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Televangelists Show Prayer is Useless

Do you ever watch televangelists? Any show is one long infomercial that always ends with a direct appeal in two parts: please pray for us, and send lots of cash, as much as you can.

But why bother with the request for money? People who have the ear of the almighty creator of the universe can tap into a whole lot more than whatever’s in their wallets. Who cares about trifling financial donations when you can get help from the Big Man himself?

Televangelists’ appeals for money make clear that they know what I know: that praying is like waiting for the Great Pumpkin. People can reliably deliver money, but prayer doesn’t deliver anything.

This reminds me of a quote from that persuasive theologian, George Carlin. About God, he says,

But he loves you! He loves you … and he needs money! He always needs money. He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise … but somehow he just can’t handle money.

It starts about one minute into this piece. (Caution: the dialogue is a bit R-rated. It is George Carlin, after all.)

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We exist in a bizarre combination of
Stone Age emotions,
medieval beliefs,
and god-like technology.
—Edward O. Wilson

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 10/13/11.) 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • JohnH2

    Since you can’t serve God and Mammon ($) then I am unclear as to how someone that gets paid off of asking others for money is serving God or has the ear of the Almighty. I’d say such requests show us more about the televangelist then they do about the effectiveness of prayer.

    Numerous studies have shown that prayer increases over all health, improves survivability in illness and trauma, lowers blood pressure, and improves ones mental state. Benefits of prayer not related to health and answers to prayer appear harder to study. Some doctors suggest that patients who have a faith pray because statistically it does help when the person being treated prays.

    I should for the sake of others health clarify that the doctors suggest prayer in addition to the medical treatment and these are statistical improvements and not miracle healing. Prayer has not been shown to be statistically effective as a primary method of treatment. in other words, it appears that God primarily helps those that help themselves so sending sick children to the doctor is a good thing.

    • AramMcLean

      so does meditation in general, which is all prayer really is. It doesn’t actually change anything magically on the other side of the world, or across the street for that matter. You know that, right?

    • Andrew G.

      Studies also show that praying for other people either has no effect (if the recipient isn’t aware of it) or has a small negative effect (if the recipient is aware of it). This rather suggests that the benefits of prayer are all internal, and that no “Almighty” is listening to them.

      • JohnH2

        I believe I was careful enough in wording what I said to not claim more then has been proven; I am aware of the studies on other people praying. Regardless of that result prayer (and meditation) do have real positive benefits making it not useless.

        • Jason Reddoch

          I agree that prayer only makes sense as a way of improving one’s mental and physical health. But this has nothing to do with traditional justifications for petitionary prayer. I don’t think many atheists would object to prayer as a way to voice one’s concerns and feel better. But if someone only feels better because they think God is listening, then isn’t that essentially a placebo effect?

        • JohnH2

          What do you think the placebo effect is if not a healing via faith? Generally it is faith in modern medicine that gives the placebo effect, but it is still faith. Anyways, prayer has a greater effect then giving a person a placebo.

          Also, just because prayers effectiveness in this one particular area has been proven does not mean that it is not effective in other areas of ones life.

        • Jason Reddoch

          Yes, it’s faith in something that doesn’t exist (ie a sugar pill ie God). And let’s not forget that as you said prayer has not been shown to actually cause miracles. It’s just been shown to ease the pain, much like a sugar pill that can’t cure cancer but can certainly relieve some symptoms as long as the patient believes. None of this has anything to do with whether the thing one has faith in actually exists.

        • JohnH2

          Whether it actually causes miracles is irrelevant in whether or not one should get treated for illness. I do not know any studies on the effect of prayer on the instance of what could be termed as miracle healing, maybe they are highly correlated, maybe not. I don’t need a study however to tell me that healings that can be termed miraculous are relatively rare. They happen but the odds are against them occurring, which is true whether they happen at random or whether they happen in response to prayer and at the will of God.

          Again, prayer is more effective then a sugar pill, which is why it makes sense for a doctor to tell a patient with a faith to pray but does not (usually) make sense for the doctor to give the patient a sugar pill. Yes, sugar pills do demonstrate that faith in things that are not true can still produce results. Yes, prayer being more effective then a sugar pill doesn’t demonstrate that the being which is prayed to actually exists.

