When Prayer Fails

Dave Schmeltzer’s book Not the Religious Type has many examples of what he calls “napkin stories” (i.e., short enough to write on a napkin), brief anecdotes from people who claim to have experienced miraculous events in their lives when they trusted in God. Here’s a typical one:

I found out that my aunt and uncle’s marriage was unraveling due to an affair. I fasted and prayed for them. After thirty-eight days, I was contacted by my uncle. He was about to sign a lease on an apartment to move in with his lover. Before he could sign, he felt an almost audible voice in his head say “stop.” He went back to my aunt and started to see how their marriage could be saved. She found a way to forgive him.

I’ve observed in the past that evangelical religious belief is sustained by a kind of natural selection among ideas. Stories and personal testimonies that fit neatly into Christian narrative prototypes – stories that resonate with what Christians already believe – stir interest and excitement among believers who hear them, are repeated and passed on from person to person, and soon become common in the apologetic literature. But stories that can’t be fitted into these templates don’t draw interest or excitement from believers, are not repeated or passed on, and tend to be forgotten. Because of this tendency to count the hits and forget the misses, Christians uneducated in critical thinking tend to believe that answers to prayer are common.

But if you look at all the evidence, a different picture emerges. We hear stories about faithful Christians who are stricken ill, pray for healing, and then recover; we hear stories about evangelists who founded a ministry and saw it flourish and grow; we hear stories about nonbelievers who pray for God to reveal himself and then mysteriously receive aid from a helpful Christian stranger at just the right time. However, unless you’re looking for them specifically, you probably don’t hear stories about Christians who are stricken ill, pray for healing, and then die. You don’t hear stories about churches and ministries that fail to attract members and fall apart, despite the hard work of their founders. You don’t hear stories about nonbelievers who pray to God to reveal himself and then nothing out of the ordinary happens. It’s not that these stories never get written – they do, and I’ll give some examples – it’s just that they don’t take root and spread through the Christian community like the other kind.

In this post, I’ll try to counteract that tendency by presenting some stories of when prayer fails. The first two examples are from Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew:

One terrible week two people called me on successive days to talk about one of my books. The first, a youth pastor in Colorado, had just learned his wife and baby daughter were dying of AIDS. “How can I possibly talk to my youth group about a loving God after what has happened to me?” he asked. The next day I heard from a blind man who, several months before, had invited a recovering drug addict into his home as an act of mercy. Recently he had discovered that the recovering addict was carrying on an affair with his wife, under his own roof. “Why is God punishing me for trying to serve him?” he asked. Just then he ran out of quarters, the phone went dead, and I never heard from the man again. [p.159-160]

Even the “answers to prayer” confused me. Sometimes, after all, parking places did not open up and fountain pens stayed lost. Sometimes church people lost their jobs. Sometimes they died. A great shadow darkened my own life: my father had died of polio just after my first birthday, despite a round-the-clock prayer vigil involving hundreds of dedicated Christians. Where was God then? [p.165]

Or this tragic story of a young mother dying of cancer, who prayed with a hospital chaplain that God would give her the time to finish a needlepoint project she was making for her children:

I was totally hooked. We prayed. We believed. Jesus, this was the kind of prayer you could believe in. We were like idiots and fools.

A couple of days later I went to see her only to find the room filled with doctors and nurses. She was having violent convulsions and terrible pain. I watched while she died hard. Real hard.

As the door shut, the last thing I saw was the unfinished needlepoint lying on the floor.

Or Paul Barnes, former pastor of a 2,000-member evangelical megachurch, who resigned after admitting that he was homosexual:

“I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy… I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”

Or this sad story of an injured man, unable to afford a doctor, who waited months on end for a miracle until he died:

“He read his Bible daily, he spent his full focus on God,” said Webb. “And he was literally waiting and praying for a Job miracle. If anybody knows the Bible and knows Job, he really and fully believed that God was going to heal him just like he did Job, because he said he couldn’t think of a better testimony to go out and to tell people.”

And Dave Schmeltzer himself, though he repeatedly claims to be happy and blessed, admits that his life too has times of depression and darkness:

“…it’s not as though my life is consistently such a powerful case for connection with this super-duper God. For someone who talks as much as I do about joy… why is it that a few times over the years I’ve mentioned to my wife that I feel as if my life has been squeezed out of me like water from a sponge, like I relate to Woody Allen’s working title for Annie Hall (Anhedonia – the clinical inability to feel joy).”

This quote highlights an important point that shows how miracle stories get started. Every life, regardless of which religion you belong to or whether you believe in God, has its high points and low points. Every person experiences both favorable and unfavorable coincidences. Evangelicals are doing nothing more clever than giving God the credit for the good times, while ignoring or downplaying the bad ones – save for the rare glimpses of honesty like the ones cited above.

But whatever theological embellishments that evangelicals put on them, these ups and downs happen to everyone. Atheists, too, experience them; the only difference is that we recognize them for what they are, the inevitable working of chance, and don’t claim them as evidence of some supernatural creature’s favor or disfavor. And atheists, too, experience the same kind of favorable coincidences that Christians unhesitatingly ascribe to miracles; again, the difference is that we recognize that occasional striking coincidences are bound to happen in the course of any normal life.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • jack

    Remarkably, many of the “misses” are also categorized as “hits” by believers, although they usually don’t bother retelling these stories. Many years ago my father and I were debating the existence of God and the efficacy of prayer. A good friend of his, a long-time member of his church, had just died of cancer. I asked him if he had prayed for her, and he said, “I prayed that God’s will be done.” So in his mind his prayer had worked and was answered, it’s just that God wanted this woman to die of cancer.

    Humans can be incredibly skillful at rationalization, especially when we have an emotional commitment to an idea that turns out to be wrong.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    You don’t hear stories about nonbelievers who pray to God to reveal himself and then nothing out of the ordinary happens.

    Except these days in non-believing circles. ;)

    We have an interesting new one up this morning: The Rise and Fall of a Testimony.

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  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Voice in Thuampalumpcus’ head

    The first, a youth pastor in Colorado, had just learned his wife and baby daughter were dying of AIDS. “How can I possibly talk to my youth group about a loving God after what has happened to me?” he asked.

