Thanks For Praying, But Did You Also Sacrifice a Goat?

This story's title is taken from Dan Dennett's great article "Thank Goodness". You can read it here:

There are some things in religion that simply make no sense. To me, praying is one of them. I think most people just haven't really thought about whether praying makes any sense, they just do it because they were raised to believe that it sometimes works.

People pray for things all the time. Little kids pray that a really bad storm comes and school gets cancelled. Johnny prays Becky will like him. Becky prays that Brad will notice her. Brad prays that the towel on the guy next to him falls off so he can get a peek.

Georgetown prays that they can beat Syracuse, while Syracuse is praying that they can beat Georgetown. Half of America prayed Obama would win, while the other half prayed McCain would. Hundreds of millions pray that their lotto ticket wins. The academy awards are this weekend, how many times do you suppose we'll hear God thanked? I assume that all the people that are nominated will be praying that they win, but there's always just one winner. I guess the winner must have prayed harder, or had more people praying on their behalf.

A US soldier is praying he and his buddies are safe. Makes sense, except they're attacking insurgents, who are busy praying to a different god that the insurgents are the ones spared and that the US soldiers die. Whose set of prayers is going to win? My God can beat up your God.

I don't see how people reconcile the idea of God's will or God's plan with the idea of praying. If God has a plan for all of us, then God must know that certain things need to happen in order to fulfill that plan. Humans don't know what God's plan is, so when they're confused or scared they pray to God that a certain outcome is part of his plan. Their wish is either part of his plan or it's not. If it is part of his plan, then that's great. It will happen and the person will be happy that his prayer was answered. But was the prayer answered? If it was already part of God's plan, then why should we pray for it? It will happen.

On the other hand, what if we pray for something and it DOESN'T happen. Well, I guess it just wasn't God's will, wasn't part of God's plan. Well if it's just going to come down to God's plan in the end, why are we wasting time asking for it? Like George Carlin said, why don't we just skip the praying part and let God's plan come to be. If what we want is not part of his plan, do we expect him to CHANGE his plan, just on OUR behalf? Seems a little presumptuous. Is he supposed to throw a monkey wrench into his whole plan for the cosmos just to get Becky to notice Johnny? Man, talk about conceit.

Religious people pat themselves on the back for being so HUMBLE. What's humble about asking the creator of the universe to intervene and change his ultimate plan for everything just to give you what you want? The hubris is breathtaking.

I understand that there are good intentions behind all of those prayers, but I seem to recall that good intentions pave the road to hell. Instead of wasting time and energy praying to an invisible being that in all probability doesn't exist, how about getting up off your knees and actually doing something proactive to make the world a better place? I came across a thread on here where people basically were saying that the bad thing about man's problems is that man tries too hard to fix his own problems and keeps screwing up, he should just pray to God to fix those problems. omg, are you kidding?

So instead of actually working to make a difference in the world, their answer is to just throw in the towel and pray to their God to fix everything. Talk about a fatalist mentality. Take some responsibility for your condition and do something about it, for Christ's sake.

VendettA12 VendettA12
31-35, M
41 Responses Feb 21, 2009

praying doesnt always require asking of somthing.... <br />
so people pray to say thank you...<br />
its the communication that is important which is why i believe praying is very important... <br />
it builds a relationship...

... what a treat it is to be told how "confused" I am, by a teenage girl no less who has always been a Muslim, for ALL of her life (further proving my point about how common it is for people to latch onto the faith that they were brainwashed into from birth)

And the millions of starving children in Africa, what of THEIR needs? Surely you don't think that they only pray for things they want instead of need? You must be a very important person, for God has decided to grant you the things YOU need, all the while denying millions of starving people food to live another day. <br />
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What a MIGHTY MIGHTY good and patient GOD you serve.

c the views about praying come from thoes who has never tried it or tried him for that matter, God never said oh pray and sit still and I will bring you all ur hearts desire. That is not what prayer is about, it is not even about just praying when u need something or when u are goning thru something, Prayer has everything to do with having a relationship with God, talking to him. God already knows what u need b4 u ask so ur rite there is no reason to ask for it, although there is nothing wrong with letting him know. I can't speak on everyones behalf or the God someone else prays to but my GOD the awesome alpha and omega has always been there for me, no he may not has given me that new car i WANTED but I can assure u that all my needs are always met. I recommend u guys do a little research try him and see what a MIGHTY MIGHTY good and patient GOD we serve. I will keep u all n my prayers

Exactly, steve. Various religions may have been essential to scare and bribe people into good behavior before civilization, but things have changed a bit in the last few thousand years.

