Praying my way to losing faith

December 3, 2007 at 10:18 pm 147 comments

Prayer 101There was a lady in our church who developed a mental illness. She was a terrific gal and, of course, I prayed diligently for her. So did a lot of folks. However, she did not get better. For whatever reason, at the time this struck me hard. As a result, I began to carefully sift through 25 years of praying. Not just my praying, but prayers of others also. And I realized that, as far as I was aware, no prayer had ever been answered in a clear, unmistakable way. No cripple ever walked, no blind person gained sight, no deaf person started hearing, nothing. Oh sure, there were some folks who beat cancer and other things like that but nothing outside the realm of medical probability. There were other coincidences too but nothing one could put a finger on and say, “There! That was outside the realm of the natural or possible.”

It became obvious to me that I was talking to the air- no answers, no response of any kind. Initially I read several books on prayer, on the existence of God, and on struggling with unbelief. None of them dared to go where I was. They all pulled up short and scurried off into comforting, yet unsatisfactory answers.

Being a scientist, I dug into the literature for any studies on the efficacy of prayer. Lo and behold, there were actual, controlled studies that had been done. And the result? Drum roll, please….. nada, nil, zip, zilch, zero… no efficacy at all.

I started to look at the lives of Christians compared to the rest of the world. I looked at things that could be distinctly measured like comparisons of divorce rates, criminal activity, overall health, family feuds, you name it. No difference could be found between any group of Christians and any group of non-Christians. Wait. I am lying. Catholics did have a lower divorce rate- not hugely lower, but significant. However this is not surprising given their stance on divorce. I can’t think of any other differences that were notable.

In short, I couldn’t find anything to indicate any substantive reality behind the Faith. No changes in the lives of believers compared with non-believers, no miracles, no answers to prayer. Nothing.

[A short interlude to say something about the way I am deep down:

  1. I have an inability to lie to myself. If something seems wrong, or is wrong, I just can't ignore it or sweep it away or tell myself it’s really all right. It would stick in my mind and not go away. By and by, I'd have to deal with it, whatever it was.
  2. I always wanted to know what was true about everything and anything. I didn't care what the truth turned out to be, I just wanted to find the truth and then try to get on the right side of it.
  3. It seems I’m possessed of a strong streak of skepticism about almost everything. Mountains of evidence are often needed to convince me of just about anything. And once I adopt a position it’s no light task to dislodge me from it.]

So now I was facing a mountain of evidence that I’d accumulated. Then came the critical question for me – would I accept what I now saw as the truth or would I push it away? I couldn’t push it away, so I was stuck. In an ironic twist, I found myself in a version of Martin Luther’s “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Over a number of weeks, I slowly let go of the Faith. I “prayed” a bit. Those “prayers” all said, one way or another:

“God, if you’re real, do something. Anything. You ought to have no trouble showing me something that will convince me beyond doubt. Heck, I’ll gladly toss my mountains of evidence, my doubts, all that stuff, if you’ll just do anything.”

Even after letting go of the Faith, I continued saying that “prayer” from time to time. I still wanted there to be a supreme being who will, in the end, take care of us and deal with all the things too big for us. There was still a longing for something eternal, and of ultimate, universal significance. But since I’m now sure it’s not there to be had, I find joy where I am and don’t think so much for what another day has in store.

So here I am. I cannot believe anymore. Fortunately, once I accepted this new life, it was fairly easy to build a life without an “invisible friend”. The future isn’t frightening and life goes on.

- LeoPardus

[Adapted from From Fundy to Orthodox to Apostate]

Entry filed under: LeoPardus. Tags: , , , , , , .

The route from belief to unbelief I’m a better Christian now that I’m not a Christian

147 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark  |  December 3, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Leo. I am curious if you would like to have a dialog about this. I am a Christian and cannot help but appreciate your honesty and courage about this process of de-conversion. If you are interested in holding your conclusion loosely for a little longer, I would like to learn more about your process over a blog exchange. I promise to look at things from your perspective and see what you see before I offer anything in reply. If you indeed are correct and there is no God, I will join you. For real. I don’t expect you to make the same commitment, just to get to reality together. Cool?

  • 2. lpkalal  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I actually don’t think the purpose of praying is for prayer to be answered with a Yes. I think the purpose of prayer is to draw closer to God. If the purpose was to have him deliver, then He wouldn’t be God, but a cosmic Santa. The book The Papa Prayer by Larry Crabb is helpful if you are interested. See http://www.newwayministries.org.

  • 3. Tim Kurek  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    I am very glad that you are a person that demands honesty of yourself and I am impressed by your logical and concise blog. I would however like to share that I have seen, with my own eyes, radical radical answers to prayer. I am sorry that these things haven’t been answered for you, but I wonder why… I think that, that would be the question I would want answered more than anything. I am praying (and I know that it will be answered) that you get that answer you have been seeking. Until then I would will keep up with your blogs and I hope that we can be friends on this crazy “www” thing we are on!

    tim kurek

    http://UriahMinistries.wordpress.com

  • 4. jeremy  |  December 4, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Sometimes when we pray, God waits. Sometimes when we pray, God moves heaven and earth, and sometimes when we pray God says No.

    When I was diagnosed with AIDS 15 years ago, I was part of a study on prayer. 20 patients were chosen. 10 of those patients were told that they were being prayed for, the other ten were told nothing. The ten who were told nothing died within 5 years. Out of the other 10, 2 men still live, I am one of them, 15 years later.

    I read your site daily, and I don’t always agree with you and that’s ok, but on this topic I hold my opinion, prayer is something I have learned to do, and do well, I don’t expect from God, yet I have faith in God, that’s why I hold a BA in Religious Studies.

    Sometimes, God’s answer to prayer is NO.

    And sometimes there is no explanation as to why God would let someone suffer illness, but approached from the right perspective, for everything there is a season and a time.

    I approach suffering in the same way. I’ve had an extra 15 years of life, because I believed in something greater than myself. And I am alive, so someone up there likes me. God is not finished with me yet.

    I just had to say something here.

    Pax
    Jeremy

  • 5. Rachel  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:40 am

    Leo:

    I hear ya. Really, I do. A couple comments:

    I think there’s a bit of a problem with evaluating the Almighty with empirical data within the constraints of human reason. We can’t know all truth through reason and the scientific method (much as our post-enlightenment minds would like to think so). And let’s face it, us trying to figure out God is like an ant trying to perform gallbladder surgery (sorry, I’m a nurse :)). But your point is taken, and I have to say that I’ve often thought about those same things.

    As far as not getting what you pray for, a couple things have occurred to me recently. We think we’re the only ones with unanswered prayers or seemingly unchanged lives, but it’s pretty well-documented in the Bible. Jesus himself prayed “thy kingdom come” knowing full well that it was going to be a while. There are Psalms full of complaining and cries of, “how long, oh Lord?” Paul, even after his dramatic conversion, wrote, “what a wretched man I am!” and wrote letters to various churches full of “Christians behaving badly.” It seems like the NT is full of people who become Christians and still act like idiots, but that didn’t stop Paul from proclaiming victory in Christ.

    This by no means proves anything, but I think speaks somewhat to the human side of these questions. For every unanswered prayer or gripe against God that we have, somebody in the Bible had the same thing, but the Bible doesn’t seem to have as much of a problem holding the existence of God and the times where he doesn’t seem to show up in tension. But I guess all that is irrelevant if you don’t believe the Bible to begin with.

    Does that make any sense? Maybe 12:30 in the morning isn’t the best time to be rambling about these things…

  • 6. Grace  |  December 4, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I think sometimes we can miss the supernatural, by looking for the spectacular :) One of the laws of the universe pertains to Cause and Effect.

