1. Zugzwang
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    12 Feb '14 21:53
    If I recall correctly, an atheist wrote here that it's arrogant to pray
    because the person praying expects God to listen and, occasionally,
    even to respond by intervening to help in that person's life.
    I don't pray to God, yet I can understand why many people do:

    1) Prayer is like buying a ticket in a cosmic lottery (like Pascal's Wager).
    For a usually small investment of time and effort, a prayer gives a person
    some hope, however small, that God could intervene to help that person.
    US President Franklin D Roosevelt once said, 'The only thing we have to
    fear is fear itself.' Prayer can help some people overcome their fears and
    thus help liberate themselves, though, on the other hand, a consuming
    fear of God can also hurt some people.

    2) Prayer is a placebo. If not done to excess, praying usually seems
    harmless. Yet praying can result in people feeling better about themselves.
    *If* a scientific study could find that praying tends to relieve stress or
    have some measurable health benefits for some people, then would it be
    necessarily still considered irrational for those people to pray?

    As an atheist, I believe that religions have done great harm. Yet I also
    believe that religions--in various forms--would not have survived for so
    long if they did not appeal to some fundamental needs of many people
    and be able, apparently, to bring them some significant benefits.
  2. Standard memberwolfgang59
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    12 Feb '14 22:05
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    2) Prayer is a placebo. If not done to excess, praying usually seems
    harmless. Yet praying can result in people feeling better about themselves.
    *If* a scientific study could find that praying tends to relieve stress or
    have some measurable health benefits for some people, then would it be
    necessarily still considered irrational for those people to pr ...[text shortened]... damental needs of many people
    and be able, apparently, to bring them some significant benefits.
    The largest and most scientifically rigorous study of prayer's efficacy,
    the 2006 STEP project, found no significant difference whether
    subjects were prayed for or not, except some negative effects
    among those who knew they were receiving prayers.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficacy_of_prayer
  3. Zugzwang
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    12 Feb '14 22:10
    Originally posted by wolfgang59
    The largest and most scientifically rigorous study of prayer's efficacy,
    the 2006 STEP project, found no significant difference whether
    subjects were prayed for or not, [b]except some negative effects

    among those who knew they were receiving prayers.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficacy_of_prayer[/b]
    Thanks for the information. I have heard some people claiming they
    feel better after praying, and I had no reason to doubt their sincerity.
  4. Standard memberRJHinds
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    12 Feb '14 23:39
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    If I recall correctly, an atheist wrote here that it's arrogant to pray
    because the person praying expects God to listen and, occasionally,
    even to respond by intervening to help in that person's life.
    I don't pray to God, yet I can understand why many people do:

    1) Prayer is like buying a ticket in a cosmic lottery (like Pascal's Wager).
    For a us ...[text shortened]... damental needs of many people
    and be able, apparently, to bring them some significant benefits.
    I believe you should have said that "false" religions have done great harm.
  5. Zugzwang
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    12 Feb '14 23:44
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    I believe you should have said that "false" religions have done great harm.
    I don't know which, if any, is the one 'true' religion.

    And even if, for instance, Christianity is that 'true' religion (as you believe),
    Christians have a long record of persecuting and killing one another on
    account of their different interpretations of their religion.
  6. Standard memberRajk999
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    12 Feb '14 23:47
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    .. I believe that religions have done great harm. ...
    Can you give me some examples of anything that does not or cannot do any harm?
  7. SubscriberSuzianne
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    12 Feb '14 23:50
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    If I recall correctly, an atheist wrote here that it's arrogant to pray
    because the person praying expects God to listen and, occasionally,
    even to respond by intervening to help in that person's life.
    I don't pray to God, yet I can understand why many people do:

    1) Prayer is like buying a ticket in a cosmic lottery (like Pascal's Wager).
    For a us ...[text shortened]... damental needs of many people
    and be able, apparently, to bring them some significant benefits.
    Fascinating topic.

