For those who think there •may be• validity to the bullshit notion of the power of prayer…

As a theist kid, I never understood the notion of prayer. Blame it on my left-leaning Christianity of the time and how supposedly incorrect it was if you need to, but the fact remains that what I was told didn’t make sense. I got that God was supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. No problems there. What I didn’t understand, then, was why the need for prayer? Assuming it was some official mental telepathy by which we communicated directly with God, it seemed utterly superfluous. Wouldn’t an omnipotent god be able to communicate with us without any effort on our part? Wouldn’t an omniscient god know our thoughts, feelings, and actions (including hopes and desires) before he supposedly created the universe, thus negating any need for us to communicate them to him? Wouldn’t an omnipresent god be standing right next to us whenever we expressed any of those hopes or desires, thus negating the need for an appeal to the heavens (on bent knees and with ritually positioned hands)? Due to these questions, I never bought that such an omni-being would have set up, be concerned with, or even appreciated such a system of communication. Thus, even as a believer, I never prayed.

As I’ve gotten older, one of my major pet peeves has been the alleged •power• of prayer, the fucking ridiculous idea that if you just pray for something, say a cure for your cancer, God will heal you. I’ve been shocked at how many otherwise rational adults grant this notion any weight at all. Sure, there are the harmless, quack Benny Hinns out there who are just fraud businessmen who seize the opportunity to cheat the gullible, but there are enough otherwise “normal”, functional adults, who also lend credence to this horseshit that it’s a real problem.

The below is an extreme version of the notion. And it would be dishonest for me to present this as an exemplary case that applies to a lot of people, but even the times people pray and get medical help leads them to mass-delusion as the supposed cure, the prayer, is credited and the actual cure, the medical science, is ignored or even shunned. Additionally, granting any credence to prayer inevitably leads to the idea that we can magically influence our lives, which itself is a form of validated wishful thinking that, in turn, can lead to, among other things, disastrous emotional distress when the hoped-for outcome actually turns out to be the opposite outcome.

What does a trust in prayer teach our children? If they want something bad enough, they’ll get it just because… they want it? What an irresponsible disservice. Plus it opens a whole barrel of monkeys such as why would God allow kids to die of leukemia and chain-smoking adults receive transplants? Where’s the logic? Where’s the justice? And so on.

Comments following. Times are approximate.  (NOTE: The video is gone, so here’s Liz Heywood’s account.  Obviously, noted times and quotes are thus only approximate.)

2:05 “It was never diagnosed until 20 years later, when I did see a doctor.”

Most people do see doctors before two score years after their injury, but she didn’t because her family believed that doing so was unnecessary (and against God’s plan?).

2:17 “It’s treatable with antibiotics.”

Something that could’ve been fixed with a fucking pill was left to fester because… of belief.

2:46 “[The wound] started to ooze pus out. It was a horrible, horrible disease… The skin broke–tore like tissue paper–and pus bubbled out… And the pus didn’t stop. And it ran day and night.”

Grossed out yet? The reason you are is you would’ve seen a fucking doctor. She wasn’t allowed. God’s plan.

3:49 “[The Christian Science teaching is] God’s universe is perfect and if we can align our thought with that, we will manifest it in this material world.”

So if you aren’t instantly, completely, miraculously healed, it’s your fault.

4:28 “I didn’t get out of bed for almost a year… All I knew was my leg hurt. It hurt like hell.”

Almost a year of pain and suffering for no reason at all, except God’s plan.

6:22 “Under Massachusetts state law at that time, Christian Science treatment was considered a viable, legal treatment for a child. [The child] could not be [legally] removed from the home just because they were having treatment. Nobody got in there to see the extent of my really gruesome and ravaged leg and the amount of pain I was in.”

If you live in the US, this is your government, your GOVERNMENT that had determined, and in many states still has determined, that the above is completely legally acceptable. Your government has decided that the notion of the need to respect so-called “religious rights” trumps the need to remove a child from physical, emotional, and medical abuse.

