Why do people pray?


By Peter Fredson

A young person asked me yesterday, “Why do people pray?” The answer, to me, is obvious. People pray because priests and True Believer followers have told them, and taught them when they were young, to pray. Their livelihood depends upon them being able to talk you into using their services which, frankly, are useless. Priests are parasites on other people. They perform no useful function. Nothing that a priest does cannot be done equally well by anyone else. Chanting, swinging incense burners, wearing funny robes, waving crossed sticks, folding the hands, sacrificing goats, burying or marrying people, or listening to other people’s troubles need no professional mumbo-jumbler.

Prayer and other religious beliefs and practices are artifacts of priests, developed in imagination with language fantasy in full flight. It may be recreation, amusement, meditative, contemplative, or simple brooding but there are other ways to accomplish that which are not founded on falsehood. Although priests are fond of stating that “prayer can move mountains.” don’t even think of climbing Mount Everest without oxygen tanks or to move Mount Etna from the vicinity of Herculaneum. Foolishness can only be tolerated in very small doses.

Humans are plagued with misfortune, accidents, illness, predators, hunger, flood, earthquake, vagaries of weather, and with mental unease concerning future actions. Humans prefer certainty to uncertain developments. When conditions and circumstances arise with doubtful or unpleasant outcomes, human wishing (or wheel-spinning) occurs.

Prayer is a priestly device, a species of language diarrhea, (or wheel-spinning), often accompanied by other ritualized sounds, gestures, and paraphernalia to alleviate anxiety, uncertainty, pain and unpleasant outcomes.

Another “function” would be to praise some invisible intangible omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent mysterious, unknowable grumpy entity (another priestly invention) that people are told must be constantly flattered, propitiated and acknowledged lest he/it become angry and destroy the entire world again.

People are told that this supernatural entity can be contacted if you behave in proper fashion, following instructions by its/his “authorized go-betweens”, and it/he will intervene in your behalf to give you whatever you pray for, unless it/he thinks it unnecessary to move a mountain.

Prayer affirms that there is a supernatural entity with which/whom people can communicate. People are told by priests that they always have a “hot line’ direct to a god, as it/he notices everything, so that they can supplicate it/him, beseech it/him or propitiate it/he at any time, day or night, rain or shine, or they can reach it/him through a middle-person hot-line, like a dervish, rabbi, preacher, shaman, minister, mullah, ayatollah, priest, deacon, bishop or Pope. That is fiction, perhaps poetic license for con-men.

Prayer is presumably establishing communication with a supernatural dimension or entity, by aid of gestures, contortions, bells, whistles, dancing, guitar playing, chanting, singing, using rattles, drums, beads, mats, books, icons or other devices. It also involves certain rituals: such as folding hands in stereotyped positions, kneeling, lighting of candles and incense, self-castigation, fasting, talking gibberish, handling serpents, drinking poison, washing feet, putting oil or ashes on oneself, chanting, going into a trance, doing penance, or behaving in other stereotypical ways to demonstrate (to whom?) that you are being “religious.”

Killing a goat, bringing edible offerings, which priests would actually consume, as an offering to this entity, was once considered quite proper. Nowadays any kind of currency or media of exchange, given to the priests, is presumably held in deposit for the mysterious entity as a kind of religious insurance against eternal punishment.

Priests use fear and terror of the unknown to make their living by useless actions, which they nevertheless insist are crucial to eternal happiness in the future in some unknown place with some unknown entity. That’s how the priesthood makes a comfortable living, without having to serve in an army or do physical labor such as carrying stones for a pyramid. Non-existent entities need no goods or services, nor intermediaries, but priests will rarely inform anyone of that option.

People are told they can try to win approval of some request by giving a God something. Sacrificing a goat, drawing blood from a finger or penis, giving a priest a bundle of cash, voicing elaborate praise, fasting, making vows, doing penance, whipping oneself, washing the floor of a church, decorating a church with flowers, burning incense and candles, bringing food to the priests, and a thousand other devices. But people must show utter subservience and devotion to some intangible, invisible and unintelligible entity that is capable of granting any wish, if the whim strikes it/him. In this fashion people put themselves into the clutches of the priesthood, which will be parasitic upon them forever.

