About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nothing fails like prayer

And now we have scientific evidence backing up the claim! The American Heart Journal has published the best (as in largest and methodologically most accurate) study so far of the effect of intercessory prayer, and it has shown – as any sensible person would have known before spending $2.4 million and a decade to actually do the study – prayer fails to make any difference whatsoever.

The study was conducted by a team led by Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson, who is sympathetic to the idea that prayer has healing effects, and funded in large part by the Templeton Foundation, an organization devoted to the scientific improvement of our understanding of spirituality (whatever that latter phrase may mean).

Benson’s group studied 1,802 patients undergoing coronary bypass, divided into three groups: patients who were prayed for (by three different type of congregations) and knew it, people who were prayed for but did not know whether that was the case, and a group who was not prayed for. The results? 59% of the patients in the first group were affected by post-operative complications, as opposed to 51% of the second group; moreover, 18% of people prayed for suffered serious complications, against 13% of the non-prayed for group. Such differences were not statistically significant, and at any rate they would go against the hypothesis: if anything, being prayed for, or knowing you are being prayed for, makes things slightly worse! (As Jon Stewart pointed out, the real troublesome finding here is that more than half of the patients had complications, no matter what group they were assigned to...)

Other studies, conducted on smaller samples and for shorter time periods, have found conflicting results. However, the few cases were a statistically significant result was found detected a tiny effect of prayer (apparently, god ain’t that powerful), which disappeared once researchers took into account other variables that were a more likely explanation (for example, in a study on the effect of prayer on recovery from hip surgery, researchers forgot to correct for the age of the women involved!).

This is, of course, not only a waste of money and energy, but makes for really bad theology. A moment’s reflection immediately suggests so many theological complications as to make the whole “field” a hopeless mess: to whom exactly is the prayer being addressed? Why doesn’t s/he know that someone needs help regardless of prayer? Which religious groups are allowed intercessory prayer? If the effects are either null or tiny, are we justified in concluding that there is no god, or that she’s out to lunch?

As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote (in Hocus Pocus), “it is embarrassing to be human.” Faced by such desperate attempts to prove one’s fantasies about a big daddy in the sky one would have to agree.

45 comments:

  1. It is my understanding that one of the complaints about previous studies on this subject is that there were insufficient controls in place to establish that the unpreyed-upon group was in fact not prayed for. My browser isn't letting me access the original article. Did this study address this issue? Or are we, again, dealing with a systematic source of potential error?

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  2. Rob, this study did address the issue very well, which is why it is the best study available so far, and -- not surprisingly I might add -- revealed precisely nothing...

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  3. I have to admit I am surprized by the results. Not because I thought that the "prayed for" group would have out performed the others, but because I would have thought the "prayed for" group as well as the "thought to be prayed for" group would have out performed the third group just based on placebo effect only. Most studys prove the placebo effect has a very measurable difference. And this stems from just believing you will get better.
    Another thing that should pointed out is that one could argue the actual source of prayer. You have three different congregations doing the praying. How is this accomplished? Do they actually meet each surgical patient, get to know them personally then pray for them or do they just have a list of people and say "Dear lord please help so and so" then read off the list.
    I don't know if it would make any difference, and I am certainly not claiming it would. But most people that would tell you a story of prayer working for them would perhaps give an intimate account of very individual events taking place. I am not arguing for the power of prayer. But I am not sure it is something you can easily study.
    The fact that the placebo effect did not take hold tells me that the people being prayed for did not believe that the prayer would have any effect. So one could argue that faith from the patient is nessisary for prayer to work. Even if the results were the other way showing the power of prayer is real, one could argue that this is just placebo effect taking hold.
    Either way, I do agree with you Massimo that this study is just a big waste of money. Theres 2.4 million that could have found its way to a better use.

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  4. Perhaps the placebo effect did occur, but in the opposite way. People who were told they were being prayed for might have freaked out more, thinking that their condition was "so bad" that they had to call in a prayer team. This could help explain the slight variation between groups 1 and 2.

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  5. Jeff, correct, that was one of the explanations proposed in the article for the (non statistically significant) "negative placebo" observed during the survey.

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  6. Firstly,

    Prayer isn't for getting what we want. So the concepts of failure or success here might be greatly misunderstood in these circumstances.

    Christ prayed to His Father right before the cross, "not My will, but Yours be done". So what is understood here is that what is really best for the individual, isn't in all cases a life without suffering.

