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Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HIGH STAKES TESTING....I guess everyone's heard the news about the new prayer study, right? A team of researchers asked several church congregations to pray for heart surgery patients at six different hospitals and then tracked how well they recovered from surgery compared to patients who weren't prayed for. The result was null. Neither group did better than the other.

But I've got a question about this. As I recall from Sunday School, testing God is supposed to be a no-no. In the second of the three temptations of Christ, Satan takes Jesus to the top of a temple and tells him to jump off in order to prove that God will save him from death. Jesus refuses, saying, "It is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

It's the same deal for prayer: it works, but not if it's being done for the purpose of testing that it works. It's sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Christianity.

So here's my question. Christian doctrine says that testing the Lord won't work, which means a study like this is useless. Scientists say that science isn't meant to test supernatural phenomena, which means a study like this is useless. But if everyone agrees that a study like this is useless, why did the John Templeton Foundation spend $2.4 million on it? What's the point?

UPDATE: Just to make this super-duper clear, I'm not saying the study was useless because I'm an atheist and I don't believe in prayer. I'm saying it's useless because even Christians don't think a study like this would produce any positive results. That's assuming I understand Christian doctrine correctly, of course.

And don't bother suggesting that the folks doing the praying didn't know they were part of a test. Double blind protocols might work for us earthly humans, but they wouldn't fool God.

Kevin Drum 11:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (209)

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Comments

They couldn't lose. If prayer works, it works. If not, you can't put God to the test.

Posted by: AF on March 31, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

It is simply the objective test. That's all that matters.

And now we have objective evidence.

Prayer is a pile of crap.

Posted by: POed Lib on March 31, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

What's the point?

That you're smarter than they are?

People claim prayer works, but strangely, it doesn't. Proof? Every sports team in America prays before a game, it seems, yet only half of them win. Or does God have a line of credit with a sports book somewhere, and he's cheating?

Posted by: craigie on April 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

The Heisenberg Principle of Christianity. I really like that.

Posted by: Devin McCullen on April 1, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Are we not supposed to test the invisible cloud being because he's too high and mighty to perform on demand? Or is it that he doesn't perform at all and we're not supposed to ever find out?

Sounds like a pretty good racket.

BTW, wasting money on absurd rigamarole is pretty much the raison d'etre of most religious organizations. Templeton is just joining in a fine old tradition.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 1, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Do Christians really claim that prayer works, but only when it's not being tested? That definitely puts them deep into Uri Geller territory ("I can bend keys with my mind. Really I can. But for some reason it doesn't work when you put me in a lab...")

When I ask Christians why they pray, the answers are rarely coherent. The intelligent ones realize the hazards of claiming to believe that petitionary prayer actually makes a difference, but if you don't believe it makes a difference, why bother?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

If you give me $1.3 Million, I'll do a study to find out the point!

(And it's not 42, really.)

Posted by: MobiusKlein on April 1, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

At least this study did not use taxpayer money.

Posted by: Peter on April 1, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Did you know that if you dump someone in the water, and they drown, that they weren't a witch? Swear to God.

Posted by: craigie on April 1, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you're absolutely right. My favorite example of this is the Reader's Digest headline "New Proof Prayer Works." Proof prayer works would create serious theological implications, at least for religions based on faith (i.e., Lutheranism, which I was raised in).

So if it's about faith, then proof defeats the whole purpose. But then, popular religion has had a mild-to-tenuous link to theology anyway.

Posted by: Mike S. on April 1, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

But if everyone agrees that a study like this is useless, why did the John Templeton Foundation spend $4.2 million on it? What's the point?

Everyone with a brain knew "Welfare" was "useless" in 1971... why did we spend another $3 trillion until Clinton's 'welfare reform'? What was the point? (other than the Dems buying votes...)

Posted by: fletch on April 1, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. So this proves there is a God, and he does not want to be tested, because if he felt otherwise then the prayer would have worked.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey on April 1, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't disagree more. I think it was money very well spent, and I'd love to see more of my money spent on debunking supernatural claims, from religious BS to astrology, magic, ghosts, etc.

As long as the experiments are well designed and conducted by legitimate scientists, the results will undoubtedly not be supportive of supernaturalism. Sure, fundies will never surrender faith in BS but more and more debunkings through the scientific method may embarrass more and more mainstream reporters and prevent them from giving credibility to stupid ideas.

Posted by: Aris on April 1, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

When someone is lying in a hospital, their life in danger, if a loved one finds some comfort in the hospital's chapel, who does it hurt?

Studies like this are pointless in more ways than one.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 1, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. Fundies don't know their Bible! They only know Dobson 1:1-4:

1 And yea, Jesus did say, "Gays totally suck it

2 And women too, and liberals

3 And sooner shall a camel pass through the eye of a needle

4 Than a poor man ascend to heaven.

See? Nothing in there about "testing God." You liberals and your "reading."

Posted by: Jeff Fecke on April 1, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

"When someone is lying in a hospital, their life in danger, if a loved one finds some comfort in the hospital's chapel, who does it hurt?"

So it's all about the person doing the praying, rather than one (supposedly) being prayed for, is it?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

The point is to see whether prayer can be objectively tested. A big part of what the Templeton Foundation is about is using scientific methods to study religion. Some of the experiments and studies produce results which support religion, some don't. Templeton is honest enough that all the results get published.

Posted by: don Hosek on April 1, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

prayer always has positive results. Even when those results are unhappy.

Posted by: SimonSex on April 1, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Which results "support religion?" Examples, please.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

...the Heisenberg Principle of Christianity...

Fucking Brilliant! (I'll be stealing this one!)

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 1, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

tbroz wrote, ". . . if a loved one finds some comfort in the hospital's chapel, who does it hurt?"

They took away the video arcade to build that chapel. Us godless loved ones need a little Ms. Pac-Man to find some comfort when our loved ones are lying in the hospital, their lives in danger.

Next you'll be turning the pharmacy into a sweat lodge.

Posted by: Dog on April 1, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

April Fool's Joke?? But I agree with Devin--the Heisenberg Principle of Christianity--absolutely Great!!

Posted by: lee on April 1, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

No, definitely not a joke. It was apparently the largest and most rigorous study of its kind ever conducted.

But Kevin has mistated the results a little. The study didn't find no difference between the two groups. It found that the group that was being prayed for did worse!

By the way, what's a "positive" but "unhappy" result?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

But the study found there was an effect --a negative one. Those who knew they were being prayed for did worse! I guess it's because they were leaving it all up to someone else.

Posted by: cld on April 1, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

The result found there was no statistically significant result but if you are in a rush to find excuses to avoid the concept of God - that would do.

Although the way I read it, God intervened to ensure that more people who would have complications and needed help were in the prayer group.

Bad experiment. Shouldn't they be testing is those people survived complications better than the norm rather than which group had more complications?
Shouldn't there also be a group who was told they were being prayed for but weren't?

On research like this. Its sometimes interesting the see if prayer beats the placebo effect. Remember sugar pills do work.

And on god and proof, if people can call things hallucinations or rely on the Mysterious Good with Unknown Reason ...they can doubt anything.

Heck, come apocylypse there's a bunch of people going (gee, the Christians have mysteriously disintegrated. there must be a scientific explanation)


Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you saying that God let some of the prayed-for people die because he was being tested, which he would have saved otherwise?

Come to think of it that does sound like something he'd do.

Posted by: grytpype on April 1, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

So . . . by comparing the average historical duration of illnesses in people belonging to different religions I'll either 1) determine the identity of the one true religion or 2) I'll render all prayer useless for all time.

Posted by: B on April 1, 2006 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite tv show, Morel Orel,

http://www.adultswim.com/shows/moralorel/

Like Davey and Goliath. With crack addiction, hookers and The Evil Dead.

Posted by: cld on April 1, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

It seems that May 4 will be America's National Day of Prayer. It would seem to be more appropriate to hold it today, April 1, instead.

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

I will be jumping off a cliff tonight. If you hear from me tomorrow, it mean nothing, God just accidently saved me.


Posted by: Matt on April 1, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

'...why did the John Templeton Foundation spend $4.2 million on it? What's the point?

Someone who quotes Sigmund Freud as any sort of authority should know the answer to that one. We here at the RAT Institute have been doing some related research on the exact location of God. I'm happy to relate that we now know where God lives and what God is. That sublime feeling of ' the other'?

That sense of peace that surpath's all understanding?

That transcendant appreciation of all that is holy?

That light that shines from your beloved?

It's all gut flora.

Yes, double blind rat trials have tracked down God to the 1.5 kg* of gut flora that the average adult carries around with them everywhere, everyday that they are alive. ( and for some time after death)
A famous New York Ballarina seems to have anticipated our discovery as so often happens in scientific revolutions. She reported terrific spiritual insights gained through anal sex and an amazing connection between sodomy and the soul.

Prayer does work too btw but you have to do it the right way. Watch Muslims and how they do it for more clues on this.

*Subject: Gut flora weighs

1.5 kg = 1500 gm = 52.8 oz = 3 lb - 4.8 oz = 3.30 lb

In Pounds 1 Liter = 2.204684 or 1000.028 Grams

Posted by: professor rat on April 1, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

"In Pounds 1 Liter = 2.204684 or 1000.028 Grams"

Got it, I think. God weighs about a kilogram. or more precise, that piece of God that sits in my bowel.

When I jump of the cliff and God does not accidently save me, then does his kilo of blubber go splat or waft away as a kind of smoky spirit?

Posted by: Matt on April 1, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

"When someone is lying in a hospital, their life in danger, if a loved one finds some comfort in the hospital's chapel, who does it hurt?"

tbrosz is right here, I think. Prayer in these situations is often more about giving the people on the outside a way to feel like they're helping. same way funerals are more aobut the survivors than the dead, in terms of what they actually do. I don't do it (prayer) but i certainly wouldn't deny it to anyone else, unless of course they're trying to cram it down my (soon to arrive!) kid's throat in school.

and, I think Kevin that, in tryin got make sense of this study, you might be overstating the connection between Christians and Christian doctorine. Lots of everyday churchgoers don't really know much aout the ins and outs of their doctorine.

and, "heisenberg Principle of Christianity" is priceless.

Posted by: URK on April 1, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

"It is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Cheat! I call foul. And it's a bassackwardiztion of Heisenberg, if anything. They're not saying they don't know; they're saying they know it works, and that they know it won't work if you test it. They're saying if you peek, the wave function won't collapse.

Posted by: Doozer on April 1, 2006 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

uh, that should be "trying to make sense" in that last paragraph. Damned laptop keyboard!

Posted by: URK on April 1, 2006 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

On their Mission Statement page I got:

Mission

The John Templeton Foundation was established in 1987 by renowned international investor, Sir John Templeton, to encourage a fresh appreciation of the critical importance for all peoples and cultures of the moral and spiritual dimensions of life.

And the quotation that was highlighted in the middle of the statement was:

"None of us has ever understood even one percent of the reality of God, the infinity, the eternity of God. All that we have learned is still tiny compared to what is still yet to be discovered if we search for it." - Sir John Marks Templeton

So what was the point? Like was mentioned at the very top of this comment section - if the prayer worked then they would have "proof" that prayer worked, and if prayer worked then there would be proof of an acting agent, or god, that was providing some positive benefit. If the praying did not work, as was the case, then it only proves you can test god. A no-lose proposition.