If any casual reader is curious as to my own views, I do not hold any beliefs regarding a supernatural dimension, nor concerning supernatural entities. (No gods, goddesses, angels, demons, cherubim, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, souls, spirits.)  I regard all actions, practices, customs and beliefs involved with getting the attention of a supernatural being, as useless, though self-entertaining and ego-serving..

I regard prayers as futile, as they lack an object, referent, or direction.  Praying might, or might not, be psychologically helpful as introspective self-evaluation.

But it is laughable, or arrogance, that any one of 7 billion humans can presume to tell an omniscient omnipresent deity that it has made a mistake, or should reconsider some past action.  All events are linked, and to change any event requires changing all of the processes and objects in the universe in order to make a pimple disappear, cure cancer, or make Tammy Faye Baker’s mascara stay in place.

However, I have no objection to anyone praying for their own welfare, providing that they do not attempt to involve me in their lucubrations or disturb my own meditations or amusements.  If they wish to flagellate their backs until bleeding occurs, carry crosses, manipulate beads, thump sacred books, tap gongs, turn prayer wheels, mumble or chant, gesticulate, genuflect, kneel, burn incense, eat wafers or drink wine saying it is the body of their god, or any other action presumably directed toward some invisible intangible entity, then I pity their disregard of reality but will go my way without further ado. Certainly, at present, our Constitution allows people to believe anything, at least until the Fascist Corporate Theocrats have all unbelievers flogged, hanged or guillotined.

However, I do object to the kind of prayer that is intended to call attention of bystanders to the fact that someone is praying. I consider this as a type of proselytizing, and an intrusion into other people’s lives. It is an assertion that the person praying has superior beliefs, demanding recognition and approval.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Reportedly said by Jesus, in Matthew 6:5-6.)

Someone who wants to demonstrate public piety needs psychological help.  Public demonstrations by public officials to a perceived benefit of prayer is to me a wanton waste of taxpayer time, an offense against all other religious beliefs, anti-American, and an imposition on credulity. It is cultural arrogance.

“Pray: To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.”
Ambrose Gwinnet Bierce – The Devil’s Dictionary

“It is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America. … By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious service…. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say—that the people’s religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office.”
(Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale, 1962 decision on school prayer, as quoted by Alan Barth, “The Roots of Limited Government,” The Rights of Free Men: An Essential Guide to Civil Liberties, ed. James Clayton, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1984, p. 123.)

28 thoughts on “Why do people pray?

  1. I’ll write more later but I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to pray for you.

  2. Peter,

    Settle down.  I say this for 2 reasons.  1) You’re already on the large part preaching to the choir (pun kind of intended), no need to convince us with your rhetorical force.  2) You’re going to give yourself a coronary and I don’t really want that to happen.  Actually there is a third reason as well, I’m not sure castigation ever convinced anyone that they’re wrong.  Berating people who pray is just going to make them defensive and claim that us atheists are trying to prevent them from practicing their freedom of expression (I think one can argue that prayer is some form of expression) and right to hold whatever religious beliefs they want.

  3. Wow, strange that I should be defending THIS side of the argument.  However, the author’s post seems to be driven by a good deal of emotional fervor, so maybe a little cold water is necessary.  Okay, lukewarm water.

    So much of the post is directed toward priests, from whatever religion.  I would point out that one of the things that sets the majority of protestant groups from the catholic core is exactly this point.  Protestants are taught that they can appeal to god directly, without the need for any intermediary.  As I understand it, Islam also requires no intermediary.  And while Catholics DO use an intermediary for absolution, they are “able” to pray under most circumstances without an intermediary.

    That isn’t to say that there isn’t some degree of “good old boy” mentality among the various clergy to maintain some form of status (or income in some cases), but this isn’t the core of prayer or ritualization, certainly not today.

