More Delusion

Americans are overwhelmingly sure there’s a God who answers prayers.

Overwhelmingly! 83%! Sad isn’t it?

Despite the fact that with just a little honest thought, each and every one of the 83% of Americans that believe god answers prayers would have to admit that they’ve prayed for something and didn’t get an answer (Except those really ingenuous ones who say that “no” is an answer, thereby rationalizing a lack of response into a response. As I said. More delusion.)

Despite the studies that have found that their prayers are decidedly not answered, and in fact, may do more harm than good to those that are aware they are being prayed for.

Despite the millions of people that show up at abortion clinics and pray and pray and pray for their god to end abortion, the scourge of the earth in their opinion, and something god simply cannot and will not tolerate, yet – nothing happens! Abortions continue unabated despite the silly antics of religious groups, politicians and even legislatures.

Despite the enormous amount of human suffering caused by natural circumstances such as weather and disease, two things those 83%  pray to their god to alleviate on a daily basis. To which he apparently says “Fuck you! Live with it. Life’s a bitch and then you die!” Sure everyone’s got a story about how they prayed for Aunt Tillie’s cancer to remit, and – Halleluia! – it did!, even though it would have even without the prayer, statistically speaking. Funny how if you pray for a human limb to regenerate (something statistically impossible) god ignores you.  But for 83% of all Americans, that’s an inconvenient fact, easily ignored.

What’s really sad is that we live in a world of instant communication and knowledge. We know so much more about the natural world we live in than we ever have as a species. We have the ability to learn the truth about almost everything, but the majority of us go on through our lives blissfully ignorant, indeed willfully ignorant of this knowledge, instead choosing to place their reliance on an unseen, unknowable and non-existent entity that repeatedly pushes our face in reality and laughs at us.

C’mon people, wake up!

Prayer might make you feel good at the moment, but it does jack shit. At best it’s simply wishful thinking. At worst it’s willful delusion. It’s a delusion that allows you to rationalize away the realities of life, and when you can convince yourself that prayer works, you can convince yourself of almost anything, from faith healing, to homeopathy, to astrology, to ghosts, to video games flying across the room on their own invisible skateboards.

There is no empirical, repeatable evidence that prayer does anything but lull its believers into a false sense of security, only to dash their hopes and dreams to the ground when the inexorable advance of reality crushes into their lives.

And that’s just sad.

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31 thoughts on “More Delusion

  1. What’s worse is 57% either don’t know or don’t care what the Constitution says.

    It’s also important to remember that they polled 1000 people. That’s not really a lot compared to the total population. I had a professor rationalize this once by saying, “a cook only needs a teaspoon to taste how the soup is” to which I replied, “yes, but before he tastes, he stirs the pot at least.” Besides, at least 83% of USA Today readers are idiots. 🙂

    • If prayer works, how come so many religious schools in my part of Kentucky were closed during the flash floods?

      Well, clearly, school prayer is still alive and well in the Blue Grass state. All those kids praying for their schools to be closed.

  2. Prayer believers set the bar pretty friggin’ low:

    Dear Lord: The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here’s the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done.

    – Homer Simpson

    That is the cartoon equivalent of the stupid cop-out that, “God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘No.'” The likelihood of a ‘No’ answer seems to depend critically on the physical possibility of the desired outcome. Some people probably consider it a coincidence that the likelihood of a ‘No’ answer is 100% for otherwise impossible requests.

  3. From one of your links:

    “”Prayer is definitely working,” said the Rev. Linda J. Knight, a chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital. ”They’re trying to put the scientific blessing on it. But the measurable outcomes are not ones that might show up on a blood pressure screen or a scan. They simply didn’t have the right measurements.”

    Knight, who often prays with patients said, ”I have heard patients say after prayer that they feel so much better . . . Or their face lights up. Or they breathe easier. It does help the healing process by restoring hope.”

    This is the mentality these people operate by, I’m afraid. Actual scientific methodology can’t possibly grasp the truth of what’s going on, but faces lighting up is evidence that ‘prayer is DEFINITELY working’, because it ‘restores hope’. You might as well try to prove to a Catholic that the wafer DOESN’T become the actual flesh of Christ by performing an autopsy on someone who died right after taking communion. Do you think holding that bit of partially digested cracker right under his nose would mean one damned thing? It isn’t about reason. It’s about believing in things just because we prefer to believe in those things, despite the evidence. Despite the arguments. Despite the fact that God seemingly hates amputees.

