Atheism and Prayer

Atheism and PrayerLately I’ve been learning a lot about atheism, what they believe, their reasons for denying the existence of God, and how they think. A popular thing I’ve come across in some atheist circles is their claim that prayer has no affect and that proves God doesn’t exist. They say people with health problems recover at the same rate whether they are prayed for or not.

I have at least a couple of problems with that. The first thing is, you cannot study prayer scientifically. This is not a study with all information available, we cannot tap into God’s will, or the prayers He hears like we can access a set of data on a computer. Any true scientific study on this subject should find the results inconclusive… and I’m fine with that. It’s a matter of faith. I would even be leery of a study siding with the healing affects of prayer. Prayer, as far as I know, doesn’t leave evidence that can be traced in a true scientific method. We can make assumptions (diagnosis received, prayer, diagnosis reversed) and have faith but I don’t think science can conclusively prove a result on this subject.

The second problem with the atheist argument is; what about when people are healed of incurable afflictions or things that require surgery like aortic stenosis (I recently heard a testimony of somebody being healed of aortic stenosis so that’s why I chose it)? If prayer is the only difference between a time of diagnosis and a time of healing, how else do you explain it? Prayer is as good of an answer as any. If you say it was a freak incident, it might as well have been prayer. If you say you don’t know but science will explain it eventually, it might as well have been prayer (although an atheist would chastise you for attributing something we don’t understand to God). The ultimate skeptic would say it was faked, but as in the case of the healed aortic stenosis there is proof it’s not a fake in the form of test results on file at the doctors office.

Like a lot of atheist arguments, I believe this one is highly flawed.

Fact is, the healing affects of prayer are as provable as the converse.

2 comments on “Atheism and Prayer
  1. The problem is something that you point out in your own argument — if you cannot prove something one way or another through the methods we have devised to analyze the world around us in a logical, analytical fashion — then to assume that something is present in an equation is a flawed assumption.

    For those of faith, the answer behind anything mysterious is always, “God” or “faith” or “belief”. But if you start from the perspective of evaluating the world from a purely logical standpoint, you don’t get those sorts of “safety nets” to land on at the end of your explorations.

    Say you start off with ZERO knowledge at all (no facts, no truths, no faith), and you must discover — for yourself, using only logic, reasoning, modern scientific methods, and discovery — what the entirety of reality is. I do not think, from this perspective, that a person will ever derive — by themselves — that there is a god or similar supernatural function behind the world. All that we know of faith and God and so forth has been handed to us by others; if I had never been told of God, I likely wouldn’t have derived the concept on my own, I don’t think — not with modern scientific methods and knowledge.

    In the past people attributed the unknown to some “higher power” or similar. Lightening, powerful sea storms, etc. were all attributed to the gods. With modern knowledge and reasoning, we’ve come to discover what’s really behind all of these phenomenon and we no longer use that as “filler”.

    The atheist argument is that if there is an “unknown” factor, it is unscientific at best or simply foolish at worst to automatically assume that an unseen, unprovable, untestable element must be present in the event. Such assumptions like these is what gave us Zeus and Poseidon for lightening and hurricanes.

    To say in your counterargument, “Well, it could go either way” is like saying, “I have a closed box about a foot square. It has something in it that thumps around when I shake it. I believe through faith that it is a rabid pink-and-purple-spotted vorpal bunny.” Logic and reasoning would say, “It might be a rock. That fits with the parameters of what we know. Maybe it’s something we DON’T know about, but it’s likely something close to what we already know, not something completely off in left field.” THAT is the argument presented.

    Occam’s Razor states that the simplest answer to a question is often the correct one — the key is that “simple” means in terms of logical steps to arrive at the answer. To make the jump to “prayer” requires a transcendence of logic which only faith can provide the bridge for. For those with faith, this is not an issue. For those without, it is a yawning chasm.

  2. One more note: Prayer not having any effect does not necessarily invalidate faith, depending on what your faith is. Two thoughts on this are as such: A) that prayer is designed more with the supplicant in mind vs. the receiver and B) for an omnipotent deity, prayer represents a logical challenge. In many scenarios, prayer may be completely ineffective insomuch as one can see, but still be a useful or even necessary component to one’s faith.

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