    There was an interesting article, I believe in Michael Shermer’s column, in a Sci Am a couple of years ago.  The crux of it was that scientists had been able to transmit microwaves to certain portions of the human brain, which produced a state of euphoria, and a feeling of “out of body” that was similar to that experience by Catholic nuns when deeply engaged in prayer. 

    The point there is that apparently, portions of the brain, for whatever original biological reason, are wired such that when activated, can produce these sensations.  Also, for whatever reason, meditation or prayer can trigger this portion of the brain, (as well as a popcorn maker, seemingly.)  That being said, if one can obtain a “natural” high or sensation of euphoria/out of body/interconnectedness through such practices, it could certainly provide a reason why so many people sign up for it, and seem to identify with a spiritual force while doing so.

    It’s not always about simply perpetuating the ignorant mythology, or maintaining power.  Some of these people have quite simply been tricked by their own brain physiology.  All the more reason to approach them with patience, logic, and knowledge.  I’ll try to find a link to that article for posting later.

  4. Zealotry is apparently not just on the Fundies side, eh! Peter you can catch more flies with honey than vineagar(bad spell tired). Anyway you seem to be more pissed about Priests than prayer. I agree with your feelings I just usually don’t rant so much in public. (bad for the health) There isn’t enough oversight on most of the men of the cloth type people, and as we have all learned in the last couple of years, the Catholic Church has been more interested in covering its ass then the plight of the unfortunate men and women abused by their priests. Prayer in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact we pray every day, we just call it talking to ourselves. Some of the most beautiful music in the world started as prayers. The problem is with the people who would have everyone believe in just one thing. It will never happen by the way so buck up. I don’t know you, but I sense a lot of anger, I hope you or someone close to you hasn’t experienced a betrayal from a Priest. If you have my heart goes out to you, but remember revenge is a dish that should be eaten cold. Speak out but speak the words so that people will turn toward you to listen, not away in embarassment at the rantings of a …. Well you get the picture, I hope. In closeing you have some very good points, you don’t need all those adjectives modifying them.

  5. Skippy brought up a point of great interest to me. Many years ago, when I was in Graduate School, a distinguished linguistics professor remarked that we are wired for language.  I agree that the brain, our neurons and synapses, etc can be triggered to produce a panoply of emotions, sensations, “feelings” and that a feeling of interconnectedness may indeed be a reason why people become “turned on” and be a prime emotional psychological motive behind religion. Many people also have “found God” in marijuana, mushrooms from Mexico, peyote, and in other various hallucinogenics. Of course, this is too simplistic to account for all of the emotive backing of religion, but it is certainly suggestive of “wiring.”

  6. Thanks to the people who commented on my article on prayer and for their advice on being less vitriolic. That “castigation never convinced anyone” and that we can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, are both respectable adages based on experience going back thousands of years.  One commentor sensed anger, and another “emotional fervor”, and still another “zealotry.”
      Actually some of it was frustration, even resentment, at the past 4 years of Bush national proselytizing, with his NATIONAL DAYS OF PRAYER, his Prayer-Squad, his prayer meetings in the Oval office, his “faith-based” money grabs, his turning the country over to the Far Right for cash and votes to allow them to institute a theocracy, run on fascist corporate lines, his pious declarations of war against EVIL, using stealth, deception and outright lies, in order to shield the real purpose of invading Iraq, which was to seize the oil. All of the televangelists and parsons and preachers were praying for him to kill Muslims and to bring about the Apocalypse.
    So it is really all of this talk and action and stealth and deception, and the brazen attempts to change our Constitution to suit religious beliefs that led me to protest in writing against the imposition that has been forced on us.
      Of course, people have a constitutional right to believe whatever they wish, but they have no right to force everyone to believe as they do.
    I do not believe that reason or logic form any large part of fundamentalist dogma. But,I decided to write the article venting my argument against prayer, despite spitting in the wind, or have a coronary.
      And, for DeadScot: Thanks, that was really funny.

  7. I had some qualms in posting this one as I tend to agree with the sentiments expressed so well by Swine, Skippy, and Lark. Which isn’t to say that I disagree with the larger message of Peter’s submission, but that it was a bit on the angry militant side.