    “There is no empirical, repeatable evidence that prayer does anything but lull its believers into a false sense of security, only to dash their hopes and dreams to the ground when the inexorable advance of reality crushes into their lives.”

    I agree with the first part of this sentence, but I’m not sure about reality ever crashing through. Unreasonable rationalizations seem to suffice for most, with exceptions here and there. It’s why Christians are still waiting for Jesus to fulfill his promise and whisk them off into the afterlife, even though their own scriptures are a testament to the utter failure of that promise.

    As far as video games on skateboards go, whoever said the skateboards were invisible? Just because they’re beyond the spectrum of normal human eyesight doesn’t mean God can’t see them. Think about it. Doesn’t the fact that skateboards exist that we CAN see infer that there are ‘perfect’ skateboards existing in a realm beyond the ken of our normal sensory apparatus? Also, since we can conceive of perfect skateboards, doesn’t that ontologically prove that there ARE perfect skateboards, since an imperfect human mind couldn’t otherwise imagine such a thing? Also, perfect invisible skateboards give me hope that there are perfect invisible skateboarders to ride them, which really lights my face up and makes me breath easier. And don’t even get me started on perfect video games, which may or may not be invisible. How can I know THOSE don’t exist, since I’m obviously not even aware of all the non-perfect, non-invisible video games that DO exist? If the Pope craps in the woods, does an altar boy get his wings? And do the Mets have a prayer of winning a pennant this year? If I yell out “Oh, God!” during sex, can I rightly call myself an atheist anymore, or even an agnostic? How many prayers could a preying mantis pray if a preying mantis could pray prayers? How did Jehovah get such a sweet publishing deal, and how much in royalties is He taking in every year? Finally, how could God possible know whether He’s omniscient or not? Shouldn’t He do His own praying, just to be on the safe side?

    Yada, yada, yada…

  4. Philly

    I don’t really take USA Today polls that seriously, but polls on the whole are a fairly accurate representation of the greater population. When they’re off they’re not off by a lot. At 83% or 57% even if they are significantly off, it still means a shitload of people still fit the mark. And while not scientific, anecdotally, most people I know seem to believe it. Sometime I feel like I’m drowning in another unrealistic dimension.

    DS

    The Bible annotated by Homer Simpson is one book I’d be proud to have on my bookshelf. If only someone would write it.

    Jim

    How many prayers could a preying mantis pray if a preying mantis could pray prayers?

    You musta had an interesting Cinco de Mayo last night. Revelatory, even. Did you swallow one of the worms right out of the bottle? 8)

  5. S.I.:

    I prayed, and God said it was alright, then asked me some riddle about what’s worse than finding a worm in a bottle. However, the requirement was that I answer in Aramaic, so I just swallowed and kept my mouth shut. 🙂

  6. Of course they believe in prayer. They seldom do it. What they have is a false belief that if they ever get around to doing it, god will answer.

    That’s how I de-converted. One day, I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and voila! I discovered that prayer is futile.

    I think that most folks see prayer the same way they see weight loss. They figure that if they could just eat only vegetables and drink water, they would be as skinny as a movie star. But have they ever tried to really follow a diet? Probably not.

    Diets don’t work. Some of us know that. But when the diet fails, we blame ourselves not the diets. They’re so impossible to follow that we always falter. Just like prayer. There is always a reason why it is our fault and not god’s fault that prayers don’t get answered.

    • The diet analogy is interesting, because often the requirements for a diet are as unreasonable and difficult to adhere to as a religion, so when the results you want don’t happen, it has to be your failure to live up to what’s required, right?

      Diets really can’t work without also increasing your exercise, which reminds me of the phrase, “god helps those who help themselves.” You have people who, after having surgery, will claim god cured them. Well I think being in the hospital and having a team of doctors, nurses and surgeons might have had more to do with it. Likewise, cutting the calories may help, but not nearly as much as taking the stairs rather than the elevator and just getting off your fat ass more and moving. Now of course the analogy breaks down because unlike prayer, diets actually do contribute to the solution (or let’s jut say they can, since there are some ridiculous diets out there).