    “Me”? “Me“?!

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Wups. I forgot to change my username back.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com Spanish Inquisitor

    In that first example, am I the only sick bastard that figured both calls were the same person, that the first caller’s wife and child got AIDS from the second caller’s recovering addict boarder who had an affair with his wife?

  • Nathan
    The first, a youth pastor in Colorado, had just learned his wife and baby daughter were dying of AIDS. “How can I possibly talk to my youth group about a loving God after what has happened to me?” he asked.

    “Me”? “Me“?!

    Yes, him. Recall that Christianity is a painfully patriarchal religion, wherein the man as head of the family assumes responsibility for the entire family, and therefore the tragedy and pain of his family are directly his – it’s just as reasonable to read that ‘me’ as a patriarchal ‘us’. I don’t defend the usage (in fact, I despise it) but I do think that even insane superstitious patriarchal maniacs need to be engaged in good faith – and that good faith means reading that ‘me’ as ‘us’ in that situation.

    Cheers,
    Nathan

  • Lyra

    My in-laws have a few of those stories they like to throw around. The favorite one is when my father- and mother-in-law got in a car crash, and supposedly the father was critically injured and then miraculously healed. The saddest thing about any telling of the story among the family is how the mother, who was also seriously injured, will laugh at the end: “I had to heal the old-fashioned way, ha ha,” and the way she says it, you can tell that she honestly believes that God healed her husband and not her because her husband is so much more valuable and important than she is.

    More recently, another member of the family was injured in an accident. It was interesting to watch the development of the family narrative of the event, from “the doctors say she may not be able walk again” as events were unfolding, to “the doctors told us she would never walk again, but through the power of prayer et cetera” after the physical therapy was successful. They never discussed why God sent the freak accident in the first place, in my hearing anyway.

  • rennis

    As a born again Christian I obviously disagree with the fundamental belief system held by most of the people who post to this web site. However, the posts are well written, articulate, and I enjoy reading and contemplating the views that are held. Once again this an excellent post that highlights some of the problems in the way many evangelicals approach prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray..”thy will be done…” (Matthew 6:9-11) and modeled proper prayer as he was facing death on the cross….”Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”… (Luke 22:42). What we see is submission to God and that is what our prayers need to model although it is fine to present our petitions to him. What many evangelicals want to do is present a “wish list” or “to do” list to God as opposed to seeking His will in their lives and circumstances and looking for ways they can bring glory to Him in thosed circumstances. I know such Christians…except those aren’t the ones you generally hear about or read about.

    Thanks again for the well written post. I hope to use the ideas presented here as a discussion starter in the Bible class I teach at church. Happy New Year everyone!

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    If you haven’t heard this story yet, this seems like one in which God should have intervened:

    A Salvation Army major was fatally shot in front of his three children Thursday afternoon as he walked into the the organization’s community center in North Little Rock, authorities said.

    Around 4 p.m., two black men dressed in black approached Philip Wise, 40, of Maumelle outside the community center at 1505 W. 18th St., Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said.

    Wise’ children — ages 4, 6, and 8 — were walking with him when the men came up to them, police said. His wife, Cindy, also a major in the Salvation Army, was inside the center at the time and called 911.

    One of the men pulled a gun, demanded money and then shot Wise, police said.

    Police ask that anyone with information contact them at 758-1234.

    WTF? This guy spent most of his waking hours throughout the past six weeks helping poor people in Jesus’ name and this is how God rewarded him and his family? He got murdered the day before fucking Christmas! You don’t think his wife and kids were praying desperately for God to save this man’s life as they watched him die? I know a lot of Christians who are trying to make religious sense of this story, to make it fit with their picture of a loving god who knows them by name, cares about them and answers their prayers. As far as I’m concerned, this story goes into the “shit happens” file. My answer makes a lot more sense than their answers will.

  • Nathan

    <

    As a born again Christian I obviously disagree with the fundamental belief system held by most of the people who post to this web site. However, the posts are well written, articulate, and I enjoy reading and contemplating the views that are held. Once again this an excellent post that highlights some of the problems in the way many evangelicals approach prayer.

    Hello, Rennis.

    What part of our ‘fundamental belief system’ do you disagree with? I believe things for which there is verifiable evidence. I suspect that part of your and my belief system is in accord, and if so, then you are in full accord with my belief system. The disagreement lies elsewhere. I would welcome exploring that disagreement.

    I would invite you consider where your fundamental belief system differs from ours, as well as what you mean by ‘fundamental belief system’. It would be a conversation worth having, and perhaps provide more useful material for reflection in your spiritual practices.

    Cheers,
    Nathan

  • JulietEcho

    Some of the Christians I know (family members, people at work) who know I’m an atheist will preface this kind of story with, “I don’t care if you believe in God or not, this was a miracle!” It bugs me, because it’s sort of a “shut up, that’s why!” wrapped into a “I’m going to force you to listen to my (possibly insensitive/offensive/mind-numbing) testimonial story.” So I have to listen politely and stay nice and mum while they go off about how clearly God’s will was done, and they miraculously found their lost dog, or their house sold at an advantageous time, or their son was born on the day their grandparent died.

    I don’t understand how people can be so callous that they don’t realize how those stories sound. They’re all real examples, and they’re all from people who repeatedly state that they believe that God answers all prayers – he just doesn’t always say “yes” because of His Plan, etc. etc. etc. So if these occurrences are just another part of “His Plan” – just like the dogs that don’t get found and the houses that don’t sell – then why are they lauded as “miracles” instead of as a normal part of life? Or, conversely, why aren’t the gone-forever dogs and relatives who die on non-significant dates not lauded equally as miracles, if they’re part of the “Plan?”

    Ugh, I want to *facepalm* just thinking about this stuff.

  • Julia

    When my mother died I heard a lot of comments like, “God never gives you more than you can handle” and “I’ll be praying for you and your siblings”.

    When my brother committed suicide a few short months later, those comments were conspicuously absent…

    Hearing those original platitudes, even years later, still makes me very angry and, for better or worse, I am not above throwing those bullshit comments back into the faces of anyone who would offer them.

