Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The Power of Prayer

with 11 comments

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Various random thoughts on God, atheism, and related topics. What can I say, I gave up my agnostic ways a few weeks back, and have been mentally exploring some of the issues surrounding God, prayer, atheism, religion, etc. since then. It’s kind of a mixed bag, but there are a number of points I wanted to mention and none of them is really enough for a complete blog post. OK, it’s a very mixed bag. Or can of worms. Or plate-o-shrimp. I’ll stop now.

Point one, prayer. I don’t have a problem with people praying for me or anyone, “I’ll pray for you.” is the equivalent of “I care about you and hope things work out for you.” If someone is offended by that, they need to lighten up. However, I noticed recently that when someone says “I’ll pray for you” to an atheist merely because the atheist doesn’t believe in any Gods, it sounds kinda patronizing and condescending. And it kinda is, because the implication is that there’s something “wrong” with the atheist. No, there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God (supposedly) gave us to live our lives according to reason and compassion.

Granted prayer is an irrational belief, or more accurately, believing that there is some supernatural being somewhere who is listening to prayers and granting some of them is an irrational belief. No, there have been no studies showing that prayer works. There have been biased “studies” by people trying to prove prayer works, those are no more science than creationism is science. Not to mention that as I type right now innocent children are dying the world over for want of a few dollars of food or medicine … despite the fervent prayers of their parents and loved ones. Still, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with believing in the power of prayer, as long as one makes rational decisions otherwise and doesn’t rely on prayer to cure their sick child.

Speaking of prayer, something that has always annoyed me is how some people claim  that the Supreme Court banished prayer from schools in the USA.  They did nothing of the kind. For starters, if a person is conscious they can silently pray anytime anywhere, so it’s beyond the Supreme Court’s power to ban prayer in school or anywhere else. However, the Supreme Court didn’t ban prayer, what the Supreme Court did was ban organized prayer from school. That’s becasue organized prayer is a religious service, and religious services have no place in public schools. Don’t like it? Send your kid to a private religious school, they’ll be glad to have him or her. The taxpayer pays for public school, not for religious services.

And worse than annoying is how the anti-science religious crowd is still trying to get religious instruction in public schools: The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools. Sigh, at the risk of repeating myself: You want your kids to learn your religion’s myths and fables, send em to Sunday School. Evolution is about as scientifically controversial as the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun, just the fact that Creationists try to dress their fables up in scientific garb shows that they have already lost the high ground. If God exists, he used evolution and the Big Bang to create us, deal with it.

Lastly, to be fair, one thing a lot of atheists do that annoys me is give religion too much credit. I’ve again and again seen atheists claim that 9/11 was “caused by religion.” No, it wasn’t, 9/11 was blowback from American foreign policy in the Middle East. Osama Bin Laden took up arms against the USA because of US violation of Saudi soil, US support for dictators in the Middle East, and America’s collaboration and support for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, Osama is a religious man (in as much as any mass murderer can be considered a religious man,) and his supporters are motivated by religion, but their cause is secular. Which is why the Bush administration went bananas blaming Islam and the whole “they hate us for our freedoms” thing. I mean, wouldn’t want the American public to know that American foreign policy was about enriching the rich and who cares how many people it screws over and inspires to take up arms against us, right?

That however is a topic for another blog, as wikileaks has just revealed  to the world how much the US is screwing them over. And if they did hate us for our freedoms, why are they taking to the streets by the million us to get more freedom? In fact if they hated us for our freedoms, why, didn’t we install and arm the dictators who were responsible for taking away their freedoms? Anywise, my point is that when an atheist blithely says “9/11 was caused by religion” they are simply repeating US propaganda, because unless they also state a few other massacres by followers of other religions, they are just repeating the “Muslims are violent” propaganda. The very sort of religious propaganda that religious people have used to inspire their followers to violence throughout history. Old habits die hard.

Finally, just in case there is any confusion in the matter, atheism is not a belief. Neither is science for that matter, and it’s tiresome that some people of faith don’t or won’t understand that. Religion is a belief in some irrational doctrine, atheism is merely the understanding that there is no logical or empirical reason to believe in any supernatural being. I have decided to live my life guided by reason and compassion, not the dictates of Bronze Age mystics.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is found all over the web. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but will gladly do so if so informed. I just thought it was funny and, well, accurate. If this post generates any interesting comments, there will be follow up posts. If not, well, back to Libyan street fighters.)