          The claim was prayer was useless, everyone appears to agree that it is not in fact useless as the objections are now on whether the thing being prayed to actually exists. That appears to be a completely different question as to whether prayer is useful and outside the scope of the current discussion on the usefulness of prayer and the (lack of) piety of televangelists preaching for money.

        • BobSeidensticker

          John:

          The claim was prayer was useless

          No, the claim was that it doesn’t bring supernatural
          results. You seem to be agreeing.

          As a meditative practice, I see that it can be useful, but
          then of course you’ve lumped prayer to Jesus in the same bin as prayer to Shiva or Quetzalcoatl.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,
          Have you ever read the Last Battle by CS Lewis? A part with Aslan and Tash seems relevant here. Sincere prayer is sincere regardless of who you are praying to.

          I know of no results proving prayers effectiveness in regards to miracle healing, as I said. I don’t see much of a distinction between natural and supernatural here; people pray and get better. I believe that praying for others is effective and will continue to do so but, as far as I am aware, the results of studies as to its effectiveness, in the case of medical studies, is inconclusive, with some well known results claiming it may be ineffective.

          I absolutely claim that prayer does bring what could be termed supernatural results, though I feel the term supernatural is incorrect. I know that if one reads the Book of Mormon and follows the council in Moroni 10:3-5 that they will receive an answer, which I suppose can be termed to be supernatural in nature.

          Now if we want to move to tithing, which is something that televangelists try to claim they are doing and which your clip seems to attack, there we find studies showing that the paying of a fixed tithing amount statistically improves the financial well being of the payer, which would appear to be a prima facie counterintuitive result, but is precisely the result claimed in scripture. I imagine that you don’t find this to be a supernatural result either, just like with prayer and other examples previously discussed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John:

          I know of no results proving prayers effectiveness in regards to miracle healing, as I said.

          You’re saying that no study proves your point but that you still think that prayer creates supernatural cures?

          I don’t see much of a distinction between natural and supernatural here; people pray and get better.

          A scientific claim that’s begging to be tested. And yet when it is, the claim fails.

          we find studies showing that the paying of a fixed tithing amount statistically improves the financial well being of the payer, which would appear to be a prima facie counterintuitive result, but is precisely the result claimed in scripture.

          Tell me more. I would be very surprised if this is causal.

        • JohnH2

          “You’re saying that no study proves your point but that you still think that prayer creates supernatural cures?”

          I know of no study that shows anything either way; clearly many times more people pray then get cured in what could be termed a miraculous manner. Given that such occurrences are rare and the commonality of prayer I don’t think a study is needed to show that not everyone that prays gets cured, nor is a study needed to show that some people that pray get cured; The only possible study would be to try and figure out if such occurrences happen more or less frequently to people of faith or not.

          “And yet when it is, the claim fails.”

          Since doctors are willing to proscribe that religious people pray because prayer has been shown to be more effective then a placebo then I don’t know how you say it fails when tested.

          “Tell me more”

          The non-religious explanation is that by paying a fixed amount it forces one to both budget and to set aside money for the payment of that amount making one both more aware of what they are spending money on and less likely to blow the money on frivolous items; leading to more money going to savings or to paying off debt rather than less. The money does not have to go to a religion for this effect to appear, donating it to a charity works too.

        • Kodie

          clearly many times more people pray then get cured in what could be
          termed a miraculous manner. Given that such occurrences are rare and the
          commonality of prayer I don’t think a study is needed to show that not
          everyone that prays gets cured, nor is a study needed to show that some
          people that pray get cured; The only possible study would be to try and
          figure out if such occurrences happen more or less frequently to people
          of faith or not.

          Why would you term it miraculous? Because it doesn’t happen a lot, the times it does are so unlikely that it must be supernatural intervention? I am trying to figure out how you arrived at your conclusion while ignoring statistical probabilities. Lots and lots of people pray because so many people are religious. Their prayers are helpless but very strong wishes. Wishes that do not reach out into the universe and pull down an extra boost for them just for praying. It obviously ignores a lot of prayers a lot of times, you say, it doesn’t help every single time, only rarely.

          Why would you continue to put your faith in that kind of god, who only rarely pulls through for the devout? Why would you attribute rare fulfillment of a prayer to a miracle?