7:19 “There are 38 states in the Union now that have some form of separate standard for medical neglect of children in so-called faith-healing. Unfortunately, under federal law, they allow states to do this.”

Thirty eight states. In the United States. Now. As of this writing, in a majority of states, it’s okay to abuse your sick kid in the name of your faith. Under what other context could you even fathom such a thing being legally possible? You can’t abuse your kid because he talks back. You can’t abuse your kid because he doesn’t take out the trash. But if he gets sick, you can let him suffer and the state can, in many ways, do nothing to stop you.

10:02 “A child is told the pain is not real. You can pray it away.”

And what is the child left to think, but that the pain and
pain-causing injury are his fault?

11:34 “The [Christian Science] practitioner I had was very positive and very encouraging. And he believed in instantaneous healings. And he told me I could get up the next day and walk. He was somebody respected by the church. He became First Reader at the Mother Church later. He’s still teaching Christian Scientists.”

The asshole that lied to her about being able to get up and walk, that the pain wasn’t real, that all of this was in her head, that it could be healed instantly, is a bigwig at the Mother Church? How is this any different from the guy who takes an active role in hiding and suppressing rape victims then becoming pope? Protect the worst of the system lest anyone recognize how bad the system is.

12:55 “It was 30 years by the time I had the amputation.”

When I first saw this, I assumed that once her leg “healed”, she’d high-tail it out of there. But no. Indoctrination is such a strong mechanism that she stayed for years and only got her leg amputated when she had no other choice. That means she was walking on it, despite any pain or discomfort, for decades!

14:00 “Senator Kennedy worked with the Mother Church… in support of many of these double standards.”

You heard it, venerated Ted thought it was A-OK for kids to suffer for no other reason than “religious rights.”

If you’re religious and you sincerely believe in any kind of “healing power of prayer”, tell me how you reconcile that with any of this. When we have studies like this, that demonstrate, in a controlled environment, how this is all bunk, how do you continue to rationalize it to yourself? Heywood sincerely believed and sincerely prayed. By your theology, why did God not instantly heal her leg? To teach her a lesson? Because He only helps those who help themselves? If the former, God’s a dick. If the latter, He knew she’d been indoctrinated and so she didn’t know that she could. Any way you cut it, God watched with absolute indifference as she suffered needlessly, almost died, and eventually had to have her leg amputated due to a completely treatable disease. Any way you cut it, the “healing power of prayer” is 100% horseshit.

2 Responses to “For those who think there •may be• validity to the bullshit notion of the power of prayer…”

  1. very poor argument. praying involves taking time out of your day to talk to God. It show you care enough to put time aside for him. seems pretty obvios

    • Anton A. Hill Says:

      Hi Ricky,

      Thanks for stopping by. How is my argument poor? It’s insufficient to simply accuse it of being such. You actually have to back up your accusation with evidence in order for anyone to have a reason to believe you. I denied the claim that prayer has any power of healing of any kind ever. I backed up this claim with this case…

      …and this study. These are but two pieces of evidence of prayer being proven to not have any healing power of any kind whatsoever.

      Your definition of prayer is, to some degree, irrelevant. The definition I gave I proved being false in its power of healing per the above-cited evidence.

      But let’s consider your definition. “Praying involves taking time out of your day to talk to God. It show you care enough to put time aside for him. seems pretty obvious”

      1. In a universe controlled by an omniscient deity, why would there ever be a need to “take time out of your day” when this deity knows all your thoughts, feelings, and actions despite a lack of activity on your part?
      2. Why would there be a need to talk to an omniscient deity who knows my thoughts and feelings?
      3. What’s the purpose of “[putting] time aside for him” when “him” is an atemporal, eternal entity?
      4. If it’s a question of respect, that’s a separate issue. But even if that’s the case, how is it determined what method is the more respectful?
      5. None of this is relevant to the alleged healing power of prayer, which was the entire point of the original post.

      But thanks!

      Best,

      Anton.

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