    The truth is, however, that atheists are just as susceptible to angry and fundamentalist thinking as members of any other group are and I wanted to see how others reacted to your commentary. I’m quite pleased both by your confidence in submitting it and how well you’ve taken the criticism I suspected would come from it.

  8. Peter:

    Skippy brought up the ability for certain parts of the brain, when electrically stimulated, to provide senses of oneness with the universe.

    I mentioned this connection in a past entry, but wanted to say that you can find out a lot more in Why God Won’t Go Away. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but if you’re interested in the scientific aspects of prayer and meditation it will be right up your alley.

  9. Prayers are not altogether useless and for some people it can be really helpful.

    1) Power of Mind: “Placebo Effect”
    The mind is a powerful thing and one can often use it to great effect. For example, there are monks in the Himalayan regions who seem to have fine tuned the power of the mind. They are part of a Harvard research on how they are able to sleep outside in really low temperatures overnight with just a sash without dying from the cold or suffering. The camera crew there barely made it past the night.

    Another example that is more relevant would be the study of a depression remedy (Zoloft) where the drug helped 25% of the people and the placebo helped 32% of the people. Other test on antidepressants show that in over half of the instances the placebo effect is indistinguishable from drug response.

    2) Meditation: “Soul Searching”
    Prayer offers a form of meditation. In modern times, people can meditate without seeking religion but religion together with the power of the mind would help certain people achieve greater inner contemplation. It also helps people to focus on the things that are important. For example, prayer before bedtime may help the person to focus on the key issues that are affecting him.

    3) Psychology
    Sometimes a person need someone to talk to. But they may not feel comfortable talking to themselves so the idea of God as the ultimate ‘listener’ provides a good sounding board. After all you hear of people say talking to their cats or kids talking to their stuff toy. The sounding out of issues may provide a sense of emotional release. Or other times, by talking about your problems you may be able to fully understand the source of the problems and confront it. After all how is one to confront something if they do not know what it is. Prayer may also help to provide closure in certain instances.

    But the thing is that just as placebos do not work for everyone (35%) prayer may not be everyone’s solution to a problem.

  10. I read an ethnology in college called
    Thank You, St. Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes
    It was about women’s relationships with St. Jude, the saint of hopeless causes, and how those relationships affected the women’s lives.  In that book, the author described how prayer was an important part of women’s efforts to change their difficult situations and accomplish goals.  Although prayer, in itself, accomplished “nothing”, it allowed the women to envision a different life for themselves and enabled/motivated them to work toward desired changes.

    Even though I am an atheist, I pray in certain situations.  When I hear ambulance sirens, for example, I pray that the person being seen to gets what best suits their needs—be it treatment or, in the worst situations, death.  And if it is death, that it happen as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Likewise, if it is treatment, that they heal as quickly and painlessly as possible.

    I think I started praying again after my cat died (I was raised protestant and later renounced my faith in high school).  The sensors on our garage door failed and he got caught underneath the door.  My parents didn’t find him until the morning, and the thought that horrified me the most was to think about how long he must have suffered there.  It brings tears to my eyes now, just thinking about it. 

    After Chessie’s death, I started praying when I saw animals dead on the road.  I hate the possibility that any living thing should suffer, so I pray that their deaths were quick and painless.  I pray because the person who killed them may not have spared a thought for them and their pain.  It doesn’t matter to me that they may have already died by the time I pray for them.  I am not praying for their salvation, I am praying as an act of empathy, with the intent to add to the general goodwill of humanity.  I pray because I know that I would never want to experience pain, suffering, and death, especially for a meaningless reason such as careless driving (caveat-some accidents are unavoidable), and I imagine they feel the same.  (Regardless of their mental capacities—I don’t imagine that any living thing wants to feel pain and die.)

    I don’t really pray to a god, I pray to all the goodness and fairness in the world.  I pray to altruism, to humanity—to the sum of us that is greater than our individual selves.  This prayer inspires empathy for the world around me and I find it to be a very humbling and grounding experience.
    Hopefully, when I pray, whoever is keeping tally chalks another one up for “humans are nice”.

