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Prayer: Why it Doesn't Work
I don't know about all my other atheist friends, but I for one am getting sick and tired of hearing about prayer.
"Nothing is more powerful than a prayer."
"Instead of worrying about everything, pray about everything."
"Have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it?"
"Saying a prayer is better than doing nothing at all."
I hear variations of this garbage almost every day. I don't ever say anything in reply, but the skeptical look on my face undoubtedly betrays my thoughts. This is typically the moment where the religious person that I am conversing with decides to get right up in my face and passionately insist that, "No, prayer is truly the most powerful thing we can do! It's amazing! Whatever you need, just ask, and God will answer you. He really will! You just have to listen, and sooner or later, you'll get your answer. I promise!"
I don't know what these people are smoking, but I assure you that I am no stranger to prayer. I prayed diligently for the first 18 years of my life and I never heard the voice of God answer me. Not even once.
My personal experiences with prayer are, of course, completely beside the point. Lack of evidence for the effectiveness of prayer is not why I choose not to believe in it. Rather, the process of prayer, when you really break it down and analyze it, makes the idea of doing so sound so ludicrous that it's a wonder how anyone can take it seriously.
First of all, to think that God would change His earthly plan simply because you asked Him to is, in my opinion, extremely arrogant. I mean, as a Christian you accept that God knows what is best for the world, right? So...why are you begging Him to go against His plan so that you can have your way? As a believer, are you not supposed to cling to the blind faith that God knows what He is doing and that, someday, He will tell you the reason behind every bad thing that ever happened to you and your loved ones? "Oh wow!" you'll be able to say. "That's amazing. I never thought of that! Now I know why you didn't save my dad when he was dying of cancer. Thanks, God! You really did know what you were doing!
Yes, I too find the likelihood of such a scenario taking place before or even after death to be pretty low, but whatever. Let's suppose that they're right. Suppose God does have a divine plan that He is willing to change if enough people pray for Him to do so. We'll use the above example of the cancer patient. Say a bunch of people pray for someone's cancer recovery, and say that this is a situation in which God does decide to intervene and rid the patient of his ailment. Think for a moment about how screwed up that is. God heard the prayers of all these people and went, "Well, I was going to let that guy die, but since he got all these people to beg me to cure him, I guess I'll go ahead and do it!"
God is good, guys. God is good. Yes indeedy.
The majority of the religious folk I talk to, however, hold the belief that God in fact does not change His divine plan for anyone. Hearing this never ceases to astound me. What then, I ask you, is the point of praying if God is just going to do what He wants regardless? Does that not make praying for something completely...well, silly? Shockingly, most Christians don't seem to be even remotely bothered when I point this out. They just shrug it off like it's nothing and say something along the lines of, "Oh, well, God always wants you to ask anyway. He likes it when you talk to Him."
No, really, do you even see what you just did there? You fully acknowledged that prayer is not empowering. Because if God has an unalterable divine plan, then none of us possesses any true power or influence. We're all like pieces on a chessboard, free for God to move whenever and wherever He wishes. Asking Him to move us elsewhere won't change His mind. At the most He might laugh and say, "Sorry, but I can't. It's not in the plan!" So again I ask you: What the hell is the point? And don't give me that "the point is to talk to God" nonsense again, because...well, sorry, but I'm not real fond of the idea of falling to my knees and begging for something repeatedly when I know that, in the end, my pleas will not be heard and will have absolutely no effect on anything whatsoever. Sounds to me like...oh, I don't know. A waste of time?
So there you have it. As far as I can tell, prayer is exactly what I always kind of thought it was deep down: a load of crap. Look, I know I'm an atheist, and if you're reading this as a Christian then you're probably sitting there thinking that I'm a load of crap. I mean, what do I know anyway? I don't even believe in God. I must remind you, however, that I did not come here to argue that prayer doesn't work because God doesn't exist. I came here only with the intention of showing you that prayer does not work from a logical standpoint.
If you take the position that God does intervene from time to time when people pray, then you are forced to admit that He might not be such a benevolent deity after all. If you take the position that God does not intervene when people pray, then you must accept the fact that prayer is an utterly pointless act.
I implore you to not immediately dismiss me, but rather, to at least attempt to look objectively at the things I have said today. If I can convince you to do even that much...well, then I'd say I've done my part. I am, of course, always open to debate and discussion, and if you think that I have somehow misrepresented prayer with my words, then by all means, I would love to hear whatever it is you have to say.
I will now bring this post to a close by leaving you with the prayer chart that I have provided below. It is not an image I created, but I think it covers the majority of what I said today in a much more concise manner. Plus, it's hilarious.