          I think that is what frustrates me so about religious thinking. Any crumb you can find, you are delighted to call a miracle. If god shines his light on a couple people in a million and cures them, you call that a miracle, while he could have cured all million. They are all prayed for by someone, statistically; there are few people in need of a cure who are not prayed for by anybody at all – belief and devotion is not rare, it’s very, very common. The bigger miracle would be to compensate for human deficiency and make up the remainder who are dying to cure them instantly. All of them. A disease just disappears in every single person who has it. That would be a miracle. A miracle is not when 5% have been seen to recover and 5% do.

        • JohnH2

          I term it miraculous when it is uncommon and unexplained by medicine. Like someone with an untreatable disease spontaneously being cured, for instance. Such things happen, but are very rare and obviously so. Saying that something happens with a statistical probabilities is not the same thing as saying it is a truly blind random occurrence, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it can be modeled as such. Most (or all) of human behavior can be modeled via statistical probabilities, but that doesn’t imply that people are acting randomly.

          I don’t know if you missed where prayer pretty much always helps, that isn’t in question. The question is on the population makeup of the upper end of the probability cure relative to the general population. Obviously there are people praying for everyone that is sick but not everyone that is sick are themselves believers and praying (assuming the condition is such that they can pray). To restate, is the 5% that survive, in your hypothetical, more or less likely to be themselves believers and to have prayed relative to everyone that gets that disease?

          Obviously I agree that curing smallpox, open heart surgery, eye surgeries, and other treatments that benefit the lives of everyone are better then a relatively few being healed. I would also term such things to be miraculous and inspired by God, even if the person that may have developed such a thing doesn’t believe in God.

          As to why God Himself doesn’t cure everyone, did you miss the discussion on Genocide? I trust God will slay whom He will slay and save whom He will save relative to everyone dying in the end anyways. Many times cures for illness come from those that spontaneously survive. We are intelligent and God has given us quite a lot to work with so it is up to us to use what God has given us. Having to choose to spend research money either on beauty products or on curing illnesses allows us the opportunity to show what is really important to us and who we really are, both individually and as a society.

        • Kodie

          What you have said sounds to me a meaningless application of god and miracles. Who cares if the sick themselves are believers? Who cares if god slays whom he will and cures whom he will? That is just statistics. That is just your “well, random unknowable stuff happens” because of god and not just because we are living on a planet where things happen. You really think it’s better to believe we are living in a dollhouse that you might be killed instantly or painfully over a long period by hundreds of means because god says it’s you’re time and is really creative at coming up with ways to die, or that we co-exist on a planet where we affect one another and other things affect us, like gravity or viruses or not paying attention when we cross the street, etc.

          I maintain that there is nothing manipulating any of us but our surroundings and occasionally some of you think you can control or plead with the surroundings to bend to your wishes. That never ever happens. Not everyone will fall off a cliff, but where enough people do, it’s not god who inspires people to build a fence and post signs to caution everyone from getting too close to the edge to take a look.

          When people are dying from a disease, it’s not god inspiring some people to find the cause and to determine what they can make to fight that cause. If you believe in god, you believe he caused that cause in the first place. You cannot have it both ways, if you feel he is manipulating things, he manipulates when people get sick, then they should die, not for people to discover a way to prevent them from dying also, and then fix it so in a small amount of cases, they do not actually die. That’s so warped! Everyone is going to die of something, but then you say medicine is greater than praying to god. How so? Praying to god gets extremely lower results than medicine, so isn’t it just so that people have the cure and god doesn’t? Isn’t it just so that people are foiling god’s plans to slay someone painfully through a rotten disease? Your god as you describe him doesn’t make a lot of sense to worship, and for me, doesn’t make a lot of sense, given the way things observably ARE. We’re not manipulated to live or die by some outer-world power. We’re subject to the limits of living on earth as the animals that we are. We can and do eradicate some fatal diseases. Entirely. That’s only because we are intelligent enough to overcome limits as they come to us. God doesn’t place those obstacles just to inspire us to overcome them. It kind of sucks living on earth sometimes, it’s not all safe, it’s harsh and not protective. We say it is cold and we kill an animal to take its coat. People die and the best we can do is panic? Prayer is panic. Getting to work on the problem is not the inspiration or guidance of god. It is our animal nature. We are only all in this together. If you want to pray as an adjunct to medicine, recognize that it’s useless. If you want Bob to allow that prayer is useful in a minuscule proportion to how many people actually pray for an outcome they’d rather, and even still, allow that most people will not get what they wish for, exactly what are you defending? Nothing. Nothing that matters at all.

