The Power of Prayer and the Slippery Slope Toward Irrelevancy

PZ Meyrs has a nice little post about the (in)efficiency of prayer.  What I love about it is that it shows up Rick Perry’s inane religiously inspired ideas as being just as idiotic as many say they are.  Here, praying for rain had no effect on the drought in Texas.  If anything, one could conclude that it made things worse.  Perhaps they just weren’t doing it right and that made God upset which caused him to make the drought worse.  Of course, this wasn’t a scientific study so it is really meaningless.   Still, if the power of prayer were really as strong as Christians make it out to be, you’d think that by now there would be obvious, undeniable evidence for it.  The fact that there isn’t, and that any supposed results, positive or negative, are purely subjective, seems to suggest that prayer isn’t effective.

There have been several well know studies on the effect of prayer.  One looked at the effect of prayer on the recovery of cardiac patients and found no evidence that being prayed for had a positive effect on the outcome of the patient’s condition.  In fact, the study showed that those who knew they were  being prayed for actually had worse outcomes than those who didn’t know.  There was no difference between those who didn’t know they were being prayed for and those who were not prayed for at all.  This study indicates that prayer offers no benefit, and in the cases where people knew they were being prayed for, could actually cause harm.

The reality is that scientists can run a thousand rigorous studies on prayer that show that there really is no effect, and Christians will always find excuses and rationalizations to support their view that prayer really does work.  The fact is that all the evidence in the world against the prayer being effective means nothing to those of faith.  Faith trumps evidence and truth every step of the way, which is why religious faith is so insidious is its ability to keep people enslaved under the yoke of misbelief.   It is one of the main reasons that the U.S. is quickly losing its scientific and technological superiority to places like Europe and China.  When your faith makes you suspicious of science, makes you push for teaching religious faith in the guise of science in public schools, makes you abandon one of the best hopes of fighting disease since the invention of antibiotics, then you will soon find yourself living in a second world economy dependent on other countries for your technology.

If we continue on this track, the U.S. will become an completely consumer driven economy where almost every technology and most goods will come from outside the U.S, leaving us completely vulnerable to the fluctuations in fortunes and whims of other nations.  Our economy has always been the bedrock of our ability to promote our power and to lead the word in almost every important field imaginable.  Surrendering our lead in science and technology to the ineffectiveness of religious faith will only being about the weakening of our economy and our decent into irrelevancy in the world.


9 thoughts on “The Power of Prayer and the Slippery Slope Toward Irrelevancy

  1. Dear Jay,
    I have many experiences in prayer that you nor science can explain. Could the answered prayer in my life be coincidence? Maybe! maybe not. You have no proof at all that it isn’t effective. I have great evidence that it is. I have already supplied you with some that yuo said yourself that you and science could not explain everythng. That would mean tht you are IGNORANT of that subject. While you remain IGNORANT it would be best to remain silent.
    However you do not want to do that instead you wish to silence and defreind anyone that disagrees with you and has logical crticial thinking, something that seems to be missing in your articles and discussions. The latest evidence: you explain it to me because I am too dumb to understand it
    I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June my PSA was off the charts and the biopsy was 8/10 positive for cancer. i had severe back pain and all the other symptoms associated with it. I recieved prayer one Sunday night and went for labs Monday morning, the following week I got result form the lab…I am cancer free, biopsy are negative, no more pain, no more symptoms and the PSA was below 2… you can continue with your rhetoric and unbelief, I will stay with God, Jesus and prayer, I will just continue to live and be in health. explain that

    • I’m sorry but your little cancer story nothing about prayer working. I am an ardent atheist and was a smoker for 20 years. I had all the signs and symptoms of throat cancer, even had markers showing up in my blood test. In the end the test was a false negative and the symptoms were being caused by several different problems, all treatable with basic medication. These things happen.

      8/10 positive still means a 20% chance the test was incorrect or that something other than cancer was affecting. It happens regularly. My mother had a huge scare 6 months ago with it, they waited the usual 7 days to re-test and those tests came back normal. It happens all the time, which is why they always re-test.