      Another example of the analogy is the Super Sized Value Meal from a fast food place but ordered with a diet coke, as if that will magically erase the calories and fat of the meal. Sort of like a “hail Mary” or a porcelain prayer at the end of a night of partying.

      The underlying themes are willful ignorance and laziness. Don’t question, don’t investigate, shut your eyes and ears to criticism of your belief and of course put full faith in it because otherwise you’d have to actually DO something yourself.

      • …porcelain prayer at the end of a night of partying.

        I never spoke to god over the porcelain phone. I always spoke to Ralph. (Or Rolf, depending on what I had to drink.)

    • There is always a reason why it is our fault and not god’s fault that prayers don’t get answered.

      To hear Christians, the only way to ensure that prayer works is if the teacher at school leads you in the prayer, of if the President proclaims a special day to pray, after the legislature enacts a statute declaring it. Then god listens and answers prayers. Otherwise, we just can’t do it right.

      • “To hear Christians, the only way to ensure that prayer works is if the teacher at school leads you in the prayer, of if the President proclaims a special day to pray, after the legislature enacts a statute declaring it. Then god listens and answers prayers. Otherwise, we just can’t do it right”.

        That’s the nut of the matter, isn’t it?

        This shows who is “of” the tribe and who is not really “us”.
        The devout and their approach to prayer display a whole lot of Orwell’s “double speak” and “double think”, methinks.

  7. Of course they believe in prayer. They seldom do it. What they have is a false belief that if they ever get around to doing it, god will answer.

    Hilarious. And spot on. Spoken like a True Former Fundy™ has insights like this into the mysteries of fundogelicalism. Ramen, sister.

  8. SI,

    Despite the studies that have found that their prayers are decidedly not answered, and in fact, may do more harm than good to those that are aware they are being prayed for.

    That was a really, really bad distortion of a scientific study, SI. Lookie here, at this nice little gem you omit from the “studies” you link to:

    Krucoff cautioned against concluding that prayer doesn’t work based on his study.

    Imagine that! Yet here we find SI doing exactly the opposite of what this researcher suggests, all to score some points for the “prayer is bogus” side. That’s pretty sad, if you ask me.

    Think for yourselves, dear readers! Investigate all claims!

    jim,

    As far as video games on skateboards go,

    Not surprised at your continued lack of a suitable naturalist explanation for that conundrum, not surprised at all. After all, it directly confronts the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism you so confidently espouse. Things like that are much easier to mock than to actually attempt an honest accounting for. Nobody enjoys intense cognitive dissonance; not even atheists.

  9. cl:

    “Not surprised at your continued lack of a suitable naturalist explanation for that conundrum, not surprised at all.”

    Purposeful misrepresentation of fact. Altered perception and/or memory due to alcohol consumption, including possible exaggeration of fact. Altered perception and/or memory due to emotional excitability, including possible exaggeration of fact. Altered perception and/or memory of the events due to wishthinking, including possible exaggeration of fact. Group delusion. These are all reasonable natural explanations I’ve offered. That you choose to reject them, cl, doesn’t mean that one or more of them isn’t the correct explanation. It simply means that you reject them. Fine, but don’t pretend I haven’t offered them on more than one occasion.

    Many times these same alternative explanations have been offered in response to claims of flying saucers and little green men, and many times have been proven to be the correct explanation(s). These are good, proven alternatives to supernatural and other-ordinary explanations for questionable events. They’re used every day, under many diverse circumstances. Thus, they are ‘suitable’ in your case. They may or may not actually apply to your particular case, but they are certainly ‘suitable naturalist’ alternatives to the more exotic sorts of explanations you’re obviously looking for.

    That’s all I have to say on the matter. I hate having to repeat myself to you over and over again.

  10. Thought I should add that altered perception doesn’t necessarily indicate a full-blown break from reality. It might also mean that a supernatural or other-ordinary interpretation is foisted onto a trivially natural event, with nuanced memory and perceptive distortions consciously or subconsciously grafted on to support the interpretation.