Heck, come apocylypse there's a bunch of people going (gee, the Christians have mysteriously disintegrated. there must be a scientific explanation) - McA

Are you sure they didn't just explode because they were just so full of themselves? Or in the case of brown stains in evidence, full of shit? Hell, I'll just be happy to see them gone.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 1, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

"Prayer in these situations is often more about giving the people on the outside a way to feel like they're helping."

Well, either they believe prayer works, or they don't. If they do believe it works, this study suggests they're wrong. If they don't believe it works, they wouldn't believe they're helping.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of which, Tom Delay has never been shy about comparing himself to Jesus Christ. In 2001, Delay defended his none-too-subtle campaign to bring his fundamentalism to the United States Congress, "People hate the messenger. That's why they killed Christ." At last weekend's "War on Christians" conference, Delay's American Taliban allies elevated his Christ complex to the level of a crusade.

For the full story, see:
"Tom Delay's Christ Complex."

Posted by: AvengingAngel on April 1, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Tsk tsk. Are you bored, Kevin? Having a slow Friday? There's an easy explanation as to why the study might still have some validity, even with your "what a good boy am I!" gotcha: Because you aren't necessarily testing whether people who pray can get God to come help them with their healing or getting better or whatever it is they're doing. You're testing whether people who pray are in a certain state of mind, or can get themselves into a certain state of mind, that somehow -- perhaps by boosting their immune systems -- facilitates their healing or getting better.

The scientist in you must be on vacation.

Posted by: Lynn on April 1, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Lynn,

You really ought to read more carefully if you're going to get snarky. First, you have misunderstood the nature of the study. It wasn't a study of people praying for themselves to heal or get better; it was a study of people being prayed for by others (strangers, in fact). And second, if the only purpose of the study was to discover possible psychological effects of knowing that you are being prayed for, there would have been no reason to compare the results of people being prayed for with the results of a not-prayed-for control group.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Here's another fun fact:

You can put a bible in a box, hook it up with a radiation source, a radiation detector and some cyanide gas. The chance that the box contains the living word of god is no better than 50-50, and cannot be determined.

Posted by: Triskele on April 1, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin. Actually, Kevin agrees with Me, Kuni, rule of the cosmos, defender of the faithful, slayer of infidels, blessed be My name, etc etc.

I do not like to be trifled with but that wasn't the issue. Eventhough I am omnipotent and all knowing, I occasionally overlook a few minor things. (I've been working on a few of the new episodes of Galatica for the next season) I thought I flagged the prayers in the Templeton study in My GodMail but the it didn't work. Diety 2005 sucks ass as an OS. Hope Gates enjoys that additional millenium in hell.

Posted by: He without a Name on April 1, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Lynn on April 1, 2006 at 1:47 AM:

The scientist in you must be on vacation.

Heh. Apparently he took Lynn's reading comprehension along with him...

Posted by: grape_crush on April 1, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Pray for money. One nation, under The Almighty Buck.

Posted by: Mammon on April 1, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

I'm wondering when the Templeton folks are going to measure a circle and prove that Pi equals 3.0?

Posted by: Euclid on April 1, 2006 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

There was another prayer study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Reproductive Medicine, that purported to demonstrate that prayer did work. The story was publicized on TV shows and in newspapers all over the US. It concerned a group of infertile women in Korea. Half were prayed for in the United States, and the other half not. The prayed-for got pregnant at double the rate of the un-prayed-for.

That was the initial story.
Later it turned out that of the three authors of the study, one withdrew, and a second is currently in jail for fraud. There is now no particular reason to believe that the infertile women in Korea actually existed. Evidently the whole thing was a fraud.

Posted by: Cardinal Fang on April 1, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Scientists say that science isn't meant to test supernatural phenomena, which means a study like this is useless.

That's extreme oversimplification.

Just because a claim is "supernatural" doesn't mean we necessarily can't test it. Take astrology, for example. We have a whole lot of scientific evidence against it.

From the point of view of science, we now have a point of evidence that prayer doesn't work.

Posted by: fasdjio on April 1, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

When someone is lying in a hospital, their life in danger, if a loved one finds some comfort in the hospital's chapel, who does it hurt?
Posted by: tbrosz on April 1, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

When someone's country has been invaded by infidels, his sister caught in a random sweep, tossed into Abu Ghraib and raped, and he straps on a vest of c-4, and decides to avenge his religion and the honor of his family and his nation in the name of Allah, who does it hurt?

Posted by: Suicide Poster on April 1, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

what was the point? Like was mentioned at the very top of this comment section - if the prayer worked then they would have "proof" that prayer worked

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 1, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

They could have got statistically significant evidence that prayer hurt.

But you can't prove a negative, so you have a point. But that's true for 'Evolution is not true' too.

Are you sure the funding group is Christian. Could be secular for all I know.

But I repeat myself in that the test was for prayer and complications not complications and a higher survival rate for those complications.

-----------

Are you sure they didn't just explode because they were just so full of themselves? Or in the case of brown stains in evidence, full of shit? Hell, I'll just be happy to see them gone.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 1, 2006 at 1:34 AM

Like atheists aren't full of themselves? With all those, we are reason based, you are faith based comments. Or those comments where you think the whole Christian world is the American South?

Please.

I'd say Christianity holds its own against agnosticism /unsure atheism on logic grounds.
And holds it own against amoral/hedonistic atheism on moral grounds.

And I say I know God exists because of my spiritual experiences and the number of people I know with spiritual experiences.

Does that bother you all?

Funny, you guys don't bother me when all you do is talk and not sue people to ban Christ.

Perhaps you don't have much confidence in your convictions.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

When I jump of the cliff and God does not accidently save me, then does his kilo of blubber go splat or waft away as a kind of smoky spirit?

Posted by: Matt on April 1, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, and if he doesn't? At least you'd know for the rest of your eternal life/death whether he does or not.

Perhaps hell is eternal life with other idiots with heaven front of them.

An eternal cacophony of "Its not fair. Why didn't I get a proof? Why not? Why not? I'm good enough! Why not? Why didn't you give me a Pillar of Fire like that God? Who are you to leave me out here anyway? I hate you. Come back, God. I didn't mean it. I'm better than that guy. "

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Wonder why your blog attracts so many materialists? I hate to be in the position of defending the monotheistic religions, but they have an understanding of something that the materialists do not.

The religious start with the feeling that there is a vast Mystery beyond what our senses and brain can comprehend. So far, so good. Then they anthropomorphize the mystery and try to claim it for themselves alone. They have already gone off the track.

But the act of trying to comprehend the Mystery, no matter how flawed, opens them to a sense of magic and wonder that elevates their lives. The materialists do not have that.

Dont believe me, take it from the great saint of science, Albert Einstein, who said, The true purpose of all art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling. Actually, any kind of spiritual practise works, but because of their skepticism, the materialists never give it a chance.


Posted by: James of DC on April 1, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

What do you know? Maybe the congregation prayed for extra complications...
.000

Posted by: ogmb on April 1, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

When someone's country has been invaded by infidels, his sister caught in a random sweep, tossed into Abu Ghraib and raped, and he straps on a vest of c-4, and decides to avenge his religion and the honor of his family and his nation in the name of Allah, who does it hurt?

Posted by: Suicide Poster on April 1, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Himself. His sister who sees his grave. And a few other people too.

But don't you think he could kill people without invoking the name of God?

Plus, its kinda unfair to blame Christians for the actions of a religion that would execute people for becoming Christians.

Why don't you got to Saudi and proclaim your atheistic mission then? Stop whining, and do something instead of picking on a relatively passive Christians.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the congregation prayed for extra complications...
.000

Posted by: ogmb on April 1, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Or prayed that their prayers would go to those in need, which is those who were going to have complications.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

Like atheists aren't full of themselves? With all those, we are reason based, you are faith based comments.

It wasn't the Reality Based community who invented those terms.

I'd say Christianity holds its own against agnosticism /unsure atheism on logic grounds.
And holds it own against amoral/hedonistic atheism on moral grounds.

Um. No it doesn't. Christian Scripture says that it's the unerring word of God. Because it's the unerring word of God. Circular logic. Doesn't hold it's own against anything but Republicanism.

And I say I know God exists because of my spiritual experiences and the number of people I know with spiritual experiences.

Nobody disputes the puppet show that you put on for yourself in your own mind. Nobody is suing anybody to ban Christ on their own private property. What do you think gives you the right to proclaim YOUR version of Christ above everyone else's version of Christ, on public property or using taxpayer funds - which may or may not have been paid by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, or Jedi? Nothing. Nothing gives you or anyone else that right. Not in America. Of course in other countries, religious adherents often use force of arms for that right. That's why America is better than other countries. Too bad we can't send the superstitious freaks to other countries where they'd be happier because they'd be free to oppress others with their religion. But no. They wouldn't be happy. Because they'd have to live with the knowledge that someone, somewhere, might be worshipping a black Christ. Or a Christ who has a tattoo. Or a Christ who wore long hair. Or just God, straight-up, no Christ chaser. Or Goddess. Or not worshipping at all. Because fundamentalist whack jobs don't worship God. They worship control.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

"those that know don't say. those that say don't know."

-- tao te ching

Posted by: harry near indy on April 1, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

The religious start with the feeling that there is a vast Mystery beyond what our senses and brain can comprehend. So far, so good. Then they anthropomorphize the mystery and try to claim it for themselves alone. They have already gone off the track.

Posted by: James of DC on April 1, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

That's a reasonable position. Although you can get in trouble without anthropomorphizing the mystery as well.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

Plus, its kinda unfair to blame Christians for the actions of a religion that would execute people for becoming Christians.

Plus it's kinda unfair to blame a billion muslims around the world (you did say "a religion") for a set of laws (sharia) which only a small radical sect adheres to, (and wishes to impose upon the rest whether they want it or not - very similar - identical, in fact, to the Christian radicals in this country), when sharia is not even from the koran.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

"those that know don't say. those that say don't know."

-- tao te ching

Posted by: harry near indy on April 1, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

The Tao. Lovely philosophy. Greating starting point for discovery.

So why those that know don't say?
Because you can't hear?
Because they selfish?
Because it don't matter if they say?

Then why those Cross people look pretty happy?

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

and wishes to impose upon the rest whether they want it or not - very similar - identical, in fact, to the Christian radicals in this country), when sharia is not even from the koran.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

But far fewer suicide bombers from other religions worldwide compared to Islam. Wonder why?

Plus you can say what you want, but some serious Islamic scholars think the Sharia is from the Koran. Like the fairly large faction who think apostates to Islam must die.

Notice the silence from the Islamic world on that issue?

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

So why those that know don't say?
Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Because they not attention whores.

Then why those Cross people look pretty happy?

Why used car salesmen look pretty happy?

HINT: They're trying to SELL you something.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

You CANNOT petition the Lord with prayer!


The Epic Humiliation of Ben Domenech

Posted by: Balzac on April 1, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

>>> Lynn,

You really ought to read more carefully if you're going to get snarky. First, you have misunderstood the nature of the study. It wasn't a study of people praying for themselves to heal or get better; it was a study of people being prayed for by others (strangers, in fact). And second, if the only purpose of the study was to discover possible psychological effects of knowing that you are being prayed for, there would have been no reason to compare the results of people being prayed for with the results of a not-prayed-for control group.