  • Jerryd

    At my wife’s exercise class the other day the leader was talking about trying to sell her house. One of the women told her that all she needs to do is bury a statue of Jesus upside down in the yard and it will sell–and she has to believe. This woman explained that she buried her statue and, voila, her house sold in three months. Like the prayer scenario, they always add in the “you have to believe” because that gives the all-powerful, loving god an out when the prayer isn’t answered or the house doesn’t sell. And it seems a little shaky to have to put your life in the hands of an all-powerful being who takes three months to get around to resolving your problems. Suppose you are lost in the desert without food or water and he responds to your prayers at that rate–not good for your survival chances. There is a simple test to prove that prayers are never answered, just ask for whatever you want or need to be done immediately. God doesn’t understand that word.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Nathan “…I do think that even insane superstitious patriarchal maniacs need to be engaged in good faith – and that good faith means reading that ‘me’ as ‘us’ in that situation.”
    Well, idiomatic or not, I’d still call him on it. Having your own blindspots pointed out to you is, practically, the only way to find them. I’d never know just how much I hated circus clowns if no one had pointed it out to me. It was a clown, actually. He kept saying “Stop punching me!”. Ewwww, just thinking about his stupid clownface makes me so mad!

    Ahem.
    Suddenly, we are filled with the urge to go through our own use of language to filter out the codewords/idioms that we use. We do!

  • goyo

    This is the major reason for my unbelief: there’s no damn difference between anyone’s life; shit happens to everyone and no religious belief system or god changes or protects what happens to us.
    Sorry, I’m with Julia, I heard all that crap when my dad was sick in the hospital and died, now my moms sick, and I’m hearing it all again.
    The one that made me the angriest was that god needed my dad in heaven…WTF???

  • Nathan

    Quoth Modusoperandi:

    Well, idiomatic or not, I’d still call him on it.

    How do you propose to call a character in an anecdote on anything? I thought the reactionary patriarchal nature of the reaction and remark were sufficiently well established that … it didn’t need to be remarked on (and my side commentary to that effect were, I admit, snark). I thought the alternate reading of it was worth bringing up, since it would be easy to miss amid the ‘I can’t believe anyone would say that what a jerk’ reaction.

    Cheers,
    Nathan

  • Sarah Braasch

    This sort of thing infuriates me. When I think about how much praying and worshipping and loving Jesus and Jehovah I did throughout my childhood. I truly believed that I had a relationship with God. I truly loved him. I truly believed that he loved me. And, I was an innocent child.

    And, then I think about what that little girl suffered, in spite of all of this love and devotion and obeisance and worship. People who spew out this nonsense make me sick.

    People never seem to understand why it is offensive to thank God for giving me this job or that child or that sunny picnic.

    It is offensive. You are saying, “God loves me, but he hates you.”

    Oh, that’s right, I was worshipping the “wrong” God. Or, I was doing it in the “wrong” way.

    Or, maybe it is just God’s will to make innocent children suffer cruelly.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    You don’t hear stories about nonbelievers who pray to God to reveal himself and then nothing out of the ordinary happens.

    What Christians also don’t hear are stories about nonbelievers who find themselves in difficult situations who don’t pray and yet seem to come out of the situation alright.

    In the most recent post on my blog, I wrote about an incident during my scuba diving trip to Belize last summer where I somehow suddenly found myself far from the boat above deep water rather than the reef bed. I didn’t start babbling to some god to save me and that I would become a believer again if I made it back to safety. Instead, I relied on my training and swam back in the direction of the boat. It was a scary moment for me, but there was no need to call on a deity for help.

  • Chet

    When my mother died I heard a lot of comments like, “God never gives you more than you can handle” and “I’ll be praying for you and your siblings”.

    That stuff really puts the lie to the idea that religion supplies comfort to those in need. It really doesn’t. What it supplies is comfort to those incidental to the tragedy; or rather, not comfort, but complacency – they can simply utter a platitude and consider their duty to their unfortunate friend or family member discharged. I bet almost nobody who told you they were praying for you offered to help in any meaningful way.

  • Kevin Morgan

    When things go wrong the reply one inevitably receives about failed prayers is that “it’s God’s will and we can’t know His plans for us”. God wants to teach a lesson, perhaps, to someone else, maybe even someone you don’t know or realize is receiving the lesson. There’s always a “reason” for us to be “going through” whatever it is we’re going through. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say that in regards to prayer, sometimes the answer is “no”.

    I think I’ve mentioned before the case where a co-worker was testifying to me about how he prayed for his sister with cancer and God healed her. When she died a year later from cancer I asked him what had happened and he said that God had granted her another year of life to get her affairs in order and say her goodbyes.

    Anything and everything can be rationalized to coincide with whatever we want to believe.

  • cello

    @Kevin, re: God’s will. Someone on another site pointed out that religious theology never (or rarely) posits the role of chance. The whole God’s will thing seems to be people’s way of rationalizing around randomness of events. If I were to suffer something, it would give me comfort to think there is a greater reason for my pain other than I just pulled the short straw.

  • Richard P

    This subject is one of the principle reasons for my leaving the church. One of the first cracks in my christian beliefs was when I noticed that all the miracles that our evangelist preacher talked about always took place when he was off somewhere doing revivals.
    He would see the sick healed, the lame walk, financial prayers answered, but it only seemed to happen on the road. I saw many members of our congregation suffering many different things week in and week out, with never any changes.

    I began to wonder why???

    I started traveling with him, even doing a little preaching. I noticed that there weren’t any miracles happening there either. He always seemed to have good stories when we got back though.

    One day he told a wonderful story about raising the dead. So I called the hospital thinking it would be the talk of the place. No one knew anything about it. I began to wonder, was he just a charlatan or maybe it was god? And the crack began……..

    There is a quote I read once, it really opened my eyes to the delusion I had pulled on myself to ignore the facts before me.
    Here it is,
    “In reality, contradictions cannot exist. To believe in them you must abandon the most important thing you possess; your rational mind. The wager for such a bargain is your life. In such an exchange, you always lose what you have at stake.”
    The horrible thing is so many people don’t see it until it is to late.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Prayer is incompatible with an omniscient being, anyway –or at least superfluous.