        • JohnH2

          We are essentially saying the same thing as to reasons for death. We live in a fallen world and so God doesn’t have to actively being doing much at all to have people die, but that doesn’t mean that an all knowing and all powerful being is not in control of what happens and doesn’t use what happens.

          ” he caused that cause in the first place. ”

          If you believe that God is the First Cause and the only First Cause you mean, I don’t believe that. In my scriptures God says that pretty much everything has some degree of independence of action. However, God knowing the end from the beginning means that He is able to use our (and everything else’s) independent actions according to His will, not that He causes them. We live in a fallen world and so horrible rotten bad stuff happens independent of God specifically acting to make such a thing happen, I just trust that God is aware of such occurring and uses it to the best end possible, given free will and independence of actions.

          If prayer is better then a placebo then it is better then some amount of medicine, and not useless. Prayer is the opposite of panic as fear and faith can not coexist. God is not outer world but in it, please remember you can’t apply nearly anything that you have ever heard about Christians and God to my faith, there are valid reasons why other Christians often say I am not a Christian even though I believe in Christ.

          Perhaps I confused you with the discussion of healing; Prayer is always useful and has more of an effect then a placebo, which is all any medicine ever has. I was just speculating about something as a topic of interest that I don’t have an answer to, but I thought that anyone that had followed the conversation up to this point would have gathered that everyone else had conceded that prayer is always useful.

        • Kodie

          Prayer is a concentrated effort to control what the outcome to be what one wishes. It has no effect on a disease. It may have an effect on one’s attitude but for zero magical reasons. I.e. they are not filtered through god to cause any positive effect any more than any other meditation or focused effort to calm one’s nerves. Your prayer on me does not affect my outcome. You caring about me may improve my own attitude, the same way anyone caring about someone may affect their attitude, to calm and soothe someone who is facing a devastating diagnosis. THAT IS NOT PROOF OF GOD.

          Nothing you have said proves that prayer specifically works in any way that wishes for a specific outcome would change the deity’s mind about controlling that outcome. Reducing stress does have positive outcomes and do not rely on prayer, or prayer to a specific deity to effect that outcome of reduced stress.

          Nothing else you have said proves anything. We do not live in a fallen world. That is an excuse why the world appears the way it does. That is a concession to agree that the earth for people is not as optimal as it could be – you blame god? No. You blame people for defying such a perfect god, who could just turn it back the way you want it. You concede that he has punished us all. I don’t concede that we are punished. You add a stupidity layer to the way things actually are. You are not disagreeing with me, but you make up some extra bullshit to excuse it. That’s unreal, and unnecessary. Believe in your god, but don’t expect anyone to feel convinced they have to add extra bullshit to what is already evident.

        • JohnH2

          Am I supposed to be trying to prove God through prayer being effective? I wasn’t aware that was the intended point.

          I don’t concede that God has punished us, the fall is a blessing and not a curse as with it we get to figure out these difficult problems and grow as people, learning from our mistakes and becoming better rather then living in an unchanging paradise. Yes suffering happens because of it, but so does Joy.

        • Kodie

          That is also another layer of living that is unproven and unnecessary. We “get to” figure out these difficult problems? Fuck you.

        • Kodie

          @ whomever downvotes my “fuck you” in the previous comment: if you can’t take that your god provides suffering as I see it and conclude that it is just to give us problems to solve and that makes it ok, fuck you also. EDIT: you glorify suffering to be purposeful, and I can’t see a good thing about you after that.

        • AramMcLean

          I like your fiery ways! :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John:

          The only possible study would be to try and figure out if such occurrences happen more or less frequently to people of faith or not.

          The Templeton study did a good job in showing that intercessory prayer does nothing.

          Since doctors are willing to proscribe that religious people pray because prayer has been shown to be more effective then a placebo then I don’t know how you say it fails when tested.

          When person A prays for person B, that prayer is effective when person B is helped, not person A. What you’ve said before is that the meditative (pick your term) value of prayer helps person A. I agree. And that’s all irrelevant. Does person B get helped?

        • JohnH2

          And other studies show that intercessory prayer may be helpful.

          How is it irrelevant if Person A praying helps Person A? That seems highly relevant to me.

          I imagine that Person B getting helped by Person A’s prayer is highly dependent on the actions and beliefs of Person B, but I know of nothing that proves this hypothesis or tests it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John:

          How is it irrelevant if Person A praying helps Person A? That seems highly relevant to me.