    Secondly, if God is "God", do you honestly think he is going to let fickle humankind (and their polls) tell Him what prayer is for what it means, and what it is not?

    highly doubtful of that.

    c

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    1. I agree totally. I prayed for years for my daughter who has seizures to no avail but now pray Lord thy will be done! I AM SO TIRED OF THIS NAME IT CLAIM IT THEOLOGY AND FAKED HEALINGS AND I HAVE SEEN IT ALL, basically we are called to worship our Lord or the rocks will cry out!

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  7. James 5:16-18

    "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. [emphasis mine]"

    While it's true that prayer is a request that God do something, not an order, the above verses indicate that prayer is expected to have an effect. Notice that James points out that Elijah was an ordinary human being, probably to head off the obvious objection that Elijah was a prophet and therefore had special power that a normal person couldn't have. One can of course object as well that the one doing the praying has to be righteous, but it seems all too convenient to say that all the prayers in these studies came from unrighteous people, especially if they are only expected to be as righteous as Elijah, who was far from perfect.

    I find it very curious that in 1 Kings 18:20-40, God is quite willing to put on a show to demonstrate his power, yet nowadays refuses to let himself be evidenced in a prayer study.

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  8. Cal wrote: "Secondly, if God is "God", do you honestly think he is going to let fickle humankind (and their polls) tell Him what prayer is for what it means, and what it is not?"

    This sort of rationalization leaves me with the deduction that (even if there were a god) prayer is useless. If you can't know what the response is going to be... could be YES, could be NO, could be the opposite of what you prayed for because 'God works in mysterious ways'... what's the use?

    And besides MP, the study doesn't prove that prayer doesn't work, it just proves that they were praying to the wrong god. Now if they had thrown a virgin into the volcano, sacrificed a few lambs, held a big bonfire and danced just the right dance... that would have worked!

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway

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  9. Great, we've now got a well designed study and 2.4 million dollars less to show beyond any reasonable doubt what any rational thinker already knew. So, lets move on and consider spending our limited effort, time, and resources on real issues (perhaps Darfur).

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  10. Insanely enough, if anyone remembers Alice Cooper, they will understand the meaning of the word 'miracle' after reading this. Now I thought that my husband was kind of a hard case, but this Mr. Cooper guy was infinitely harder. Over the years I’ve been reminded, that no matter what someone says, be they and atheist or what have you, if God is “God” he really can do anything. However, healing is not the bottom line. The only reason that God would answer a prayer of any sort, at any level, would be that the person would know Christ.

    "I used to celebrate moral decay, the decadence of it," he admitted in the KNAC.com interview. "I can look back on what I did then and what I'm doing now and they're two different things. But at the time I was the poster boy for moral decay, you know. So yeah, I've got a lot to be forgiven for ... out of ignorance, I thought I was doing the right thing. I was totally in agreement that every guy should sleep with every girl and drink as much as they can. I don't believe that now. I don't believe in it, because I see how destructive it is."

    Spiritual awakening is happening around the world, Cooper believes.

    "It's obvious humanity is craving for answers directly born of awareness," he said. "That's the healthiest thing I've seen in a long time because there is something better and everybody's got to find it in their own way. People aren't feeling fulfilled by how many cars they own or the size of their stock portfolio.

    "Even the addicts are saying, 'It doesn't matter how many drugs I take, I'm not fulfilled. This isn't satisfying.' There's a spiritual hunger going on. Everybody feels it. If you don't feel it now, you will. Trust me. You will." --Alice Cooper

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49833

    cal

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  11. In the Gospels Jesus tells his people not to pray for anything specific. He gives them specific words to say (Our Father....)in place of their own desires. He instructs them to do this because he says that God already knows how they are better served and is already aware of their needs and will decide how to best serve them. Leading me personally to believe that praying is just a means of connecting with God more than it is a means of achieving anything specific.
    Lets imagine for a moment that the study done showed unmistakably that the power of prayer is very measurable. So much so that every single person prayed for had such a good outcome that they ended up not even needing the surgery in the first place. Even though they didn't pray for themselves, and may or may not be Christians, or may or may not believe in God. Even though The people praying for them probably never even met them (thats a very sincere prayer). Lets just say it worked anyway. The people that did not get prayed for died, every one of them. What would we do with that information? I have a feeling the next study would be way more than 2.4 million dollars and would probably involve finances in some way. Lets find out if the power of prayer can win us the lottery. Lets find out prayer can make Roger Clemens throw 8 miles an hour faster. Perhaps we can shorten our commutes with a little prayer. If you were the creator would you hide yourself to this study? Would you allow yourself to be studied?
    One thing I can assure every one of you. Even though eveyone except Cal, denies the existence of God. When you are on your own death bed....You will pray. You'll deny it now. But you will.
    God Bless

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  12. To be forthright with you, Jim, (not just to be contrary) some people do not, and will not feel that way on their death bed.