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

March 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Religion

Tagged with , , ,

11 Responses

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  1. Namaste anyhow. ;)

    mahakal

    March 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

  2. Just another reason American needs to mind our own business, and get out of it’s self appointed role of policing the world.

  3. I was raised to be a Presbyterian, but around age 12 it seemed like being an Atheist made more sense. And looking back I was pretty obnoxious trying to get others the “see the light”. When I first got to Vietnam in 1967 for religious preference on my dog tags I had Atheist. Around March 1968 I was expounding at length about Atheism, and a guy in my unit said “Jeepers, Kane you are as bad as the Bible Thumpers. How do you know you are right and they are wrong.” That’s when I had my religious conversion. I went from being an atheist in a fox hole to an Agnostic in a fox hole. And I quit trying to get others to “see the light” as I saw it. I hate it when a chaplain prays for our side to win. But the tax dollars that pay for chaplains is money well spent. For a soldier dying on the battlefield, getting his “last rites” matters a lot. Most religions teach to live a good life, do good for others, be kind to those less fortunate than ones self. Its the Zealots that screw things up. When someone says they are going to pray for me, it would seem rude to say “don’t bother, I’m an Agnostic”. I just say thank you.

    Wade O Kane

    March 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm

  4. “”Finally, just in case there is any confusion in the matter, atheism is not a belief””

    I respectfully disagree. Belief is all there is. Because we never have all the facts and evidence is always still out. Have no doubts that we’ll all go to our graves generously misguided and misinformed on a vast range of subjects. Pretty much like every generation that lived and died before us.

    We are not special sorry to say. In fact, i’d argue it is those who hold tight to their own specialness and see a need to ridicule and oppress the non special who refuse to conform around them that cause problems for the world. I make no distinction whether their cocksuredness centers around a transcended diety or not. Because the way i see it, some of the most anti religious, need to get their just recognition as some of the biggest religious zealots on the planet.

    SteveH

    March 7, 2011 at 4:02 am

    • Well, in the sense that their are atheist organizations and clubs, sure, it’s a belief. And I’m quite sure some atheists are jerks about it, jerks come in all stripes.

      However, in the more general sense, saying “I believe Santa Claus is real” and “I don’t believe in Santa Claus” are equivalent statements is misleading at best. Humans do actually have a pretty good idea of how reality is put together, that’s why computers, intercontinental jets, cell phones, and all the rest work. Because science won’t ever answer answer all questions doesn’t change the fact that the logical and empirical evidence for God is the same as the logical and empirical evidence for Santa Claus. They are both creations of the human imagination. This is a fact, not a belief.

      I don’t really see that anti-religious and atheist are at all the same either, though I suppose it can be construed that way. And a huge percentage of religious people are also anti-religion, except for their own of course. So in that sense an atheist who was as zealous about his anti-religion as some religious bigots would be similar.

      However, in the final analysis, one can open a news site any day and I FUCKING GUARANTEE YOU that somewhere on Earth, probably multiple places, people of one faith will have murdered people of another faith taking inspiration from a religious zealot. How often do atheists run out and murder people of faith purely because of their faith? Sorry, but an atheist zealot is not the same as a religious zealot.

      In fact, here’s some radical atheism:

      IN THE LOVE OF YOUR GOD PEOPLE, STOP KILLING EACH OTHER! PLEASE! I CAN’T BELIEVE ANY GOD APPROVES OF MURDER!

      If anyone is offended by that, so be it.

      Thanks for the comments. Peace! — Doug

      unitedcats

      March 7, 2011 at 6:24 am

      • “How often do atheists run out and murder people of faith purely because of their faith? Sorry, but an atheist zealot is not the same as a religious zealot.”

        To that I say: yet. Once atheism grows in popularity I’m sure its adherents will start paving the way to hell just as surely as any other group has done so. My guess is that psychology will be (or perhaps already is) the weapon of choice — though psychology is, by and large, a pseudoscience. But being a pseudoscience doesn’t detract from its usefulness for manipulating and making people miserable, and the field certainly has plenty of atheist support.