The concept that we are sinners and that even despite our horrible nature god still loves us is anathema to me. Humanity has devised laws that incorporate all the essential elements of moral behaviour. Not all of us have broken laws and are therefore not sinners. This inherent guilt complex is just another aspect of controlling the masses. Stalin and Hitler used very similar notions to create a cohesive society wed to centralized and standardized notions of nationhood. Ergo the state (church) usurps the rights of the individual. Islam is the true ex<x>pression of submission. They relinquish individual freedoms as god's plan. I am a secularist and will resist always any attempt to subjugate my free will to the fatalism imposed by the churches. IF I'm a sinner then the laws of my country will administer justice not some fictional character with no basis in fact.

We are not only too proud to bow down and too dense to see the point of a God, but we aren't worth the time of trying to force us to bow or see the point.

I can't answer the question, I don't think anyone can. God's plan appears to be used when things go right and free will pops up when evil things happen and they're blamed on man or even better Satan. My biggest problem with praying to god is the abandonment of self actualisation. Everyone goes through dark times, I've lost family members in violent deaths, I've recently seen my firm go under and i face the same financial worries as many. I have seen in the past the response of many to these type of crises - they attend church, they light candles and they pray to god. I have in the past questioned this practice and many times have been answered, "it can't do any harm". Well maybe not, but i have never witnessed a single attributable example of a prayer being answered. I cannot think for one minute that god would select one person's prayer over an other's. If he did he would pick the most pious person. Say Mother Theresa, then we could get her to do all the praying. At this point trying to apply a rational thought process to something so evidently beyond rationalisation just starts to sound stupid.

How am I being misleading? I don't think those are the only categories of people who pray. There are some that pray knowing full well that their prayer isn't going to change the universe, but they do it for mental comfort. Fine. There are some who pray because they are powerless to do anything else, like when they're watching a loved one die in front of them. Understandable. <br />
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If the majority of people do not fall into the categories you and I have just mentioned, then please tell me what category they DO fall in.(Be sure to use precise language) <br />
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I'm also waiting for someone to tell me how it's possible to believe in the following 3 things all at the same time: God's plan, prayers being answered, and free will. These things cannot exist all at the same time, and yet people don't seem to give it much thought.

By the way, this is the thread I mentioned that inspired this group in the first place:<br />
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<a href="" target="ep_blank"></a>#comment_em<x>bed

Looks like your comment is gone, Sam. You'll have to try again :(<br />
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Protia, I understand that people living through difficult circumstances turn to prayer and faith as a coping mechanism. I would urge you to seek professional advice or counseling on how to inform your son. I have no idea how old your son is, but it's important that he knows assuming he's old enough to grasp what you're saying.

Has anyone else ever had a comment EATEN due to to a session time out? Looks like tjat just happened to me ... I'll wait to see if it shows up, if not ... CRAP!

I also need a prayer, m a lady who is living with hiv for many years i also have son living with hiv,i dont know how to sit hm down and tell hm,im also having a problelem frnding a life patner to share my life with its ant funy to be loney

Listen, I'm not telling anyone else not to pray. Obviously I don't believe in the existance of any God. I'd say that is a good reason for me not to pray. Those that do believe (and they far out number those that do not, no matter if it seems to some that atheism has become a "fad" of sorts) if praying brings comfort I say do what feels right if it brings you peace. <BR><BR>I am far, very far from thinking I have all the answers. I just don't think the answers are going to be found praying to something that I don't believe exists. I try to be proactive and solve the issues I can, and try my best to have the strength daily to handle those I can't change.

I totally agree with you, like the saying action speaks louder than words. Praying does not help our situation only action does. We are responsible for our lives and what they turn out like. We are the ones who need to step up to the plate. What will be, will be. Whuttup I agree with you and thank you for your thoughts.