You're right about point one, assuming the people didn't know they were being prayed for. But not about point two -- no need for a control group??!! Say what???!!!

Posted by: Lynn on April 1, 2006 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

o it doesn't. Christian Scripture says that it's the unerring word of God. Because it's the unerring word of God. Circular logic. Doesn't hold it's own against anything but Republicanism.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Atheism says God doesn't exist because God doesn't exist. Circular logic. And every person's experience must be insulted as a 'puppet show' or 'hallucination'.

By the way, I'd go back to 'hallucination'. Puppet shows have someone working the stings.

'Because fundamentalist whack jobs don't worship God. They worship control.'
Actually, they worship loss of control to Christ the Lord.

-------

What do you think gives you the right to proclaim YOUR version of Christ above everyone else's version of Christ, on public property or using taxpayer funds

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Because its public property and the majority of taxpayers want prayer in schools. Why is it right for a small minority of atheist to waste court time paid for by government money enforcing their religion?

A lawsuit forced a local government to spend money taking down a cross and removing ten commandments displays that were already there.

I'm all for no new spending on these displays out of fairness but why spend money taking them down?

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

But far fewer suicide bombers from other religions worldwide compared to Islam. Wonder why?

Far fewer cruise missiles and high-altitude bombers.

Plus you can say what you want, but some serious Islamic scholars think the Sharia is from the Koran.

I *will* say what I want.
And some serious Christian scholars think that the bible is the unerring word of God. Some more serious Christian scholars know that it is a collection of works written by many different people over a period of many centuries, and often not transcribed correctly, and often done so on purpose. And that the biblical canon was arbitrarily decided by a bunch of old men who got together and declared themselves the authority over the religion. And that in some cases, (many, in fact) there is no clear evidence for who the author of certain books actually is - or whether there was any relationship at all between the author and the church. We're supposed to believe that the Scripture is the accurate unerring word of God in light of these facts, because the holy spirit was supposedly guiding these people. Now, if I claim that the holy spirit told me to rip out 7 arbitrarily chosen books, and add a couple of my own, would that make it canon? What if I was the pope?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Because they not attention whores.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, if you got something good why hide it away?
Don't like the idea of there being something good out there?

And as to trying to sell you something... why? The only money Churches get is from the collection - which is collected anonymously.

But if you are worried - you can just take a tract and investigate the issue without joining a Church.

-------------

You CANNOT petition the Lord with prayer!

The Epic Humiliation of Ben Domenech

Posted by: Balzac on April 1, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

Petitions aren't always answered immediately. And why would someone pray for a liberal newspaper job when you disagree with all their views?

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you saying that God let some of the prayed-for people die because he was being tested, which he would have saved otherwise?

Come to think of it that does sound like something he'd do.

Posted by: grytpype on April 1, 2006 at 1:08 AM

In the interests of fairness and although I am an atheist, I would point out an alternate explanation.

That God did intervene to help some of those that were prayed for (selected by whatever arcane process he normally uses), but also helped an equal number of those that were not prayed for just so that he couldn't 'tested.'

Of course, this just reinforces the essentially meaningless nature of the attempted test. If no amount of negative results are going to be allowed to act as proof of the non-existence of God, then any attempt to prove he does exists is equally worthless.

Beyond that, connection does not imply causality, particularly in the absence of a clearly defined mechanism. If those prayed over did have a statistically meaningful better response, it would have been a sign that something unexplained was happening, but not necessarily the particular something they set out to test.

Posted by: tanj on April 1, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Triskele treats us top Schroedinger's Bible...Another priceless analogy, btw. The snark is flying among those of us whop don't believe in fairy tales tonight, isn't it?

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 1, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

Atheism says God doesn't exist because God doesn't exist. Circular logic.

No, apparent mental retardation. Atheism says God doesn't exist because His existence can't be proven. But your comparison wasn't to Atheism. It was to Agnosticism - which says God may or may not exist, His existence cannot be proven, nor can His unexistence. (which, I feel, is more logical than Atheism).

And every person's experience must be insulted as a 'puppet show' or 'hallucination'.

Why would that be an insult. It's everybody's experience. Nobody's being singled out as inferior. Just the ones who insist their puppet show is Emprical, and everyone else's is invalid.

Actually, they worship loss of control to Christ the Lord.

Um - yeah. Whatever. Maybe you are reading a different bible than mine.

Because its public property and the majority of taxpayers want prayer in schools.

Um - yeah, whatever. Maybe you're reading a different First Amendment than I am. Mine definately doesn't say that the State Religion is That of The Majority Of The Taxpayers.

Why is it right for a small minority of atheist to waste court time paid for by government money enforcing their religion? I'm all for no new spending on these displays out of fairness but why spend money taking them down?

It violates the law, and it violates the conscience and rights of ALL Americans. The Atheists shouldn't have to sue. The public displays should not have been there in the first place. But since certain individuals felt it necessary to violate everyone else's constitutional (God Given) Rights, then it's the government's duty to enforce the law and have the display removed (and punish those who mis-spent public resources by putting it up in the first place). If the government had done it's job in the first place, and if the certain individuals who erected the display didn't feel the need to impose their minority beliefs on the rest of America, at others' expense, the lawsuit would not be necessary.
Complaining about Atheists "wasting time with lawsuits" is like a white-collar criminal like Tom DeLay complaining about Prosecutors.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin misses the main point.

HOW THE FUCK could this study have cost USD$4.2M?

That's, like, what, 80 person-years including on-costs?

There's something fishy there. If the study had been conducted by Republicans it would be a major scandal.

Posted by: am on April 1, 2006 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, if you got something good why hide it away?

Maybe if you just drop someone into Oz's throne room, then they miss out on the journey to the Emerald City. Why rob someone of the value of a spiritual journey by revealing the end?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

HOW THE FUCK could this study have cost USD$4.2M?

It was done by Halliburton. In Iraq.

Posted by: Mammon on April 1, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

So why those that know don't say?

Because the name that is spoken is not the true name, or something.

Think of it in terms of the old military saying: The map is not the territory.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

Far fewer cruise missiles and high-altitude bombers.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Why are Christians taking blame for American actions? In your defence of suing schools, you point out USA is not a Christian country.

-------------

We're supposed to believe that the Scripture is the accurate unerring word of God in light of these facts, because the holy spirit was supposedly guiding these people.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Yup. And it would help if you'd met the Holy Spirit...which people have.

I think the Bible (and the process) holds up better than any document of the same antiquity. Many copies compared to Roman history, etc.

You'd have to be a really weak Christian not to notice the Bible was written by various people. Look at the titles. 'Paul's letter to the Galatians', 'Gospel of John'. etc. Bible guides will tell you who they think wrote each book, and whether the person was transcribing another persons testimony - so there's no hiding there.

If you know your Bible, it hangs together very well. And if you spend your time on it, it has a glorious logic and consistency for. You can take some time on it though to get there on fine points. But on major issues, its remarkable.

I think the bottom line is that the Presence of the Spirit in your life is the tipping factor that makes it all pretty clear.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

From Bob Park's What's New for 3/24/2006:

Today, in a major front-page story, staff writer Rob Stein tells us that "the largest, best-designed study of intercessory prayer" is being published in two weeks. What does it say? The secret is guarded as tightly as the Academy Awards. However, as I write this, the world population clock reads 6,505,424,096. Most of them pray. A bunch of them pray 5 times a day. They pray mostly for their health, or that of loved ones, making prayer by far the most widely practiced medical therapy. It's a wonder anyone is still sick. No one doubts that personal "petitionary" prayer benefits believers. Optimism is good medicine. To the believer, prayer is a stronger placebo than sugar pills. Stein, however, has his facts wrong. The controversy (if there ever was one among scientists) was settled in 1872 by Sir Francis Galton when he published "Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer." Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, recognized that remote prayer by strangers would be blind to the placebo effect. Since the Order for Morning Prayer of the Church of England includes prayers for the health and long life of the monarch and the archbishop, he compared their longevity to that of the general population and found no difference. So who is doing this new study? Herbert Benson, founder and president of the Mind Body Institute, who touted the health benefits of prayer in his 1975 bestseller "The Relaxation Effect." It would be a miracle if he now discovers there's nothing to it. It's in our hands now, we have two weeks to pray that the study turns out to be objective.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on April 1, 2006 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

Atheism says God doesn't exist because His existence can't be proven.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the only logical branch of atheism is amoral, with good only obeyed due to social pressure. And if you go in the archives, this debate has been done.

----------

Just the ones who insist their puppet show is Emprical, and everyone else's is invalid.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

No one insists your puppet show is invalid. But you are an atheist you don't have one except the one you make up for yourself.

There is no God, and being rude to those who disagree makes me right.

---------------------

It violates the law, and it violates the conscience and rights of ALL Americans.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

Really, prayer in schools outrages all Americans. Do you follow politics?

I don't see how you see your right for courts is inviolate. Whereas the rights of local government
to spend their taxes on what their elected commissioners want is not inviolate.

Sounds biased to me.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

Since the Order for Morning Prayer of the Church of England includes prayers for the health and long life of the monarch and the archbishop, he compared their longevity to that of the general population and found no difference.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on April 1, 2006 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

He'd didn't account for those who weren't from the Church of England, praying otherwise.

Besides, I think those prayers are somewhat perfunctory.

Like 'God Bless You' in a cold.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why rob someone of the value of a spiritual journey by revealing the end?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

Which is one reason why God doesn't reveal himself and address all Pain and Suffering instantly.

Very Good Grasshopper!

I found Buddhist logic wonderful for a non-scriptural argument on the existance of original sin in the form of 'desire'.

I just think Christ is the solution.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK

So here's my question. Christian doctrine says that testing the Lord won't work, which means a study like this is useless. Scientists say that science isn't meant to test supernatural phenomena, which means a study like this is useless. But if everyone agrees that a study like this is useless, why did the John Templeton Foundation spend $4.2 million on it? What's the point?

Easy. The John Templeton Foundation are Christian heretics.

Incidentally, I'm not sure it's accurate to say that scientists say science isn't meant to test supernatural phenomena, exactly. You can scientifically test lots of supernatural propositions, it's just that the falsifiable ones all get comprehensively and definitively squashed by the test. The ones that survive do so by being unfalsifiable, and it's unfalsifiable propositions that science isn't meant to test.

The possibility of being able to prove a proposition right isn't good enough. For it to be science, it has to be possible to prove it wrong.

Posted by: derek on April 1, 2006 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, they worship loss of control to Christ the Lord.

Um - yeah. Whatever. Maybe you are reading a different bible than mine.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

No, just reading it with an open heart. How is 'Love God with all your heart' and 'Love your fellow man' a huge control tool.

Aside from sexual immorality (which is sex outside of marriage and not just the gay stuff)
its not more onerous than what many
non-Christians impose on themselves.

And when you get old enough, I think you'll find that variety ain't that big a pull.
One marriage only, til death do you part isn't that rough.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK
Perhaps hell is eternal life with other idiots with heaven front of them.

L'enfer, c'est les autres.

