Author Topic: Beliefs about prayer  (Read 1403 times)

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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #60 on: January 14, 2020, 01:41:16 AM »
Interpreting some event as an answer is not the same thing as getting an actual answer.

What I'm asking is this: back when you were a Christian, when you prayed to God for something, did you ever experience an actual answer?

Did you ever hear a voice in your head, or get some kind of a feeling that God was talking back? Or was it just complete silence while you waited for an outcome?

Yes, I believed that the voice in my head was sometimes God's. It wasn't, of course, but I believed it at the time.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #61 on: January 14, 2020, 01:46:48 AM »
God is going to heal her or not heal her regardless of whether anyone's praying, but if I pray for someone then maybe I can nudge God in just the right direction that results in a good outcome.

It is not possible for both clauses of this sentence to be true. In the first you say that prayer cannot affect God's decisions; in the second, you say that they can.

In the first case I did not say that prayer cannot affect God's decisions. God can change his mind about something [...]

I’m sorry; perhaps I misunderstood the phrase, “God is going to heal her or not heal her regardless of whether anyone's praying.” To me, that phrase means that the decision to heal or not heal is unaffected by the prayer, just as if I were to say, “I’ll post or not post in this thread whether you like it or not.” If I said that, I would mean that my decision whether or not to post would be completely unaffected by your desires.

To be absolutely clear: you are saying, then, that you believed that it was possible that, as a result of your prayer, God might change his mind and decide to heal a person whom he otherwise would have allowed to die? I understand that this was not how you thought about it and that changing God’s mind might not have been your primary goal in praying. I get that you hoped for other outcomes in addition or in alternative and that one of your primary motives was simply to build your relationship with God. But you did, in fact, believe that there was a chance that, because you prayed for healing, a person might live whom God would otherwise have allowed to die?
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #62 on: January 14, 2020, 06:50:22 AM »
Interpreting some event as an answer is not the same thing as getting an actual answer.

What I'm asking is this: back when you were a Christian, when you prayed to God for something, did you ever experience an actual answer?

Did you ever hear a voice in your head, or get some kind of a feeling that God was talking back? Or was it just complete silence while you waited for an outcome?

Yes, I believed that the voice in my head was sometimes God's. It wasn't, of course, but I believed it at the time.

Did you actually hear a voice?  What did it sound like?

What did it say when it 'answered' you? Did it tell you upfront, whether it would grant your prayer request?

Online daniel1948

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #63 on: January 14, 2020, 09:12:50 AM »
I don't wish to put words in your mouth, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you're saying that at least in some cases God will, in fact, heal a person's illness that he otherwise would not have healed because a righteous person prays for it. Is that accurate?

Yes. Each version of Christianity explains why this is so but at the end of the day sin was brought into this world with original sin or ancestral sin and because of that bad shit happens. If someone asks sometimes he will intervene directly.

It should also be noted that more often than not the praying itself is the result of God's will and plan and just one step in the overall process to which he is divine will. Just another step in God's plan.

Then I stand by my earlier assertion: if God, who knows of that little girl's suffering, might or might not heal her depending on whether the right person prays for her in the right way, then He is an Asshole.

While I do not disagree, that is absolutely not how I viewed it at the time. Specifically the part about "might or might not heal her depending on whether the right person prays for her in the right way". God is going to heal her or not heal her regardless of whether anyone's praying, but if I pray for someone then maybe I can nudge God in just the right direction that results in a good outcome. I'm not "begging", although in some extreme cases perhaps I am, and God is absolutely not obliged to grant any wishes I might make, but maybe if I'm a good enough person, he'll look favourably on me and the people I'm praying for.

Again, this is only one perspective. For Catholicism as far as I understand it, which I don't, prayer as I said appears to simply be part of a set of formalised rituals, since Catholics' relationship with God is always mediated through the priesthood. That's why Catholics pray to saints - because they don't communicate directly with God the way a Pentecostal would, and so they get the saints to intercede on their behalf.

With respect, the above makes no sense. You say that God will heal her or not, regardless of whether anyone prays, but then in the very next sentence you say that maybe if you pray you can nudge God in the "right" direction. Either prayer influences God or it does not. (Assuming such a thing as God existed.) If it does, then God is an asshole for only healing the people who have friends who pray in the right manner, and if it does not, then there is no point in praying at all.

Most Christians believe that God listens to and sometimes grants prayers. Therefore most Christians believe in a God who is an asshole.

And this is why I say that no-one I have tried to explain it to has understood. Since a lifelong atheist does not, and in all likelihood will never, experience what it is like to completely believe that you have a personal direct relationship with God, I don't think it's something that I can explain adequately.

I fully get it that Christians in some denominations believe that they and others can have a personal relationship with God, and that this relationship can be a two-way street. I get it that they believe that prayers, especially when offered by someone who is especially close with God or when offered by a sufficient number of people, can influence God to change what would have otherwise been the course of events. But if this is their view, then they cannot believe that God is not influenced by prayer, and they must accept that God allows some people to die because nobody prayed for them to survive, who he would have saved had people prayed for them.