I can easily understand the therapy and therapeutic effects of prayer; and in a looong stretch the relief or gain of those effects affecting an outcome.<br />
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Other than that, I like the old quote:<br />
"Two hands in action can achieve more than 100 hands in prayer"

Intrepidtraveler- <br />
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My wife is agnostic, so I understand what you are saying. In a sense, all atheists are agnostics because the definition of agnosticism is not knowing for sure. Atheists are basically agnostics that look at the evidence and see no reason to insert a god as an explanation for anything. Even Richard Dawkins, the world's most famous atheist, admits that on a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 means absolute certainty that there is a god and 7 means absolute certainty that there is no God, he rates himself as a 6. "Very low probability [of God existing], but short of zero. De facto atheist. “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” <br />
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Now you bring up the notion of a personal God (which is what so many people apparently believe in, a god that listens to and answers prayers, a god that occasionally drops in to do a few miracles here and there, like the Christian God). Well this is decidedly less likely than some mysterious god or force that we no nothing of. Now we're describing an anthropomorphous God, a god that conveniently has chosen us as the purpose of creation. <br />
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It's important to note that on things that we cannot know with 100% certainty (and so are technically required to be agnostic about), if there are two options the odds aren't always 50/50. Asking does a god or controlling force exist...maybe you put that at a 50/50 chance. But then if you add in other conditions like asking if a SPECIFIC god exists (like the Christian God), the odds of that drops considerably. <br />
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There are many religions (such as Islam) that make similar incompatible claims, so why would this version be correct over all the rest? Other religions say they are the true word of the creator, just like Christianity. The odds of the Christian God existing therefore are much less than 50/50. <br />
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Then you take this already improbable Christian God and add the condition of asking if this God listens to all prayers and intercedes in world events.. and again this is much less probable. <br />
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After enough of these increasing levels of improbability, an agnostic often sees little reason to give much credence to what rich Christian pastors have to say.

To WMYTIN- <br />
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I'm admitting that there might be benefits to the person praying mentally or emotionally, but I don't think that's why most people pray. It seems that some people on this thread are admitting that prayer isn't about changing the physical universe. They seem to be saying that praying is something people do to help themselves mentally or emotionally, a last resort in the face of powerlessness. I don't think that's why the majority of people pray. I think they actually believe they are talking to an invisible being and that this being might decide to intercede on their behalf and give them what they want. Some of the praying folks here might look down on this type of worshiper as being simplistic, juvenile, or unrealistic. I'm saying that (in my opinion) it's common for people to think they are affecting the universe with their prayers, and (in my opinion) this mindset is a waste of time and energy.

whoa, looks like I missed a party here these last few hours. WhadidIdo Maisie? <br />
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For the record, I have zero problem with the praying folk coming by here to tell me I'm missing something, as long as they attempt to explain to me what it is that I'm missing. Like Annie said, I've done as much dozens of times, only because I don't think it's a bad thing if people can talk about their ideas and beliefs. If you can't defend your beliefs, you're admitting they're indefensible.

Well I think superficial actions "could" come from superficial intent. If someone deeply and genuinely means something and follows through with those means then...there you go. Great. Call it prayer, call it promise, call it hunches, call it bets. Whatever you call it, it includes thought, intent, emotion, and some form of drive. People will choose to do what they may. I commend the few that do it well.<br><br />
People waste their time and energy on the net too. Like me. I could definitely be doing something better right sitting on the couch watching tv. But with popcorn...chocolate popcorn...<br><br />
: P

I agree that spending time and energy begging imaginary characters to create changes in your life that you feel powerless to create does seem like a waste. Then again, people waste time doing many a things. To each their own. I think that some people use prayer and meditation as a way to be in their own head. Prayer is a waste to me because I get the same benefits from writing in my journal or talking to myself. I get more social satisfaction from volunteering than I could from saying I am good because I accept some being as my savior. To each their own, once again. We are all just trying to get through it with a little joy attached.

This is always a problem on EP. Groups formed around absolutisms attract attention. I'm sorry if I caused any distress by disagreeing but I happen to think Whuttup enjoys a good tussle! He's been known to break in on opposite groups himself! Often! The scamp. That's why we love him.