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK

Since the Order for Morning Prayer of the Church of England includes prayers for the health and long life of the monarch and the archbishop, he compared their longevity to that of the general population and found no difference.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on April 1, 2006 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, since the monarchy has a problem with some genetic disorders. Normal mortality is pretty good.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying that this has anything to do with Christianity or anything like that--but just suppose, as a hypothetical, that in order to keep all the flunkies and poor people in line you invented some series of doctrines based on a magical, all-knowing, all-powerful Being. And let's just suppose that the series of doctrines is total bullshit and none of it would hold up under any sort of reality check.

Wouldn't it be awfully convenient in this circumstance to declare as one of your doctrines that the Being in question must not be tested?

Just saying.

Posted by: Trickster on April 1, 2006 at 3:53 AM | PERMALINK

Brethren, attend the lesson: note:

God hates fags.

April Fools!

God hates women.

April Fools!

God hates sex.

April Fools!

God hates black and brown people.

April Fools!

Doesn't this sound just a little like it might be coming from someone like Coyote, the trickster god?

As sick and twisted as pious wishes may be, they don't nearly approximate the lethality of Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

Reasonables vs Whack Jobs

Investigation vs Dogma

Action vs Delusion (a puppet show all its own)

Fluid vs Rigid

Life goes on

"We are accustomed to the new land yet attached to the old country" - anon

Posted by: daCascadian on April 1, 2006 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the only logical branch of atheism is amoral, with good only obeyed due to social pressure. And if you go in the archives, this debate has been done.

Well - if the moral code of a religion is derived from man, then it's no different. No different at all. Religion's just a useful tool to convince idiots that one man's definition of good and evil came from God. It's a man, usurping God's authority, in fact.

And yes. This debate HAS been done.
http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/intro.html

I personally, AM a believer. But I don't believe in God because of some supposed superior moral calculus. That's a bullshit argument, and it's really a piss-poor substitute for real faith. A feeling of moral superiority is the first step on the road to justifying mass murder. Ask any mass murderer. Stalin. Hitler. Bush.

But you are an atheist you don't have one except the one you make up for yourself.

That's absolutely no different than if you're a believer. You make it up yourself. Whether you believe it or not doesn't change that fact.

Really, prayer in schools outrages all Americans. Do you follow politics?

Yes - and that's not what I said. If you have such a poor command of the English language, then it's not a good idea to try to twist someone's words.

I do follow politics - and not the narrow, slanted view that Fox News portrays. The majority of Americans don't want organized prayer in public schools. I sure as hell don't want my Lutheran kids being led by a teacher, whose salary I pay, in a Baptist or Catholic prayer. The majority of Americans have a belief in the supernatural. But only a very small minority are of any given denomination. Most denominations are happy to express their faith in their homes and churches. It's only the radical fundamentalists who have been led by their charismatic preachers to make the school-prayer thing an issue. And most of those home-school or send their kids to private religious school.

The old saying goes; as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school. (But those kids better study anyway).

I don't see how you see your right for courts is inviolate.

Then you clearly don't know the first thing about the purpose of a Constitution. I suggest you learn. Do some reading. Start with the Magna Carta. Then work your way up to the Preable to the Declaration of Independence.

Your naive idea of what Democracy is about is really the equivalent of "mob rule". A Constitution protects individuals and minorities against the tyranny of the majority.

Posted by: Mammon on April 1, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Trickster, that goes without saying, or what part of "faith" don't you understand?

I understand the commandment against "taking the Lord's name in vain" to prohibit unauthorized magic, like laying a curse upon someone, rather than angry swearing. "God damn you" is forbidden, but "Goddamnit" is not the same thing.

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

Aside from sexual immorality (which is sex outside of marriage and not just the gay stuff)
its not more onerous than what many
non-Christians impose on themselves.Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK

What, so you're saying it's not (Christian) immoral for me to use birth control when I have sex with my wife? What about oral sex with my wife, is that okay? Anal? Mutual Mastrubation? Come on McA, draw that moral line for me!

And when you get old enough, I think you'll find that variety ain't that big a pull.

yeah - I guess when I'm 90, getting a hard on wouldn't be that big a pull.

One marriage only, til death do you part isn't that rough.

Read your Bible. Paul said that marriage is only for people who aren't as gifted with self-control as he was. (well, either self-control, or really bad body odor. You can brag a lot about self-control if you can't get laid). So - what he said was, if you have the willpower, then it is, IN FACT, immoral to even engage in marital sex.

So Paul - moral relativist as he is, is saying that something is only immoral if you have the willpower to resist doing it. So what if I don't have the willpower to stop myself from running over my neighbor with my truck? What if I just HAVE to have that big juicy steak on Friday night? What if I get to feeling freaky, and head out to the gay bar for a walk on the wild side? It's okay - I don't have the will power to resist!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

"But the act of trying to comprehend the Mystery, no matter how flawed, opens them to a sense of magic and wonder that elevates their lives. The materialists do not have that"

James, why do you believe that "materialists" don't have a "sense of magic and wonder" that elevates their lives? At the very least, this seems a bit of an assumption . . .

( . . .perhaps someone will give me $2.4mil to study it?)

. . . and frankly, a bit of a snarky assumption too . . . Is a life-elevating sense of magic and wonder only available through contemplation of an anthromorphized Mystery? You explictly deny this, after all!

Look at the quote you use again:

The true purpose of all art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling.

one more time, with emphasis:

"The true purpose of all art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling.

I'm missing the bit about skeptics or materialists not admitted . . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on April 1, 2006 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

I found Buddhist logic wonderful for a non-scriptural argument on the existance of original sin in the form of 'desire'.

I found geometry to be wonderful for a non-scriptural argument on the errancy of scriptural text.

Posted by: Euclid on April 1, 2006 at 4:15 AM | PERMALINK

am, Couldn't believe it took so long to get to the cost. Wish I could have seen some of that!

James of DC: what is the direct relative relationship between monotheism, multitheism, agnosticism, atheism with materialism or mysticism? In present American society, some christian churches and, more obviously, some of the tele-evangelicals are pretty blatant examples of materialistic extreme and/or personality cult. Very Christian. There are also a number of moneyed "Christian" individuals who certainly don't seem concerned about "the eye of the needle."

Be that at it may, I thought that a number of years ago there was a study that showed laughter actually did work as a medicine. Maybe that's apocryphal.

Any of you people keep a rabbits foot, or some type of goodluck talisman? Always do certain things a certain way to ward of bad happenings? Along with the team prayers and the player "humbly" thanking god for his touchdown (do we have any player doing that after every basket in basketball?), don't we also have the fans who think that certain procedures will lead to a home run, a base hit or a team win? Superstition lives in many forms and doesn't just show up in the biology class but also . . . on TV.

Since "Touched by an Angel" there seems to be a certain sector reserved for those viewers who need some satisfaction to their superstition itch; whether vampires or psychic crime solving, whatever. All good fun, if that's all it is!?

Posted by: notthere on April 1, 2006 at 4:45 AM | PERMALINK

What, so you're saying it's not (Christian) immoral for me to use birth control when I have sex with my wife? What about oral sex with my wife, is that okay? Anal? Mutual Mastrubation? Come on McA, draw that moral line for me!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, you ask God to draw the moral line for you. But you and your wife are one in God's sight.
So I don't think consenting sex acts are wrong at all.

I'm not Catholic so I don't get the birth control issue.

----------------------------

yeah - I guess when I'm 90, getting a hard on wouldn't be that big a pull.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

And you will be 90 someday, so if you are still alive why not revisit the issue of God then.

It looks like the sex outside of marriage is too important for you now.

-------------------------------

Read your Bible. Paul said that marriage is only for people who aren't as gifted with self-control as he was. (well, either self-control, or really bad body odor. You can brag a lot about self-control if you can't get laid).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but as a spiritual gift so he could focus on missionary work.

Anyone can get laid if they want to resort to prostitution. Nothing special about the ability to get laid.

------------------

So - what he said was, if you have the willpower, then it is, IN FACT, immoral to even engage in marital sex.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

Nope, if you have the gift. The gift is a calling.
Like being a missionary (or so you can be a missionary).

Nope. Its not immoral to engage in maritial sex even if you have the gift. It might get in the way of your missionary work (or whatever work God gave you the gift for) but thats about it.

I think at this point you misunderstand Paul badly. Think about these:

'There is no condenation in Christ Jesus'

'All things are permissable but some are not beneficial'

---------------------

So Paul - moral relativist as he is, is saying that something is only immoral if you have the willpower to resist doing it.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

Again. He never said this. He just said some people have a spiritual gift that lets them deal with celibacy very well.

But willpower and sin is a nice discussion to have. You can insist you have or have not the willpower to do or not do something - but who cares?

Either you have sincerely accepted the Lord or aren't. Trying not to sin is a response to that from gratitude, not an act of earning salvation or fear.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

At least this study did not use taxpayer money.
Posted by: Peter

Well, perhaps not *directly* but since you can pretty much be sure this $2.4M was a deduction from taxes owed somewhere along the line....

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

angry swearing. "God damn you" is forbidden, but "Goddamnit" is not the same thing.

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

I disagee on this. The second is still something that non-Christians can use as a stumbling block to accuse Christians, when resisting the Lord.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

This was the wrong test. They should have tested which group felt better about their friends' heart surgery, the ones who prayed or the ones who didn't. I'm willing to bet that the ones who prayed did feel better (calmer, more relaxed, at peace, etc.) and that's what prayer is really for. It's like meditation in that sense and as such is a worthwhile activity.

Posted by: E. Nonee Moose on April 1, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

As sick and twisted as pious wishes may be, they don't nearly approximate the lethality of Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Posted by: bad Jim on April 1, 2006 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

So God is blamed for any wrong caused by those who mention his name?.

And if he intervened to throw lightning bolts all the time, would that satisfy you?

You blame God for Dolce, I blame secular philosophy for the rise of the nation-state, Machiaveli and ethnic cleansing.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

That's absolutely no different than if you're a believer. You make it up yourself. Whether you believe it or not doesn't change that fact.

Posted by: Mammon on April 1, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ok. On a logic basis, in your worldview both of us have assumptions. I made up God, you made up morality.

Why am I more capable of moral superiority? My religion maintains I am saved by Grace not my acts.

Plus the atheists here seem pretty morally superior.

And in the past once you declared religion the 'opium of the masses' atheism was great on killing people for being inferior drug-dealer religious types.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

Templeton made a pile of money long ago. He is now very old and quite capable of wasting said money.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on April 1, 2006 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

What was that goofy Jim Carey movie where Morgan Freeman let Jim become 'God' and prayers became an overwhelming torrent of e-mails?

He then created havoc by granting, wholesale, everyone's prayers, no matter how venal, selfish, spiteful (praying for the misfortune of others is not exactly unusual - what are people praying for when they pray for transplants to become available except the death of another human being - even a person someone else is praying will survive), or trivial, and the Lottery payoff became $5 since everyone won...

Didn't explain how sports teams would function since he obviously couldn't have both teams winning simultaneously. Games would never end as tie-breaker after tie-breaker would have to be played until both teams collapsed from exhaustion.

Every horse race would be a dead heat. Every test paper would miraculously become an 'A'. We'd have 30M 'American Idols' to torment us.

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

"So it's all about the person doing the praying, rather than one (supposedly) being prayed for, is it?"


Well,duh. Prayer is an act of faith and worship. Insofar as it is helpful to the one prayed for, it is because that person shares in the faith and knows that he is being prayed for. The one praying is very specifically acknowledging his inability to control the world and confessing (acknowledging) his need for help. So prayer is a person's recognition of his limitations.