    And MO:

    Wups. I forgot to change my username back.

    That’ll lern you, goshdern you.

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    Answered prayers are inevitably those that could have occurred without God, which is why you don’t see many prayers for amputees to regrow their limbs.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/god5.htm

  • Caiphen

    As a once born again Christian I have the most wonderful testimony. My mother died of Lymphoma 15 years ago. At the time we all prayed for healing or for a peaceful death. What did she get? No healing and no peaceful death. But God still deserves the glory, for after all, as that infallible book says, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”… (Luke 22:42). Praise the Lord, His will was done, she died in excruciating agony. He must’ve wanted her to die this way to show the people who are dying peacefully how lucky they are. Isn’t God great?

    Rennis, Christianity makes a fool of people. Please open your mind and wake up to it.

  • Rennis

    Caiphen, I am truly sorry for the pain and suffering that not only your mother experienced but also the pain and grieving you and your family have experienced over her loss.

    Your post as well as that of many of the others (Richard P, Sarah, etc) expresses anger at God because He didn’t answer their prayers the way they wanted or because various people in their lives deceived them or hurt them.

    Were you truly born again? If so, then you still are and are just angry at God over losing your mother or some other reason. The other possibility is that you never were and instead were led to believe that if you just walked an aisle or said a prayer then you “were in.” It’s fine if you consider me to be a fool because God is real and I have expereinced Him in my life. He was real when I came to know Jesus as lord and Savior, was real as I watched my beloved father die a horrible death from lung cancer, was real as I sat with my mother as she passed away from lung disease. I wanted Him to answer my prayers the way I wanted but He didn’t. I had to accept it. Things in this life are temporal compared to eternity.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Yes Rennis, we’re angry at a God we don’t believe exists.

    /facepalm

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    And of course, the rest of Rennis’ comment is a combination No True Scotsman combined with Argument 15 and Argument 259. Par for the course.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Rennis,

    Assuming God does exist, why aren’t you angry at him?

    Why would you want to worship a God who enjoys torturing innocent children?

    Why would you want to worship a God who enjoys watching people die in agony?

    You wouldn’t put up with that from your employer. You wouldn’t put up with that from your school. You wouldn’t put up with that from your government. You would not accept that treatment from any other authority figure in your life.

    If God does exist, he is either totally inept or a real jerk, a cruel, sadistic demon.

    Thank God there is no evidence that he exists.

    And, actually, since Satan is supposed to be the ruler of this world anyway, for the time being, I think humanity would be a lot better off throwing their lot in with him.

    At least Satan seems to be someone you can do deals with — he’s a businessman, he’s amenable to logic and reason (according to lore, of course). He wants what everyone wants: land, power, sex. Humanity could band together and bargain with him.

    Jehovah or Yahweh or Jesus or Allah — there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to anything he does. We would have not an iota of control or power. We would be slaves at the mercy of his whim. Sure, the Bible or the Torah or the Quran say God will give us Heaven or Paradise, but how can we ever be sure that he won’t pull the rug out from under us? He probably already changed his mind. Maybe this is hell. Maybe we’re in hell. When did the last revelation occur? I think we’re safe in assuming that he abandoned those Bronze Age plans long ago. What? No reminders? No follow up? Given all of the evidence for God’s caprice, I think that the only reasonable thing to do is to assume that he abandoned us long, long ago.

  • goyo

    Rennis: I’m in a hospital room with my very sick mother right now. Her preacher was just here and prayed the ol’ “thou art the great physician” prayer…guess what? It didn’t work!!
    So now she has to resort to man-made dialysis…oh that’s right, god gave the doctors the knowledge to invent technology. So why pray?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    It is my understanding that for some Christians at least, prayer is not about asking god for something and receiving it, but rather that the act of prayer itself is an act of submission to god and acknowledging that whatever happens is his will, regardless of whether or not things turn out in your favor.

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    Tommykey, I think we’re talking here about the prayers in which someone *does* ask god for something.

  • Caiphen

    Rennis

    Noone is truly born again. It’s all a lie. But if it is possible to be born again, I was.

    All of us here would agree with this, if the idea of there being a God had any scientific credibility, we’d all be in church with you. If spending an eternity with God made sense, we’d all jump at the chance of cleaning Christ’s feet with our hair like Mary Magdalene. Do you think we turn away from God because we want to? Of course not! We turn away from God because he just isn’t there. In essence, God has turned away from us.

    I’m a rational thinker and this rationality won in the end. That is why I’m now an atheist. There is no eternity and no God. I didn’t lose my faith because of my mother or any other member of my family dying. God existence is just impossible.

    God being real is a delusion, it’s just a form of higher imagination. It was all in my mind as it is in your mind. I was a fool, but the scientific method was what saved me from this delusion. Scientific critical thinking is the real saviour of humanity, not Christ. We as atheists only believe in what we can test and analyse, just like Thomas. You being a student of the bible would understand this. The story of Christ’s post crucifixion appearance to Thomas and Christ’s subsequent criticism of Thomas was invented to perpetuate the lie of God and to cause persecution of the scientifically minded. Look at history if you don’t believe me. Galileo Galilei is a good example. Think about this. Look how far we’ve come in the last 100 years. Think of our ability to fly then to our ability now. How did this advancement come about? By scientific critical thinking in an aeronautical form, not God! My career within the Electrical Engineering industry is built on scientific critical thinking, that’s what enables me to install all those high tension substations and high tension feeders, not some God that exists nowhere but in higher imagination.

    I have a question for you. Can God withstand the best critical analysis you can perform? Please think about this. Please push yourself to think rationally. For I know how a God based family life as a child can shape a mind.

    For your information. If you haven’t been taught how to critically analyse our highly esteemed host Ebon has fantastic information on the subject on this very website. A search will quickly find it.

    All the best for the new year.

  • Caiphen

    I just realised I’m about a million miles away from the original subject of prayer. I know, Caiphen has done it again. Sorry, I got carried away. Damn.

  • Staceyjw

    Thanks for writing about this, its something I think about a lot. After the terrorist attempt last week, xtians are saying how it was a “miracle” the plane didn’t explode and that it was god’s will that the bomb didn’t ignite properly. What a BAD joke.