    My husband's aunt, a very bitter alcoholic, absolutely refused to either hear about Christ or to be prayed for on her death bed. She was only in her early forties when she died. He also had an uncle, who after a longer life (early sixties) of making a good living but lived a very corrupt lifestyle, appeared to have seen hell just before he died, and also had declined to commit what little was left of his life to Christ. My brother-in-law, who was educated at the U of New Mexico, said that the look on their uncle's face was the most horrifying thing he'd ever seen.

    The very odd thing about the human will is that the accumulation of particular sorts of choices makes it highly difficult (mentally and spiritually) to make philosophical adjustments after a certain point in our lives. And for each person that point is likely different.

    It would be as if my life might have been analogous to an activity like trying to find my way through underground caverns, or something like that. Frequent and willful rejection of God's attempts to get my attention would be like actively and intentionally sealing off my return routes with concrete or avalanches as I move further and further away from daylight. Thus, it gets harder and more impossible to return, the father I travel on.

    See what I'm saying?

    That may be a state of mind that a person who has constantly rejected God's spirit will find themselves in the end of their lives.

    Sorry to say.
    cal

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  13. jim fisher: "In the Gospels Jesus tells his people not to pray for anything specific. He gives them specific words to say (Our Father....)in place of their own desires."

    Actually, the prayer is pretty specific. "May your kingdom come" (it hasn't), "Give us this day our daily bread" (something both the starving and the full seem to pray), and so on.

    What I'm seeing here are excuses for prayer's ineffectiveness, and unbiblical ones at that.

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  14. I am constantly amazed at the ability of the true believer (religious, political, whatever) to rationalize his belief in light of contradictory evidence.

    Mr. Fisher writes, "If you were the creator would you hide yourself to this study? Would you allow yourself to be studied?
    One thing I can assure every one of you. Even though eveyone except Cal, denies the existence of God. When you are on your own death bed....You will pray. You'll deny it now. But you will."

    I would like to point out that not everyone who reads or contributes to this blog are "deniers" of the existence of God. As an agnostic, I can state that I have not yet seen any convincing evidence in support of the claim that God exists, much less any evidence to show "His" hand in governing the day-to-day affairs of the universe. And I find Mr. Fisher's prediction that those of us who are not active believers in his particular God will somehow have a death-bed conversion offensive and patronizing. Would I like to believe in the survival of my personality after the death of my physical body? You betchya. But there are dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of beliefs governing how this occurs, most of which have fallen away from human memory (who worships Zeus? Odin? Amon-Ra?), so which specific belief system is the right one? My favorite bumper-sticker says, "Militant Agnostic: I don't know, and you don't either". The best way of "knowing" is science, as demonstrated over the last several hundred years. I'm not a Sam Harris devotee, despite the fact that I enjoyed his book and agree with most of it, and I don't give equal credence to inner subjective reality as I do to the outer objective one. You can hold any belief system that you want, but until you can demonstrate its validity in the physical realm, please don't try to convince me that it can properly EXPLAIN that physical realm of objective existence.

    Cal's anecdotes are equally insulting, in the sense that they continue to stress his one particular sectarian view of reality - HIS God is legitimate, HIS Hell is a reality for non-believers, HIS particular view of God leads to salvation while all others lead to destruction. Only belief in God is "fulfilling", and non-believers are in constant agony (even if they don't realize it) and due for eternal torture (whether they believe in it or not). The choice of Alice Cooper's quote implies that those who do not accept his God "celebrate moral decay", an assertion that I do not believe is even worthy of a response.

    Ultimately, I cannot ever shake the knowledge that all of these opinions are formulated by individuals from those that come from a book - just a book - whose authors are not altogether known, but whose opinions, upon non-doctrinal study and critical review, are no more valid (or invalid) than those of the authors of every single mystical tract or story from the beginning of humanity. Every person has the right to believe that his special deity can give him the power to fly. A rational person may rightly question if such beliefs are sufficient to get around in the real world, and if he should rather put more stock in the knowledge of engineers and mechanics rather than priests and prophets to become airborne. For myself, I'll go with the engineers and mechanics; their methods have a track record that can be studied. Show me a prophet with a comparable spreadsheet and I'll be happy to compare the numbers.

    ~ Bob

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  15. Some people subscribe to the adage "There are no atheists in foxholes". Others go with "A drowning man will grasp at straws".