Essentially, that's what religion is all about, recognizing one's (and one's group's) limitations.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 1, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

Backing up Kevin we get this from a CNN report.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/03/30/prayer.study.ap/index.html

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who did not take part in the study, said the results did not surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said.

Science, he said, "is not designed to study the supernatural."


But a few years ago there was a positive story from Columbia University and the Journal of Reproductive Medicine about prayer helping people in fertility clinics. It turns out one of the researchers never did any work and just had his name attached to the project and another one was marched off to prison for being a con man. The guy who exposed all of this was Dr. Bruce Flamm. Here is what Harold Koenig said about that.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040614/04/

Harold G. Koenig at the Duke University Medical Center, who studies the relationship between spirituality and health, cautioned that whether the report contains falsifications still remains unknown. "It could be a completely legitimate study," he noted. He also told The Scientist that Flamm is a "known skeptic."


My guess is that Koenig is just waiting for the next positive, if meaningless, research to come along while dismissing any negative research.

Posted by: Carl on April 1, 2006 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Join the Pajamas Media House Party

Watch Michelle Malkin rock the casbah pajama-style!

Posted by: Spiro T. Agnew on April 1, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Good thread, but I think you could have gotten twice the number of posts if you had let Amy Sullivan write this. The angle could be something like,"In a move suppporting the knee-jerk hatred most Democrats have for religion, the Templeton Foundation said today ..."

Posted by: Pat on April 1, 2006 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ah Kevin.

More endless blathering from the loony mind of a moon bat athiest.

God helps those that help themselves. It's not prayer in and of itself that helps, but the intentions, actions and bargains that go with it. How can you test good intentions? This experiment was designed to make Christianity look bad. These scientists should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: egbert on April 1, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I actually think the study is correct. I have been praying for a long time that out little MALAYSIAN troll McA shuts the fuck up. But, so far, nothing.

Posted by: Pat on April 1, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Ah Egbert,

The casual insults of someone who claims to follow in My footsteps.

If you really were Christian, you would love Kevin. And you don't insult people you love.

Jesus

Posted by: jesus on April 1, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

If you must know the secret of life, it is (ding -dong) Oh, um excuse me, there are a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses at my door. Jeesh, those guys burn me.

Posted by: God on April 1, 2006 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

And now we have objective evidence.

Prayer is a pile of crap.

That is a really unhostile conclusion, isn't it?

So if you are hostile to others, then why should they not be hostile back?

Posted by: Bob M on April 1, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

The prayed-for group got sicker? Clearly it was a mistake to draft members of the Bush administration to do the praying.

They took away the video arcade to build that chapel. Us godless loved ones need a little Ms. Pac-Man to find some comfort when our loved ones are lying in the hospital, their lives in danger.

Next you'll be turning the pharmacy into a sweat lodge.

Hilarious!

Posted by: shortstop on April 1, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

God, you funny!

Posted by: shortstop on April 1, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the study worked. God says NO as well as YES and sometimes MAYBE or LATER. Just like a magic 8 Ball.

As a recovering fundie, recovering since 1974, I always tell them that if I prayed to a tree I would get the same answer,,,YES, NO OR MAYBE LATER.

The interesting thing is that the people who knew they were being prayed for, did a little worse than the others. Guess they gave up their own will power thinking God would heal. Sigh.

Posted by: lilybart on April 1, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I was praying that they wouldn't be able to prove the power of prayer.

Posted by: smskater on April 1, 2006 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

First poster (AF) was dead on...they couldn't lose...and what's a measley 4MILLION...like it couldn't feed or clothe the homeless or poor as Jesus might have been pleased to see...had they gotten the results they hoped for they could continue to shove Christianity down our throats...poor whining, persecuted weinies!

Posted by: Dancer on April 1, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, why isn't "science supposed to test supernatural phenomena"? Would that eliminate just about everything science has ever tested? Just because we believe that something is "supernatural" doesn't necessarily make it so, and if objective evidence that such a phenomenon exists, I guess we'd have to start considering it natural, rather than supernatural.

Note, however that in this case, even proving the efficacy of prayer wouldn't estabilish God as a natural entity. We'd have to prove not only that prayer works, but how it works (i.e. divine intervention).

On its face, I don't see what's objectionable about such a study.

Posted by: TWAndrews on April 1, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

"They couldn't lose. If prayer works, it works. If not, you can't put God to the test."

Maybe the test is all wrong. The test assumes God almighty is a Christian God, but what if the creator is a Moslem God? What if for Allah to respond you must behead non-believers? Perhaps the researchers should have asked Jihadis to behead infidels as a way to help the heart patients get better or reach paradise.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on April 1, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Drum:

It's sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Christianity.

I like that.

Christian Scientists put God to the test all the time. That is to say, they try his patience when they resort only to the healing power of faith and prayer, rather than also making use of his earthly instruments (e.g., medical doctors, technology, pharmaceuticals, etc.).

Posted by: Toby Petzold on April 1, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Prayer is a pile of crap.

That is a really unhostile conclusion, isn't it?

So if you are hostile to others, then why should they not be hostile back?

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Posted by: jesus again on April 1, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I am glad that they did the study.

Perhaps this will put to rest the notion that God is our celestial errand boy. The best prayers in my experience are "to know God's will."

Posted by: Gnostic on April 1, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

They couldn't lose. If prayer works, it works. If not, you can't put God to the test."

Maybe the test is all wrong. The test assumes God almighty is a Christian God, but what if the creator is a Moslem God? What if for Allah to respond you must behead non-believers? Perhaps the researchers should have asked Jihads to behead infidels as a way to help the heart patients get better or reach paradise.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on April 1, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Comrade Freedom Fighter maybe you should volunteer for the test. Inquiring liberal minds can't wait to see the results.

Posted by: Neo the commissar on April 1, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

My girlfriend, whose father and grandfather were ministers, theory is that God, as a fairly busy fellow, has over the millenia developed a fairly efficient spam filter to weed out those who are playing games with him versus those who really need his attention. And like all spam filters, it's not perfect, and many of these prayers may just have been stuck in the Trash folder....

Posted by: Stefan on April 1, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

craigie:

Every sports team in America prays before a game, it seems, yet only half of them win. Or does God have a line of credit with a sports book somewhere, and he's cheating?

Not just that, what if God is getting it on with Gretsky's wife?!

Posted by: Don P. on April 1, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I believe tanj has it exactly right. There's only one way to "test" God, at least according to the Bible:

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. TEST ME IN THIS says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Mal. 3:10 NIV (emphasis mine)

Posted by: Don P. on April 1, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, it's not prayer that gets things done.

They should have done this study with snake handlers who speak in tongues.

THAT would have shown results.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 1, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

"You blame God for Dolce, I blame secular philosophy for the rise of the nation-state, Machiaveli and ethnic cleansing."
Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:30 AM

Ethnic cleansing? You mean like the Catholic Croations, Orthodox Serbs and Bosnian Muslims? Or the Sunnis and the Shiites? all those people in "the most Christian country in Africa" as Rwanda used tobe known?

Let's not play body count, McA. You won't like it.

By the way, I left a couple of replies for you in the last religion comments just before it disappeared fromn the front page. Just want to make sure you see them...

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_03/008511.phpc

Posted by: A Hermit on April 1, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh -- why is it that no one (left/right, religious/secular) actually knows their Bible? And yet both sides think they do?

No offense to Kevin's Sunday School teacher, but testing God is only a "no-no" in the sense that most of the things that Jesus tells us not to do are "no-nos" (such as having lust in your heart, or getting a divorce and remarrying....) and we all somehow still end up doing it anyway. It's perfection -- the ideal, something else Jesus also talks a lot about.

But the Bible is filled with lowly humanity testing God all the time (Moses, most of the Prophets, Paul, etc test God implicitly, if not always explicitly stated.) And God, surprisingly enough, is more forgiving than not of this "no-no" behavior.

Shocking, I know.

Of course, it didn't work out so well for Annanias and Sapphira.....

All this said, as a Christian, I'm always more than happy to see studies like this. I'd like to see more not only regarding Christian beliefs and traditions, but also an exploration into medical claims made by Buddhists, Taoists and Hindus, etc. We all might actually learn something.

(And my thoughts aside, the "Uncertainty Principle of Christianity" was wonderful wordplay.)

Posted by: gretchen on April 1, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

If you want to pray and it makes you feel better, go ahead. If you want to spend $4M on a study because you may learn something, go ahead. Just don't pray for me, or ask me to pray for you. Then we'll all be happy.

Posted by: JJF on April 1, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

McA, "I blame secular philosophy for the rise of the nation-state, Machiaveli and ethnic cleansing."

That was Joan of Arc. Saint Joan.

Posted by: cld on April 1, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

There is something very wrong at the Liberal Avenger today.

Posted by: ckent on April 1, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

The complete failure of the Presidential Prayer Team (which is not a test) by nearly every possible measure of performance -- war progress, policy success, approval, etc. -- proves the point in a different way.

http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ppt_homepage

Posted by: skimble on April 1, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd say the big flaw with this test is that they basically failed to test for the placebo effect by having a test group which was told people were praying for them, and then having no one pray for that group.

The theological problems are two-fold:
1) God doesn't like being put to the test as Kevin pointed out.
2) Prayer is not a machine; God does not automatically grant prayers. The answer may, for whatever reason, sometimes be no.

Posted by: John Biles on April 1, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

"PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf
of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy." --Ambrose Bierce

Posted by: Martin Richard on April 1, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose this means that you can't measure the results of a prayer without altering the outcome.* Perhaps we can call this the Drum Quasi-certainty Principle.

-b

* unless that's what you're watching for...

Posted by: Brendan on April 1, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the only logical branch of atheism is amoral, with good only obeyed due to social pressure. And if you go in the archives, this debate has been done.

No, McA, it's just that your obdurate stupidity is legendary.

LEGENDARY.

You repeat the same snot over and over. You ignore the words of your interlocutors over and over.

You bring the art and practise of ignoring to heights mere mortals rarely dreamt of.

Posted by: obscure on April 1, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Petition to nominate Golden Boy for the Nobel Peace Prize,

http://www.liberalavenger.com/2006/04/01/petition-drive-to-nominate-bush-for-nobel-peace-prize/


(Oh. April Fool's Day. It got me.)

Posted by: cld on April 1, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK
And now we have objective evidence.

Prayer is a pile of crap.

That is a really unhostile conclusion, isn't it?

So if you are hostile to others, then why should they not be hostile back?

Can anyone else explain to me why this is hostile? Harsh, yes. Hostile, no.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I've been reading for years about studies that did, in fact, demonstrate that sick people who were prayed for were more likely to recover.

This was an attempt to replicate those results using decent scientific protocols. It counters the Christian propaganda - though it might have proven it.

Someone may have already said this above, but I don't have time to read all the comments. My loss.

Posted by: Rick B on April 1, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't get involved in a religious argument" is right up there with "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."

Still, I'll hazard a few comments. I've spent the past years building up immunity to troll-bashing:

The human mind is allergic to chaos, and will go to great lengths to impose some form of order on its environment, real or otherwise.