WMYTIN, It probably is not a waste of time to the person praying but the non praying people here believe that it is a waste of time and energy. You all came in here to debate that with us. it's kind of like us going into the opposite group and telling everyone to stop praying, it's bullshit. Even though we believe that, we don't go there and tell you all that, we stay here and discuss it with ourselves until you come along wanting to debate our non belief.<br />
Why you all feel like you have to is beyond me. I don't pray, you guys do. We both work towards the same thing and we get the same outcome. What does that tell you?

I'll be back later, duty to the wife calls! Gonna watch a movie. I do look forward to continuing my quest to understand both of your viewpoints better.

Every time you characterize a prayerful person as an imbecile, you are creating a strawman against which you can look superior. No?

I'm trying to understand what you're saying, Annie. You said there were strawmen, but you didn't name any. Now you're calling an argument illogical but I'm not sure what part you're talking about? The goat part? <br><br />
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I think it's logical to point out that it's confusing how a person can reconcile God's plan (or fate, or karma, or whatever you wanna call it) with praying. Like I said in the story, you can reconcile these things IF you believe you are actually changing God's plan by praying, but then that seems ostentatious to me. I also say that praying can offer mental comfort to the person praying. <br><br />
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What part of all this illogical?

Offended? Why should I be offended by someone's illogical arguement? I have no dog, or goat, in this fight. Prayer or no prayer, God or no God, is a completely academic consideration. I have nothing invested in the outcome.

If it's the "goat" in my title that is offensive, that came from the article I linked to. Did you all read the article? After reading the article, do you still find the goat ex<x>pression offensive? <br />
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d10, I'm not sure what to make of that post. Not exactly compelling anecdotal evidence of anything. You seem to be equating atheism with communism, perhaps because most of the communist regimes of the past century were not too kind to religion. Correlation does not imply causation. It's like saying Stalin and Hitler had mustaches, so men with mustaches must be evil. We can all see how silly a statement that is. <br />
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Ok, Maisie, I won't call you an orange anymore. But I like your little ditty, it's pretty catchy. And I just adore the punny "crucify me" considering the subject material of this story. <br />
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I don't know. Of course, I don't. Nobody does. <br />
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But I am not convinced that there is no God simply because those that pray to Him are portrayed as weak and stupid and just as likely to sacrifice a goat if that could get them out of fixing their own problems.

I would love to see a miracle. Call me doubting Thomas. He's the only one of the disciples I respect.

I am prepared to burn any straw men here, Annie, just tell me where to lite up.

Here's the problem. Atheism is becoming very popular right now, almost a trend. And the overarching tone they are all sounding is one of righteous superiority. Now why I should expect atheists to adopt a different mode then every other mass movement is beyond me. But I do admit to disappointment. If you're a proponent of rationalism and science, you can't rely on the constuction of dumb straw men to advance your cause. It doesn't work. Not with me, anyway.

I'm talking to the apples and you're an orange, Mais. And I acknowledge that praying does offer mental comfort to the person praying, I'm attacking the notion that praying changes the plans of the cosmos and therefore is a valid problem solving strategy.

That reminds me of that old joke:<br />
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A devout Christian heard an urgent news report on his radio that a flash flood was within minutes of entering the peaceful valley where he lived. Immediately he went to his knees and prayed for safety. The words were still on his lips when he became aware that water was gushing under his door. He retreated to the second floor and finally onto the roof of his house.<br />
While he sat on the roof, a helicopter flew by and the pilot asked over the loudspeaker if they could lift him off. It's not necessary since I have the Lord's protection, he replied.<br />
Moments later the house began to break up and he found himself clinging to a tree. A police boat, braving the waters, approached him for rescue, but he assured them that the Lord would save him. Finally, the tree gave way and the man went to his death.<br />
Standing before the Lord, he asked, Lord, I'm glad to be here, but why didn't You answer my prayer for safety?<br />
The Lord responded, Son, I told you over the radio to get out of there Then I sent you a helicopter and a motor boat! What more did you want?!

I agree that prayer should never be a substitute for action. If you pray for a hole in the ground and someone gives you a shovel, I would consider that prayer answered. I'm infuriated when I hear about parents who let their children die because they don't think medical care is an option. At that point, i think prayer becomes a harmful superstition.