          ?? Because Person A’s prayer was, “Dear God, please help person B”!

          Yes, we’ve been over the meditative value to person A. Let’s set that aside. That wasn’t what person A prayed for. What person A prayed for didn’t happen.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t know where you got the idea that God is Santa,

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John:

          I suggest you read the Bible then. Jesus said that if you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains. Jesus said that prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Jesus said that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Jesus said that all things are possible to him who believes. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.’

          Sounds like Santa to me.

        • JohnH2

          Bob, I know that praying for others helps both them and the person praying. I know that doesn’t always, or even often, happen in the way which you desire a Santa-God to have it happen and I am sorry for you for that. Given the regularity with which mountains are moved in the search of coal and minerals then I don’t see what your problem is in regards to what Jesus promised in that regards. Faith is acting on belief, or trusting in what you believe enough to act on it and it requires work just as much as moving a mountain to get the coal requires work.

          I could attempt to explain the rest of what you have there in the scriptures in regards to the sealing power of the priesthood, if you actually wanted to know what I believe in regards to that; As I regularly point out, my religion is not a good representative in terms of Christianity generally and I honestly am not really sure what anyone else would say on this point. I believe that you probably are in a better position to explain it using the “orthodox” view on the subject then I am as I believe your background is such that you know how you would have responded to this at a different point in your life. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but I find it really hard to believe that when you were a Christian you thought of God as Santa. I am not sure why you think that a straw man of your previous beliefs would be convincing to anyone.

          Assuming you don’t actually want to discus my beliefs then I will tap out here. Also, is there any way of structuring the comments differently so they are less jumbled? There is a logical order to them but it isn’t exactly always obvious.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John:

          I know that praying for others helps both them and the person praying.

          We’ve done studies that suggest that there is no value to intercessory prayer. Are you saying they’re flawed?

          I know that doesn’t always, or even often, happen in the way which you desire a Santa-God to have it happen and I am sorry for you for that.

          Don’t complain to me about Santa-God. I’m simply reading the NT in an honest way.

          Faith is acting on belief

          I see the value of trust. Believing in something without the evidence (which many Christians do) seems pointless to me.

          I find it really hard to believe that when you were a Christian you thought of God as Santa.

          You’re right. I tested that hypothesis and found it flawed. It puzzles me that Christians don’t see the problem with these results and what the NT promises.

          is there any way of structuring the comments differently so they are less jumbled?

          I’m a little confused myself. I’m afraid I’m bumbling along like you. God willing, I’ll find it as intuitive as what we had before…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          John: If you’re saying that prayer doesn’t work as advertised, then great–we’re on the same page.

        • Kodie

          So merely asking god, for yourself, to help someone else doesn’t do shit. If I say I care about Person B!! I want them to be ok and to cease suffering and get to continue to live pain-free! God doesn’t care about me unless Person B also believes in HIM????? Seriously, that’s jacked.

        • Kodie

          @JohnH2 – what you describe to be your belief sounds really awful, considering what you consider to be better. If there is a god, it is not good enough to make excuses for his outcomes. All you are doing is saying that because things are the way they are, here is where god fits into that shitty scheme. I am saying it’s kind of a shitty scheme and god should do better, but he doesn’t, therefore, there is no reason to worship him if he does exist, and no reason to believe he exists in the first place.

        • Kodie

          You know nothing, you are just piecing together things that you want to believe as best they fit your presumptions that god actually exists. The more you learn about the world, the more god has to change to fit the picture, but he’s always there, causing mayhem as is his will, causing pain as is his will, causing suffering as is his will. You make that will “good” as long as you believe god is good and that he exists. When you detach supernatural meaning to everything and it is just the way it is, people start to get to work solving the problems caused by being animals inhabiting a planet with other stuff. Trying to get to heaven is the cause of your problems, not a solution.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t think so Kodie; Remember the church I belonged to started less then 200 years ago so I can find statements from the first Prophet of this era backing up everything that I say which is doctrinal in nature.

          My God tells me to love everyone else as I love myself so I have spent uncounted hours in direct physical service to others and do so on a very regular basis. I am not uncommon in this regard in my religion, we work very hard in providing service to others, in mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that need comfort because that is what is right and what our religion says is the way to heaven. Trying to get to heaven involves learning all we can and doing all we possibly can to help others in every way we know (or even think we know) how, as well as doing and being the best we can. I am not sure what you see as a problem with that.