    If you’ve prayed, SOMETHING has happened SOMEWHERE…even if that ‘something’ is a shift in your own heart and mind.

    When I was a Christian and in ministry, I was asked to pray for a young witch who had contracted full blown AIDS from being ritualistically raped when she tried to leave the Coven.

    Interesting thing happened. According to all of her tests, she was healed. However, since the CDC doesn’t believe HIV/AIDS is ‘cureable”, they wouldn’t take her name off the list – even with documentation from her doctor.

    As a now non-Christian who still prays :), I’ve come to look at prayer as an energy exchange. It is the pathway through which my energy flows with the Divine. I use words because they provide the symbols for my INTENTIONS. Spirit uses ‘words’ because that’s one way I interpret energy :)

    It helps to remember that The Creator is NOT a giant humanoid type figure somewhere ‘out there’. Godd is pure energy…unbounded, unlimited, unconditional LOVE and LIFE. A love that resides within each and evey cell of each and every body on the face of the planet. We are literally made up of GodStuff – every one of us.

    To pray for someone else, we are seeking to exchange and/or change that energy within a person. It helps to look at the issue holistically – just because an ‘answer’ isn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean there wasn’t an answer. Cause and Effect – there WAS a response from God. Was it what we asked for or what we expected? Maybe….maybe not. Wonder if the FIRST thing that needed to happen in a person who is being prayed for (let’s say, for arthritis) is that they need to FORGIVE someone. :) Cause and Effect….

  • 7. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 8:36 am

    >>>Sometimes when we pray, God waits. Sometimes when we pray, God moves heaven and earth, and sometimes when we pray God says No.

    Thats exactly the same response you will get if you pray to a teddy bear.

    Leo – good post – very thoughtful… interesting turn on the Luther ‘here i stand’ quote.

  • 8. robd  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Leopardus,
    I used to have similar thoughts about praying for the ill.
    But then I wondered:
    If God is so powerful he can cure all ills,
    why is he so bad at PREVENTIVE medicine?
    Some religious people answered in the line of:
    “whatever happens is Gods will; His ways cannot be known”
    but I consider that a non-answer.
    I have also heard really nasty remarks like
    -she has a bad disease – she must have done a terrible sin.
    All this was certainly a factor driving me away fron christianity.

  • 9. m  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I have noticed that if anyone shows any kind of questioning (why?, what?, who?), and the slowly turning away from one’s “faith”, there are those that will try their best to “keep the person”. For me, I do not pray, but mediate to the universe at large. It is more of a way of going back over the day, tomorrow, the day before. One’s journey in faith, no matter what it is, is a personal journey. And anyone that, over time, has evolved to me has found the answers in which they are looking for. Faith should never be stagnant, ever. One’s faith should continue to evolve with the person, or else there is no personal growth.

  • 10. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Leo,
    I feel so sorry, and I hear what you’re saying.

    Prayer is so subjective, there’s actually very little theology written on it, which i think is a good thing.

    Well, i can completely understand your reasons for ‘leaving the faith’, and I won’t blame you (your pastor/teacher, maybe, but not you).

    If its any consolation, that if you had at some point asked Jesus to be your Saviour, i still feel slightly excited knowing that your decision to leave the faith because God hasn’t answered prayer with expected results won’t affect the fact that I might still see you in heaven some day. the same goes to all dear de-converts here.

    I do hope God does something to turn you back to Him.

    Continued salvation doesn’t depend on continued faith (dear calvinist friends, kindly reserve comment on that statement).

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Mark:
    I hang here a lot, so please type away. I’ll respond.

    lpkalal:

    So when you read the Bible and it’s full of people praying and getting clear results, and the Bible says things like that we are to pray and not doubt and God will answer, we are to understand that the purpose of prayer isn’t for God to answer.

    When we hear people praying and expecting answers, when we hear people going on about the answers they get to prayer, when prayers are constantly going out for healing, jobs, salvation, and so on, we are to understand that the purpose of prayer isn’t for God to answer.

    When the Bible says nowhere that the purpose of prayer is to draw nearer to God, we are to understand that the purpose of prayer is to draw nearer to God. The God who doesn’t answer prayer.

    No matter what the Bible says, no matter what the early church fathers say, no matter what we always pray for, the purpose is not for God to deliver.

    Larry Crabb knows better.

    You’re parroting what you’ve heard from the pulpit and books. You’re not taking the Bible at face value. You’re apologizing for a no-show God who can’t deliver.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Tim Kurek:

    I have seen, with my own eyes, radical radical answers to prayer.

    Fine. You have an ‘in’ with the deity, have him give me a call.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Jeremy:

    http://godisimaginary.com/video8.htm

    You don’t have to wait around for the vidoe. You can just read the text.

  • 14. wayne  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    LeoPardus,

    seems to me you already made up your mind as to your answer to your prayer. Is this a true statement? I know there are times when I do.

    And there are plenty of people on this blog that could reason with you and give good counsel if you so desired.

    regards,\

    wayne

  • 15. rhea  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I have compassion for what you are dealing with. No judgment, just acknowledgement and a listening ear, because it’s something I struggle with too. Take care,

    Rhea
    rhea7.wordpress.com

  • 16. Erika  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I used to find it very frustrating, when doing an “hour of prayer” as they called it at our Wednesday Night teen worship service, to feel no sense of fulfillment from just rambling off every thought, plea, etc that came to my head. The mytics that I used to hang with believed that God gave you the words to pray, which I also thought was a strange paradox because if he gave me to words, then why was I even taking time out to do it when he already knows what I’m going to say. It almost felt like I was a pawn in this big superpower ideaology that made me think that I was never good enough for God, but I was so much better than all the other unsaved folk out there.

  • 17. Thinking Ape  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    The majority of the Christian responses to this post are understandably and expectedly compassionate, yet they refuse to convey the universe of reality and instead equate their prayer life to some sort of ephereal Oprah-type “secret” of the universe that is enveloped in self-delusion and wishful thinking.

    But…but… I agree, in part, with Guna,

    Prayer is so subjective, there’s actually very little theology written on it, which i think is a good thing.

    In combination with Leopardus,

    So when you read the Bible and it’s full of people praying and getting clear results

    Take a look at the Jewish scriptures – talking to God was definitely an elitist endeavour, but it was “there.” Not only could you ask things from God, but you could bargain with him and change his mind – a notion that is heretical in today’s church!
    And then hear the relative silence about prayer in the Christian scriptures. What does Jesus say about prayer – we know he prayed and he even gave an example prayer (you would think that if God himself gave a prayer, we would take heed to study and repeat it at least 5 times a day!). And what does this prayer from the Lord himself say? IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT YOU!

    Quite honestly, contemporary Chrisitan prayers are either unanswered Jewish prayers, or self-indulgent occultic meditations. We ask for the betterment of our lives and of the lives around us, when the entire theme of the Lord’s prayer is the betterment of the Kingdom of God.

    The prayers of old are over not because God decided to shut down the wishing fountain, but because those old prayers lie in the mythical realm of a couple authors, such as the incredible literary master, the Yahwist, or “J”.

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Rachel:

    Yes, some folks in the Bible did not get what they prayed for. (Paul’s thorn in the flesh being a real clear example.) BUT … A lot of folks in the Bible clearly did get what they prayed for. (Healed blindness, bringing the dead back to life….)

    I could get along with some “No” answers, if there were some clear “Yes” answers at times. But when all we get is zero response, I have to conclude that there is no one on the other end of the line.

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Guna:

    Thanks. Very kind response. Just one statement I want to correct.