It is no small comfort to a Midwestern farmer, one hailstorm away from poverty, to think that his prayers may help a good harvest. It is no small comfort to people faced by random loss and pain to think that there might be a plan behind it. Religion has been the difference between hope and despair for millions.

Religion has another function as well. It reminds one that you are not the center of the universe. There are way too many people who think they are. Having kids will do this, too.

Atheists are sometimes quite smug, thinking they're above all this. Still, they're human, and many who reject conventional religion turn to other forms. Most are harmless, like crystals, astrology, feng shui, or other gentle ways to imagine one is magically influencing their environment. Unfortunately, too many turn to secular gods. Fuehrers. Great Leaders. Chosen races. Political parties. Tribal ancestries.

Interestingly, many "atheists" seem to plug politicians into that place where other people plug gods. Depending on the party affiliation, Bush, Clinton, and other past presidents have seemed to fit quite comfortably into those places where religious people think "Satan." How comforting to think that if the right god had been in office, nobody would have died on 9/11, or in hurricane Katrina. It's no coincidence that the most fervent conspiracy theorists are often proud atheists. Even an evil order is preferable to chaos.

A Hermit, you really don't want to do that body count. Go here and do some research on numbers. Marxism, as just one example, has killed more of its own people, outside of wars, than all the conventional religious wars in the past thousand years.

You could make a case that Marxism is, itself, a religion, and you would have a good point. We'll see if anyone who makes that point also would object to teaching those principles in a public school.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 1, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. TEST ME IN THIS says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Mal. 3:10 NIV (emphasis mine)

Posted by: Don P. on April 1, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

And did the Jewish race do it and do OK, around that time?

I always thought Jews were pretty rich in general.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I actually think the study is correct. I have been praying for a long time that out little MALAYSIAN troll McA shuts the fuck up. But, so far, nothing.

Posted by: Pat on April 1, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

This a race thing or what. I am MALAYSIAN.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

No, McA, it's just that your obdurate stupidity is legendary.

Posted by: obscure on April 1, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it looks more like personal attacks instead of answer.

1. Why does an atheist behave morally when no one is looking?

2. Does that reason survive the 3 logical tests that atheists used to challenge God

- Does it explain rewarded immoral behaviour, say the Genetic Success of Genghis Khan and Americans over Natives?

- Is it consistent with evolution and is it still rational now we know what evolution is?

If the reason fails this, then the moral atheism you spouse is illogical. It fails the same test you use to call God illogical.

Faith knows its faith based.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, you might loose that bet. The genocide of Native Americans dwarfs any other in recorded history.

I think of monotheism as an act of political liberation. It was a way of freeing your mind from the the thrall of the all too human god-kings.

It was brilliant for its time, but imperfect like all such solutions: some people seem to be incurably drawn to earthly power.

Interestingly, many "atheists" seem to plug politicians into that place where other people plug gods. Depending on the party affiliation, Bush, Clinton, and other past presidents have seemed to fit quite comfortably into those places where religious people think "Satan." How comforting to think that if the right god had been in office, nobody would have died on 9/11, or in hurricane Katrina. It's no coincidence that the most fervent conspiracy theorists are often proud atheists. Even an evil order is preferable to chaos.

Who were those Clinton conspiracy theorists? A bunch of fundamentalist Christian atheists? Are there any more prolific and dangerous conspiracy theorists today than end-timers?

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I left a couple of replies for you in the last religion comments just before it disappeared fromn the front page. Just want to make sure you see them...

Posted by: A Hermit on April 1, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Saw them.

I think somebody answered your body count comment in this thread BTW. Added to the fact is that atheism is relatively new, and hasn't been in a position of power except for under communism. So its body count per follower in power is high.

If you have prayed to God for evidence of his existance and he hasn't answered yet, who am I to try and convince you. Maybe he thinks you aren't ready.

I have had the advantage of spiritual experiences which are as real to me as a month old memory.
It took that to help me on his way.

So if you wish to say you are an atheist, because you have outstanding request for evidence unanswered, that makes sense to me.

Try not to be so angry. You aren't entitled to an answer when you want it. He made the Universe. You just live in it.

--------------

http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ppt_homepage

Posted by: skimble on April 1, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Depends how you define success. He wins elections and isn't dead. Economy is growing. Iraq sucks, but its better than it was before.

Did you expect his win last election?

--------------------

As a recovering fundie, recovering since 1974, I always tell them that if I prayed to a tree I would get the same answer,,,YES, NO OR MAYBE LATER.

Posted by: lilybart on April 1, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I'm curious. You were getting clear 'Yes', 'No', "Later' answers?
And you decided you don't believe anymore.

Why?

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, you might loose that bet. The genocide of Native Americans dwarfs any other in recorded history.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Really. Even those Aztec human sacrifice skull pyramids? Or Mao's Chinese Famines?

Mao's Chinese Famines are tough to beat.

Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

How comforting to think that if the right god had been in office, nobody would have died on 9/11, or in hurricane Katrina.

You don't have to be an atheist to see how poorly the Bush admin. handled 9/11 and Katrina. But it does take a bit of leader worship on your part to dismiss what's obvious to everyone else: a half way competent president would likely have saved many more lives.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mao's Chinese Famines are tough to beat.

They sure are, but the Europeans had much more time at their disposal in America. If Mao had lived for a few hundred years he would easily have bested them.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

John Biles,

"Actually, I'd say the big flaw with this test is that they basically failed to test for the placebo effect by having a test group which was told people were praying for them, and then having no one pray for that group."

I don't understand why you think that's a flaw. They weren't trying to discover the effect of being falsely told that you're being prayed for. They were trying to discover (a) the effect of being prayed for vs. not being prayed for, and (b) the effect of knowing that you're being prayed for vs. not knowing that you're being prayed for. The result of (a) was no difference. And the result of (b) was that the group that knew it was being prayed for did worse than the group that did not know.

"The theological problems are two-fold:
1) God doesn't like being put to the test as Kevin pointed out.
2) Prayer is not a machine; God does not automatically grant prayers. The answer may, for whatever reason, sometimes be no."

You're missing the point. Either intercessory prayer causes God to answer "yes" more often than he otherwise would, or it doesn't. This study suggests that it doesn't. There was no difference in outcomes for the prayed-for and not-prayed-for groups. So if prayer doesn't work, why bother?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

McA....of course i was getting "answers."

Let's say I was in need of a job. I pray. i get a job, bingo---yes. Or I don't get a job. Bingo---no. OR I get a job 8 months later. Bingo---later is the answer.

Point is, there is No WAY to tell whether God aswered the prayer or I assumed an answer depending on what happened.

There is no proof that there is any personal God that ANY religion speaks of, None.

Posted by: lilybart on April 1, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Either intercessory prayer causes God to answer "yes" more often than he otherwise would, or it doesn't. This study suggests that it doesn't.

Didn't Jesus say that it wouldn't?

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

"A Hermit, you really don't want to do that body count. Go here and do some research on numbers. Marxism, as just one example, has killed more of its own people, outside of wars, than all the conventional religious wars in the past thousand years."McA

Depends whose doing th ecounting, and what they count. I notice most such games like to include everyone who ever died of any cause under Communism and ignore, for example, the 10,000,000 killed by the god Christian King Leopold of Belgium at the end of the 19th C.

Point being, it's a mugs game, and dishonest to smear atheists with the crimes of Stalin and Mao while ignoring the equally horrid crimes of European and American colonialists.

And, yes, for the record I do think Marxism as practiced in the 20thC shares many of the same flaws as most religions; reliance on an outdated text as a final authority, dogmatism, intolerance of independant thought etc.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 1, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, one more similarity between the Communists and McA's religious founded morality; a belief in the utility of torture...

Posted by: A Hermit on April 1, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post. Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Christianity--great one. It's true. Not supposed to test God. Is God allowed to test us??

Posted by: vaughan on April 1, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

From Pharyngula:

The Parable of the Doors

Posted by: A Hermit on April 1, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

So if prayer doesn't work, why bother?

It brings comfort. Faith is orthogonal to reason.

Posted by: Tripp on April 1, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

"It brings comfort."

How does it bring comfort? If it doesn't work, where's the comfort in it?

If what the person doing the praying really wants is comfort for himself, why doesn't he just ask God for that?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Dictatorships are managed and run by social conservatives, whether they call themselves communist or theocrats. All these large massacres were the result of social conservative people living up to their most cherished character.

Posted by: cld on April 1, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

People are but Compressed light energy and matter.[the 3]
More like a Pump Phase Conjugate Mirror Universe
The Unbalanced Cross [Christian] represents that unbalanced energy [Life], if we were not imbalanced energy would flat line. Death the Big Sleep.


Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 1, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

If what the person doing the praying really wants is comfort for himself, why doesn't he just ask God for that?

Because praying for something doesn't work. You mentioned this in the middle of your post, but seemingly forgot it by the end.

BTW, I believe that prayer is used as often to comfort those who commit evil as those who are afflicted by it.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx,

"Because praying for something doesn't work. You mentioned this in the middle of your post, but seemingly forgot it by the end."

No, I said "if" it doesn't work. Perhaps you noticed that word when you were reading the middle of my post, but forgot it by the end.

The claim that praying is comforting to those who don't believe it works seems rather strange. Why would you be comforted by doing something that you don't believe works?

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin has mistated the results a little. The study didn't find no difference between the two groups. It found that the group that was being prayed for did worse!

By the way, what's a "positive" but "unhappy" result?"

Maybe God did answer the prayers. Maybe the answer was "NO."

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on April 1, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

"How does it bring comfort? If it doesn't work, where's the comfort in it?

If what the person doing the praying really wants is comfort for himself, why doesn't he just ask God for that?

Posted by: Atheist"

For Atheist, there is no comfort in a mother's kiss because it does not cause the cruelty of the world to disappear.

Are all atheists so shallow?

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 1, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Pocket Rocket,

Well, maybe, but that hypothesis is just another variation of the self-serving "It only works when it's not being tested" doctrine.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ace Franze,

You seem very confused. A mother's kiss generally communicates affection or love for the recipient, the comforting value of which seems rather clear.

But why would you be comforted by praying for something if you don't believe prayer works? It's like claiming that a child would be comforted by asking his mother for a kiss that he does not believe she will give him.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

How conveniently unfalsifiable!

Forget all that bullshit about not testing god -- if and when there are results that DO show efficacy of prayer, the Christians will be/are more than happy to test god and claim they atr vindicated by science.

Posted by: The Fool on April 1, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Kuni, ruler of the Cosmos, slayer of infidels, etc. etc. Glad you're giving Gates an additional millennium in Hell, but I thought Hell was FOREVER! Just put him one circle lower--unless of course--well of course he's going to be right next to you in the Frozen Lake.

Posted by: lee on April 1, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Atheist, if I am confused, it is because I responded to a direct quote from you, which quote, by the way, makes no suggestion that the person praying doesn't believe in prayer. But to be safe, in the future I will simply ignore you.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 1, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Petition the Lord with Prayer? Petition the Lord with Prayer?......YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!!
-Jim Morrisson

Posted by: John on April 2, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!!
-Jim Morrisson

Posted by: John on April 2, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

How would he know? Not like he could pray to ask the Lord for confirmation that "YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!! "

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Mao's Chinese Famines are tough to beat.

They sure are, but the Europeans had much more time at their disposal in America. If Mao had lived for a few hundred years he would easily have bested them.