          If it turns out that I am wrong I will have still lived the life that will provide me with the greatest joy and satisfaction over the long term possible as well as a life that has attempted to help others along the way. If death is the end I will still have had children to provide me joy in my old age and will still have taught them to be good people, to treat others as they would be treated, and to love their neighbor as themselves. Yes, I would prefer to follow a difficult truth over an easy lie but if I am following a lie it is a difficult lie to follow and one which provides real benefits and benefits which will last as long as humans remain. I know however that it is not a lie but the truth and the benefits are because it is the truth.

        • Kodie

          You need a heavenly reward to do all that? You need god to tell you to be helpful to others?

          Edit: I just want to tell you what a worse person it overall makes you, John. You glorify others’ suffering and that’s not good.

        • JohnH2

          I said:

          “that is what is right”

          I must ask how in the world do you think that “loving one neighbor” or “loving God” is consistent with acting according to reward or punishment?

          You might ask about what someone believes instead of assuming you understand and responding with vulgarities.

          If you wished to try and convince me that atheists are more moral and better at loving others as themselves and doing things for the right reasons, you failed miserably.

        • Kodie

          I did not wish to convince you of that. I’m a really impatient person and I disagree with everything you have said. Especially the part where you excuse things being the way they are instead of better because of god. Religious people, across denominations, draw conclusions about god’s nature from what they sense is “the way things just are”. You yourself have said more than once that god kills people he wants to die. Why did I tell you to fuck yourself? Because if I said that about any other murderer, you’d have told me to fuck myself! In whatever squeaky clean Mormon language that would be as offensive. When you’re defending a murderer, that gets an expletive, in my opinion.

          But you glorify suffering. You still draw dark conclusions about your god’s nature that do not sit well, they certainly do not sit as well as accepting reality of an animal inhabiting a planet as we are. There are conditions, but they are not for us. They are not I am editing my post to add the end since I can’t see the bottom stay tuned….

        • JohnH2

          P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

          “god kills people he wants to die”

          “the Lord
          slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.” 1
          Nephi 4:13 Of note, President Obama orders people to death all the
          time with drones and otherwise, as do juries throughout the country.
          Is Obama a murderer? Are the members of a jury that condemns someone
          to death murderers? I

          “God doesn’t need worker bees on
          planet earth. We do.”

          Yes, precisely,”when ye are in
          the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your
          God.” Mosiah 2:17

          “He messes things up to see how we
          react?”

          Sort of as seen by:
          “And we will prove
          them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord
          their God shall command them;” Abraham 3:25 or just read the
          book of Job.

          “An 8-year-old sadist.”

          Clearly more of a masochist then a sadist:

          “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that
          they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not
          repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself,
          even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to
          bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would
          that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—“ D&C
          19:16-18

          “you have to make stuff up about him “

          Clearly it is not me making stuff as I am getting this stuff from
          other sources. I know these sources to be from God.

          “to feel like your beliefs are meaningful”

          I can prove that my beliefs lead to actions which are meaningful
          to others. I can prove that my beliefs will statistically lead me to
          have a longer and healthier life then any other group. I can prove
          that my beliefs lead to higher charitable giving, more education on
          average, and a wide range of other statistically significant
          benefits. Actions such as prayer, fasting, charitable giving, family
          activities, family dinner, and so forth associated with my beliefs
          have real measurable benefits. I do not know how to prove the healing
          power of the atonement or the joy that the gospel brings, but I know
          they are real and the effects of such are visible. You can make up
          increasingly complex excuses to explain away all of the benefits,
          all the fulfilled prophecies, and all of the prophecies being
          fulfilled currently (like “And worlds without number have I
          created”) but I know that my beliefs are true and very meaningful.

        • Kodie

          Clearly it is not me making stuff as I am getting this stuff from other sources. I know these sources to be from God.

          You know no such thing. It’s still made up, even if you didn’t author it. What I’ve been trying to tell you that you don’t hear is that you look around the world and fill in the blanks with a made-up story why it is this way and what the invisible deity instructs you to do about it. That you think you have it correct and billions of other people feel the same way you do about their doctrine but disagree with the conclusions ought to tell you that what you feel is common but easily mistaken. So no, you don’t know.