    Of course no one talks about the BAD stuff, that;s all blamed on the “devil” don’t you know? How this is possible with an all powerful god, I don’t know (and I don’t want to hear any biblical nonsense, your gods either all powerful or NOT). God always gets the the credit for good things, and excused for the bad ones. If its not the devil, its “gods mysterious will, too complex for humans”, which is the worst cop out of all.

    I understand that CHANCE and RANDOMNESS can SEEM harsh, but its really not so bad when compared to believing in a god that loves people so much that he lets tragedies occur (and doesn’t let us understand why even!), then sends most people to fiery death for eternity. I just don’t see how that theology is comforting, for me it would only add stress, worry and guilt.

    I also think prayer is a way for people to FEEL like they are helping, without having to do anything. I see so many requests on FB for prayers, with lots of replies, but that’s IT. No offers of assistance or money, nothing but PRAYER. A few quick words to a non existant being, how helpful for someone in need!

    BLAH BLAH BLAH.

  • http://janeteholmes@wordpress.com Janet Holmes

    I find it fascinating that all the misery in the world is not sufficient to shake some people’s faith until something bad happens to them! The 23,000 children dying every day from starvation and preventable diseases causes them not a furrow in the brow, but when their wife has an affair this is proof there is no god.

    For example John Loftus was a preacher working with homeless people but it wasn’t until his own life started to unravel that he began to smell a rat. It’s understandable I suppose, but a bit sad that so many people are able to rationalise the misery of others, they don’t have enough faith, God is testing them etc. but when it happens to them then they begin to realise that if there is a god he doesn’t give a damn. Oh well, we’re all just human I guess …

  • Rennis

    Caiphen, I enjoyed the ideas you advanced in your response. However, I must say that your first two paragraphs made me think you, at least at times, question your atheism. If you were born again, you still are. That may account for the tone. I encourage you to continue to reexamine your atheism. If it is real, it will withstand the challenge but if in reality you do believe in God even though you may not want to then you need to come to that realization.

    If you are an electrical engineer then obviously you are able to engage in high levels of scientific critical thinking. As a former physics teacher, that was something I stressed to my students more than anything. I also stressed to them to be aware of what assumptions they were making and what precepts they accepted without proof. (When considering aeronautical critical thinking, examine the expansion and contraction of materials…an important component of building space craft and then consider why water behaves the way it does when undergoing temperature changes.)

    Finally, God is God whether you, I, or anyone else performs a critical analysis. He doesn’t need me to validate Him. I know he is real because of His impact in my life and the changes He has brought about in me.

    Staceyjw brings out a good point for all Christians to take note of. Prayer is good but we need to do much more than pray for those who are hurting. James 2:18 makes that clear.

  • Caiphen

    Rennis

    You never answered my question. Here it is again. Can God withstand the best critical analysis you can perform? Obviously I mean on his existence.

    BTW, at the start of my atheism I wanted to believe but couldn’t because of the senselessness. Now, I have to say, eternity in paradise still appeals to me as it does everybody, but wishful thinking doesn’t make a deity. I now appreciate New Atheism and I can see godlessness is a good thing thus it appeals to me too.

    When I first realised God never existed I was heart broken like I would be with the loss of a friend. But now I’m long over it and I’m in peaceful acceptance of my own mortality with no chance of an afterlife. Based on my own observation of myself, it seems to me we are programmed to accept this very mortality. Then I quickly realised why, it’s called the Theory of Evolution. We are all born to one day die. Another 2 questions that I have for you. Do you accept the Theory of Evolution? Can your prayers through faith overcome the challenges it throws at you?

    One of the many unanswered prayers that I had is thus, I prayed for God to show me that he did exist when I started to become an atheist. He never did. When I continued asking questions, science then showed me he never existed in the first place.

  • Rennis

    “….Can God withstand the best critical analysis you can perform?….Do you accept the Theory of Evolution?…”

    God can withstand the best critical analysis I can give and no I do not accept the theory of evolution as applied to all living things evolving out of a single cell (micro evolution, or changes within species-yes). Where did matter come from and how did life begin? Neither have been observed nor can be duplicated in a scientific lab environment. To accept as fact that increasing levels of order and complexity occur at random in contradiction to the laws of entropy also requires a great deal of faith also since that is not what we observe in nature. In fact what we observe is disorder increasing and concentrations of energy dissapating. The mathematical probability of all this happening is so small that if applied to most other circumstances would most likely be widely accepted as impossible. My hope, and prayer, is that you will experience God.

    Thank you for the respectful discussion. I’ll leave it alone now.

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    Rennis, evolution is not contrary to the law of entropy because the Earth is not a closed system, a closed system being a crucial part of the law of entropy. The earth receives energy from the sun, which energy is quite obviously used by life.

    Also, science does not require duplication in a lab – astrophysics is a good example, there’s no way to examine a star in the lab, but the science is perfectly fine.

  • Rennis

    Note to Paul: The comment regarding entropy was not intended to be limited to earth but rather the total of matter plus energy in the universe (although not explicitly stated). There are predicted life spans of the sun which suggest a remaining life of 5-7 billion years before all hydrogen is fused to hellium. Also, I was not talking about examining something in the state that it currently exists but rather the possible explanations of what sequence of events led up to something being in it’s current form such as how life began. I apologize for not having been clear.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Rennis,
    For a former physics teacher, you have a shoddy grasp of entropy. Even if the full universe is a closed system, that does not mean that pockets of the universe won’t see a decrease in entropy within the system. If your house is full of garbage and you bag it all up and toss it out, the system has not seen a loss of entropy, but your local area has. So, as Paul points out, evolution does not violate the law of entropy, and your reference to it is simply irrelevant.

    I also stressed to them to be aware of what assumptions they were making and what precepts they accepted without proof….

    Finally, God is God whether you, I, or anyone else performs a critical analysis.

    Rather telling that.

    Where did matter come from and how did life begin?

    These are not part of evolution. I suggest you actually learn what it is that you are denying before you deny it.

    The mathematical probability of all this happening is so small that if applied to most other circumstances would most likely be widely accepted as impossible.