    I'm heading out right now, but this is on my list for response in the morning.
  8. Zugzwang
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    13 Feb '14 00:071 edit
    Originally posted by Rajk999
    Can you give me some examples of anything that does not or cannot do any harm?
    I don't quite understand how your question's directly related to my
    statement that 'religions have done great harm'. I know that, while water
    is necessary for human life, if a person drinks too much water too quickly,
    it can lead to one's death. But religions are different from water.

    I would have to say that religious beliefs have the potential to do greater
    harm than, say, a belief that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice
    cream, because religious beliefs tend to be taken more seriously and so
    have greater power to influence people's lives, both for better and worse.
  9. Standard memberRJHinds
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    13 Feb '14 00:36
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    I don't know which, if any, is the one 'true' religion.

    And even if, for instance, Christianity is that 'true' religion (as you believe),
    Christians have a long record of persecuting and killing one another on
    account of their different interpretations of their religion.
    That is because of false teachers infiltrating the church as Jesus predicted they would do. It is up to us to be discerning and to search the scriptures to see if what they claim is so.

    These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily , whether those things were so.

    (Acts 17:11 KJV)
  10. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    13 Feb '14 00:41
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    If I recall correctly, an atheist wrote here that it's arrogant to pray
    because the person praying expects God to listen and, occasionally,
    even to respond by intervening to help in that person's life.
    I don't pray to God, yet I can understand why many people do:

    1) Prayer is like buying a ticket in a cosmic lottery (like Pascal's Wager).
    For a us ...[text shortened]... damental needs of many people
    and be able, apparently, to bring them some significant benefits.
    "Do Atheists Pray? You better believe it." Published on September 25, 2013 by Christine Wicker in Pray for Me.

    "Do atheists and agnostics pray? Yes, indeedy. Quite a bit it turns out. Six percent of them pray every day, we’re told by the Pew Research Center. And 11 percent pray weekly or monthly. If no one is there, you might ask, who are they praying to? Let me guess. The air. The universe. The self. Maybe.

    Or theirs might be the kinds of prayer that don’t need a recipient. They could be a feeling of awe. A sense of the numinous. An upwelling of peace brought on by nature. A moment of transcendence in the presence of music or art. Or simply a moment of felt stillness. Their prayers might also be an overflowing of gratitude. A shout of joy brought on by being alive. A moment of connection with another human’s pain.

    Or, of course, they could also be cries for help from people who can’t help crying out even though they don’t think anyone hears. Trees falling in the forest. The proverbial atheists in foxholes. Or just screamers, who voice their pain because they must and give it meaning because that’s what humans do. Once the options are outlined, it seems less surprising that atheists pray. But that brings up another question. How did I (and they, if my suggestions are actually what the study’s respondents mean by prayer) get the idea that prayer could take so many forms?

    I did not grow up thinking such thoughts. I and everyone I knew believed that prayer was directed to God (or Gods if they were what we Baptists called poor heathens). Or Jesus, who is God. Or in the case of Catholics, Mary and the saints. Prayer was spoken—either aloud or silently. It consisted of praise, supplication, repentance, and thanks, except when delivered publicly. Then it might include quite a lot of telling God what he already knew and a goodly dose of preaching aimed at the listeners, held bowed and captive by the notion that God was in attendance. But prayer, like so much of American religious belief, has gone rogue. Now it can consist of all manner of things. Be directed toward all sorts of entities. Or none at all.

    NEXT: PRAYING ATHEISTS II: The atheist who made a goddess, didn’t believe in her but prayed anyway from the Washington Post story. And what happened then. How William James would explain that."

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pray-me/201309/do-atheists-pray
  11. Zugzwang
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    13 Feb '14 01:15
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    [b]"Do Atheists Pray? You better believe it." Published on September 25, 2013 by Christine Wicker in Pray for Me.