          I can prove that my beliefs lead to actions which are meaningful to others.

          I can prove they do not because I can perform actions. I don’t need doctrinal instructions how to share a planet with other human beings. I don’t need belief to guide my actions. I don’t have to make up a bullshit reason why it’s great I can be of help and feel good about myself while others are (if there is a deity) pointlessly suffering. It’s not a good thing, it’s not a reasonable thing to expect, and it is a sick thing to excuse. All your other scripture or whatever did not move me. I know you think we’re sort of on the same page since everything I said shows up in the bible or your extra biblical pamphlet there. It doesn’t take a perfect deity to put some cause and effect down on paper. Helping people does help them, and neglecting them hurts all of us. I never read the bible and I can just come up with this stuff. Where does the proof come in that there’s actually a god? The god who motivates you to be a better person? You can see results, you don’t need to please any deity. Just about everything you said still works without a deity or a doctrine.

          Basically all I’ve been trying to say is that extraneous belief is unnecessary. There is no ultimate evidence that it’s real just because doing good has positive effects! Are you able to add 2+2? Doing something good has positive effects. No deity in that equation. Adding the superstition just makes it more likely that you do harm while believing it’s for good, or that you pay a lot of money to belong to your group, because you’re superstitious on top of being what you believe is a good person who has a positive effect on people’s lives. And to say that god has a great reason to be like, making us work harder to overcome total suckiness that he also provides as “meaningful” obstacles, or implying that without god or your doctrine, you would just be lazy, neglectful, or intentionally hurtful, i.e. you had no reason, i.e. human beings don’t deserve positive effects just because there’s no god, just makes me think you’re such an asshole. You say you had a lot of proof that your belief has a significantly positive effect, but not if you say that without it, you’d have no other reason to consider your fellow humans worthy of your effort. Does that make you feel better about yourself that I can be a good person without all that jazz, but you require it?

        • JohnH2

          When have I every argued that belief in God was necessary to be or do good?

        • Kodie

          The whole last paragraph:

          I can prove that my beliefs lead to actions which are meaningful to
          others. I can prove that my beliefs will statistically lead me to have a
          longer and healthier life then any other group. I can prove that my
          beliefs lead to higher charitable giving, more education on average, and
          a wide range of other statistically significant benefits. Actions such
          as prayer, fasting, charitable giving, family
          activities, family
          dinner, and so forth associated with my beliefs have real measurable
          benefits. I do not know how to prove the healing power of the atonement
          or the joy that the gospel brings, but I know they are real and the
          effects of such are visible. You can make up increasingly complex
          excuses to explain away all of the benefits, all the fulfilled
          prophecies, and all of the prophecies being fulfilled currently (like
          “And worlds without number have I
          created”) but I know that my beliefs are true and very meaningful.

          What else could you mean by that than you observe effects as being caused by your belief, that without your belief, you wouldn’t be able to come up with a reason to bother? Every single note in your tune tells me that if you didn’t believe in god, you could not figure out another reason to expend the efforts you do. You congratulate yourself a lot for being a believer!

        • JohnH2

          Kodie,

          If I had no belief then I would not go to church, or pray, or fast, or do a whole host of other things. Statistically speaking my family situation would not be as good. Even if otherwise my actions were largely the same I would still not be as well off or as happy.

          Of course, I could still do good things, be moral, and be happy but the additional measurable benefits would not all be there because many of them are causal from the beliefs and not otherwise associated with attempting to be a good person. I would not have weekly reminders as to the importance of not being angry, of loving ones neighbor, of what it means to love ones neighbor, and more relevantly to me be forced into social situations and be reminded that being friendly is a good thing. I seriously doubt I would be married, have kids, or really have much of a social life at all were it not for my beliefs, this is speaking to my own personality and is not meant to imply anything about anyone else.

          Nothing in the paragraph you quote assumes anything about anyone being bad for not believing; it is all about the benefits associated with knowledge of ones Savior and an effort to follow Him separate from what an otherwise moral person would do or be like.

        • Kodie

          I didn’t notice any benefits, you said you need it and I, and a lot of other people, don’t. No proof, despite repeated claims that you have that it actually works, just that you perceive it working for you because you don’t know how to live without it.

        • JohnH2

          How is the longest life expectancy not a benefit? UCLA did a nice cohort study on Mormons and life expectancy.