    Prayer is so subjective, there’s actually very little theology written on it,

    ???? There’s tons written on it. How many books do you want me to list?

  • 20. womeninthevalley  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Hello, this is my first time on this blog. The titled saddened me a little. Cant say I truly know how your feeling but can understand how one can lose faith. I would like to tell you I almost did as well and what saved me was when I attended church and the Pastor suggested writing your prayer request down incl the date then this way u have a running track then date when they come to pass that helped me out and now my writing have changed from my words to His words! He has answered my prayers some right away some not as soon. maybe start a journal if you havent already they’re may have been some prayers you have prayed and not realized they were answered. This blog alone bc of the topic is answering quit a few I think. by me journalling I did realize and see that God so hears our prayers I dont agree w/the person that wrote ‘I think the purpose of prayer is to draw closer to God. If the purpose was to have him deliver, then He wouldn’t be God, but a cosmic Santa.’ God does give us the desire of our hearts but we must seek his desire as well…his before our own desires and that makes Him our FATHER. Its unfortunate that you have walked away which I dont really think you have or you wouldnt have this blog up. Your seeking and searching for answers and that is what God wants but your life isnt by chance nor the things you are doing. Prayer is powerful and ones spirit must be open to receive that power. I agree w/the person that wrote to question yourself why havent your prayers been answered. Alot of times we want our needs met before we are willing to meet anyone elses needs frankly to believe there is no God is crazy….Look around you He is everywhere all around us. Instead of trying to find him in books find him in your heart sit somewhere anywhere evaluate you take a long look in the mirror have u released yourself fully & completely to Him? Have you given your “invisible friend” as you put it access complete access to you. This Christian walk isnt as easy as some preceive it to be and some things are easier said than done but its real its a lifestyle and one that changes. I know what he has done for me and I know the time will come before you leave this place that you will have your own encounter. I wouldnt give up my faith because my prayers havent been answered that you can remember or know of. Reading some of these comments have inspired me to pray even harder so for that your job was done and I thank you. You are doing exactly what God wants w/o even knowing it! The person w/AIDS that was given 15 extra yrs to live just like Hezekiah! that is amazing! God is real and he does hear.

    I will also say there are a lot of misguided people out here that make things harder than they are. God is simple not complex we look for our own type of packaging when God is out side the package. Lets not get twisted up in the law/rule and regulations and miss him altogether. The first and only thing he asks of us is that we be saved and welcome in our hearts we give him permission to clear away our mess. Logic wont get you far w/God he just doesnt make sense. I am trying now to give up logic bc I too ask quite a bit of questions and some I find right in his word. I have prayed that he give me a better understanding and eyes to see and read his word and that has been answered for me. Everything in our Christian walk will not always line up or make sense but we all must realize God has timing for everything. I know w/o doubt things will turn around when you least expect it to and you will be writing something that will bring the hardest person back to Christ as you have been turned around.

  • 21. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    wayne:

    seems to me you already made up your mind as to your answer to your prayer. Is this a true statement?

    What I can say is that so far there has been no clearly recognizable response. By that I mean a visitation, miracle, revelation, dream, or some other such supernatural event that I can’t miss. I figure that an all-powerful, all-knowing being ought to be able to come up with something that can get through my thick skull. After all, he apparently got through the thick skull of Saul of Tarsus.

    And there are plenty of people on this blog that could reason with you and give good counsel if you so desired.

    Reason and counsel all amount to one thing. Apologies for a God who never shows up. I left the Christian religion because there was no God. If someone wants me to rejoin, more apologies won’t do it. Someone will have to show up with a real God. Not one that “hides”.

  • 22. The de-Convert  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    The majority of the Christian responses to this post are understandably and expectedly compassionate

    I did notice this trend also.

    In my 30+ years of being a Christian, I have 1 example of something that could possibly be an answer to prayer. However, it could also be a weird coincidence. The reality is, there should be dozens of things I could point to not ONE issue with a 75% probability.

    James said the effective prayer of a righteous man avails much. Loved that scripture. However, there’s no evidence to back it.

    Of course, we have all the fantastic stories from the evangelists and preachers (especially in the charismatic/pentecostal camp). However, the character in the movie, The Beautiful Mind, also had great stories of espionage that he was 100% convinced were real.

    Gideon put out a fleece and God proved himself. He never responded to any of my fleeces.

    CHALLENGE TO CHRISTIANS: Please post your stories of answers to prayer in your personal life here or on your blog with a linkback. We would love to hear them.

    Paul

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Jeremy:

    I’ve had an extra 15 years of life, because I believed in something greater than myself.

    I did AIDS research. The presence of the virus is not always fatal. It depends on your own body’s response, the state of your immune system, the type and level of response your immune system mounts toward the virus, the amount of initial exposure, the number of exposures, and still more factors.

    The thing that is amazing to me is not that you and one other lived in your group, but that none lived in the other. That’s out of the statistical norm. Especially given that HAART treatment came into being within 5 years of the time the ‘prayer trial’ you mention started.

    And I am alive, so someone up there likes me.

    Have you ever looked at this from the perspective of those who died?
    “I’m dead so someone up there hates me.” ????
    “I’m dead so no one up there cares.” ???
    “I’m dead so someone up there is rather capricious in his likes/dislikes.” ???

  • 24. onthuhlist  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    You state, “Being a scientist, I dug into the literature for any studies on the efficacy of prayer. Lo and behold, there were actual, controlled studies that had been done. And the result? Drum roll, please….. nada, nil, zip, zilch, zero… no efficacy at all.”

    This brings up an interesting presupposition. It is presupposing that science is a more accurate yardstick for measuring truth than faith. Now, I know this sounds like a cop-out, but think about this logically for a second. “The truth”, whatever that may be, is out there, and is objective, even if it is not discoverable. The truth about life, about prayer, about our existence, and whether or not our lives possess purpose, or whether our longing for purpose is meaningless in itself. The truth is self-existent…even if not a single person believes in it…even if it lies undiscovered for eons.

    The only way to completely ascertain an objective truth is…(to quote a phrase, “drum roll, please”)…by faith. Any other means of ascertaining truth has the capability for error. For example, science relies on what we know and have observed. But science is always changing as we learn more. When we say that something is “scientificially proven”, we need to clarify which science we’re talking about. Are we talking about the science of 2007, the science of 2099, the science of 1700 (when flies spontaneously generated from meat) or the science of 1342 (when the earth was flat). Science changes. And as such, using science as a means to judge truth is like using a rubber yardstick to judge whether the golden yardstick is accurate.

    What I mean when I say that faith is the only means to ascertain the truth is this. If someone tells you something that is absolutely true, then the only way you’re going to know for sure that it’s truth and to walk in the way of that truth is by taking a leap of faith, and believing in it. And the only way to do this is to first HEAR the truth. That’s why scripture says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by a word of Christ (some translations incorrectly say “the word of God” instead of “a word of Christ”).

    So what if the creator of the universe reveals “the truth” to us, and it doesn’t strike us as “the truth”. Is that because “the truth” is not true, or is it because we need to make an adjustment in our thinking? The danger is that we will use one of our rubber rulers (science, our feelings, what we heard “the experts” say, what influential people in our lives have said, or even what seems to “neatly fit” into a worldview that appeals to us) to explain away the truth and adopt an untrue viewpoint.

    That being said, let’s examine prayer from the standpoint of scripture, not science. A scientific study of prayer will only look at prayer’s effectiveness in getting what we ask for. But scripture has some things to say about the purpose of prayer:

    1. Jesus taught us by his example to pray, “not my will, but yours [heavenly Father's] be done.” This demonstrates that a proper balance of prayer recognizes that what God wants trumps what we want.