  11. Purposeful misrepresentation of fact.

    Hardly. I acknowledge – and always have acknowledged – that you’ve attempted explanations. The key word was suitable, jim. 2 or 3 beers is not enough to induce an individual hallucination, let alone a group one. You don’t even know the people involved so how can you posit “emotional excitability” without knowledge? You yourself began a series of posts on what you call “common sense inquiry.” You yourself say we should apply common sense reasoning to things in the real world. Well, common sense inquiry is exactly what the three of us have applied to this incident, which occurred in the real world. Objects falling naturally don’t do what these objects did.

    Thus, they are ‘suitable’ in your case. They may or may not actually apply to your particular case, but they are certainly ‘suitable naturalist’ alternatives to the more exotic sorts of explanations you’re obviously looking for.

    No, they’re not, and I’m not looking for exotic sorts of explanation, speaking of “purposeful misrepresentation of fact.” I’m looking for a superior scientific explanation, something like what NAL attempted. Do you have one?

    What I’m not looking for is an aloof shrug of the shoulders followed by the equivalent of, “Eh, you guys were probably just imagining things because you were drinking,” and that under a pretense of informed rationalism. [incidentally, that’s what I liked about NAL – instead of taking the easy way out, NAL rolled up the sleeves and got in there]

    Humor me here, for old-times sake if nothing else: given that you actually trust your senses, what would you have concluded, even provisionally, in the same situation?

  12. cl:

    Firstly, ‘purposeful representation of fact’ is the first item on my list i.e. you could be making the story up, and not a response to your accusation.

    “2 or 3 beers is not enough to induce an individual hallucination.”
    Perhaps. Perhaps not. Depends on many factors. But rather than pursue that tangent, I’ll just point out that I said ‘altered perception and/or memory’, which can certainly be affected by 2 or 3 beers; or by no beers at all, as the case may be, and as I also pointed out.

    “You don’t even know the people involved so how can you posit “emotional excitability” without knowledge?”
    Because you’re asking for hypothetical natural alternatives to your claim. Since I wasn’t there, of course I have no direct knowledge. If that’s to be the new requirement, then nobody can say anything. The knowledge I DO have are the words of your claim, and my response is a list of hypothetical natural alternatives, which is what you asked for in the first place.

    “Well, common sense inquiry is exactly what the three of us have applied to this incident, which occurred in the real world. Objects falling naturally don’t do what these objects did.”
    In cases such as your claim, what I have offered are quite normative naturalistic hypothetical explanations. People lie. People misperceive. People exaggerate. People interpret wrongly. Happens all the time, in a variety of situations. There might be all sorts of weirder explanations, from various forms of supernatural manifestation, to exotic alien technology, to anomalous fluctuations of the planet’s gravitational field, etc. etc. But all I have to deal with is your claim, and my hypotheticals seem the most commonsensical to me.

    “I’m looking for a superior scientific explanation, something like what NAL attempted. Do you have one?”
    I don’t remember what NAL posited, and I don’t have enough interest in this conversation anymore to go ferret out.everything that everybody said. You want my conclusion according to the information I have? Here goes- The music vibrations caused the games to fall to the ground, they may or may not have landed in an atypical fashion, and you and your friends were in a particular mindset wherein you’ve made much more of the situation than what’s actually warranted. Naturally, I can’t prove any of this. The only record I’m privy to of the event is your stated perception of it, and nothing more. But you’ve asked for a hypothetical natural explanation, and mine seems the most straightforward one.

    Of course, it could also be that you’ve fabricated the event out of whole cloth. People do that shit all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past you. However, in this case that’s a little less likely in my mind, so I’ll tentatively discard it in favor of the other explanation. I really can’t make myself any clearer than this, so that’s it for me. Talk to you next year, cl…maybe. Unless, of course, you pop up under another ‘overrated moniker’.

  13. …my response is a list of hypothetical natural alternatives, which is what you asked for in the first place.

    I asked you for naturalist explanations that don’t involve casting doubt on the credibility of the witnesses.

    You want my conclusion according to the information I have? Here goes- The music vibrations caused the games to fall to the ground, they may or may not have landed in an atypical fashion, and you and your friends were in a particular mindset wherein you’ve made much more of the situation than what’s actually warranted.