Posted by: Boronx on April 1, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

True. But the only reason atheism wasn't able to kill people is it was never in power throughout human history. When it has been it was Mao, Lenin and Stalin.

By the way, I thought it was article of atheist faith that the founding fathers were secular so the constitution intends for no prayer in schools.
Then if that's true the Indian slaughters are the fault of Atheism too.


Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

McA....of course i was getting "answers."

Let's say I was in need of a job. I pray. i get a job, bingo---yes. Or I don't get a job. Bingo---no. OR I get a job 8 months later. Bingo---later is the answer.

Posted by: lilybart on April 1, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

So you got your answer but what happened. Can I ask what you would have done if, you had a voice in your head answering you?

Would you assume it was a hallucination?

If so, how can God communicate with you in a manner that would satisfy you?

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

But why would you be comforted by praying for something if you don't believe prayer works? It's like claiming that a child would be comforted by asking his mother for a kiss that he does not believe she will give him.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

But not only atheists don't believe the mother will not give the kiss when she's right there!

I believe God loves me and will give me what's good for me.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Who was it that said "God answers all prayers. The answer is usually no."?

Posted by: jprichva on April 2, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_II_of_Belgium

According to Wikipedia, King Leopold had 2 kids with a prostitute. Why assume he was a Christian King just because everyone in those days was baptised at birth?

An atheist of the 'do what you will' branch would pretend to be a Christian.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

But why would you be comforted by praying for something if you don't believe prayer works? It's like claiming that a child would be comforted by asking his mother for a kiss that he does not believe she will give him.

Posted by: Atheist on April 1, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Think of a kid in a room. His parents are outside. He's screaming "if you don't gimmie a lollipop, you must have adopted me". The answer is "we're your parents, no lollipop". But the kid will get a hug when he's done acting out.

Think of a screaming atheist, "Why, why is their evil? I want my proof, now, now, now!". The answer is "Seek and ye shall find". The atheist will get his hug when he'd done acting out.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Just caught up with this now. Read as far as tbrosz 1:29 PM. This is so far from the truth I had to jump in without reading following entries.

Marxism has killed how many people? Many of us have read the bible and probably do not retain a working knowledge of the whole text. tbrosz probably hasn't read the works of Marx. Nobody would compare his writings and theories to a religion. Personally, I am not aware of any Marxist state that has actually existed so far in this world.

It is typical of US propaganda-think to have people believe that fascist states that call themselves communist get thrown in the bag with Marxism.

It is, however true, that he said that religion is the opiate of the people. It's arguable.

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Also to tbrosz:
It seems that far too may people equate the president with infallibility or, at least, uncritical support. They are all just men (US might benefit from a woman president for a change), some with weaker intellect and narrower outlook than others. None of them is perfect, but some make enormous and far reaching mistakes.

Mmmm . . . wonder who that "some" is?

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Think of a kid in a room. His parents are outside. He's screaming "if you don't gimmie a lollipop, you must have adopted me". The answer is "we're your parents, no lollipop".

Adoptive parents are the parents, you diarrhea-mouthed savage.

And that's not even the dumbest thing in your post. Who has time?

Posted by: shortstop on April 2, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

According to Wikipedia, King Leopold had 2 kids with a prostitute. Why assume he was a Christian King just because everyone in those days was baptised at birth?

An atheist of the 'do what you will' branch would pretend to be a Christian.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Very interesting, McA. If someone doesn't behave like Jesus, good Christian McA can disavow their religiosity. How convenient. Sort of makes any argument under McA Law self-winning.

Never mind that most of the colonising done by the west was justified as bringing "the one true word" to the ignorant savages. Never mind we fight every war under our god's blessing and protection, even when Christian countries fight each other. How about the various popes who had children, lead armies. Priests/pastors who have condoned torture and murder of dissenters, particularly those of competing Christian schisms.

Wonder where Bush falls in all this? Certainly doesn't seem he has any conscience about any of the deaths he has brought about in pursuit of his game.

Study of history would show that being a "good Christian" has never stopped any number of people from behaving in very unChristian ways and yet their church never censures them. Like Leopold, they get buried as the "good Christian" they so obviously aren't.

Given McA's history of statements on this and other topics, I'll take it as given that he falls in this far-reaching category.

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

Very interesting, McA. If someone doesn't behave like Jesus, good Christian McA can disavow their religiosity. How convenient. Sort of makes any argument under McA Law self-winning.

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

Well, its a fact that many 'Christian Kings' have used Christianity as an excuse. I'm just saying that Leopold had at least one behavioural trait inconsistent with a Christian lifestyle.

And since atheism was next to impossible in those days (with people being crowned by that respective Churches)I have no idea what those Kings were.

I could day Prince Charles is a Christian Prince 'cos of his role in the Church of England (titular leader). But no one really thinks his political are evengelical in nature.

Atheism only ran countries during one part of history under Communism. So its not got a claim for superior management.

I have to admit. Not believing in a God leads you not to kill for a God. But it also doesn't stop you from killing for yourself.

Perhaps a God that doesn't let you kill for yourself or ask you to kill for him is a better bet?


Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

Think of a kid in a room. His parents are outside. He's screaming "if you don't gimmie a lollipop, you must have adopted me". The answer is "we're your parents, no lollipop".

Adoptive parents are the parents, you diarrhea-mouthed savage.

That's what the parents are telling the kid.

Who has time? To wait for their kids to stop acting out? Plenty of people.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Nobody would compare his writings and theories to a religion."

I wouldn't get ahead of yourself.

"Personally, I am not aware of any Marxist state that has actually existed so far in this world."

I am. China, The Soviet Union, Libya, North korea, Vietnam, Cuba etc,

"It is typical of US propaganda-think to have people believe that fascist states that call themselves communist get thrown in the bag with Marxism."

It's also convenient for marxist sympathisers, upon witnessing the totalitarian destruction that has historically been par for the course for Marxist oriented states, to then discount those states as Not truly or insufficiently marxist. That's one thing you guys and the Christians have in common, you both firmly hold to the "No True scotsman" philosophy, which is ironic considering your condemnations of christianity in this thread.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on April 2, 2006 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, I thought it was article of atheist faith that the founding fathers were secular so the constitution intends for no prayer in schools.
Then if that's true the Indian slaughters are the fault of Atheism too.

While the slaughter in what is now the US was certainly vast, most of the killing was done in Spanish territory and with a very pronounced religious motivation. See, that's the thing about Mao and Stalin. Unlike colonial Christians, they didn't really have a moral foundation upon which to justify mass murder and genocide, and couldn't rely on future generations to continue their good works.

Posted by: Boronx on April 2, 2006 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

"they didn't really have a moral foundation upon which to justify mass murder and genocide,"

And the christians did?

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on April 2, 2006 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

I am. China, The Soviet Union, Libya, North korea, Vietnam, Cuba etc,

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on April 2, 2006 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

DR: I don't know who you think is a Marxist around here. And you have really fallen for the good old cold-war propaganda. Marxism would, I think, be categorized as an ideology, and, as an idealization of human/social behavior, not practical; just like capitalism.

Funny how all these "Marxist" states you've listed rely upon the cult of personality to survive, a militarized police state to secure the plutocracy from the masses, the suppression, even enslavement of the proletariat. All seems a little far from Marxism to me. Closer to fascism. All used the front of "communism" (the idea of the communale long pre-dates Marx) and propagandized patriotism to maintain this totalitarian hold in the same way that Hitler used National Socialism and the "motherland", brown shirts and the Gestapo to maintain unity to his cause.

Which is why all good people should beware any government's propagandized patriotism, misuse of religion, intimidation of dissent, inhibition of liberties, and the subversion of our processes to the benefit of a priviliged plutocracy. Everyone should be equal under the law and that is something that is demonstrably not true here in the US, yet.

Now . . . are you with us or against us?

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how all these "Marxist" states you've listed rely upon the cult of personality to survive, a militarized police state to secure the plutocracy from the masses,

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

Kinda funny how communism disowns every government it has as a variant but keeps asking for power.

Why in the world would you trust Socialism that has managed to screw things up whenever it ran a government but still runs around demanding your support against the status quo?

Its always, 'hand me the power in the name of equality' then its 'equal and more equal'.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK

Why in the world would you trust Socialism that has managed to screw things up whenever it ran a government but still runs around demanding your support against the status quo?

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK

Why indeed would I trust socialism? The point I am trying to make is how easily propagandized competing states/ideologies are; the cold war still livcs in your mind. It seems as if you can't see any difference between Marxism and the forms of communism practiced in the listed countries. Wow! I wonder how many Russians really felt they were living in a Marxist state. I wonder if they even got to read Marx essays. And I'm wondering if you understand the difference between Marxism, "communism" in its different forms, totalitarianism, fascism and socialism. Where does the US fall? The Russian revolution, if it ever was actually Marxist, departed those principles immediately. The totalitarian states exemplified are as close to Marxist ideology as most Christian sects are to the very plain teachings of Jesus. Personally, I can't see how one can reconcile living a capitalist life and claiming to be Christian. But hypocrisy has long been the strength of many organized religions.

Back to the point of this post: Religion is about belief, faith if you like; not provable or disprovable. But, in this particular case, departing heavenly for temporal, you, McA, demonstrate that remarkable stubborness neccessary to belief -- that evidence has no value, analysis and critical facility isn't needed because I'll believe what I believe because it's my belief!

Not exactly what democracy needs to keep its flame alive.

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Why assume he was a Christian King just because everyone in those days was baptised at birth?" ~McA


That isn't an assumption, it's a definition. Being baptized in the name of the Trinity is what being a Christian is.

"But," I can hear you whining," that would make Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler Christians!" Yes, it would. Being baptized is what makes you a Christian, not how you subsequently behave.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 2, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

I vote for McA to take all the time spent here annoying us by proclaiming the interest of a hypothetical all-powerful and all-knowing deity in McA's personal welfare, profit seeking, and comfort.

Use that time for prayers seeking humility, compassion and charity.

I recommend the hair-shirt, fasting and self-flagellation options, as well. Out where the mullahs can see, too. Christians are supposed to value martrydom for their faith are they not?

Posted by: CFShep on April 2, 2006 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Please Oh Holy God Above. I pray for you to smiteth McA. Amen.

Posted by: Pat on April 2, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: I think you're confusing "Can't" with "Shouldn't." At least based on your reference to Chuy's three temptations. Those who participated may be destined to burn in Hell for their impertinence. But that doesn't necessarily unsettle the conclusions.

Posted by: Chainsaw on April 2, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I personally know an atheist that prays. Prayer has definite benefits to the person praying. It isn't even required that they believe in God, by the way. Think of it as a personal growth experience, like writing a journal.

This study, on the other hand, was about the benefits to the person being prayed for. Not so much, apparently.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 2, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The nonsense continues....

"Well, its a fact that many 'Christian Kings' have used Christianity as an excuse. I'm just saying that Leopold had at least one behavioural trait inconsistent with a Christian lifestyle.

And since atheism was next to impossible in those days (with people being crowned by that respective Churches)I have no idea what those Kings were.

I could day Prince Charles is a Christian Prince 'cos of his role in the Church of England (titular leader). But no one really thinks his political are evengelical in nature.

Atheism only ran countries during one part of history under Communism. So its not got a claim for superior management."