    O’Rly? Please tell us what variables you used and how you came to them in order to assess the probability of these events. Methinks you are making stuff up, considering no one has yet been able to come up with the equations to back this assertion up.

  • Sarah Braasch

    OMGF, thank you. And, Janet Holmes too.

    I think this conversation is a bit too respectful. I find Rennis to be nonsensical at best.

    I’m just wondering what those other circumstances are, which would most likely be widely accepted as possible (?), if the mathematical probability of all this happening were to be applied to them. What?

    I love the part that begins as an ode to critical thinking and ends in a denunciation of critical thinking.

    That must have been one hell of a science class.

  • Peter N

    rennis,

    To accept as fact that increasing levels of order and complexity occur at random in contradiction to the laws of entropy also requires a great deal of faith also since that is not what we observe in nature.

    Water evaporates and mixes with air as water vapor, right? So water vapor should be distributed uniformly over the whole earth, right? It couldn’t randomly organize into more complex forms, then?

    Snowflakes. Clouds. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Thank you for explaining the law of entropy.

  • Caiphen

    Rennis

    It seems like others who are more scientifically literate than I can take over the conversation now.

    I’ll only add this. Well before I lost my faith I realised something. If your faith cannot withstand the most critical analysis, it just isn’t worth having. Daylight Atheism, if you think about it, is appropriately named.

    Take care of yourself.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Where did matter come from and how did life begin? Neither have been observed nor can be duplicated in a scientific lab environment.

    God of the Gaps.

    To accept as fact that increasing levels of order and complexity occur at random in contradiction to the laws of entropy also requires a great deal of faith also since that is not what we observe in nature.

    Complexity and order are indeed not random. They are guided by things like gravity, electron valence, and the processes of organic chemistry. But as a physics teacher, I’m sure you already knew that.

    In fact what we observe is disorder increasing and concentrations of energy dissapating.

    And this evidences God how?

    The mathematical probability of all this happening is so small that if applied to most other circumstances would most likely be widely accepted as impossible.

    So you know the size of the set of {All Possible Universes}? I repeat OMGF’s request for your numbers.

    My hope, and prayer, is that you will experience God.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    And I forgot to strike that last sentence, which is Rennins’s and not mine.

  • Rennis

    “…If your house is full of garbage and you bag it all up and toss it out, the system has not seen a loss of entropy, but your local area has….”

    Point well taken. In this case the “you” referred to was the “bagger” and the reverse of entropy was not random but by an intentional act of the “bagger”. Work must have been done on the system in order to reverse that portion.

    “…And this evidences God how?” What preceded the sentence you quoted was a statement that there are some assumptions that scientists make as well. I did not state that as evidence for God’s existence.

    “So you know the size of the set of {All Possible Universes}? I repeat OMGF’s request for your numbers.” I repeat my question of how did life begin and where did matter come from?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    And I refuse to pay homage to your God of the Gaps. Certainly a physics teacher can do better.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I repeat my question of how did life begin and where did matter come from?

    And how exactly are any of us here supposed to answer that question? Life began on Earth billions of years ago. Since then, the planet has undergone massive changes in terms of climate, geology and so forth. It’s not like going into a room that has been the scene of a crime which has not been touched since the crime occurred. It’s more like going into the room of a house that sits on a spot where another house made of completely different materials stood millenia before that and dozens of other homes have been built and destroyed in the intervening years and then trying to figure out what happened in the first house that stood on the site.

    What scientists can do is propose hypotheses about how life might have began and then test them out. But this can’t be done at the snap of a finger. It can take decades.

    There is no shame in not knowing the answer to the question at present. And not knowing certainly does not mean that the claim that it was all done by a supreme being who then impregnated a virgin Jewish teenage girl in the Galilee a couple of thousand years ago.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Ooops, forgot to tack on to the last sentence above “is therefore true by default.”

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    In this case the “you” referred to was the “bagger” and the reverse of entropy was not random but by an intentional act of the “bagger”. Work must have been done on the system in order to reverse that portion.

    Yeah, but if Earth got its water from being impacted by icy comets, it does not mean that there was an intentional act by a “bagger.”

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Nathan “How do you propose to call a character in an anecdote on anything?”
    Probably by saying what I said earlier, though I’d try to be more diplomatic about it. Again, it’s tough for one to see one’s own blind spots. If it wasn’t, they’d just be called “spots”.

    Tommykey “Yeah, but if Earth got its water from being impacted by icy comets, it does not mean that there was an intentional act by a ‘bagger.’”
    *Ahem*

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Life arose from an organic chemical stew in a young earth; the exact process is unknown, though many mechanisms have been proposed.

    Matter/energy have existed since the beginning of time, ~13 billion years ago when space-time expanded rapidly. Why did this happen? There are several ideas but we need to reconcile quantum electrodynamics with general relativity before even beginning to theoretically test them. “Goddidit” isn’t an answer.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Point well taken. In this case the “you” referred to was the “bagger” and the reverse of entropy was not random but by an intentional act of the “bagger”. Work must have been done on the system in order to reverse that portion.

    Or energy has to entering the local area and we just so happen to have an energy source nearby.

    What preceded the sentence you quoted was a statement that there are some assumptions that scientists make as well.

    This does violence to the definition of assumption if you consider the provisional conclusions of scientists based on empirical evidence to be “assumptions.”

    I repeat my question of how did life begin and where did matter come from?

    So, will you retract your baseless statement about the probability of life/the universe forming seeing as how you can’t back it up? Asking the question is fine, and we have gaps in our knowledge, but we do know quite a bit through big bang and abiogenetic theories that are under test, even as we speak. As others have pointed out, “goddidit” is not an answer and is nothing more than an appeal to god of the gaps.

  • Caiphen

    One thing I have to say about the physics teacher who commented above.
    I’m flabergasted that she doesn’t accept TOE as a fact. Assuming she is American, what the hell is being taught in American classrooms? Can’t she spend 10 minutes in a natural history museum? Just a thought. I’m not intending this to be commented upon.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    But if you look at all the evidence, a different picture emerges.