    Maybe this sounds all hokey, and I certainly fear that it sounds preachy and self-righteous; it is intended as an account of my personal convictions, not as anything intrusive. But I believe that empathy and compassion are some of the most important qualities to have no matter what your religion or lack thereof may be, and I intend to live those qualities as much as possible.  When I pray, it becomes more possible in my mind to make the world a happier, more peaceful, less painful place.  Perhaps it is not for everyone, but prayer is an important way for me to connect with the world, perhaps as you all have mentioned in the above comments.  Maybe it accomplishes nothing, but it makes a difference in the way I view the world, and it sure as hell can’t hurt.  I can think of worse ways to waste my thoughts.

  11. Actually like Shana I’m an atheist who prays.  I don’t pray to anyone in particular, but I do find that it helps me collect my thoughts and sometimes it helps me cope with the things that are bothering me.  Then again, I’m a Buddhist who doesn’t believe in the cosmology/mythology yet practices zazen 30 minutes a day.  Maybe it’s just that I have too much time on my hands….

  12. I’m as atheist as it gets (I don’t even believe in Tinkerbell), but like Pig and Shana, I often find myself, well, not praying, but wishing and hoping for something to come about. OK, praying.  But not to Tinkerbell.

    As Pop Tarts said, prayer can be useful.  Religion in general can be useful, too.  Or deadly. But as Les said:

    The truth is, however, that atheists are just as susceptible to angry and fundamentalist thinking as members of any other group are…

    Religion is, among other things, a way of building societies.  The laws and morals that structure our behaviour cannot be perfectly rationalized all the way down, since we don’t have enough knowledge (and I suspect never will) to confidently predict which laws and actions will have which consequences, and because we all have different, and changing, ideas about what is good.  Therefore, to some extent, the political and/or religious views we hold are irrational, whether arrived at through religion or not.  All we can do is hope for the best and remain humble and flexible.

    It’s all too easy for atheists to become arrogant about their “superior”, because not tainted by superstition, worldviews.  We have to keep in mind that in the face of our ignorance, we too must make decisions based on irrational beliefs.

  13. We have to keep in mind that in the face of our ignorance, we too must make decisions based on irrational beliefs.

    Amen, Zilch.
    It may be the scientific method, but it’s still a paradigm…who knows what the next enlightenment will be.

  14. Peter you seem to be very anti-theist and a tad jaded! While there are abuses in all establishments, it is true that the seperation of clergy and leity is an artificial construct introduced against new-testiment writings and teachings. And no doubt my experiential evidences carry little weight with you, non the less I do vouch for the fact and truth that Biblically based prayer, not ritualistic recitation, does have dramatic effect on peoples experiences in life even when the subject of the prayer is unaware that they are being prayed for.

    BTW I’m sure Freedom to practice ones religion in the USA would extend to the USA commander in chief, you are free to resent the outcomes of democratic elections, but if you are American by choice then you have the obligation to accept the majority will of the people, even if it is for a Bible thumper that chooses to express some of his religious views through his office.

    You are not being forced to convert to his denomination of christianity. Your constitutional right to practice the religion of atheism is not being violated in any way.

    Liberal democrats do the same when they are in office and enshrine their favorite sins in the laws they get put on the books.

    They also tended to place judges in the courts that did make unconstitutional rulings against the individuals right to practice their religion, and still to this day (I believe) abuse congressional procedure to block the elected presidents and elected house of congresses choices for new judicial nominations by blocking the vote, solely on the grounds of religion.

  15. Dude, I could almost feel your pain when I read this post. First, let me just say “kudos” on being a top ten google hit on “how to pray for people.” Thanks to following that link to this site, I now know how foolish it is to care about other people and pray on their behalf. However, since science can’t positively confirm or deny the existence of alternate dimensions or noncorporeal beings, I think Ill pass on following your advice. A lot of what you said about certain religious institutions hits the nail on the head. However, I find it quite interesting that you decided to quote Jesus. You talked about people trying to make you do things to earn your way to heaven, but Jesus doesn’t demand anything. Instead, he simply offers you a free gift. Dude, if some churchy people did something to piss you off, I apologize. Sometimes so called Christians can be real jackasses (heck, 75% of the time I’M a real jackass.) But please don’t judge Jesus by his peoples actions…I mean, seriously, they’re the ones that killed him!