    2. Many scriptural illustrations (Job, Joseph, Jesus) show people going through great hardships and suffering that may seem purposeless from the individual’s point of view, but from God’s point of view have a purpose. It is possible those purposes may not be revealed in our lifetime. Consider someone who dies of cancer, despite all the prayers to save their life. The prophet Isaiah said, “Righteous people die…and no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil to come.” But Depeche Mode looks at the same circumstance and concludes that “God has a sick sense of humor.” Who is looking at the circumstance correctly? Who has “the truth”? What about the missionary who spent an entire lifetime without a single convert, and who never lived to see that his efforts had prepared that area for a great revival when future missionaries came? We almost NEVER see God’s plan. That’s why faith is MANDATORY in order to walk in the level of God’s purposes. That’s why Jesus said we have to DENY OURSELVES in order to follow him.

    3. Concerning prayer, “the truth” is not what we feel, whether we feel we are talking to the air or whether we feel like we are talking to someone right next to us. The bottom line is that “the truth” simply exists. The truth simply exists that God hears the prayer of a repentant person. Yes, the hearing of our prayers is conditional. Scripture says God will not hear selfish prayers or prayers from those who are unwilling to admit their wrongdoings (i.e. unwilling to listen to God’s voice of truth exposing our error) The truth is there. And the truth is speaking to all of us. The challenge for us is whether we are going to believe the truth when every other rubber ruler we see is telling us we’re talking to the air.

    Prayer must be based upon complete trust in God. Even when we are struggling with our trust in God, we must choose to open ourselves up to him again, relying on the truth of scripture that we have saturated our minds with. Our understanding of life compared to God’s is analogous to a 4-yr-old’s to his parents. The parents say, “Don’t go in in the street”, and “Don’t stick a fork in the electrical outlet.” The 4-yr-old may not be able to comprehend electrical theory, nor how his cells would be crushed by an oncoming car. The 4-yr-old is simply faced with a single momentous decision: Do I trust my parents mean the best for me, and obey them? Or do I decide that the rubber ruler of my 4-yr-old yearnings are better for me than my parents’ rules? It all boils down to trust. To faith.

  • 25. karen  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I approach suffering in the same way. I’ve had an extra 15 years of life, because I believed in something greater than myself. And I am alive, so someone up there likes me. God is not finished with me yet.

    Jeremy, I’m very glad you have survived for 15 years after your AIDS diagnosis, but are you saying that your HIV status miraculously disappeared? If not, what in the world are you thinking? Barring an out-and-out “miracle,” your quote above is really selfish and offensive, especially to me who had a dear friend die of AIDS several years ago.

    Have not you and millions of others around the world survived with HIV because of the diligent, extremely talented scientists and researchers who isolated the HIV virus and then, working around the clock furiously for several years, developed the antiviral medications that treat it? How about the health care system in this country that allows you and others like you to be able to take these medications?

    How can you even posit that you are alive because god likes you better than others in your situation?! What about the other people who participated in the study with you, and mostly died? Did none of them have any faith in the supernatural? Did god hate them?

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    I note that almost all the Christians responses basically acknowledge that I hit on a disturbing and frightening truth. Namely, God does not respond.

    Oh sure you can play that game, “Where’s Goddo?” [Think "Where's Waldo".] And you can say, “There! There He is. I spotted Him!”

    But can you imagine Peter, or Paul, or Elijah having to play that game? Hah! They could just look at you and say, “God just revealed to me that your daughter is blind in one eye. Go home and you’ll find that she is healed from this very hour.”

    Now THAT is a God I can get behind. But this god that you keep having to apologize? Whose absence and inaction you must explain away with contradictory logic? NO! That imaginary being, so capricious I cannot follow.

  • 27. karen  |  December 4, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    We can’t know all truth through reason and the scientific method (much as our post-enlightenment minds would like to think so).

    Perhaps not. But if there’s a god is interacting with the physical universe and doing things like answering prayer, shouldn’t we be able to detect that interaction through reason and the scientific method? If not, why not? Do you think that god is deliberately hiding from us, scurrying out of sight when we try to measure his influence on the world. Why would he do that?

    let’s face it, us trying to figure out God is like an ant trying to perform gallbladder surgery

    This is the old “god works in mysterious ways” answer that’s supposed to cure any doubt cold and stop the argument cold. It may be good enough for you, and others who really, really WANT to believe, but it ain’t good enough for me. BTDT, not doing it anymore.

  • 28. Thinking Ape  |  December 4, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    onthuhlist,
    You go from

    “The truth”, whatever that may be, is out there, and is objective, even if it is not discoverable.

    to

    The only way to completely ascertain an objective truth is…(to quote a phrase, “drum roll, please”)…by faith.

    And you say we have interesting presuppositions (that observation through the five senses is way out there!)!

    When I read that second clause, I read, “The only way for me to ascertain what ‘truth’ is, is by thinking it into existence”

    I know you won’t agree with me, but what am I really suppose to think. When I want to know the “truth” of the chair, I do not do so through “faith” – I do so by knowing its empirical properties: colour, mass, form, etc. When I look into the sky at night, I do not go by “faith” and assume that the sun is being pulled by a chariot, a giant god is holding up the earth, or that we are the center of the universe; instead, I SEE the beauty of the natural world and if I want to know more of its “truth”, I investigate wavelengths and lightspeeds – all observable with highly developed scientific tools. And unless you are Amish, which I doubt since you somehow posted on this blog, I think you benefit quite well from this science. So when you doubt that

    science is a more accurate yardstick for measuring truth than faith

    , I wonder what you mean by faith and how you differentiate your faith from the plague of subjectivity that I find in the rest of your post and other Christian’s life (it is amazing that God and Satan can both be credited with the same specific act).

  • 29. Paul S  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    You beat me to it, ThinkingApe!

    onthuhlist said,

    If “The truth”, whatever that may be, is out there, and is objective, even if it is not discoverable…

    …then it may as well not exist and there is no use in having faith in it.

  • 30. wayne  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    LeoPardus,

    What I can say is that so far there has been no clearly recognizable response. By that I mean a visitation, miracle, revelation, dream, or some other such supernatural event that I can’t miss.

    My Christian friends and I often discuss this very subject. But with the ultimate understanding that God is Sovergn and that is that.

    Over and Over He shows mercy on whom he will.

    that being said He visits whom He will. Me in a dream last Fri from this picture. http://www.opacity.us/image5243_exit_window.htm
    I have no idea who these people are I was sent this in an email.

    Why, I really can’t say but I don’t worry about that I just keep moving forward not straying to the left or right, because I know if I do, I get in trouble.

    It is possible you hooked up with the wrong people in the first place that lead you down this path. I’ll also say God has given me a gift of being kind of dumb in that way like a dog who does not stray too far from the hand that feeds him.

    But can you imagine Peter, or Paul, or Elijah playing “Where’s Waldo”

    Peter as you know could not recognize God (Jesus) on many different occasions, even when face to face with Him. Not so hard miss God these days, that is why Jesus said “how much more so for those who don’t see yet believe”. I didn’t want to quote Bible verses but this one is relevant to all of us who live now… fact is we can’t physically see and Jesus understood that.

    Now THAT is a God I can get behind. But this god that you keep having to apologize? Whose absence and inaction you must explain away with contradictory logic? NO! That imaginary being, so capricious I cannot follow.

    If I had a god I had to apologize about I would not get behind that either. What I might say is “well I’m sorry but that is the way God says, or sees it and that’s the way it is”.