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  16. If Alice Cooper was a dipstick thirty years ago, why should we give any credence to his remarks today? Has anything happened that increased his intelligence level? Maybe he's just gotten too old to do the things he used to enjoy and has turned into an old man bitter at the thought that there are now other people doing what he used to be able to do. Or maybe he's just looking for another easy-money gig.

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  17. 1971. St. John's Nfld. The Alice Cooper concert is about to begin.
    Suddenly... a smoke bomb, then two.
    Then a greasy looking roadie makes his way through the crowd, with a garbage bag full of joints. I sez, doesn't he know he has a whole half of his life to live yet?

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  18. Bob "The best way of "knowing" is science, as demonstrated over the last several hundred years."

    Science is just a tool fashioned by man, not unlike all kinds of other technologies we get to use on a daily basis. A lot of mistakes have been made in the name of science and a few good things have come out of it as well.

    Theoretically, a life without science would probably mean a world without global warming. So how "good" is science, really?

    So if seems offensive to you that some people believe that there are things in the universe that we can be certain of, and they invite you to investigate this for yourself, why not just ask yourself why would something that seems basically foolish (implying, simplistically minded) to you, have any kind of insult directed at you in it at all?

    Either one or the other are impossible.

    cal

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  19. Lily: .."Then a greasy looking roadie makes his way through the crowd, with a garbage bag full of joints. I sez, doesn't he know he has a whole half of his life to live yet?"

    No kidding. I was too little to know or care back then, but a few of my friends seemed to have a fondness for Cooper when we were in the later elementary ages. But even though I find Alice Cooper's bio interesting, (just cuz he's such an over-the-top kinda fella)never found hard rock very appealing myself. I was more Blue Oyster cultish and other stuff like that back then.

    And I thought generally the same way about drugs that you did. I always had a sense that one needed to be in full command of one's faculties.

    I mean, if I wasn't, who would?

    And that is not to say that I was perfect or had it all together, by any means. Not real proud of it, but I had this mouth that would have put a seasoned sailor to shame!

    So like Cooper, I can look back on the 'old' self and say "that was me?"

    Guess it's just a little harder to deny miracles when ya are one.

    cal

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  20. Cal

    Actually I'm more a Joni mitchell type myself.

    Although for some reason I have learned to like Rancid (sigh)..kids.

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  21. Cal: Science is indeed a tool fashioned by man - just as religion is. My dispute with you (and others) is when you (and others) attempt to use the wrong tool to solve a conundrum - that is, using religious philosophy to explain the physical universe.

    I did not make the case that scientific knowledge is a moral good; it is my opinion that science, and the methodology of science, is a tool that history has shown to be well-suited to the task of explaining this physical universe we inhabit, whereas other ways of "knowing" do not quite measure up. A sweeping, blanket statement, I know, and I am certain that more learned people than myself can point out any number of exceptions. I do not believe, however, that any religious teaching will be among those exceptions.

    I am not offended by those who believe there are some things in the universe that we can be certain of. For instance, I myself am quite certain that if my heart and brain ceased to function, I would die. What I find offensive is when someone makes a claim of fact without proper evidence to back up the claim, and (worse still) to stake out the moral high ground over those who do not share his belief in the (unproven) belief system.

    I have done my own investigating into the truthfulness of my former Catholic teaching, and of Christianity (and other religions) in general. I find them all wanting.

    (I have been asked, "What religion are you?" My stock reply is, "I was a Catholic. Then I got better." : ) )

    Truly, the reason I take offense is that I grow rather tired of all of the stories told about people who lived horrible hedonistic lives until they turned to God, and suddenly, everything is roses and strawberry shortcake. I am an agnostic; I do good things for my fellow beings (animals both human and otherwise); I live a moral life; I am not miserable because I do not explore my "spirituality"; and I resent being told that I am in some sort of denial because I don't acknowledge feeling lost without faith.

    I am reminded of the Rowan Atkinson routine where he is portraying Satan welcoming the newcomers to Hell. He segregates the different groups - adulterers, fornicators, thieves, and then announces "Christians? Yes, I'm sorry, the Jews were right."

    I don't know, and you don't, either. ; )

    ~ Bob

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  22. Yes, there are people who would never consider "doing drugs", but they are perfectly willing to swallow religion, the opiate of the masses.

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  23. Bob~ "it is my opinion that science, and the methodology of science, is a tool that history has shown to be well-suited to the task of explaining this physical universe we inhabit, whereas other ways of "knowing" do not quite measure up."

