Sunday, June 28, 2009

On prayer again

In my previous post On Prayer, I discussed how the answer of no to prayer is evidence enough to show it's ineffectiveness. I'd like to expound a bit on this. There are two reasons to pray. One reason is because you want to either ask god for something or give him praise. This first reason is the subject of my previous post, and I focused my attentions in that post on debunking this reason; however, there is a second reason to pray and that is to affect some type of change in your surroundings, perhaps your personal life, or perhaps the lives of either friends and family or even lives of complete strangers, such as the president of the united states. There is a little bleed-over to the first reason here, in that if you are praying for a change in your surroundings i.e. 2nd reason, then you are possibly asking god for something i.e. 1st reason. I say possibly because it is not an automatic thing to be asking for something when you are wishing for something. You can pray that change will come around (wishing) but you can also literally ask god to bring about the change (asking). Both ways are considered prayer and so there is enough distinction in my mind between the two that I've decided to split them up this way. Now, a reason for explaining god's choice to answer no to a prayer was offered in response to my earlier blog. The reason was this: prayer is always about god's over-arching will to be served out. As in Jesus' prayer of "Let this cup pass from me, but not mine but thy will be done". God has veto power over the prayers offered to him. His will, will be completed first and foremost in this point-of-view. As an atheist who has no belief in god nor prayer, this idea is perfectly fine with me, yet it is also perfectly fine for the christian. How can this be? I'll tell you.
My point about prayer is that it simply does not work the way it is purported to work. The christian-minded argument offered above is poignant in how clearly it supports my argument. Jesus said "ask anything in my name and it will be done to you". Jesus is god (not really, but you know what I'm saying). Jesus also said "not my will but yours", so in his human-form, Jesus is slightly less than god. If God's will is to be done over our prayers, then prayer is ineffective. It can offer no change to the course of actions god has decided to embark upon, as is meant when God's WILL is referred to. There is no point in praying to a god whose will may or may not coincide with our wants and desires. If a prayer is offered up for the healing of cancer, and the cancer goes into remittance or even goes away completely, you can rest assured that was god's plan all along. He had no need for you to pray, asking him to heal the cancer. Your wish and god's will simply coincided with each other, and as a result it looked like god answered your particular prayer. but that is clearly not what happened. God's will just happened to be for the same course of action and happenstance that your prayers were asking for. Your prayer was no more effective than if you had asked for nothing. Infact it was completely In-effective. God's mind was made up well before you ever uttered a single, solitary plea.
Now, If you offered up a prayer for the healing of cancer and the cancer was not healed, again your prayer was ineffective because it got vetoed by god's over-arching will to allow the cancer to continue eating away your body. In this case your prayer did not coincide with god's will and so it went unanswered (in your mind). There is no difference in a prayer seeming to be answered and one that is seeming to be unanswered. In either case, prayer is a pointless exercise. Prayer is commonly viewed as an active agent in the determining of life's course, but clearly in the argument of" god's will be done", prayer simply cannot induce a change in the environment through the workings of an outside source such as god.
Prayer can be an active agent, in a manner of speaking, if the act of prayer is such that it awakens an internal source for a solution. If it makes one feel up to inducing the change themselves, then prayer becomes an active agent. Psychologically, prayer can be quite a panacea. It can buoy the mind and spirit (physically amounting to the same thing). It can prod someone to begin to search for solutions to the problems they are grappling with, as in the non-biblical adage "God helps those who help themselves". In this case, prayer can offer solace to the sufferers, and a clear-minded path towards absolvement of life's travails. But notice there is no need for god in this scenario. The prayer(s) are not actually being lifted to heaven and heard by the ears and heart of god, who then intervenes on behalf of the praying person. No, god is irrelevant in this type of prayer, other than playing the role of another well-ingrained panacea. It is the person doing the praying who is refreshed by the act and then able to pull him/herself up by their bootstraps to begin the work of solving or at least getting around their problem. In this manner and only in this manner can prayer be a useful tool. To think that praying can actually make a god change his mind about how your life will proceed, is to be naive at best, and it also violates the idea that god's will must be served above all else.
More than anything else, prayer is one of those things that can never be proven or disproven, because it simply exists within our minds. It's kind of like saying there's no such thing as liking something or there is definitely a such thing as non-memory. Ideas are just that, ideas. If the idea allows for the lessening of suffering, then it is a good idea, but only if it does so universally. If it lessens the suffering of some at the expense of others, then it is not a good idea. Religion falls squarely within this category. If prayer helps some psychologically, but not others, then is it a good idea to hold onto as a pillar of having faith? I would say not, because of the very fact that it is so many things to so many different people, but across all spectrums it supports religions which do not always exist for the universal betterment of mankind. The act of prayer may hold some benefit for mankind, but not within it's current light as seen by many christians. And while it may not by itself be evidence enough against the existence of god, it surely doesn't help the christian's cause.