    In my life God is not absent. Questions abound still and many of them but it’s kind of like “man why is this air cold, does it have junk in it, what’s up with this air” but I stil keep breathing.

    regards\ ,

    wayne

  • 31. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    wayne:

    Your thinking is purely presuppositional and circular. It’s not an honest way of looking at the world.

    You’re free to believe what ever you want. Even if it isn’t true. But as long as you are determined that all things must subordinate to your preset conclusion, and conflicting evidence must either be reinterpreted or ignored, you’re not honest.

    Sorry if you don’t like that. It’s just true.

  • 32. Nicoletta  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I think you should have stopped praying much earlier.
    You probably have lost many preciuos moments doing this. Don’t you regret having been so foolish? :)
    Best of luck for your life

    I am a christian, by the way….

  • 33. Ray  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    God is all knowing – right? Then why bother praying, he (she) knows what will transpire and nothing you can do will change it. So I stopped praying when I was seventeen and have allocated the time wasted praying in more useful pursuits.

  • 34. Zach  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Congrats!

    The supernatural should be strictly for the imagination. I love movies and novels about God, and I also love movies and novels about wizards and dragons. They fit into similar genres as far as I’m concerned.

  • 35. bry0000000  |  December 4, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    In response to

    “If “The truth”, whatever that may be, is out there, and is objective, even if it is not discoverable…,”

    I think I recall someone on the blog (I think it was LeoPardus) saying

    “The “truth” of something does not need verification to be a reality, but it does need verification if it needs to have any value attributed to it.”

    Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse.

  • 36. Lorena  |  December 4, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    I only read the article, I haven’t read the comments, but I would like to add my two cents.

    I had the same awakening, realizing that non-Christians, without prayers, succeeded and failed at the same rate as the “holy” ones. And I agree with the writer that it was a turning point in my de-conversion.

    But it also helped me realize that since most Christians don’t have a prayer life, they will never know that prayer matters little. It is those of us who put the practice who the test and saw it fail who are able to understand the fallacy of it.

    Again, it is too bad that most Christians will never know. They are sure that the very day start praying, they will see results…Little do they know!

  • 37. karen  |  December 4, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    My Christian friends and I often discuss this very subject. But with the ultimate understanding that God is Sovergn and that is that.

    And this is exactly what so many of us now object to and look back on with dismay about our Christian relationships, wayne. I mean, really, how much good “discussion” can you have when the conclusions are all reached, there’s no room for variation and parameters are observed so strictly?

    A friend of mine who is a former fundamentalist describes this as the “range of acceptable answers.” Any one who’s attended a fundamentalist bible study or prayer meeting knows that if/when serious issues come up, there’s a set of answers that are acceptable (god is sovereign, pray about it, wait on the lord, etc) and anything that strays outside of that is off limits.

    That’s not discussion, that’s called a mutual agreement society. And it’s stultifying intellectually, frankly.

  • 38. cipher  |  December 4, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    The majority of the Christian responses to this post are understandably and expectedly compassionate.

    I don’t know that I’d agree with this. These responses all start out with, “I’m sorry for your experience”, but they invariably conclude with some thing along the lines of, “You didn’t have enough faith; you expect God to abide by your timetable; you’re looking at prayer in the wrong way…” It always ends up being his fault. I don’t see this as compassion. I see a bunch of Christians trying to stave off doubt by invalidating someone who disagrees, someone who has been where they are and has come to different conclusions. This is exemplified by Wayne, who says,

    And there are plenty of people on this blog that could reason with you and give good counsel if you so desired.

    ignoring completely the fact that LeoPardus said,

    I still wanted there to be a supreme being who will, in the end, take care of us and deal with all the things too big for us. There was still a longing for something eternal, and of ultimate, universal significance.

    This is the fundamentalist’s ultimate refuge – “You don’t believe, because you don’t want to believe!” The fact that you’ve already told us that you do (or did) want to believe has no bearing on what they already know to be your motivation!

    Jeremy said,

    I’ve had an extra 15 years of life, because I believed in something greater than myself. And I am alive, so someone up there likes me. God is not finished with me yet.

    In addition to the fact that you seem to be unconcerned with those whose prayers God apparently didn’t answer – you believe you’re going to heaven! Why cling to life so ferociously? If you truly believe, wouldn’t it have been a greater kindness if He had taken you years ago?

    LeoPardus, I’m a little confused. You said that you examined the scientific literature, found the studies that had been done on prayer and healing, and discovered that they indicated no efficacy. But Larry Dossey has been saying for years that he also went through all of the literature, that there were something like 130 experiments when he began his meta-study (probably more by now), and that the general conclusion has been that prayer is effective. So now I don’t know what to think! Has Dossey been seeing what he wanted to see these past twenty or so years – or has he been looking at the wrong studies? (He claimed that at least some of the studies he examined employed good methodology.)

  • 39. Thinking Ape  |  December 4, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Karen rightly points out,

    A friend of mine who is a former fundamentalist describes this as the “range of acceptable answers.”… That’s not discussion, that’s called a mutual agreement society. And it’s stultifying intellectually, frankly.

    Not only is this intellectually stunted, but it also is the answer to one regular theist commenter who brings up the argument that we, as modern/postmodern freethinkers, are not giving credit to the many Christian intellectuals over the past two years. We do give them credit, but they were bound by the “range of acceptable answers” – not only by their own mind, but by the most powerful institution of the day, the church.

  • 40. Thinking Ape  |  December 4, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Cipher, could you give some reference to Larry Dossey? The only time I have heard the name was in a discussion that some theistic sciences have attempted to give scientific evidence for the soul.

  • 41. cipher  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Larry Dossey is an MD who has written a number of books on prayer and healing. Healing Words is probably the best known. He claimed to have gone through the literature and to have discovered a large set of experiments dealing with prayer and the healing process – some of them done with quite good methodology – indicating a positive correlation. One of the conclusions was that non-directed prayer was actually more effective than directed prayer, that is, prayer in which a specific outcome was prayed for. Of course, they never talk about these results on any of the Christian television programs, as they also indicated that no one faith tradition has primacy over the others.

    When I read his books (which was a few years ago; he’s written more since), he didn’t attempt to explain it in terms of God; as I recall, he tried to bring in the principle of nonlocality. Although his books became popular with the New Age crowd, he wasn’t your run of the mill New Age nitwit; he put some thought into his ideas, and was one of the few whose books were embraced by that subculture who actually had a background in science.

  • 42. HeIsSailing  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    LeoPardus:

    Being a scientist, I dug into the literature for any studies on the efficacy of prayer. Lo and behold, there were actual, controlled studies that had been done. And the result? Drum roll, please….. nada, nil, zip, zilch, zero… no efficacy at all.

    I am also a scientist, but I have never been interested in these tests for prayer in a controlled environment. Controlled tests are for detecting and measuring things like the hidden charge of an electron in a Millikan oil-drop test, not for detecting the power of infinite being through prayer! To me, it is a forgone conclusion that the results will be disappointing if we figure the Power of Prayer from an infinite God can only be detected in such minute amounts that the environment needs to be controlled in the first place!

    I *do* expect miracles from God. I mean miracles that suspend all the laws of physics and nature. I mean miracles that are truly indistinguishable from magic. In my old Bible study group, we had a couple with a moderately autistic teenage boy.

    Is something like autism too hard for God to heal? If you are a Christian, would you feel uncomfortable praying for a miraculous healing of an autistic child? Of course you would. You can lambast God with prayers of miraculous healing 24/7 for as long as you wish, but you and I both know that child will remain autistic. So the Christian is content praying for strength to deal with the autistic child, extra money to pay for medication and other truly non-miraculous things.