    That’s laughable, jim. Presuming them to be accurate, the details of the event allow us to safely discard that option. Sans lateral force, objects will fall perpendicular to Earth’s surface.

    There might be all sorts of weirder explanations, from various forms of supernatural manifestation, to exotic alien technology, to anomalous fluctuations of the planet’s gravitational field, etc. etc.

    I agree. What I’m asking for is some explanation – provisional even – of how one or more of these things could actually be plausible.

    In cases such as your claim, what I have offered are quite normative naturalistic hypothetical explanations. People lie. People misperceive. People exaggerate. People interpret wrongly. Happens all the time, in a variety of situations.

    Sure, and there are also who knows how many cases where witnesses are accurately reporting what they saw. That’s why I’m asking you to presume the details are accurate and go a little further. If you can’t, or don’t want to, then don’t waste the time. I don’t need nor care for your approval. I wouldn’t have even brought it up at all save for the fact that here you are, on someone else’s blog STILL running your mouth about it a year later, and that after you said 2010 would be “ignore cl” year!

  14. The problem, cl, is that you refuse to see this from our perspective.

    What we are given is not “We know that some video games fell over in an unusual manner.” We are given “Some guy on the internet says that some video games fell over in an unusual manner.”

    Which of these is more likely:

    A) The laws of physics, which have never before (that’s right, NEVER, not in the history of human observation, EVER) been confirmed to be violated have now been violated.

    B) Someone on the internet is full of shit.

    • B

      Actually, that’s what we’ve been trying to tell him for well over a year.

      Cl, Rudy, whatever your name is, personally, I think you’re full of shit.

      You SAY you’re rational, yet you come here and tell us some anecdotal nonsense about falling video tapes, knowing that there is no way we can falsify, test or otherwise corroborate your little story. The only one such an experience can have any meaning to is you, if in fact it happened, which I doubt. You know it would be irrational for anyone other than you to say “gee, flying videotapes. Must be weak evidence for the supernatural”. In fact, I suspect, if I turned 180 degrees and agreed with you, you’d then point out how irrational I am for accepting your anecdote as evidence of anything.

      The fact that you continue to beat a dead horse, knowing we can’t corroborate this, indicates to me that the purpose of continually beating that horse is to garner attention. Good or bad, attention is still attention for those who constantly seek it. Like humans under the age of 8.

      So, my opinion is you made the story up so that you’d have something to discuss that could never be refuted.

      In short, “B” is the correct answer.

  15. ThatOtherGuy

    Here’s how it works- Let’s set aside all the high percentage probabilities, which all have to do with offering alternative explanations for the claim itself. What we’re then left with is a list of highly dubious hypothetical possibilities-‘various forms of supernatural manifestation, to exotic alien technology, to anomalous fluctuations of the planet’s gravitational field, etc. etc.’. We are then asked to discuss the possible merits and flaws of all these exotic leftovers, as if debating the attributes of imaginary constructs could possibly get us ANYWHERE in determining what actually happened, ESPECIALLY when we have such mundane, common sense explanations regarding the questionable nature of the claim itself. The appeal of this approach is that if the apologist can get us arguing about the relative probabilities of mischievous poltergeists v. Vulcan mind control v. micro black holes v. other unrecognized natural forces to explain some video games falling to the ground (ANYTHING other than the silly notion of GRAVITY being the culprit…tut tut!), then the door has been opened to OTHER hypothetical, exotic forces coming into play. Like, um…oh, I don’t know. Maybe ANGELS? Or DEMONS? Or even…GOD?

    I can just imagine the conversation. “OH, so you’re willing to seriously consider Venusian tractor beams operated by ectoplasmic creatures from Universe X, but you’re NOT willing to consider Jeebus magic. See, supposed rationalist! You operate on faith just like me. JUST LIKE ME!” It’s exactly the bullshit Ben Stiller pulled when interviewing Richard Dawkins in ‘Expelled’. He operated in bad faith to get Dawkins to hypothesize about life on Earth POSSIBLY being planted by space aliens, then turned around and suggested that Dawkins seriously considered this proposition as a genuine possibility. ANYTHING other than GOD!