    Reminds me of Bukowski by Modest Mouse: “See what you want to see – you should see it all.”

    God Is Imaginary has a bunch of great videos, one of which advises the viewer to statistically compare prayers to God with prayers to a jug of milk. I’m also about 98% sure that it’s done by the same person/people as God Hates Amputees/Why Won’t God Heal Amputees (brought up by Paul in #26) – it’s all good stuff!

  • Caiphen

    D

    I’ve had a read of some of it. It’s so funny. It goes to show you that just a little freethinking and a few moments of critical thought can liberate a whole life.

    Maybe we should have named this thread ‘When prayer works…….. after praying to your God….oopsidaisy, I mean Dog’

  • rguinn

    It isn’t always the case that so-called “unanswered prayer” is swept under the carpet or forgotten, it’s just that in relating an occurrence to another there is generally a point, or a lesson being passed on. We mention answered prayer because the point is already obvious. That is, “We asked God for help and He gave it.”

    When a prayer is seemingly unanswered, that generally means that God gave us what we needed, rather than what we wanted. My fiance, for example, attended a very charismatic church as a child and at some point they became perhaps too charismatic. Instead of waiting on God for the miracles they started to fill in the gaps with “miracles” of their own devising. This church collapsed, hard. At the time she really didn’t know what to do. She wondered if God had forsaken her. It took a long time to understand what had happened and why God let it happen. Now she talks about it. She talks about how losing her home church made her more nomadic. It sharpened her gift for bringing people together, as she attended several churches and made friends at all of them. It took years to understand why things happened as they did.

    There are other cases, though, where she still doesn’t know the answer. However, she has the faith that answers will come; if not now, then in the afterlife. More importantly, when they do come she has faith that they will show God’s love for her. Now, if she turned from God before she understood these things, her questions would have been left unanswered and the story would not be worth telling. This is why people don’t talk about times when prayer fails.

    Prayer doesn’t fail. Our comprehension of an outcome often takes time to process it. We also need to have faith during the interim that the answers will be revealed.

    Also: a good example of faith regardless of outcome can be found in Daniel 3:16-18, where three servants of the Lord were thrown into a furnace but did not burn. Before this miracle, they said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

    This is how it should be, faith regardless of answered prayer; faith just because God is God, and we wouldn’t be here without Him.

  • Peter N

    rguinn,

    I hear what you’re saying, but I might not be hearing what you want me to hear.

    Your fiancée belonged to a church with some wacky beliefs, and despite the members’ fervent faith and appeals to God, the church failed. This, even though the Bible (which I assume you agree with in many places) absolutely promises that heartfelt prayers will be answered affirmatively. This somehow validates your faith.

    “I prayed and got what I wanted — praise God!” “I prayed and nothing happened, but I figured out a way to deal with it on my own — praise God”

    We atheists also sometimes get what we want, and when we don’t we deal with it — we just skip the praying part.

    Can you see we say that the God you worship is indistinguishable from a God that is totally imaginary?

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    God, you see, says “Yes”, “No” or “Wait”. He always answers with one of those. That those three answers cover all of the possibe outcomes, no matter whether you pray to the right God or the many (so I’m told) wrong gods, or whether God (or gods) exist or not, or whether it’s the deist Creator (who, pretty much by definition, does not answer), or even to your lucky hat…or…or…or…
    Luckily, of all these possibilities, it just happens to be the one that you wanted. And you know this because: your book says so, your theology says so and you were (most probably) born in the West and your parents (most probably) also happened to grow up under similar circumstances.
    If you were born in Africa or most of Asia (or, if you’re of the brand of Protestantism or Catholicism that believes the opposing sect is dead wrong, you can potentially add Protestant or RC-centric areas to the list), you’d have: a different book telling you something else, theology to match and parents inculcated in in a different religion. Then you’d be screwed.
    So…lucky you.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Hmmm. Does my comment come off as a little snarky? Upon rereading it, my snark detector is pinging. I didn’t intend to be snarky.

  • rguinn

    Well, my fiance is indian/filipino, born from two foreign parents who came from non-denominational christian families in two regions not known for christianity, who happened to meet in the U.S. and be the first to marry outside their own respective ethnicities, so it’s pretty hard to make broad claims about her. As for myself I am white, american, brought up by german agnostics. The only christian relative I have is in a church whose beliefs are exclusive and incompatible with my own, so my faith journey has nothing to do with familial or, as a chemist, even scholastic influence.

    I don’t know that it says in the bible that God answers -any- prayer. It says He will answer the desires of your heart, which is often different than the desires of your mind or the desires of your body. Furthermore, it is shown in Job, one of the oldest books, that He essentially has veto power when it comes to what we ask for. God knows what we need much better than we do.

    The difficulty I see here is that your treatment of prayer is overly scientific. You talk about possible outcomes and etc. which is completely futile. Prayer and faith are incompatible with the scientific method. We can’t prove scientifically that there is or is not a God any more than you can prove that “Supernaturalism and superstition have never done anything more than harm us, turn us against each other and hold us back.”

    If faith could be tested scientifically then it would not be faith. My argument was simply that prayer is always answered, but you don’t necessarily get the answer you want.

    If you agree with me for a second (which you won’t) that a correct understanding of the bible would bring one to the conclusion that God gives us what we need, and not necessarily what we want, it is not surprising that people get excited and spread the word when God answers in the affirmative. For one, that means the person praying was on the right track. He can say, “I must be growing closer to God if I am praying for the thing He is about to give me.”

    Perhaps the issue atheists get hung up on here is, “does praying make any difference at all?” That really depends on how you look at it. Christians believe that God is beyond time and space. If that is the case, He already knows how you will answer and what you will pray for. Since this is the case, God knows the outcome of a situation, and will freely give you what you do not want if it is better for you.

    These issues, for christians, take a lifetime to truly understand all the facets for. I have a lot of learning still to do and I’ve been reading the Bible for decades. Perhaps that’s why in my eyes God is quite distinguished from other gods.