        ProphetBob

        March 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

  5. Doug,
    Try just changing the word “religion” to worldview or philosophy and judge the people strictly on behavior. I say that because i just see so many who don’t in reality object to the religious persons behavior but how he arrived at it. “He believes in Santa Clause therefore he can’t have merit” is a form of knee jerk prejudice i’ll suggest indeed pre judges believers in a skewed and irrational way.

    I have a test i call the hitchhiker test that i think more fairly judges the believer by stripping away the prejudice and judging strictly on behavior. It’s about imagining yourself hitchhiking at night alone on a dark road and having a choice of who happens by to pick you up. If you’re honest with yourself, a devout Christian as one of the choices is probably very high on that list and certainly nowhere near the bottom. Prejudice removed, decent person you in reality trust when push comes to shove revealed.

    And by the way, if you want to see non believers killing each other because of their worldviews and philosophy, just go to any inner big city on a Friday or Saturday night.

    SteveH

    March 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

  6. You “understand” that there is no logical or empirical reason to believe in any supernatural being. I “believe” there are many logical and empirical reasons to believe in God. Why is what you have “understanding” and what I have “belief”?

    Chris

    March 7, 2011 at 10:40 am

  7. I think religion, understanding, belief, or being an atheist is a personal choice. When i was younger i had to go to church and sunday school-protestant i think. but when I started asking my parents tough questions I was allowed to make my own decisions. So I was a self proclaimed atheist at 14. I do not value life, family or possibility any less or more than anyone else. I just always had a hard time beleiving that some supreme being was in control. It did not hurt either that I loved science and math. I did always feel that older people really did not respect my decision, getting told as a yound teen that I was in fact”going to hell” was just something I had to hear too many times, most times they would stop when I would tell them” I don’t believe in God, that means I don’t believe in Hell either”,but my point is that we should all have a choice, right? we are all so diverse and different in our abilities/disabilities why would we “think the same”. It just makes no sense. I would like to think that because I am an atheist, I might see our world a little differently than someone who is or has more understanding with respect to religion but I see our world thru my eyes. Reality is what we make it!

    Jennifer

    March 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

  8. Interesting comments all. Two thoughts. Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is a lack of belief. Atheists are people who have examined the evidence various faiths put forward for the existence of supernatural entities (humans have believed in over 2,000 Gods throughout history) and found it lacking. Because, well, there isn’t any evidence. Ancient humans made up supernatural explanations for the world around them, and these superstitious beliefs persist to this day.

    A second point is that while plenty of violence is committed for non-religious reasons, in fact ethnic violence is more common than religious violence … gang bangers are shooting each other for secular reasons, not because of atheism. In fact I’d bet that very few gang members are atheists.

    Lastly, the idea that atheism will get more dangerous as it gets more popular. No, it won’t. Atheism is already very common, and they don’t seem to be organizing much. I mean there’s nothing to organize around, a shared lack of belief. I suppose some are organizing as antithetical to religion, but I get tired of certain religions trying to get their religious dogma made into the law of the land, I’m glad some people are pushing back. Atheists are also wildly underrepresented in prison populations.

    As far as the hitchhiker test, I learnt long ago that a-holes and nice people come in all varieties. I’d like to be picked up by a nice person, I don’t care what their religion is. I’m an atheist, they’re all the same to me.

    Thanks everyone —Doug

    unitedcats

    March 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    • I’d argue the lack of belief in a god transfer over in atheism to a strong belief in science and human achievement, going so far in some cases as to deserve the term “worship.” Rather than deify the supernatural, people turn toward deifying select members of our own species or human constructs (like political parties and leaders). This is not a slam on atheists, just an acknowledgment of trends in human nature. My guess is that the problems experienced under religions won’t cease simply because people turn away from religions — if only it could be that easy. In the absence of an external supernatural power to place faith in, some people embrace the notion of their own god-like status, and act accordingly.

      I’ve come to believe the real problem lies in our hearts and minds, not just in historically-popular belief systems. And we haven’t yet, en masse, come to grips with our power and limitations, or, for that matter, our hierarchical and destructive fantasies. Removing religion from the equation doesn’t automatically remedy our ignorance and folly.

      ProphetBob

      March 10, 2011 at 10:44 am


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