Thursday, December 3, 2015

Do Atheists Figure All Religion Is A Cargo Cult? Hate Mail

I have a rule that if I've been a guest at someone's place I don't publicly criticize what they say.  Not unless they break that trust, and usually not even then.   That said, I did write a post pointing out some of the problems of scientifically studying prayer at her place years and years ago.

1. It is impossible, even while giving instructions of what someone is to do while praying to know that any two people are doing the same thing as everyone's understanding of those instructions and their ability to carry them out consistently is of unknowable reliability.  There is a vast range of meaning to what people call "prayer" and there is no way to cover the entire thing in any protocol.

2.  It is impossible to observe what happens during prayer so there can be no observation of what is happening.

3. The biggest problem of praying for the intercession of God or some other imagined deity is that you cannot account for their part in it.   Prayer is not like S&H Green Stamps, you don't automatically get to cash in so many prayers for a guaranteed result.  There is an old saying that God always answers prayers but the answer is often "no".

4. The Bible says, "You will not put the Lord your God to a test,"  if that is true then it is irrational to believe God would cooperate with any such a test.  You can't compel compliance from the deity.

5. There is no way to have a control group as you have no way to know if someone outside of the control group is being prayed for by someone else, by themselves, etc.  And there is no way to know if for whatever reason God didn't just intend an outcome you didn't expect.  

There are lots of other problems with the idea of testing prayer, what if you get a result that you didn't ask for but which works better than what you asked for.  How would you evaluate that is such a proposed test?

I think the problem is that atheists just don't understand what religion is and just don't get it.  But, then, I don't think a lot of people who profess religion get it, either.

Me, I read Duncan's little post, looked at the post by Adrastos at First-Draft it is, I guess supposed to be based on.  I didn't quite get Duncan's point.   But, then,  I looked at the piece by Athenae which Adrastos riffed off of.  Now, her piece is well worth mentioning and it's nothing like the snark that Duncan elicited so predictably from his stable of regulars.   I liked all of Athenae's piece but especially this part.

Every time something like this happens, I dread the platitudes, the “prayers up!” messages, the ways in which we’ve made faith into some kind of dodge that makes us good people. Like if we think and pray, that gets us out of something. Like that’s what we have to do.

It’s insulting, and not just to people for whom prayer is talking to an imaginary, ridiculous friend.

It’s insulting to people for whom prayer is a real act of faith. It’s insulting to people for whom prayer is critical, is active and purposeful and rooted in moving the world forward.

Prayer is not mouthing of memorized words with hands folded before bedtime. Prayer is not “thank you for Grandma and my pony and my plastic rocket.” Prayer is not “please God let it not rain on circus day.” Prayer is not even “please God, let me live.” Prayer is not a never-ending, whiny wish list directed upward at an unknowable, unanswering deity.

Prayer is directed at other people.

Prayer is getting up every day before dawn, and baking bread.

Prayer is delivering letters in the pre-dawn light of early winter.

Prayer is lending a neighbor a shovel when there’s a blizzard. Prayer is bringing a snowed-in neighbor some food.

Prayer is digging a well where there is no water. Prayer is planting a crop where there is no food. Prayer is doing the dishes. Prayer is holding the baby. Prayer is laundry. Prayer is standing on a factory line and repeating the same task over and over and over and over for 20 years, until your hands and your knees and your hearing are gone, and all you have left to pray for is the drive home, the lunchbox your spouse packed sitting full on the seat next to you because you didn’t have time for a break.

Now, I was raised a Catholic and we were big on both faith AND WORKS.  My favorite epistle in the New Testament, James, says:

What good is it, my brethren, when someone claims to have faith, but he has no works?  Is such a faith really able to save him?  If a brother or sister has no coat and they are lacking daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go with peace, be warmed and fed," but you don't give to them the basic needs of the body, what good is it?  So this kind of faith by itself, when not having works, is dead. Someone will indeed say, "You have faith, and I have works.  Show me that faith of yours apart from works, and I will show you a faith by reason of my works." You believe that there is only one God.  You are doing well.  The demons also believe that, and tremble.  But are you convinced, foolish person, that faith without works is useless?  Our father Abraham, was he not justified by reason of works, when he offered his son Isaac up on the altar?  See how faith was working together with his works, and through his works his faith was made complete?  Thus also was completed the scripture which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  And he was called a friend of God.  You should see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way Rahab the prostitute, was she not justified also by works, when she sheltered the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For just as a body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Update:  Oh, the hell with it, if Duncan keeps allowing Simels to lie about what I said, I'm going to go over everything Duncan posts.  It shouldn't take much time, he doesn't write much. 

I'll start with his equating Prince Charles trying to get BBC 4 to agree to 15 pages of conditions before they can interview him with Chelsea Clinton trying to talk to the media on her own terms.  Apparently Duncan overlooks several facts.  Whereas Prince Charles is a man who has lived as a, well, stinkin' rich prince at the public expense in a family which has lived at the public expense for generations immemorial,  The British Monarchy is populated with parasites who have no purpose except to serve as the head of the British Class system,  Chelsea Clinton is and always has been a private citizen.   So, no, their situations are nothing alike.  It's arguable that, as a public charge, Charles owes his patrons something, Chelsea Clinton owes no one anything that we don't all owe each other, putting yourself in a position to be set up in the national media isn't one of those. 

And whereas Charles pretty much had the press treat him with kid gloves till he started seriously slipping around on his wife, Chelsea Clinton has had her family under full attack from the media since she was a toddler.   She not only owes the media nothing they want, she owes them her total and complete distrust because they have earned it, over and over again.   

I don't much care about the Brit monarchy or, for that matter, Brit TV but to equate Chelsea Clinton's position to Prince Charles is about as stupid as it gets.  

1 comment:

  1. Yes, we should first define prayer. Do Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels count? According to whom? And why not, if they don't?

    Is all prayer intercessory? I'm more and more of the opinion that no prayer is validly intercessory, based on the model of the Pater Noster. Nothing in that prayer says "God, take care of me." It asks for de minimus: our daily bread, today. Nothing more. It asks that we be forgiven to the extent we forgive others (thus tying our "salvation" to how we treat everyone else, not to how much favor we think we can curry with God). It asks that God's will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. And how does that happen? By prayer alone? Or by human activity?

    This stuff isn't really hard, but atheists prefer shibboleths and straw men and anything that reflects their own ignorance. I've known Christians like that, too. Really, the two groups aren't that far apart from each other; no further apart than, say, Israelis and Palestinians.

    Nobody fights like family. And, like Israelis and Palestinians, both groups represent a tiny percentage of the human family. Why they get so much attention is what astounds me.