New York Times Asks: Should Atheists Pray?

Now that we’re seeing a rise in godless congregations, the New York Times asked some people whether atheists should pray, what the point of prayer is, and whether it’s beneficial.

One of the panelists happened to be me.

Another panelist happened to be Deepak Chopra.

Here’s your challenge: Below are excerpts from our responses; can you match them to the right brown person?

Our brains change with every thought, because thoughts form a feedback loop that every cell eavesdrops on. In the tradition of meditation, silence also forms a feedback loop. A wordless voice says, “Here is peace.” Cells can eavesdrop on that message, too, and when they do, pathways in the brain are changed just as surely as when we respond to thoughts, sensations and emotions.

While the main purpose of prayer may be to help others, it never demonstrably does that. Prayers benefit only those believers who say or hear them. Prayer gives them comfort. It lets them think they have some control over a situation that may be out of their hands. It’s the last resort of people who have run out of ideas, and the first resort of people who never bothered to think about how they could actually fix the problem at hand.

I know. I know. It’s difficult. But try.

And then go here for our full responses. (Leave comments, too!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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