The Atheist Who Prays Defends the Placebo Effect

Remember Sigfried Gold, the atheist who found solace in prayer even though he didn’t believe in God?

Now, he’s back to respond to his critics. And I don’t think he’s converting many people to his ways in the process…

… My fellow atheists have suggested, not always politely, that I’m not an atheist, that I’m not really praying, and that praying is not acceptable behavior for atheists. As politely as I can manage, I would like to defend myself on all three counts.

Now, I can’t claim to speak for all non-reality-based people, but I don’t need imaginary friends, either. I lived for 45 years without them. I just happened to find that when I started talking to an imaginary friend, certain struggles began to evaporate. It became easier to act according to my conscience.

Whatever works, I guess.

It’s easy to mock Gold, but let’s give him some credit. He admits he’s talking to an imaginary friend. He acknowledges that he’s just succumbing to a powerful placebo effect (while knowing it’s a placebo). That’s more than any religious person has ever done.

I don’t see a need to give it a try myself because I’d feel like an idiot praying to someone I know isn’t listening. But I suppose, as Gold says, it’s just more evidence in the power of belief in belief.

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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