Skip to main content

Prayer and Insanity

By WizenedSage --

I have a question. Is prayer a sign of insanity?

How much more evidence should anyone need that prayer doesn’t work? Nothing could be more obvious. The world is simply overflowing with evidence.

Praying HandsImage by mulmatsherm via Flickr

If prayer worked the way Jesus claimed, the entire health care industry would be redundant, unnecessary. We would need no doctors, hospitals, inoculations, ambulances, medicines, surgical tools, diagnostic imaging machines, etc. And the insurance industry would never have gotten off the ground.

If prayer worked, Christians would be richer, healthier, more powerful than the rest of us, and have all of the most attractive mates. Yet, two of the richest, most powerful men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atheists - and philanthropists who give away billions. If prayer worked, there would be no crutches, wheelchairs, hairpieces, dentures, hearing aids, eyeglasses, seat belts, airbags, etc. etc. We are absolutely surrounded by the evidence. We see it everyday.

Now Jesus said, point blank, that a true-believer could command a mountain to move and it would move (Matthew 17:20). Jesus also claimed that whatever one asks of him in his name, he will do it (John 14:13). Jesus didn’t add any ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts.’ He didn’t say your prayers will come true… if it’s within god’s plan for you, and if your prayer isn’t selfish, but only if you pray with the proper respect. The apologists add these conditions on their own “authority,” justified by the simple “fact” that if Jesus said something, then it must somehow be true. These simple, direct, and unambiguous statements concerning the power of prayer have been tested millions of times by millions of people and been found wanting over and over. Nobody has ever moved a mountain by prayer and prayers go unanswered all the time. Yet people continue to pray… and pray, and pray.

Interestingly, perhaps tellingly, even believers wouldn’t pray for the regeneration of a human limb, or for the pregnancy of a woman who’s had a hysterectomy. They know nature doesn’t work this way, regardless of their religious beliefs. Thus, they would never pray for something that nature or chance could not accomplish on its own. Yet, they fail to see any evidence of anything troubling in this. For the intelligent, the cognitive dissonance must be agonizing.

Whenever prayer has been scientifically tested with carefully constructed, double-blind research methods it has always failed. The best known of these is The Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP), conducted under the auspices of Harvard Medical School (2006). It showed, you guessed it, no positive benefit from prayer. But are the believers buying this? Not on your life! Why not? Well, as one high-profile hospital chaplain said, "God is not subject to scientific research." How does he know this? Well because the research failed to provide a positive outcome, of course. You had to ask?

One especially creative response to this study can be found at the Christianity Today web site Get this:

“Our prayers are nothing at all like magical incantations. Our God bears no resemblance to a vending machine. The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God's blessings. In other words, God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers. By instinct, we might selfishly prefer that God give preferential treatment to those who are especially, deliberately, and correctly prayed for, but he seems to act otherwise [yet the writer stubbornly fails to draw the simplest, most obvious conclusion from this – that prayer makes no difference!].

“True to his character, God appears inclined to heal and bless as many as possible. It is as if he can barely restrain himself [!] - though he often does - from supernaturally intervening and disrupting the nature of the universe to care for those he loves, whether they acknowledge it or not.”

As an old friend used to say, “You can rationalize anything - ANYTHING - if you try hard enough.”

It has been said that a pretty good definition of insanity is when someone takes the same action over and over while continuing to expect a different result. Prayer certainly appears to fit this description. People continue to pray, over and over, while getting the same level of positive results one would get from blind chance. Should we conclude that the prayerful are insane? Personally, I think that would be a bit too harsh, but I’m not at all opposed to calling them gullible beyond all rational comprehension.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two