    Science doesn't explain a lot of things that matter. Explaining reality comprehensively would imply the ability to understand, for instance, why a woman would strap her little children into their car seats and let the car roll into a lake. If one can't explain why good acts are preferable to evil ones, what else do you really need to know and why?

    "I have been asked, "What religion are you?" My stock reply is, "I was a Catholic. Then I got better." : )"

    A whole lot of people, including myself, were born Catholic. But it's no excuse to live life in bitter opposition to something of a decoy religion. Geeze...what a waste of time.

    Truth be told, a string of excuses just makes us weak and sin prone.

    cal

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  24. Marx is, um, dead. But beyond those few well known lines, this is what he really said:

    'Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.'

    Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

    Quite the contrary to what people seem to think Marx is saying, he is really saying that religion doesn't address human suffering honestly and realistically. Of course it doesn't.

    "Religion is the story of what a sinful man tries to do for a holy God; the gospel is the story of what a holy God has done for sinful men."
    Roy Gustafson

    cal

    oy! I've need to get 'out of here' for awhile!

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  25. At our current level of knowledge, no, science cannot explain why a (self-professed Christian) mother would drown her children in a lake; again, that's not what I'm saying. Science is the best way we have of explaining the physical universe, but it cannot explain human behavior - at least, not entirely.

    (Note, however, that current trends in research show more and more evidence for the chemical [physical] basis for our behavior - including actions that may be beyond our conscious control. If one can be genetically predisposed toward an addictive behavior - say, alcoholism or drug addiction - it may be that certain individuals are more prone to violence or compassion. In the nature vs. nurture battle, I am confindently straddling that proverbial fence, albeit with an iron codpiece, to avoid any damage.)

    Now, I don't live my life in "bitterness" against my former "decoy religion". I am, actually, simply on guard against the imposition of ANY and ALL such "decoys" into secular, rational life.

    (As an aside - my, I use parentheses a lot - I find it rather amusing when "Christians" consider Catholics as followers of a "decoy religion", to use your words, when there can be little argument as to which Christian sect has existed the longest, with the longest tradition and record of Biblical scholarship. If ANY religion holds claim to the title of Christianity, it's the Roman Catholic Church. Since ALL takes on Jesus are just interpretation and speculation, I figure, if you're going to wear the Christian mantle, wear that of the oldest existing champion of the faith - that centered in Rome. Of course, that could be just the elitist streak in me - the same tendency that makes me a fan of the New York Yankees.)

    ~ Bob

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  26. Bob

    The "original" Christian church was made up almost entirely of Jews. Luke, from "the gospel of Luke" was Greek. But as you can see, the representation of early church members is otherwise almost completely Jewish. But that certainly is not the way one would hear it from the RCC, would we.

    So why was it again that the Catholic church is the oldest and most original Christian church? What is odd to me is that often, even people who shed almost every vestige of Catholicism, do not, for some bizzare reason, leave behind their anti-Semitic views that they grew up with in the church. And that fact alone should tell a person what sort of pit that form of doctrine was born out of.

    Therefore, a woman can kill her children claming all along to be a Christian, but we know, just as we did when we saw the effects of Hitler's regime, what kind of a spirit of death and destruction that originates from, too.
    cal

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  27. A little bit of advice from the Former Badasses Who Found Jesus Club goes a long way. After a while it seems more like they're bragging about their past exploits rather than repenting.

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  28. Lets see....

    If you were the creator would you hide yourself to this study? Would you allow yourself to be studied?

    Actually, this argument is pretty solid. I know it doesn't make sense to us agnostics and atheists, but if the said purpose of the experiment is to prove the efficacy of prayer to (let us assume the Christian) God, then this behavior would not be inconsistent with other behaviors exhibited by said God in the Bible.

    While J.J. provide some good Biblical quotes about the expected result of prayer, I'm sure there are lots of Biblical quotes about faith being a requirement. If a scientific study "proved" God, then there would be little need for faith.

    Of course, this is all like trying to argue the proverbial number of angels on the head of a pin and reinforces the whole pointlessness of the experiment. (On the other hand we would really have a lot to talk about if the efficacy prayer was statistically proved).

    One thing I can assure every one of you.... When you are on your own death bed....You will pray. You'll deny it now. But you will.

    Obviously this blanket statement is not true . But even if some percentage of non-believers turn to some form of prayer on their deathbed does not mean that prayer either works or that God exists. It just means that when scared and weak humans will tend to be more desperate and more willing to be deluded. It is tantamount to a confession taken under duress. We would all like to believe we will be strong, but such behavior at a time of weakness does not necessarily cancel out a lifetime of rational thought.