    "Do atheists and agnostics pray? Yes, indeedy. Quite a bit it turns out. Six percent of them pray every day, we’re told by the Pew Research Center. And 11 percent pray weekly or monthly. If no one is there, you might ask, who are the ...[text shortened]... ames would explain that."

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pray-me/201309/do-atheists-pray[/b]
    Thanks (for once) to GrampyBobby for this contribution:

    To be honest, occasionally I have prayed, particularly when I was a child,
    though I never expected my prayers to be answered. I have prayed that
    someone whom I loved would not die so soon. If there was even the
    slightest possibility that my prayer could help, I felt it was worth the effort.
    I believe that an atheist may pray sometimes without necessarily being
    considered a hypocrite. And I have wondered about the blind cosmic
    indifference to our trivial human needs and concerns.

    It's worth noting that the saying, 'There are no atheists in foxholes', is
    untrue. In a memoir, a former German paratrooper wrote that he's an
    atheist who never prayed, even during the most perilous moments of
    combat in the Second World War. Indeed, while most Japanese kamikaze
    pilots were Shintoists or Buddhists, some of them were atheists (who did
    not believe in the Emperor's divinity) and few of them were Christians.
  12. Standard memberRajk999
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    13 Feb '14 01:211 edit
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    I don't quite understand how your question's directly related to my
    statement that 'religions have done great harm'. I know that, while water
    is necessary for human life, if a person drinks too much water too quickly,
    it can lead to one's death. But religions are different from water.

    I would have to say that religious beliefs have the potential t ...[text shortened]... re seriously and so
    have greater power to influence people's lives, both for better and worse.
    I think you understand. 10% of the world probably thinks that the internet has done more harm than good, but its the 90% that will keep the internet going. Same with religion. People who think religion has done more harm than good are, in the minority and just not aware of the benefits because they deprive themselves of the experience of participating in something worthwhile. So they stay on the sidelines and complain.
  13. Joined
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    13 Feb '14 01:362 edits
    The "serenity prayer" is worth a moment. One version:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    The original, attributed to Niebuhr, is longer and has mention of Jesus.

    This has the appearance of a prayer (a word yet to be defined here) but stands independently of that as a reminder/motivator to step back from a situation and consider one's real options. Practical advice.
  14. Zugzwang
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    13 Feb '14 01:49
    Originally posted by Rajk999
    I think you understand. 10% of the world probably thinks that the internet has done more harm than good, but its the 90% that will keep the internet going. Same with religion. People who think religion has done more harm than good are just not aware of the benefits because they deprive themselves of the experience of participating in something worthwhile. So they stay on the sidelines and complain.
    "So they stay on the sidelines and complain."
    --Rajk999

    I don't think you (Rajk999) understand what I wrote or my motives for it.
    I was *not* complaining about anyone else praying. Indeed, I was writing
    that, as an atheist, I still can understand why many people like to pray.
    Then I suggested there may be some plausible reasons for people to pray.

    After reading many posts expressing personal hostility between many
    atheists and theists here, one of my motives was to offer a hand of
    understanding, though not of agreement, to some people of faith here.
    Atheists are not all alike. Please attempt to address what I write as an
    individual rather than responding to me as your stereotype of an atheist.

    If you (Rajk999) would like to deny that 'religions have done great harm'.
    then I suppose that the millions of people killed in the names of religions
    would disagree, if they could speak from the hereafter (if it exists).
  15. Zugzwang
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    13 Feb '14 01:55
    Originally posted by JS357
    The "serenity prayer" is worth a moment. One version:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    The original, attributed to Niebuhr, is longer and has mention of Jesus.

    This has the appearance of a prayer (a word yet to be defined here) but stands inde ...[text shortened]... inder/motivator to step back from a situation and consider one's real options. Practical advice.
    Yes, when I mentioned that occasionally I have prayed, it's more like
    this than imploring 'God, smite all my enemies and make them fall!'
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