Their only possible answer to the accusation that God is an asshole is that the dead person "is in a better place." But since cancer and many other illnesses can create unfathomable suffering, there is no answer to the accusation that, for lack of someone to pray for them, God has allowed them to suffer unimaginable horrors. Unless they resort to the pathetic argument that "suffering has made them better people, and suitable now to enter Heaven."

Either way God comes off as an asshole.

And yes, I fully understand that you no longer believe in God, and that we are discussing how believers regard prayer and its effects upon their make-believe man in the sky.

FWIW, I've met people who insist that God speaks to them. I've always assumed they did not mean via actual voices in their head speaking their own language. I've assumed they meant that God put ideas in their head. IOW, that ideas came to them which they interpreted as coming from God. I once worked, briefly, for a man who insisted that his prayers are always granted. I asked him to please pray for rain because the entire county was dry and the farmers needed rain for their crops. This was in North Dakota. He replied that he would not pray for rain because he didn't need rain. He had a very large rainwater collection and storage system from which he watered his own garden, and he would not pray for rain until he needed it himself. I thought it was poetic justice when, less than a year later, he fell off a ladder and broke his leg. Maybe God thought he'd gotten too big for his britches. He also told me that he could marry people and the marriage would be valid in he sight of God, though he was neither a j.p. nor the minister of any church. He was a cabinet maker and bricklayer and actually very good at both jobs. I guess a person can be deluded and still be good at his profession. Or maybe he said all those things as a kind of joke and I just never picked up on his sense of humor.
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Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #64 on: January 14, 2020, 09:53:40 AM »
There are a few simple ways for religious people to get away from the "God is an asshole problem." Each has their own distinct problems.

Here are a few.
1. God gave us free will and one of the effects of that is the right to chose something other than him. This results in pain and suffering but he allows it because he doesn't want us to be slaves unto him.

2. It is all part of a bigger plan of God. There is a reason why one person suffers and dies and another does not. Maybe it is to teach a lesson, maybe it is to bring someone to God, maybe it is something else. God works in mysterious ways.

3. We suffer because of ourself not because of him. We sinned and as a consequence brought death into the world. It is our own damn fault. Quit blaming God.

4. The person deserves it. They are bad.



There are more but those are some of the common answers.

In either sense I don't think this is meant to be a thread about if God exists or why do people believe in God but how people believe their prayers are efficacious.
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Offline Awatsjr

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #65 on: January 14, 2020, 11:16:23 AM »
I always wonder if god's plan is to finally wrap things up and bring it all to an end ... everything. Maybe start another one later.
The only people that tell me about life after death have never been dead ... not even once.

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #66 on: January 14, 2020, 11:45:45 AM »
I always wonder if god's plan is to finally wrap things up and bring it all to an end ... everything. Maybe start another one later.

He is probably just some geek that is running a computer program and interjects himself every once and a while for fun.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Online daniel1948

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #67 on: January 14, 2020, 03:01:52 PM »
There are a few simple ways for religious people to get away from the "God is an asshole problem." Each has their own distinct problems.

Here are a few.
1. God gave us free will and one of the effects of that is the right to chose something other than him. This results in pain and suffering but he allows it because he doesn't want us to be slaves unto him.

2. It is all part of a bigger plan of God. There is a reason why one person suffers and dies and another does not. Maybe it is to teach a lesson, maybe it is to bring someone to God, maybe it is something else. God works in mysterious ways.

3. We suffer because of ourself not because of him. We sinned and as a consequence brought death into the world. It is our own damn fault. Quit blaming God.

4. The person deserves it. They are bad.



There are more but those are some of the common answers.

In either sense I don't think this is meant to be a thread about if God exists or why do people believe in God but how people believe their prayers are efficacious.

1. If God created us with free will, he also put us in a world where resources are limited and we need to struggle to survive, and are basically self-centered because individuals who do not take care of their own needs die. He's an asshole for creating a situation in which only some can thrive.

2. If God has a "bigger plan" that requires so much suffering, then he's an asshole. He could just as easily have had a plan where being nice to each other resulted in outcomes more positive than being nasty to each other.

3. Adam sinned. Six thousand years ago. And God is still punishing his descendants for that today? If this is the case, then God is an asshole. We didn't sin. One guy six thousand years ago who didn't know any better broke a rule that he could not have understood.

4. There are people who it might be argued deserve some punishment. But if God thinks that little children deserve to starve, then he's an asshole.

The only way out (if you want to believe that there is a God) is to believe that God is a well-meaning but bumbling idiot who cannot ever manage to get things right, or that he doesn't give a damn about us and finds it amusing that we think he does. We are like flies and he kills us because it amuses him. Either that, or he doesn't exist.
Daniel
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Offline Billzbub

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #68 on: January 14, 2020, 03:14:53 PM »
I always wonder if god's plan is to finally wrap things up and bring it all to an end ... everything. Maybe start another one later.