    Even the addicts are saying, 'It doesn't matter how many drugs I take, I'm not fulfilled. This isn't satisfying.' There's a spiritual hunger going on.

    I don't know of many (if any) rational secular humanist agnostic/atheists (whew) that would argue that a vacuous life of drugs, alcohol or sex is fulfilling. Mr. Cooper may have satisfied his spiritual hunger with Christianity, but just as easily could have chosen Buddhism, Hinduism or Secular Humanism. Most atheists will agree that it is important to examine the meaning of your life and how your existence fits in with the existence of the rest of humanity and the Universe. In many ways the religious route is the easier route because all the heavy lifting has been laid out for you... the agnostic/atheist route is tougher and scarier (no afterlife - yikes), but can equally succeed in satisfying that "spiritual" need.

    even people who shed almost every vestige of Catholicism, do not, for some bizarre reason, leave behind their anti-Semitic views that they grew up with in the church.

    Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I was raised Catholic (now agnostic), but I don't remember ever being anti-Semitic nor observing that in any of my Catholic peers. I'm not denying the historical truth of this, but I'm not sure its a feature of Catholicism more so that other Christian denominations. For example didn't Protestant Martin Luther set the standard for anti-Semitism in post-Reformation Europe and aren't all KKK members decidedly not Catholic.

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  29. "Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I was raised Catholic (now agnostic), but I don't remember ever being anti-Semitic nor observing that in any of my Catholic peers."

    I understand that people are firstly individuals. I was just talking about trends in doctrine and where they lead. Point was: Catholic doctrine is notably anti-Semitic, so how could it be the "original church." The original church was Jewish.

    One of my good friends, (our kids played together when they were tots) who had been raised Catholic, started spouting all this stuff one day about Jews. "If weren't for the Jews this...and, you know, it's only because they're Jewish" that. Etc. I was astonished, and quickly reminded her that my kids were partly Jewish because of my husband's family. She was a little taken aback there for second. And I think because in a split second Jews were "real" people, even the little ones standing in front of her.

    After that point, I started paying closer attention then to how often people I conversed with, who had either been Catholic or still were, made anti-Semitic types of innuendo IF THE SUBJECT was brought up. It was well over 50%, probably almost three out of four.


    "I'm not denying the historical truth of this, but I'm not sure its a feature of Catholicism more so that other Christian denominations."

    I'm sure that it is. And it's referred to as "replacement theology". If you feel patient enough for it, look it up on the web. And Luther did not shed his anti-Semitism when left the Catholic church either. That is where he came from, btw. He was something of a revolutionary, in a sense. But it's a pity that he didn't revolutionize everything.

    Now conversely, I understand, as I have tried to impart this to my kids, that we will not solve a single thing by becoming "anti-Arab" or even anti-catholic, especially as our approach to the individual is concerned.

    Come to think of it, I sort of 'loved' my friend right out of anti-semitism. Now she almost goes to the opposite extreme.

    Oh well. :)

    cal

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  30. Yes, hypocritical over-compensation can be an endearing trait.

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  31. "Yes, hypocritical over-compensation can be an endearing trait."

    So can condescending anonymity.

    Speaking of under-compensation, and how would we ever know who's been, or has not been, a hypocrite unless they signed their "name"?

    cal

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  32. Indeed, it's the all time record of anonymous postings in one thread, if I remember correctly... Curiouser and curiouser.

    J

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  33. "Maybe he's just gotten too old to do the things he used to enjoy and has turned into an old man bitter at the thought that there are now other people doing what he used to be able to do. Or maybe he's just looking for another easy-money gig."

    And maybe you're right, whomever you are. I respect the person who writes on the following site immensely. And quite honestly, by allowing another writer to commentate on the issue, I can see that they are wondering about it too.

    I would tend want to believe that people are works in progress. That is, give them the benefit of the doubt that they are on the path to "improvement". But on the other hand, I wouldn't want anyone to think that Cooper's manner of conducting himself is acceptable either.

    "Shock rock guru Alice Cooper a Christian?

    By Neil Cooper - The Israel Report
    April 23, 2006

    See also Strange Journeys

    "The father of shock rock whose music and stage antics have outraged parents for more than 30 years reportedly embraced Christian faith in the 1980s. ... Cooper -- who legally changed his name from Vince Furnier -- said that although he continued to record and tour with a theatrical horror-style show, 'My life is dedicated to follow Christ.'" Alice Cooper to get doctorate from Christian university

    "...be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2

    "For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan
    himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the
    ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

    I normally wouldn't do this, but I had such a strong reaction to the post on InJesus about Alice Cooper being a Christian that I had to respond. I am so concerned that people, particularly today's youth and children would be influenced by such lies that I had to try and open the eyes of anyone who would listen.