    I go with ‘B’, TOT. Somebody on the internet IS full of shit, and it ain’t me! Heh.

  16. SI,

    The fact that you continue to beat a dead horse, knowing we can’t corroborate this, indicates to me that the purpose of continually beating that horse is to garner attention.

    Oh please!

    Question: who brought up video games in this thread?

    Answer: jim.

    Hence, I wasn’t the one who brought this up, and not one of you smarty-pants rational atheists can deny that. jim brought it up, so if anything, it must be jim that wants the attention. For a lawyer, you sure do have piss-poor skills at times, SI. Criticize the one who actually raised the issue! I hadn’t been here in weeks, and was more than content with where we left off last time.

    However, on the off-chance that you “free thinkers” ever outgrow the pissing-contest, here’s what I’m asking for: presuming any of you had this experience exactly as we had it, and presuming you trusted that your senses were accurate, how would you reconcile the experience with your beliefs? What would be your conclusion, even if only provisional?

    • Oh please!

      Question: who brought up video games in this thread?

      Actually, it was me. I used it as a humorous illustration of delusion. But, that’s just this one thread. Go back through all the others.

      Criticize the one who actually raised the issue!

      I already did. It was you. You raised the issue, you continue to defend the anecdote, you beat the dead horse.

      However, on the off-chance that you “free thinkers” ever outgrow the pissing-contest, here’s what I’m asking for: presuming any of you had this experience exactly as we had it, and presuming you trusted that your senses were accurate, how would you reconcile the experience with your beliefs? What would be your conclusion, even if only provisional?

      I would say “Wow. That was weird. Some people might think that’s a ghost or something, but shit, I had a few beers, it’s probably my brain acting under the influence. I’ll reserve judgment until it happens again.”

      And of course, it never happened again, or I’m sure we would have heard about it.

      I certainly would not go public on the internet and claim it was anything remotely supernatural, lest I fear being confirmed as a crazy, mixed up, wack-job religio-fundamentalist, with all the baggage that entails.

  17. It’s exactly the bullshit Ben Stiller pulled when interviewing Richard Dawkins in ‘Expelled’. He operated in bad faith to get Dawkins to hypothesize about life on Earth POSSIBLY being planted by space aliens, then turned around and suggested that Dawkins seriously considered this proposition as a genuine possibility.

    Hah, that was Ben STEIN, not Ben Stiller. Though they do have the whole not-that-funny thing in common…

    …presuming any of you had this experience exactly as we had it, and presuming you trusted that your senses were accurate, how would you reconcile the experience with your beliefs? What would be your conclusion, even if only provisional?

    I would probably say “Wow, that was really weird. I bet some people would think that was evidence of something supernatural. Those people are loons.” Or something to that effect. And, no, I’m not being a wiseass.

  18. You’re not a free thinker if when faced with something unexplainable, you explain it anyway, ESPECIALLY with something far fetched like the supernatural. That’s the exact opposite of free thinking, jackass.

  19. TOT:

    Hah! I was actually wondering today if I wrote Stiller instead of Stein. Definitely a Zoolander moment. Too funny! I suppose I should apologize for inadvertently identifying Stiller with Stein. How insulting!

    S.I.:

    Hah! Once again, he was in too much of a hurry to get back at me to actually make sure he knew what he was talking about. I await the backpedaling and/or distracting handwaving.

    cl:

    Hah! And one more, for emphasis- Hah!

  20. cl:

    Btw, surely it must have dawned on even YOU by now, that the ‘videogame incident’ became a running joke some time back. Incidentally, so did you. You lost the right to be taken seriously quite awhile back because of your various antics. Neither S.I. nor myself were addressing your ‘issue’; just cracking a little fun at your expense, s’all. Anyway, here’s S.I.’s original comment for your benefit-

    “Prayer might make you feel good at the moment, but it does jack shit. At best it’s simply wishful thinking. At worst it’s willful delusion. It’s a delusion that allows you to rationalize away the realities of life, and when you can convince yourself that prayer works, you can convince yourself of almost anything, from faith healing, to homeopathy, to astrology, to ghosts, to video games flying across the room on their own invisible skateboards.”

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