That is the exact plot of the most recent season of Supernatural and almost exactly of the most recent season of The Good Place.

It seems that God could have solved a LOT of problems if he had just nipped things in the bud and remade Adam and Eve at the beginning.

I wonder if it is a misunderstanding on our part that Christians think God is omniscient.  From what I remember, God perceives things inside time and realizes things as they happen.  For example, God saw that people sucked and killed them all in a flood.  he didn't see from the beginning that people were going to suck and plan the flood from the get-go.  A few exampes of God or a prophet knowing the future doesn't override the mountains of references to God doing something as a reaction to something else.
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Offline Billzbub

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #69 on: January 14, 2020, 03:28:33 PM »
One of the main symptoms of a delusion is the suppression of cognitive dissonance, often to the point where the subject is incapable of recognizing the irrationality of their delusion.

I think this is true.  People who believe in intercessory prayer believe that god has a plan, and that if it still fits in God's plan to answer a prayer, it will happen.  They do not then analyze the correlary that God's original plan before the intercession was for people to suffer and die when they didn't have to.  To think about such things would invoke unresolvable cognitive dissonance, so they just don't take it that far.  They focus on what God can do with prayer, not on what God doesn't do without prayer.

For me, this thread has turned into a lesson that we don't understand the power cognitive dissonance avoidance can hold over a person because:
1.  People believe in intercessary prayer.
2.  Intercessory prayer, when analyzed, doesn't make sense.
3.  The people who believe in intercessary prayer are human beings and are not necessarily broken or malformed.  They are just people.

Now I'm really dying to discuss this with some true believers to see what they say when directly confronted with this idea.  The discussion would have to be kept laser focused on the idea that if God grants prayers to prevent suffering and death, then does he let people who have no prayers suffer more and/or die that would have otherwise suffered less and/or lived if they had prayers.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #70 on: January 14, 2020, 06:02:13 PM »
But you did, in fact, believe that there was a chance that, because you prayed for healing, a person might live whom God would otherwise have allowed to die?

Absolutely never in those words.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #71 on: January 14, 2020, 06:03:11 PM »
Interpreting some event as an answer is not the same thing as getting an actual answer.

What I'm asking is this: back when you were a Christian, when you prayed to God for something, did you ever experience an actual answer?

Did you ever hear a voice in your head, or get some kind of a feeling that God was talking back? Or was it just complete silence while you waited for an outcome?

Yes, I believed that the voice in my head was sometimes God's. It wasn't, of course, but I believed it at the time.

Did you actually hear a voice?  What did it sound like?

What did it say when it 'answered' you? Did it tell you upfront, whether it would grant your prayer request?

It was my own inner monologue. And yes, I believed that it gave me genuine information that I wouldn't otherwise have had. In reality it was me making decisions and attributing them elsewhere.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #72 on: January 14, 2020, 06:10:57 PM »
I fully get it that Christians in some denominations believe that they and others can have a personal relationship with God, and that this relationship can be a two-way street. I get it that they believe that prayers, especially when offered by someone who is especially close with God or when offered by a sufficient number of people, can influence God to change what would have otherwise been the course of events. But if this is their view, then they cannot believe that God is not influenced by prayer, and they must accept that God allows some people to die because nobody prayed for them to survive, who he would have saved had people prayed for them.

Again, absolutely never in those words. This is a case of atheists framing prayer in such a way that would never, ever even occur to a Christian. This kind of framing is the source of much friction between atheists and Christians and I would encourage you not to do it.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #73 on: January 14, 2020, 06:16:52 PM »
Now I'm really dying to discuss this with some true believers to see what they say when directly confronted with this idea.  The discussion would have to be kept laser focused on the idea that if God grants prayers to prevent suffering and death, then does he let people who have no prayers suffer more and/or die that would have otherwise suffered less and/or lived if they had prayers.

I do not believe that such a discussion would be fruitful.
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Offline Awatsjr

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Re: Beliefs about prayer
« Reply #74 on: January 14, 2020, 06:23:57 PM »
I always wonder if god's plan is to finally wrap things up and bring it all to an end ... everything. Maybe start another one later.

He is probably just some geek that is running a computer program and interjects himself every once and a while for fun.

I remember someone years ago suggesting it might have been a physics experiment gone wrong. "Whoa! Oh shit! RUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!!!" :)

I would be a huge bummer for a lot of people if god did just say "enough" and end everything in totality. Of course, then it wouldn't be any different than what I suspect - you're not aware of being dead hence no worries. But I assume a large number of believers would be upset even though they wouldn't experience anything after the big switch was pulled. Some people are never happy!

My biggest worry is that I will go to heaven and have to deal with a Yehoshua that is constantly crying "because he loves me so much." Geez, is he ever going to stop?
The only people that tell me about life after death have never been dead ... not even once.

 

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