    Here is a question that needs to be addressed. Is autism harder for God to heal than a financial problem at home? Is autism harder for God to heal than a common cold? A job? How about simple direction in life? The miraculous healing of autism should be as trivial for God to perform as asking for something like granting wisdom in marraige. Yet, if God will not heal the autistic child, what makes the Christian think God is answering the prayer for direction in life? For healing that nasty flu?

    What makes the Christian think God answers *any* prayer, if the miraculous is ignored?

  • 43. Thinking Ape  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Cipher, thank you for the reference. You mentioned the lack of distinguishing results between religious traditions – do you know if Dr. Dossey does any research on homeopathy and like treatments? I only ask because I wonder about the correlations between the two. When someone pays for the kind of care that homeopathy doctors have to offer, it is little wonder that the patient feels better about their overall well-being. Unlike Dr. Dossey and my colleagues, Leopardus and Heissailing, I am not a scientist, but I am interested in scientific research that plays a role in the sociology and psychology of religion. Does anyone know of any site that I may access some of Dr. Dossey’s research without paying an arm and a leg? (I must say, however, that I am initially skeptical of “meta-studies,” although if the evidence is there, I can be persuaded).

  • 44. Mark  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Leo. Thanks for taking me up on the offer, though the amount of traffic here is a lot to follow and I hate to ask you questions you have already answered.

    I’ll start here, though. Your original post comes across as an open plea for a real response from God to your prayers. Frankly, it reminds me of the excerpts I have read of Mother Theresa’s new book and her long experience feeling unanswered in prayer by God, even as she was serving in the orphanages in India.

    Yet, when I read this comment from you “Fine. You have an ‘in’ with the deity, have him give me a call.” it makes me wonder if you are really open. Sounds like it is more than an intellectual experience. Can you give any detail on the kinds of prayers that went unanswered? Would you say there were they tests (do this and I’ll believe in you) or humble requests (please change this circumstance)?

    Thanks. I look forward to learning more about your experience. I genuinely want to see this from your shoes.

  • 45. Mark  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Sorry for the typos. My question should have read as follows:
    Would you say your unanswered prayers were tests (do this and I’ll believe in you) or humble requests (please change this circumstance)?

    Or were they something else altogether?

    Thanks.

  • 46. HeIsSailing  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Mark:

    Would you say there were they tests (do this and I’ll believe in you)

    Is there anything necessarily wrong with this if it is done in the right spirit? I have asked God to show himself to me in an unmistakable manner when I was beginning to question my faith. Gideon could lay out his fleece, and not satisfied he could lay it out again. Why couldn’t I?

  • 47. Mark  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:13 am

    Great question HIS. I think you are right to ask about the motive first and foremost. Gideon is definitely an example of testing God multiple times, with apparent unbelief at work in his motives.

    So, my question for you is what do you mean by “unmistakeable”? This seems to me a slippery slope. What if God showed you something that made you want to trust in an experience (like a lightning bolt-on-queue) rather than Him? It seems that it would stunt the growth of your faith, though it would indeed keep the doors of uncertainty open.

  • 48. Mark  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:15 am

    Another miscue…the lightning bolt would close the doors of uncertainty. Must be coming up on my beditime. ; )

  • 49. karen  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:43 am

    What makes the Christian think God answers *any* prayer, if the miraculous is ignored?

    You know the funny thing is that it’s almost like – deep, deep down, maybe buried in the subconscious – even Christians know that god doesn’t answer prayer.

    It seems to me that in the past, or maybe in other cultures, Christians did/do pray for miracles. They go to Lourdes or Medjugorje and light candles and dip in holy water, fully expecting bona fide miracles.

    But here in the U.S., no one prays for amputated limbs to grow back, or autistic children to have normal brain function. They know it ain’t gonna happen, although if it did and could be verified there would be a whole lot of new converts. Why the squeamishness about really asking for miracles, guys?

    I’ve heard someone explain that god isn’t in the miracle business anymore, and that physical manifestations were for the ancient times, but I’m thinking that’s an awfully convenient excuse.

  • 50. Mark  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:45 am

    HIS – To your question above:

    Here is a question that needs to be addressed. Is autism harder for God to heal than a financial problem at home? Is autism harder for God to heal than a common cold? A job? How about simple direction in life? The miraculous healing of autism should be as trivial for God to perform as asking for something like granting wisdom in marraige. Yet, if God will not heal the autistic child, what makes the Christian think God is answering the prayer for direction in life? For healing that nasty flu?

    I 100% agree that it is unsatisfying to pray to a God who can only give you strength to deal with a situation, but who is unable to actually change the situation. No doubt, the God of the Bible can do whatever pleases Him, no problem. He made the world. And Jesus, also God, upholds the universe by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3).

    So, why did He not heal my 8 year old nephew Vincent two years ago when he was dying of a brain tumor. Well, I cannot fully answer that. But my conviction is that His wisdom and His plans are always for the best–both now and for eternity. With that presupposition in place, I can see numerous reasons why He would want to take my nephew, as sad as that was, in order to reveal more of Himself and His comfort to those who do and do not submit to Him as God. Plus, He has fixed a date when all tears will be wiped away. Vincent’s death has brought these realities into clear focus for me, and I am grateful despite the ongoing sadness, which is real.

  • 51. Rachel  |  December 5, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Hi Karen:

    It’s not that Christians believe that God CAN’T heal miraculously, but that he doesn’t do it very often. God created the universe to function in an orderly, predictable manner, so most of the time he works simply through natural means. Miracles are the exception, not something that God automatically dispenses when somebody says the right thing. So I guess you could say that miracles are like the fine china; God only uses them on special occasions. :) Christ performed miracles to validate his identity as God/the Messiah. And interestingly enough, even though thousands of people witnessed his miracles of the loaves and the fish, many of his disciples left him. Guess there’s more to faith than witnessing a miracle.

    I think you have to note too that humanity has messed up and God has allowed us to bear the natural consequences of our sin. God intervening supernaturally every time we screw up doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for free will, ya know?

  • 52. Kat  |  December 5, 2007 at 2:51 am

    Just another young Christian dropping by.

    Today, in our Philosophy of Religion class, we were going through an article by Quentin Lauer, SJ, and a few passages made me think about this blog. It’s not necessarily related to this post, but it might be interesting to discuss. Emphases are all mine.

    “What can it mean to be committed to God? The answer is that commitment to God is meaningless, unless it be also - and, if we are speaking of direct commitment, primarily – commitment to man. Now, if this means anything, it means loving man, precisely because he is man, not because love is a divine command or a moral law, not because in loving man we are loving God, but because we have eyes to see that man is lovable and that we are less human if we do not love him.”

    And,

    “Perhaps what we (Fr. Lauer is writing to his fellow Catholics) must do is to recognize that it is not our task to safeguard the interests of God – He is quite capable of taking care of that Himself – but rather to safeguard the rights of man, even against the intolerable demands of a legalistic God Whom we have fashioned to ourselves.”

    And,

    “If the God we have thus enthroned is one Who allows us to see all our human efforts as ultimately oriented to securing our own personal salvation, there is a serious question as to whether we have not made to ourselves a God Who is not worthy of His own creatures.”