  16. Strictly speaking, Les, when it comes to religion, is there really any difference between spam and legit?

  17. I hope I don’t count as a spammer! Obviously, as the above views on the subject should indicate, I am EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY biased when it comes to this subject…and probably more biased than you even initially thought, since my wife and I are currently serving as full time Christian missionaries! (I know, I know, get the garbage cans out so we can find something to throw at the close minded, intolerant bastard to make him shut up!)

    Maybe I’m not that smart (okay, that’s probably a given), but I think that science is a very thin excuse for completely eliminating the possibility of the existence of a higher power. A good scientist looks at the evidence and examines all of the possibilities. If we completely take history and religion out of the picture, and just look at the scientific evidence, then we can’t really eliminate at least the POSSIBILITY that psionic communication could be happening between billions of human beings and another super-powerful being on a daily basis. First of all, we don’t even have a unified theory that can tell us whether or not all that we can observe is all that there is. We don’t know if there are other dimensions. We don’t know how old the universe is (Big Bang isn’t even close to being the most plausible non “creationist” theory for the origins of the universe.) And what about time? Does it go backwards forever and forward forever? Does that even make sense? There is so much we have yet to explain, and being able to off-handedly deny the POSSIBILITY of the existence of a God or the power of prayer seems to be much more intolerant and close minded to me. Obviously, I have a different worldview than most of the people on this site. But I would never try to objectively prove things that can’t be proven and then call it science. That’s not science, it’s faith.

    When Jesus (I know, bad word, I’ll try to watch my mouth) tells us that loving people is a better way of living, I can SUBJECTIVELY tell you that it is a better way to live (that is, I can prove that it’s better for me.)

    When he says that his true followers should feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, visit prisoners and the inferm, and to look after orphans and widows, I can SUBJECTIVELY tell you that it is a better way to live.

    You can’t prove that love exists. It’s scientifically impossible. But as a person who has, at one time, TRIED to live without it, I can SUBJECTIVELY tell you that love is a better way.

    I’m starting to rant, and for that I apologize. But please give prayer a chance. I’m not trying to proselytize, I promise. Okay, maybe a little bit…we’ll do the online baptisms and circumcisions next week. (JOKING)

  18. You got me there, elwed.

    Jonathon: as you say, a good scientist looks at the evidence and examines all of the possibilities.  I don’t know any scientist who claims to have proof that God does not exist- and I know a number of scientists.  Nor can any scientist prove that love exists- you are correct there.

    But science is not in the business of proving things, but rather a method for making models of the world that are as accurate and explanatory as possible.  And as long as there is no evidence for God’s existence, or for the power of prayer, then God has no more place in the scientific model of the world than unicorns do.  Love, on the other hand, is slippery and fuzzy at the edges, but it can be defined well enough to be recognized and even partially explained.

    And you must be aware that Jesus was not the only, and not even the first, person to stress the power of loving one’s neighbor.  Not to knock Jesus: a great deal of what he said is pretty good advice.  But not all of it, and there’s no reason to believe that he was anything more than a man, if he even existed, which is not certain.

    But that’s okay with me, if you want to believe: just keep your beliefs out of public school science classes, and other people’s bedrooms, and we’re cool.

  19. But zilch, I hear more praising of the Lord in other people’s bedrooms than any place else. I thought that was a good thing.

  20. Hey consi!  I believe you, but how is it you can hear what other people are saying in their bedrooms?

  21. Now I’m picturing Consi lurking around apartment buildings with a stethoscope pressed to windows and doors, with a creepy grin on his face and greasy hair.

  22. MM- when you’re alone say “I know you can hear me Consi”.  If you’re wrong nothing lost, if you’re right… (Though why would his hair have a grin?)