    I'm sorry, but to believe that Alice Cooper is a Christian is wishful thinking. I remember when someone told me he had become a Christian back in the late 90's and I was hopeful that it was true, but skeptical. When I read the lyrics of his latest "Christian" CD, I knew that nothing had changed except his target audience."....
    http://www.crossroad.to/articles
    2/006/alice-cooper.htm

    cal

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  34. "Actually I'm more a Joni mitchell type myself."

    Lily,
    Somehow I missed hearing her music (have no idea how) but missed your comment too.

    My oldest daughter, (17) likes and sings Jazz, Nora Jones style, I guess? And that all sounds rather good to me. :) Of course, I'm shamelessly biased. And although she doesn't play the piano, she real pretty like that too. (more bias)

    cal

    the blog host can certainly remove this if he thinks it's too far off topic , and it is

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  35. Prayer does work but it is not a wishing well where all of you desires will be granted. That is to say I studied three days so I am going to ace this exam. Not exactly there are other factors. Those prayers did not seem genuine.

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  36. Just back from vacation - interesting stuff (here as well as vacation). I think it was Bob who said he was raised Catholic, but got better. Similarly I started out Seventh Day Adventist (because of my maternal Grandmother who raised me from age 2 to 13), then various other Christian creeds through high school (primarily a social thing), then a daliance with Catholicism (the religion of my fathers side and severeral really cute girls who intrigued me in my college years), then I got better and married a Japanese American girl who was nominally Bhuddist! (Still together after 40 years)

    Would I be dating myself further if I were to say that I am a Benny Goodman/Lionel Hamption/Ella Fitsgerald/Glenn Miller/Jimmie Lunceford/Sarah Vaughn kind of guy?

    Who were Alice Cooper and Joni Mitchell anyway? Lady wrestlers?

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  37. Dennis,
    Sounds like you can remember 78's.
    I can, but only just.

    Imagine having to change records in the middle of the Nutcracker Suite.

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  38. I am always entertained to distraction by all the people who come out of the woodwork to be advocates for some form of God. In the USA, most of these advocates all claim to be Christian, but the majority of those will say (at a funeral for example) that "I was raised 'pedestrian' but I don't really go to church anymore. But I still believe in Jesus. Then, you will find this same "Christian Majority" engaging in prayer once in a blue moon - perhaps when times are tough, someone dies, etc. There is often some 'stimulus' that provokes prayerfulness for a specific event, desire or moment in time - none of this is in accordance with what the Bible advises for the purpose and frequency of prayer - let alone the 'reason' for doing it - which has nothing to do with God granting you a special dispensation of some sort. Catholics will pray to a saint or to Mary Mother of Jesus to act as an advocate to God. There seems to be an incredible profusion of interpretations of whether God is Unitarian or Trinitarian or neither or both. How does one determine what is 'right/true/correct' with all this individual interpretation and variation? If God is Absolute, does that allow for any and all interpretations, beliefs and expressions of faith? If this is True - does that not also at least imply that Judaism and Islam are equally valid? If not on all levels, at least on some? So who is ultimately 'right'? Is God going to sit in judgment of misinterpretations? Yet the message of the religions of The Book (as they are called, all being derivative of 'the God of Abraham' in some way)is often misdirected and contradictory and perhaps worse - if subject to individual interpretation - does this not constitute a form of Religious (or for that matter Moral) Relativism?
    Can humans be collectively ethical and individually moral without 'any' religion? (Buddhism proposes that there is no god, but rather an enlightened state of consciousness based on a hyper-awareness for any and all human beings - their sense or practice of morality is generally not in question, this proving that the concept of God is not a prerequisite of moral/ethical behaviour. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Consider all the slaughter and bloodshed and misery foisted upon humankind in the name of God - mere misinterpretations of His Will or His Message? Consider the incredible waste of time and resources on the practice of religion - elaborate churches, time spent sitting in pews versus 'doing anything positive'.

    I dare to think that Jesus may have been a man who simply was misinterpreted to the benefit of the political structure of the time, and this has simply morphed over the past two thousand years into what amounts to utter confusion and 'interpretative faith'. I think Religion is the single most unproductive (at best) and dangerous and deadly (at worst) idea that humankind has ever come up with.
    Read Sam Harris' book "The End of Faith". Folks - look how much time we've wasted on mere distraction from our individual and collective misery...

