is prayer? — it’s not about what you want — it’s what others demand from you

    The lack of a direct response to prayer is not a response of ‘no.’ It’s simply a non-response. Moreover, it is really important that “God” never respond directly. To hear God speaking to you — or tasting water while suffering a hallucination that it’s wine — makes you a likely schizophrenic not a saint. (Obviously…how could a non-existent being respond?)

    Jesus admonished his followers against prayer as asking-for-stuff — “consider the lilies of the field” — or prayer as public performance — “they have their reward.”

    Ritual too often substitutes for religion as Quakers realized, making central to their practice heeding an “Inner Light” — their equality of all believers, without clergy or hierarchy, to be open to a supposed divine presence here and now. (Quakerism seems as mild a non-rational religious perspective as one could find in the West.)

    Once rid of dead formalisms, prayer amounts to a purported alignment of a person’s intentions with “the will of God.” Or YHVH, Allah, Ahura Mazda. Pick your favorite 1-god from the big-4 near eastern traditions.

    Prayer, basically, is one fat red herring. The word ‘prayer’ simply gets redefined until the action it points to becomes attitude adjustment.

    All that matters is your attitude — are you prepared to submit to an authoritarian god proxy and authoritarian institution “guiding” your life? Are you prepared to submit? (‘Islam’ by the way means ‘submission’.)

    Yes, you have a problem with adapting to an authoritarian scheme? — well it’s your problem. Or better yet, you are your problem.

    Religion and Freudian psychiatry are one in creating fictitious “illnesses” (‘sin’ and ‘neurosis’) for which each offers sham cures at premium prices.

  • erock68la

    I agree. If prayer worked, it would totally suck to win the Powerball and have to divide the jackpot among 20 million other winners.

    Theology question: If prayer worked, would every sporting event end in a tie, or would the team with the most fans always win?

  • Kmuzu

    Y’all need to be quiet now. I work in Las Vegas and I can tell ya we here in the casino industry depend upon the prayers of our slot playin’ folk.

    It it weren’t fer dem Jeeesus fearin’/lovin’ gamblers sending up a special prayer to gawd every time dem reels went a spinning, I’d be broke.

    Little do they know dat the Random Number Generator in the slot machine has already determined dar fate long before the reels or the prayers started moving.