      Besides, if, as Christians believe, god has a devine plan then what happens to you is part of the plan, so praying for something you don’t have or to fix something that is happening to you etc, is not part of the plan, you are asking god to change his devine plan. Is his plan not good enough for you?

  2. The problem is that one day it will rain. It may be 50 years from now and Texas may be a heap of smoldering ashes, but it will happen. And when it does these people will stand up and claim their prayers have been answered. These people like the commenter above, will twist and force anything that happens to fit their faith rather than actually looking at facts, evidence and more often than not the math and statistics involved.

    Good things happen, bad things happen, random things happen – None of them require a god.

  3. @ satelshawn > you may very well be correct about a fase positive, it does happen all the time, of course you may very well be wrong. That is my point! Nothing is conclusive. How does it hurt you if I believe it was because of prayer?
    Also your comment ,”as Christians believe, god has a devine plan then what happens to you is part of the plan” This is a false statement. The Bible never states anything like that. Rather it does state quite the contrary. I have heard your statement many times before, often repeated by christians who are ignorant of what their own faith teaches, (No wonder unbelievers repeat it) However it is totally false.
    Here are some that I can’t answer to well.
    1. my father was diagnosed with cancer, bone cancer, given 3 months to live, this was verified three different labs and moffit cancer center, three months later after prayer he was completely cancer free..without any treatment….4 years later still no cancer.
    2.Robert throat cancer…. ( I seriously thought this guy was going to die) (he looked like death) he has been cancer free 2 years.
    3.John..come in church with a broken leg in a cast…. after prayer he ripped the cast off and started to jump up and down on the leg completely healed…scared the stuffings ot of me..l told him to stop jumping and to sit not take off your cast…he still did and was healed….that was 4 years ago still no problems
    4.Sandy..65 years old comes up for prayer on Sunday, Wednesday she ells me she has been to the doctor and she is 100% healed…I asked of what? she told me Lupus, she has had it since she was 14…1.5 years later no more lupus.
    5. Arlene almost same thing lupus
    6. Frank… comes in legally blind, but still can see but blurry, after prayer he can read and see better…5 months ago
    7. the list goes on and on…it is an everyday occurence. Maybe it is all coincidence, maybe it is just mind over matter, I have thought of all that. However I never saw these things before prayer, the Bible says these signs will follow those who BELIEVE. maybe the reason folks are not seeing them is because they don’t believe. Maybe there are logical explanations that I am honestly missing, Maybe you are missing out on a great truth, I don’t know.
    8. This one defies all logic and coincidence and mind over matter…Ronny Coyne..look him up… been on various talk shows, I saw him in real life…as a child he lost his eye in a barbed -wire accident..after prayer he got his sight back in that eye. the only problem is he doesn’t have an eye. just a socket. yet with his good eye covered with layers of coverings he popped out his glass eye and read my license back to me. I neve met him before…that made me a beiever. I always wondered why God didn’t just grow another eye back, now I know…. this one cannot be explained away by anything but something supernatural
    I may not be a genius but I am smart enough not to dimiss things I am ignorant of just because my pride and cognitive dissonance.

  4. Kerry wrote

    8. This one defies all logic and coincidence and mind over matter…Ronny Coyne..look him up… been on various talk shows, I saw him in real life…as a child he lost his eye in a barbed -wire accident..after prayer he got his sight back in that eye. the only problem is he doesn’t have an eye. just a socket. yet with his good eye covered with layers of coverings he popped out his glass eye and read my license back to me.

    In fact, there are several well-known magicians’ techniques that allow them to do that. See Practical Mental Magic for some of them.

  5. pretty good I remember seeing him on television with the amazing Kreskin. even Kreskin said that he has no idea how this was done and he could not duplicate it….

  6. Just a little clarification 8/10 does not mean 20% chance of a false positive. it means out of 10 biopsy samples 8 were found to p-ositively have cancer

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