    And lastly, though mostly to my fellow Christians also reading this blog,

    “We are told by contemporary philosophers that to know the truth of a statement is to know what it would mean for it to be false…. To get back to the question of God, can our faith in Him be truly faith if it cannot face the question: Suppose there is no God? … Perhaps the response is that of Nietzsche: there is no God, therefore man himself must shoulder the responsibility of creating a genuinely moral world. Here at least God is not utilized as a means to moral ends, and belief in Him becomes a significant option. Such an attitude need not be incompatible with belief…. Faith must not be a haven for our desire of security; it must, as Kierkegaard says, be accompanied by a sense of risk – which goes with an absence of rational certainty – if it is to be worthy of being called faith…. Albert Camus said that the big question for man … is, ‘Can one be a saint without God?’ Only if one can will he ever be a saint with God.”

  • 53. Rachel  |  December 5, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Thanks for posting those, Kat. I think I’d have to read the whole article to really get a good grasp of the passages, though. I like the last one…pretty much goes back to Hebrews and “now faith is being sure of what we hope for a certain of what we do not see.” Do you go to a Catholic university?

  • 54. Kat  |  December 5, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Rachel, the article is “The Problem of Unbelief” by Quentin Lauer, SJ. He actually closes with something to this effect: unbelief is not necessarily a problem, not even when we (believers) experience it ourselves. If you do read it, you’ll have to keep in mind that he’s writing to his fellow Catholics. For the anti-theists, the “absence of rational certainty” might just seem to be Fr. Lauer’s way of tapering off into that ever-frustrating, “It’s a mystery.” :p

    And yes, haha, I do go to a Catholic university, though I’m not Catholic myself. It’s got this big liberal arts core curriculum that requires, among other things, 12 units each of Philo and Theo.

  • 55. John  |  December 5, 2007 at 4:19 am

    Great Post! Christians seemed to invent all sorts of excuses/theories for their god as to why he wont heal people rather than face reality. Just read some of these comments.
    Your god promised you physical healing. So has any amputee in the last 1900 years ever got their foot back through physical healing? ever?

  • 56. bry0000000  |  December 5, 2007 at 5:32 am

    Hi Rachel,

    I hope I don’t sound militant with this response. With all due respect, your argument sounds like one big cop-out for Christianity. For example:

    “I guess you could say that miracles are like the fine china; God only uses them on special occasions. :) Christ performed miracles to validate his identity as God/the Messiah.”

    How convenient. He USED to perform miracles, but now since we’re testing his existence, he won’t perform. Sounds like a non existent God to me.

    But of course, there’s the infallible “thou shall not test the Lord your God” commandment (not an exact quote… forgive me), which to us, sounds a lot like:

    Person A: My God is real
    Person B: Oh yeah, I don’t see him. Prove it!
    Person A: BLASPHEMY! THOU SHALL NOT DEMAND GOD TO PROVE HIMSELF!

    Which leads into the other part of our argument.

    “And interestingly enough, even though thousands of people witnessed his miracles of the loaves and the fish, many of his disciples left him.”

    Sounds irrational… because it is. I cannot think of one person in existence today, myself included, who would deny the divinity of someone who displayed his power in such a way. Yet for some, this, for some inexplainable reason (maybe an unwillingness to truly analyze the situation… hope that doesn’t sound too harsh), makes perfect sense.

    So let’s look at it this way: Christ never performed the miracles the bible says he did. Christ never claims to have performed the miracles he did. (Heck, we can argue that Christ didn’t exist… digression, sorry.) Later, about the time the Gospels were actually written (many of the contributors to this blog are much more knowledgeable in this area, perhaps they will be willing to provide a brief history of the writing of the gospels if you are curious), the authors and later editors (kings, religious leaders, people in power such as King James {though not him necessarily}) asked themselves “How can we make this Christ fellow sound divine? And how can we keep people from getting too suspicious when something supernatural doesn’t happen?” And then… “Oh, I know! Let’s make them afraid to question. Lets make it blasphemy to demand that God prove himself through his power. And while we’re at it, let’s create the end all answer to that question… something along the lines of ‘his power is shown all around us every day.’ Yeah, that’s ambiguous. I like it. Now we can answer their question and accuse them of blasphemy all at the same time. Who can question that?”

    Maybe, and I say MAYBE a little far fetched, but certainly no more (and definitely less) than believing some guy turned two fish and three loaves of bread into 500.

  • 57. HeIsSailing  |  December 5, 2007 at 7:30 am

    So has any amputee in the last 1900 years ever got their foot back through physical healing? ever?

    hmmm.. I used the example of the autistic boy in my BIble study group, but the amputee is another good example. Would the Christian ever pray for the healing of an amputee? We all know this request will be answered by God with a resounding ‘no’. We all know the autistic boy will not miraculously gain his faculties, and the army vet who got his leg blown off by an IED will wear that prosthetic the rest of his life. All the prayer in the world will not grow that leg back. Everyone, even the most devout Christian knows this. So with tthis bit of wisdom, again I ask, what makes anybody think God answers prayer of any kind?

  • 58. HeIsSailing  |  December 5, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Kat:

    And yes, haha, I do go to a Catholic university, though I’m not Catholic myself.

    Don’t despair. My wife went to a catholic university, and received an *excellent* education.

  • 59. HeIsSailing  |  December 5, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Rachel says:

    Christ performed miracles to validate his identity as God/the Messiah. And interestingly enough, even though thousands of people witnessed his miracles of the loaves and the fish, many of his disciples left him. Guess there’s more to faith than witnessing a miracle.

    I agree with you here, Rachel. Just because God/Christ validates himself to those who want to believe with a miracle, does not mean that we will automatically trust him. Many Christians will claim that God does not perform miracles today, because he wants us to trust him as a personal diety, rather than rely on his miracles, as if he were Santa Claus. Before somebody suggests that, let me cut you off by saying that is pure rubbish.

    I am not asking God for gifts and favors, as if he were my personal genie. I am asking for one thing – simple validation. This will not turn me into a ‘robot’. The Bible is full of examples of those who saw the miraculous, of folks who personally talked with God, yet had no faith or trust in him.

    As a Christian, I sincerely asked God to reveal himself to me in some unmistakable way to me. For years, I got nothing. My life continued indistinguishable from the heathen’s. As a doubting Christian, I pleaded with God.

    I must be the odd one out here amongst de-converts. I *do* want to believe. Yet when I try to ask for verification, I get nothing, and in hindsight, I have never gotten anything.

    In that sense, God is not asking us modern people to trust in him first. He is asking us to be gullable first. And while I see great moral virtue in trust, I see none in gullability. Why does God ask us to be faithful, in the sense of gullability?

    That question remains unanswered to me.

  • 60. HeIsSailing  |  December 5, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Mark:

    I 100% agree that it is unsatisfying to pray to a God who can only give you strength to deal with a situation, but who is unable to actually change the situation.

    Mark, please excuse me, but that is not quite what I said. Let’s take the couple I mentioned above as an example. During our prayer meetings, I prayed out loud to God for strength to deal with the strain their autistic son brought to their lives (and make no mistake – he was a handful). Yet, I would never dream of being so untactful to instead pray out loud for a miraculous healing!

    Why not? Besides being unconfortable and even offensive for the parents, it would put God up to ridicule, because let’s face it, we all know that boy will leave prayer group as autistic as when he entered.

    So here is my charge. If God will not heal the autistic, what makes me think God is doing…. anything? To a God of infinite power, healing the autistic should be just as trivial as granting strength to the parents. Yet we prayed for inner-strength constantly, but never the healing.

    That, to me as a Chrisitan, was a real problem. Despite the claims of our favorite church creeds, we were forced to pray only for those things which required little faith in the first place.

    So, why did He not heal my 8 year old nephew Vincent two years ago when he was dying of a brain tumor.