          How is the lowest rate of unwed mothers, the lowest abortion rate, the lowest divorce rate, the highest college graduation rate, the lowest alcohol consumption rate, the lowest smoking rate, being 7x less likely to commit suicide, and so on not benefits?

          You must have some really odd definition of benefits.

        • Kodie

          “Or else you can’t be in the club anymore” and everything else that brings, you forget to mention.

        • JohnH2

          ??? – I am not sure what you are referring to at all.

        • Kodie

          Those aren’t really benefits so much as restrictions on what you can do and still call yourself a Mormon. You can’t get an abortion. You think low abortion rates are an especially great benefit when you’re prohibiting yourselves for no very good reason? Meanwhile opposing the abortions that other people are legally free to have if they need them. Overall, I count your bragging over nothing to be a detriment to the concept of religious belief. I.e. I can see no benefit from exhibit A to becoming a Mormon.

          Longer life expectancy? I pretty much can’t wait to die. Being a Mormon and living longer do not add up to a benefit for me, I mean, living longer ok, if you want to try, then prioritize good health, like Mormons tend to do by prohibiting all the things that make life fun but shorter, but having to be a Mormon to do it? That’s like heaven. What the hell do I want to be cooped up with you guys for? Prohibition causing what you count as benefits is not a black and white issue. I also haven’t seen you post any citations for ALL OF YOUR CLAIMS. I still don’t think you have to be a Mormon to achieve any of them, you don’t need belief in a doctrine to behave. Get back to the topic. You NEED to believe that this Mormonism is the only way that living works for you, but it isn’t, and nothing you say can prove that it is anything but a system – a prohibitive, bigoted system based on something you have no proof for, ultimately. Is god at the other end of this arrangement? That’s what actually matters – what spy force out in the universe are you actually doing all this for? No, you have not said that. You say you are doing it because you get something out of it. If you are in it to get well, if you see beliefs as nothing but a ledger to gain something you wouldn’t have otherwise, you are even more shallow than I thought.

          You demonstrate that you are weak and apathetic without belonging to a group and following their rules and believe ultimately that they come from a deity, and that is why you think they work. You have not acknowledged precisely why I should be convinced. It is simple – helping people helps them, and you are building up that equation to be some grand outer truth bestowed upon only Mormons so that they can live a long time and be sober the whole time. All the while, you make excuses why it’s your job or my job and not god’s. He made problems for us so we can discover solutions! That’s not satisfying or true – really, just answer the question – why is your god really such an asshole? Your excuses are an assessment of a really harsh existence sometimes, and inventing layers of rationale upon rationale why your deity gives you the blessing of working really hard to make things alright. Calling it doctrine and quoting all that doctrine doesn’t move me.

        • JohnH2

          Kodie,

          I have so provided citations previously. I also gave you enough information in regards to the one on life expectancy that you should be able to find it without any difficulty on your own. My experience with Disqus and links is that Disqus often eats posts with hyperlinks, but google is your friend.

          I see you do have a very odd definition of benefits, and what it means to have a good life. Desiring death does not seem to be something that a happy person would do.

          So you require beliefs to be pointless, useless, non-explanatory, and non-beneficial otherwise they are shallow? As I said, you can keep coming up with ever more complicated and complex excuses as to how a belief that changes and improves lives making them better and happier is somehow worse than desiring death. Perhaps you should argue with Hallq over the benefits of a long life, over having to solve problems, over how pain can be beneficial.

        • Kodie

          I am saying that you pray and nothing happens so you make up a bullshit reason why that’s how god operates. When nothing happens, that’s not proof that god is thinking anything, or that there’s a god, or that prayer has caused any positive outcome ever. Seeing the world as it is and inventing an epic story of life that has more meaning is your crutch, it’s not actual. I don’t care about your positive outcomes. Cause and effect are not cosmic supernaturally brokered events. It’s exactly what to expect in a world without god, whereas a world with god, to you, looks like god had some perfectly beautiful reasons. It’s your crutch John. Don’t try to tell me anymore, I don’t want to follow this thread and obviously no one else has been reading for several days.

        • AramMcLean

          ‘That belief will affect you whether or not it is actually true.’
          This fantastic video says it better.

  • Little Magpie

    “The God I believe in isn’t short of cash, Mister.” – U2

  • JohnH2

    Who steals what from whom and what is it used for exactly?

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