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 3:43 AM


(sigh)

I guess the point was too subtle...

To say that "atheism..ran countries" under Communism is every bit as silly as saying that Christianity ran Belgium's colonies.

For you to bring up Mao's or Stalin's crimes as a way of smearing atheists is every bit as wrong as attributing Leopold's 10,000,000 victims to your Christianity.

My atheism has as much to do with Mao's famine as your faith has to do with the horrors in the Congo.

Is that clearer now? I can use smaller words if it helps....;-)

Posted by: A Hermit on April 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Being baptized is what makes you a Christian, not how you subsequently behave.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 2, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

You should have a chat with some Christians. Having Christ as Lord is what makes you a Christian.

-------------------------

Out where the mullahs can see, too. Christians are supposed to value martrydom for their faith are they not?

Posted by: CFShep on April 2, 2006 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

igion is about belief, faith if you like; not provable or disprovable. But, in this particular case, departing heavenly for temporal, you, McA, demonstrate that remarkable stubborness neccessary to belief -- that evidence has no value, analysis and critical facility isn't needed because I'll believe what I believe because it's my belief!

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Evidence us of tremendous value. Like witnesses, for example. Or other people who've had spiritual experiences.

Just pointing out the ridiculous abstractions atheists use to justify moral beliefs are acts of faith. And yet they run around making fun of belief!

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

My atheism has as much to do with Mao's famine as your faith has to do with the horrors in the Congo.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Fine. So why do atheists keep accusing Christianity of mass slaughter?

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Ace Franze,

"Atheist, if I am confused, it is because I responded to a direct quote from you, which quote, by the way, makes no suggestion that the person praying doesn't believe in prayer."

I guess you must have mentally blocked out the words "If it doesn't work," then.

Posted by: Atheist on April 2, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I guess you must have mentally blocked out the words "If it doesn't work," then.

Go Fuck yourself, Don P.

Posted by: Ferd on April 2, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it looks more like personal attacks instead of answer.

I know, I know. I'm debating with a circus clown on acid, so what do I expect.

1. Why does an atheist behave morally when no one is looking?

I've answered this question, posed by you, many times. You refuse to listen to my answer, or you wouldn't need to keep asking. Is that clear enough for you, McA? Comprende?

So. I guess there comes a point where I'd better stop answering your question because if I keep on answering it... well, then, silly me!

So instead of answering the question which you keep asking even though you are not prepared to acknowledge the answer how about I just tell you you're a fucking idiot instead?

'Kay?

***The fact that YOU cannot conceive of a reason to behave morally in the absence of "God" is a statement about YOU, not a statement about people who behave morally in the absence of a belief in "God."

'Kay?


Posted by: obscure on April 2, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

***The fact that YOU cannot conceive of a reason to behave morally in the absence of "God" is a statement about YOU, not a statement about people who behave morally in the absence of a belief in "God."

Posted by: obscure on April 2, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

But none of the people here can either. No moral postulate survives the tests atheists use against the existance of God. Atheism has to make assumptions to justify being good while no one's looking.

And the personal attacks on me for asking the question are sad. That's like a Cult calling someone asking a question 'unclean' for the question. That's what atheism is resorting to to cover up the hole in its 'reason'.

Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

" So why do atheists keep accusing Christianity of mass slaughter?"
Posted by: McA on April 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM

Well, in my experience that usually happens in response to some idiot in a conversation about morality saying something like this:.."atheism was great on killing people for being inferior drug-dealer religious types." Posted by: McA on April 1, 2006 at 7:36 AM ...and then prattling on about Mao and Stalin. Remember that line about looking for motes in someone else's eye? You might want to apply it here...;-)

Posted by: A Hermit on April 2, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

The function of prayer is to allow the one praying to feel a connection to god. Do you actually believe you get what you pray for, or even should? One assumes god knows what is best for you. God knows what you desire whether you pray or not.

When we pray "for someone" we are telling god that this person has people who care for them, and that we are good people who do things for other people. Worthy of be saved even.

Or are we just saying that for other people? Obviously god knows what kind of people we are anyway, whatever our posture.

Posted by: leftofcenter on April 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Now, as for this question: "Why does an atheist behave morally when no one is looking?"

You keep asking it, but every time someone gives you an answer (like empathy, evolution of social behaviour, the principle of the "golden rule" etc.) you just dismiss the answer as "ridiculous" without ever responding to the actual substance of the answer. Why is that?

You also haven't yet responding substantially to the Euthyphro dilemna. Is some behaviour good only because "God says so", or does God say it's good because it is good in and of itself, for reasons which have nothing to do with God's existence? If God told you to kill your neighbour and enslave his children would it be moral for you to do so?

If God can order his followers to commit genocide, (which He clearly does on more than one occasion if the Bible is to be believed) does that mean genocide is a morally defensible action today? If one can argue that moral behaviour is just whatever God says it is then one can justify anything by invoking God's name.

Or would you agree that there can be no moral justification for genocide? In which case you're left with the difficult question of how God could order his followers to commit an immoral act...

Any answers McA?

Posted by: A Hermit on April 2, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

The answer to your question about the Templeton Foundation is on their website.

They funded this particular study because the whole purpose of the foundation is to fund this kind of thing -- to explore the relationship between science and religion, etc. etc. etc. My guess is that they were probably not too happy with the outcome.

Speaking as a working scientist, there is nothing in the world that would induce me to take money to care out a study like this, even in the current tough funding environment. You will never be able to convince anybody of the result no matter how it comes out. Why bother?

Hermit raises an interesting point. The Old Testament God was so disturbing to some of the early Christians that many were convinced that he was not the same god who gave his only begotten son, etc. etc. etc. It was not long before this kind of thinking was stamped as heresy. Later, Clementine came up with an intepretation of theology and theodicy that made it acceptable to burn heretics, like the gnostics I just mentioned.

So, I for one want no part of this stuff.

Posted by: Ba'al on April 2, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"The function of prayer is to allow the one praying to feel a connection to god. Do you actually believe you get what you pray for, or even should? One assumes god knows what is best for you. God knows what you desire whether you pray or not. When we pray "for someone" we are telling god that this person has people who care for them, and that we are good people who do things for other people."

Why do you need to tell God that if he already knows? And if your intent is to tell God that you care about someone, why don't you just do that, instead of asking God to do something?

If your request to God is serious, if you really mean what you say ("Please God, cure my friend of cancer," or whatever) rather than some kind of code to just express that you care for your friend, this study suggests that you're wasting your time. It doesn't seem to work. One also has to wonder why God, if he is just, would cure someone who would otherwise die just because you, or some other person or people, asked him to. Why does your friend deserve to be saved more than another cancer victim for whom no one prays?

Posted by: Atheist on April 2, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

The stupidest thing about the study was, it focused (or what we heard most about did) on prayers that weren't even known to the recipients. Some studies suggests that something about praying affects the pray-er (heh), but it requires doing it yourself for yourself. Then worry about why.

Posted by: Neil' on April 2, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Or are we just saying that for other people? Obviously god knows what kind of people we are anyway, whatever our posture.

Posted by: leftofcenter on April 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we pray for people without telling them

----------------

You keep asking it, but every time someone gives you an answer (like empathy, evolution of social behaviour, the principle of the "golden rule" etc.) you just dismiss the answer as "ridiculous" without ever responding to the actual substance of the answer. Why is that?

You also haven't yet responding substantially to the Euthyphro dilemna. Is some behaviour good only because "God says so", or does God say it's good because it is good in and of itself, for reasons which have nothing to do with God's existence? If God told you to kill your neighbour and enslave his children would it be moral for you to do so?

If God can order his followers to commit genocide, (which He clearly does on more than one occasion if the Bible is to be believed) does that mean genocide is a morally defensible action today? If one can argue that moral behaviour is just whatever God says it is then one can justify anything by invoking God's name.

Or would you agree that there can be no moral justification for genocide? In which case you're left with the difficult question of how God could order his followers to commit an immoral act...

Any answers McA?

Posted by: A Hermit on April 2, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

No. And everytime someone I gave an answer I showed how standard atheist objections could knock that down "Why does the conscience allow evil? Not punish evil? e.g. Genghiz Khan"

I answered that dilemma thingy. Christianity is faith based. We can take a "Who cares what came first on God and morality?". Although the bible would say both God and morality are eternal.

I am not saying love of Christ is reason based and atheism is not. I am saying that atheism involves an act of faith for morality.

I also mentioned how some of the old testament acts need to be viewed in context of the societies they replaced and the nature of the day.

But I don't agree there is no justification for genocide if its God's will. What do you call
the war and famine in relevation?.
I think God chooses not to intervene in some cases because we've spent plenty of time telling him to stay out of our lives.

If you recognise there is more than life after death, you can take some of these in perspective. And at the end of the day, the Lord is not obligated to give you eternal life in the here and now. So he isn't obligated to intervene against every war or pain.

Although to be parted from loved ones is a painful thing and can feel like a ling while when its just for a lifetime.

Posted by: mca on April 2, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

"I answered that dilemma thingy. Christianity is faith based. We can take a "Who cares what came first on God and morality?". "

You haven't answered, you've dodged the question.
I raised Euthyphro in the earlier comments because you were making the argument that a morality that didn't emanate from a deity was of no value. Euthyphro clearly knocks that argument down by demonstrating that if morality is nothing more than "orders fromn God" it is arbitrary, and if, on the other hand God reveals that which is already good morality is independant of god(s).

Saying "I don't care" really isn't an answer.

Posted by: A Hermit on April 3, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Emo Phillips universal prayer:

"Lord, please break the laws of the universe for my convenience. Amen."

Emo Phillips explains how God works:

"When I was a boy, I used to pray every night for a bicycle. Then one day I realized that God, in his Infinite Wisdom, doesn't work that way. So I stole a bicycle, and asked him to forgive me. And I got one."

Posted by: Mysticdog on April 3, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK
HIGH STAKES TESTING....I guess everyone's heard the news about the new prayer study, right? A team of researchers asked several church congregations to pray for heart surgery patients at six different hospitals and then tracked how well they recovered from surgery compared to patients who weren't prayed for.

How did they make all the people who regularly pray for everyone who is sick stop praying for the group who was supposed to not be prayed for?

Except as a study of the effect of how knowing you are being prayed for affects your health/recovery/etc. chances, such studies are always inherently and fatally flawed, because they always pretend to have a group that isn't being prayed for, despite the fact that there is no way to establish that this is the case, and the regular practice of people who pray suggests strongly that it is never actually the case.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 3, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Except as a study of the effect of how knowing you are being prayed for affects your health/recovery/etc. chances, such studies are always inherently and fatally flawed, because they always pretend to have a group that isn't being prayed for,"

They don't make any such assumption. The study measured the effect of three congregations praying for a specific outcome ("a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications") for a group of specific, named individuals. The finding was that there was no effect.

You seem to be assuming that any potential effect of the specific prayers would be swamped by the effect of generic prayers for sick people in general. First, you have no evidence to support that assumption, and second, even if the assumption were correct, the study would still imply that specific prayers are useless, and that all the people who offer such prayers are wasting their time.

Posted by: Atheist on April 3, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Xin chao, Minh den tu HL, minh mong muon duoc lam quen voi tat ca cac ban. Thanks you

Posted by: phuong on April 4, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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