Do you get what I'm saying, though Puck? The people I referred to did not want to do anything to fix their problems, in fact they viewed any action on their part as PROBLEMS. Their sole answer to whatever was wrong with their lives was to pray. To me, that's as insane as a Christian Scientist that refuses any treatment for their children and watches them die instead, even while they're praying the whole time. <br />
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I'm not saying you and Marji are like that, but if you are, then you deserve to be shamed. Praying might give the person praying comfort, but don't try to tell me that praying is your big strategy for fixing problems in this world.<br />
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Can you imagine if Obama came out tomorrow and said, you know what, we're not going to do anything anymore, we're going to shut down everything that the government is working on and we're just going to PRAY 24/7 for the next year. Nothing will get done, but if we all pray hard then perhaps the lord will fix our problems. What if Obama said that man cannot fix his problems, by trying to fix them we make them worse, the answer to everything is to pray.... do you have any idea how sickening that mindset would be? Let's give up everything and just pray. <br />
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It baffles me. Use prayer as a supplement to action if you like, but don't just sit there and hope some invisible being cures all your problems. That's just pathetic.

I know what you mean marji. To pray means to have faith. To have known the presents of God and to have felt the presents of God you then know the importance of prayer not just in your life but in the lives of others as well. There is nothing wrong with asking God for something in prayer. Just because he says no doesn't mean he did not listen and answer. There have been many times I've looked back and have been thankful his answer to me was no.

There are worse things one could do than pray. It may seem silly to you, but to me and others, it's as natural as crying or laughing. I might want to call it meditation, or visualization, but it's still prayer, and it seems as natural as rain to me.

Restored DIGNITY and HONOR to the White House? Hahaha. I just fell off the chair laughing at that one. The Fundamental Christians loved President Bush because Jesus spoke to him! Can you believe it? JESUS SPOKE TO PRESIDENT BUSH! Call it faith, call it whatever you want. I call it delusion, not faith.<br />
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I agree 100% with everything you said above. As a matter of fact, it was all pretty profound!<br />
My thoughts are that after working over 22 years in health care and caring for the sick and dying, I have NEVER, EVER seen 1 prayer answered. NOT ONE! God didn't come through for that little 6 your old boy with cancer who wanted nothing more than for the pain to be gone, for his mother to stop crying and to be a fireman. Or the little 7 month old baby who died a few weeks ago, apparently healthy until she started seizing earlier in the day. With her family wailing and praying she died. Oh, I have thousands of stories of "life in the ER and the millions of unanswered prayers."<br />
That is not why I don't believe in prayer, it has just reinforced my disbelief.<br />
Thank Goodness we have a place we can discuss this!<br />
:-)<br />

The saying is that there are no atheists in foxholes...which is kinda true except of course for the fact that there ARE atheists in foxholes. There's even an internet group for those mythical people that supposedly don't exist. <br />
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The funny thing that I hear time and time again from believers is that they want their leaders and their armies to have faith. Really? <br />
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I obviously want the opposite. I think that if our political leaders, our military leaders, and our armies were composed of people that truly thought this was their only existence... that this was it... I think there'd be a lot less wars. People would truly make war be the last option, only to be exercised after everything else has failed. <br />
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George W Bush is often revered for being a man of faith. What did that faith do for him? Well in the run up to the Iraq invasion, he thought he received a comforting blessing from God on whether or not to invade. Gee, it seems even God thought that there were WMD's and a link between Iraq and 911. Doesn't sound like such a wise God. <br />
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If he would have been a rational person that didn't believe in invisible people, perhaps the gigantic mistake of Iraq never would have happened. His belief in fairy tales has cost us (so far) over 4,000 soldiers and thousands of billions of dollars. Hallelujah! <br />
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But THANK GOD he was a man of faith, who restored DIGNITY and HONOR to the White House. <br />
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What a ****** world we live in.

Of course I agree with every word you have written. I've never prayed. I've been told by believers that in our "darkest hours" we all reach out for God. As suspicious as I am that they genuinely believe, they can't grasp that I really, really do not. I've had some dark hours. Dark days, in fact. I've never looked to God for answers, or "strength." It isn't that I think he doesn't care, it is simply that I don't believe he is there.