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  39. Dennis: "Who were Alice Cooper and Joni Mitchell anyway? Lady wrestlers?"

    Well, I guess Cooper, at least, was in the venue of the "whatever works for ya" kinda thing.

    And about your thoughts on Catholicism:

    To me, it's a terribly sad thing that some former Catholics become almost irretrievably hard-hearted (inoculated) towards beliefs thereafter. I do not exactly understand it, to be honest.

    I had the benefit of barely being raised Catholic at all. When I was 12, somebody in my natural father’s family complained to the SS about the prospect that I was being raised protestant, and an excuse was made up for this and I was promptly sent to a Catholic school for almost a year and a half. The parents who had raised me up to that point, fought and succeeded to get me out.

    Therefore, I only know enough on these matters to be a danger to myself and just about everybody else! :) And that's what happens when those who have subject to forms of "social experimentation" get turned loose, ya know.

    cal

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  40. Kholstomer:
    I remember 78's very well - as well as 45's of which I have hundreds in addition of a cabinet full of 33's. Oldies but goodies!

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  41. I suppose my last comment was not enough of an 'opinion' to warrant further commentary. Too bad.

    Another item that entertains me is the march toward a theocracy in the USA - it almost appears inevitable. There is a movement to declare a "Ten Commandments" day as a sort of observation of them - some say that they are the basis of ethics in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In rebuttal, I think it's far more appropriate to have a "Ten Amendments" day - aka, the Bill of Rights - which is the true foundation of American ethics and moreover - the basic Law of the Land.
    Frankly, the Ten Commandments would produce laws that infringe upon individual rights - in direct opposition to the work crafted to govern this country by the founding fathers. If 'we' followed 'Thou shalt not Kill' - the US Government itself would have to hold itself accountable for all sorts of killing it has done - as I read it, there are no caveats or exceptions to the Ten Commandments. It doesn't say for example - 'Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except under certain circumstances...'
    Also it would be impossible to "Keep The Sabbath" - as the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday and the Christian version says it's Sunday. How can we keep the Sabbath holy when 'we've already violated that commandment? Also, the Judeo-Christian 'tradition'? What tradition? Jews do not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah! Christians promote the idea of the Trinity - three manifestations of One God. The Jewish faith is based on a Unitarian view of God.
    Further to this discussion, the founding fathers - most of them at least were Deists and Unitarians - many felt that the 'Church' promoted Christian Mythology and that any of the so-called miracles such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection were just that - hearsay without evidence of fact.
    I'm surprised that so many people are willing to suspend their disbelief without any evidence or facts to back their position - just a nebulous concept known as 'faith'.

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    Replies
    1. Right on all counts, and which version of the bible do we believe, which edited, doctored, changed and rewritten version of the one book suposedly inspired by the holy spirit.

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  42. I find the whole thing comical. I used to be a Christian, then I found that the basic description of one is someone who believes in one of many religions because either they were scared into it by the fear of the big gun at their back (hell) and the God who would toss you there over living a life in which you did as little as not believe or perhaps you had a few vices like we all do, or because they believed some person, and baught into the errant theology of churches. I found prayer utterly innaffective, excuses abounding, and Christians themselves spoke against paganism, spiritism, and laid claim to being compassionate folks who frowned on vice, and of course, bashed Goths and Rock musicians, then I found them to live the opposite, vice laden themselves, often cold and uncaring and generally not interesting in research or learning, just in swollowing the crap the church told them. Ah, the unnering inspired word of God! In fiarness, there are good principals to be found there and truths, but which of the inspired words do we believe? The Catholic version or some other dubbed and edited version? Funny how the sabbath and other things were altered by the pagan Constantine and are sworn to by....Christians! Prayer never id anything except to make me end up feeling like an idiot till I woke up. Life is life, it kicks many asses, and those asses are better off not attatched to hands that are clasped together in some vain hope of a better tomorrow. Sorry, evidence is evidence.

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  43. I would direct you to this study printed in the Southern Medical Journal: "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique" Contrast a closer proximity and prayer results are better. The foundations of psychology and psychoanalysis rest on changing a patient's thought and there is no reason to believe prayer would not function under the same rules. The Templeton study is valuable because it proves the patient must be involved or prayer has no effect. Quantum Mechanics will lead to further breakthroughs as we come to understand the mechanics of thought changing matter. Studies of this kind do not have to be a catalyst for name calling and threats. This is an opportunity to learn and when emotion is removed from the equation there is much to learn. We need different disciplines to come together, not tear each other apart.

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