  23. Zilch-

    You’re right, there aren’t any scientists (legitimate ones, anyways) that will claim to have proof that God does not exist. There are several, however (such as Dr. Richard Dawkins) who act as if the existence of God has already been disproven.

    I actually agree with much (but not all) of what you had to say. Science isn’t in the business of proving things. It actually infuriates me that modern apologists feel the need to paint themselves into the corner of thinking they need to use science to prove the existence of God. No offense to those individuals, but if God really felt the need to prove himself through science, he would probably make things more obvious. (This isn’t to say that science doesn’t imply that there could be a creator…I believe a great deal of it DOES, but I have no wish for this conversation to boil down to and I.D. vs. Darwinism debate.) When did people of “faith” start feeling the need to proving everything they believe? Where does faith come in if God is scientifically proven? And (sorry to some of the other Christians out there), what happens to faith if we start teaching God as fact in our classrooms? I’m not necessarily saying it would be a bad thing, but I think even religious folks need to be careful when it comes to “bringing God back into the classroom.” I mean, there are still textbooks out there that claim that the Civil War was about “states rights.” Is everything a text book says automatically truth.

    I’m ranting again. My main point was actually going to be about love. As you said, love isn’t exclusive to any one religion, philosophy, or people group. How much better would the world be, though, if people lived up to the ideal of love? Even if the existence of love can’t be proven, wouldn’t the world be a better place if human beings TRIED to live like love was a fact. Or, in the infamous words of Will Farrel, why can’t “everybody love everybody?”

    Sorry about the long post, but trust me, if you talked to me in real life, it would be just as long!

  24. Jonathon writes…

    You’re right, there aren’t any scientists (legitimate ones, anyways) that will claim to have proof that God does not exist. There are several, however (such as Dr. Richard Dawkins) who act as if the existence of God has already been disproven.

    I’ve followed Dawkins pretty closely and near as I can tell he acts like he doesn’t believe God exists, not that God has been disproven. He has said himself that there’s a possibility a God could exist, but he finds it highly unlikely. A common stance among a lot of atheists, myself included.

    (This isn’t to say that science doesn’t imply that there could be a creator…I believe a great deal of it DOES, but I have no wish for this conversation to boil down to and I.D. vs. Darwinism debate.)

    Good because I.D. wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny. It never has.

    As for a great deal of science implying that there could be a creator, well, I’ve must have missed those papers somehow.

    When did people of “faith” start feeling the need to proving everything they believe?

    That’s simply how the human brain works. The strongest beliefs tend to be the ones that are backed up by perceived evidence, whether that evidence is real or not. The shapes True Believers will twist themselves into trying to find evidence for their beliefs is often quite impressive.

    I’m sure it doesn’t help when a True Believer tries to convert an Atheist and gets hit with the question: Why should I accept any of your beliefs as correct or true? If they reply with “because I have faith it is true” then they’re probably not going to get very far.

    I’m ranting again. My main point was actually going to be about love. As you said, love isn’t exclusive to any one religion, philosophy, or people group. How much better would the world be, though, if people lived up to the ideal of love? Even if the existence of love can’t be proven, wouldn’t the world be a better place if human beings TRIED to live like love was a fact. Or, in the infamous words of Will Farrel, why can’t “everybody love everybody?”

    What if I don’t want to love everybody? What if I don’t feel that everyone is deserving of that love? There are plenty of people I don’t love that I not only tolerate, but have gone out of my way to help. Why isn’t that enough? I don’t love my coworkers, yet I show up and work hard and am part of the team and am generally well regarded by my peers. I think it’d be pretty creepy if I started telling them that I loved them as well.

    There’s plenty of people I dislike such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. Not only do I not love them, I don’t believe they are deserving of that love. I tolerate them in as much as I try to avoid listening to them and I try not to restrict their freedoms to be the assholes they so clearly wish to be, but I have no motivation to love them.

    Love is a wonderful thing, but the whole idea of “why can’t everybody love everybody” is Utopian at best and Utopia, much like God, doesn’t exist outside of our imaginations.

  25. When did people of “faith” start feeling the need to proving everything they believe?

    The moment they lost the clout to burn disbelievers at the stake.

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