    @Peter N- My immediate response to your last statement would be that I have heard God talk. For me, that distinguishes Him rather quickly. For me, such an event, even if it never happens again, solidified my faith in Him and cast away all doubt. The problem is that my experience means nothing to you. It holds no weight in your mind because it was entirely specific to me. The only other people who can relate are those who have experienced the same thing. Does that make sense? Our opinions can not be reconciled because what means everything to me means nothing to you. My experience makes me closed-minded and stubborn on the issue because I can’t ignore what happened. I wish there were a way to make you understand it, but the only way would be for you to experience the same thing, which I have no control over. I hope that makes sense.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    My argument was simply that prayer is always answered, but you don’t necessarily get the answer you want.

    And, whenever I shoot arrows, they always hit the bulls-eye. Of course, I simply shoot the arrows wherever, go and find them, and then paint a bulls-eye around the arrow…

    If you agree with me for a second (which you won’t) that a correct understanding of the bible would bring one to the conclusion that God gives us what we need, and not necessarily what we want, it is not surprising that people get excited and spread the word when God answers in the affirmative. For one, that means the person praying was on the right track. He can say, “I must be growing closer to God if I am praying for the thing He is about to give me.”

    Then, perhaps you could explain why children die when parents are praying for them to get better? I suppose god simply killed the child so that the parents could learn a lesson or something? Wow, what an awesomely good god that is. (Sorry, there is some snark there.)

  • Peter N

    The difficulty I see here is that your treatment of prayer is overly scientific. You talk about possible outcomes and etc. which is completely futile. Prayer and faith are incompatible with the scientific method.

    If God is real, and prayer is real, and if they have real effects in the real world, then they can be studied scientifically. If they’re not real in this sense, what word would you use? We use “imaginary”. We don’t mean to be insulting — imagination is a wonderful thing, possibly one of the few faculties which set us apart from the other animals; in other words, it makes us human. But let’s be clear about whether we honestly believe and expect prayer to affect the real world.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com/ Steve Bowen

    We have an Australian friend staying with us at the moment and as we live near Canterbury, we did the tourist thing and went around the cathedral.
    They have a lecturn supplied with pens and post-it notes where visitors can write a prayer to be read out at the next service. So, I know it’s childish, but I couldn’t resist offering this one.

    May all the people of the world come to realise there is probably no God

    I doubt it will get read out, but as there is probably no God to answer it I’m not too bothered. On the other hand if it is read out and God answers it, I will have a real dilemma.

  • Peter N

    And another thing…

    Christians believe that God is beyond time and space. If that is the case, He already knows how you will answer and what you will pray for. Since this is the case, God knows the outcome of a situation, and will freely give you what you do not want if it is better for you.

    You have nailed one of the key reasons why the omni-everything god is logically impossible. If God knows what will happen in the future, He can’t do anything that will change the future. If He could, He would have been wrong about what He “knew” earlier. If, as you say, the future must inevitably unfold the way God knows it will, then there’s no prayer that will persuade Him to make it any different (despite how it might seem to you, if you think your prayers are often answered “no”). But if on the other hand, God can change the future, then He must not have known what the future would be.

    So a god that is omniscient cannot be omnipotent. A god that is omnipotent cannot be omniscient. You have to choose between a god with limited powers, or a universe with no god at all. Which choice is supported by the evidence?

    [Credit where it is due: I found this argument on the Iron Chariots Wiki, http://wiki.ironchariots.org.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    For rguinn:

    I don’t know that it says in the bible that God answers -any- prayer.

    Actually, it does. For example, Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” I can’t imagine a clearer and more specific promise than that.

    It says He will answer the desires of your heart, which is often different than the desires of your mind or the desires of your body.

    I know of no such verse in the Bible. Can you give a citation? Which book and chapter says this?

    You talk about possible outcomes and etc. which is completely futile. Prayer and faith are incompatible with the scientific method.

    rguinn, the scientific method is nothing but a formal method of testing whether a claim is true. Any factual claim about the way our world works can be checked using the scientific method. And whether God exists, and whether he answers prayers, are most definitely factual claims.

    For instance, we might run an experiment in which two groups of religious believers of different faiths each pray for some measurable outcome, and we see if either group’s prayers are answered more frequently than we would expect from chance. That would be a perfectly good application of the scientific method. If you say this experiment wouldn’t work, are you therefore claiming that God answers the prayers of non-Christians just as often as he answers the prayers of Christians?

    The problem is that my experience means nothing to you. It holds no weight in your mind because it was entirely specific to me. The only other people who can relate are those who have experienced the same thing. Does that make sense?

    That is a very good point, and I agree; the subjective experiences of one person cannot count as evidence to another. But wouldn’t you agree, then, that an atheist who’s had no such experiences – me, for example – is logically justified in not believing in God?

  • Jim Baerg

    “the omni-everything god is logically impossible”

    Unless you’re an omniquantist ;^)

    See http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff1400/fc01386.htm
    & the next few entries in the series.

  • classic095

    Jesus said “Suffer the children” and let them come to me.

    Jesus also lied. “Whatever you ask in my name shall be given you”

    But of course these words were written by story tellers from ancient

    myths.

    Isn’t it about time we recognized that getting down on your knees and muttering platitudes to
    the invisible daddy in the sky doesn’t change anything.

  • RollingStone

    Did it ever occur to the guy who claims to have saved his aunt and uncle’s marriage through prayer that he was more likely to solve the problem by actually TALKING to them?

  • Petosh

    This is my first time here. Though I’ve been following the posts for some days now. And they make very compelling reading. I was born to catholic parents and I gradually fell away from my xtian fate as I grew older. As an African coming from my kind of background atheism is still something that is very difficult to grasp. Mysticism and our own traditional beliefs fly in the face of a Deityless existence. I’ve seen things that defy scientific enquiry. I’m not making a case for xtianity now but somehow over here its difficult to dismiss the supernatural. Does that make any sense?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Hello Petosh,

    Welcome! Glad you came across this site, and it’s good to hear you’re on the path to reason. From what I’ve heard, there are many African cultures where the pressure to believe in the supernatural is very strong. My advice would be to do as much reading as you can; there’s a lot of excellent pro-science, pro-critical-thinking, pro-skepticism material freely available on the internet. The more you learn, I think, the easier you’ll find it to dismiss the supernatural and other superstitious beliefs.