    It is stuff like this that reminds me that these bloggers on the other side of the computer screen are not just anonymous debate combatants, but real human beings, each with their own set of problems and circumstances, just like me. I can only speak for myself, but when I prayed to God my requests were usually for strength to deal with a particularly trying situation, or wisdom, especially regarding my marraige. I think those are fine and noble requests – they are meant, not for my own benefit, but to those around me.

    But in hindsight, it seems to me that those are prayers that *must* be answered – and if not by God, then by our own agent of will. I had a friend who recently died of stomach cancer. I had left Christianity by then, but a week after she died, those of us who had visited her in hospice care got together and prayed for the wisdom to understand and the strength to carry on. Now, that is fine, but those are prayers that *must* be answered if we are to cope as human beings. We, as congnizant and aware humans, have to be content that there is an answer out there somewhere, otherwise we would probably die of despair and weakness of will. It seems to me that prayer can be a way of meditating on ourselves, yes ourselves, to focus on our own situations, to gain strength from some resevoir of will deep inside us. Because what do we ultimately do to gain strength and wisdom in trying situations? We meet with like minded people, family and loved ones. We gain strength from attending church and fellowshipping with congregants. We read inspiring books, and the Bible is just one of an endless supply of choices in that area.

    It seems to me that we all do this because we *must* do it in order to cope and survive. The saint and the sinner, the Christian and the Heathen, the faithful and the atheist all alike must ultimately do these very same things.

    I just don’t see how God enters this picture though. We can pray to him for strength and wisdom, but in my experience, I just find answers to these prayers to be indistinguishible from out own human strength and will.

    Wow, I am a type-a-holic. Sorry for the long reply – but these are difficult issues and important questions that can’t easily be summed up in two or three sentences.

  • 61. HeIsSailing  |  December 5, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Mark:

    So, my question for you is what do you mean by “unmistakeable”? This seems to me a slippery slope. What if God showed you something that made you want to trust in an experience (like a lightning bolt-on-queue) rather than Him?

    Mark, see my reply to Rachel, comment #59.

    As far as unmistakable, consider this. God showed his power to Moses by turning his hand leprous. God did that for no other reason than to unmistakably show his authority and power to ol’ Mo. Gideon asked that the morning dew cover the ground and not the fleece. God answered that request. Not content, Gideon then asked that the morning dew conver the fleece and not the ground. God, without complaint, answered that request as well.

    No, I am not Moses or Gideon. But there is precident for God revealing himself. To make himself known. This is all I am asking for.

    Mark:

    It seems that it would stunt the growth of your faith, though it would indeed keep the doors of uncertainty open

    You know Mark, I just can’t buy that. The bible is loaded with examples of people who witnessed the miraculous, who talked with God, who knew his power, yet ultimately had no faith in him.

    We need to be careful with the word faith. When you say that if God reveals himself too much it would stunt the growth of my faith, are you talking about faith in the sense of trust, or faith in the sense of gullability? It seems to me that the focus of God’s faithfulness switches from Trust, to a wierd combination of Trust and Gullability somewhere.

    If God is asking us to Trust him, that is one thing. That is something I have no problem with. But just being certain of his existance, or of the reality of Christ, does not ensure one’s trust. But it this does not seem to be the faith God is trying to cultivate in us. By refusing to reveal himself, God is trying to cultivate faithfulness in the sense of gullability in us. That seems very strange to me. If the greatest virtue of all is Loving God and Loving our neighbor as ourselves, just how does gullability fit into that scheme?

  • 62. qmonkey  |  December 5, 2007 at 9:17 am

    >>>I must be the odd one out here amongst de-converts. I *do* want to believe. Yet when I try to ask for verification, I get nothing, and in hindsight, I have never gotten anything.

    as micheal jackson said :) you are not alone.

    there’s a ‘take the blue pill’ post of mine around here somewhere

  • 63. Vicky B  |  December 5, 2007 at 9:22 am

    I have had prayers answered, to the skeptic they answers could be explained away, but to me they are real…

    As a child I wa semotinally absued by my Mum, by the time I was a teenager I was sick of people telling about a loving God, I felt like my life just made other perople’s lives worse and I wanted out. So I prayed to God that if He exists, He should do something.. The next night I went to take an overdose on tablets and couldn’t find a single one in the house, despite there being alot the night before due to my Mums hypochondria. I broke down in tears with anger becuase I didn’t want to believe but knew God was there.

    Why doesn’t God do this for others? Actually I think he does for those who’ll listen, some people just want more and more proof. Plus God wants us to have faith not empirical evidence of His existence.

    That’s just one prayer… A friend of mine’s wife had her brain tumour dissapear.

    When I got stuck without a car recently and really needed one to carry on working I asked people to pray for me, and within a week I was given a car.

    I couldn’t afford to get married, but somehow managed it without debt, due to random gifts of kindness etc, another answered prayer.

    Are there prayers I haven’t had a ‘yes’ too, sure.. I spent a whole year asking God what to do with my life and felt the only answer was wait. At the end of the year, someone took me out for coffee and asked if I’d considered youth work, another happened to mention a college course where I could get trained and a job and place to live opened up just 30 miles away from my then boyfriend (now husband). All of the ‘answer’ happened within 4 weeks.

    At the same time my Dad had renal failure and was never cured and has since died. Why God didn’t heal him I don’t know. But I do know death isn’t all bad and that I’m a better person at supporting others through grief becuase of it. i also know my Dad had the option over and over of improving his lifestyle so he wouldn’t be ill and he refused.

    A lovely lady at my church is struggling with cancer right now and hasn’t been healed, but she has been such an inspiration and blessing to others that maybe there is a reason in it all. People have hope from her that they wouldn’t have any other way.

    Another friend has just struggled with depression for 9 months, but God has really used the time to help him through old issues and it has given him the breathing space to choose to make a career change…

    I don’t have answrs for why people get healed and don’t get healed. But I do believe that ultimately God does know best and I trust in that. And I know for many people that sounds like a cop put and a bit twee, but thats how it is.

    And as I currently sit here waiting for tests to see why my helth is bad, I know God has in in hand, even if I die through illness becuase thats what he proimises all those who dare to believe in him and live with their doubts

  • 64. kay  |  December 5, 2007 at 9:57 am

    HeIsSaling,

    Here is a question that needs to be addressed. Is autism harder for God to heal than a financial problem at home? Is autism harder for God to heal than a common cold?

    I was recently reading a book on Christian practices that a friend recommended to me. I was actually enjoying the book quite a bit until I got to the chapter on prayer.

    In it the author basically says something like ‘Start your prayer practice by praying for something small, like an earache, before you pray for something bigger, like arthritis or cancer.’

    I haven’t picked the book up since.

  • 65. cipher  |  December 5, 2007 at 10:20 am

    God created the universe to function in an orderly, predictable manner, so most of the time he works simply through natural means. Miracles are the exception, not something that God automatically dispenses when somebody says the right thing. So I guess you could say that miracles are like the fine china; God only uses them on special occasions.

    This reminds me of that movie The Cisco Kid, with Gene Wilder. Wilder plays a young rabbi, and in one scene, he’s being hosted by Native Americans. The chief is asking if Wilder’s God can make it rain, and Wilder tells him that He can, of course – but he simply doesn’t. The chief asks why, and Wilder replies that He just doesn’t work that way. This goes back and forth a few times, then there’s a clap of thunder, and it begins to rain. Wilder says, “Of course, every so often, just like that – He changes His mind!”

    God intervening supernaturally every time we screw up doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for free will, ya know?

    This has always been and continues to be the theist’s ultimate rationalization. It never ceases to astonish me how vociferously Christians argue for an idea that most of them aren’t really even equipped to defend.

    I recall seeing a televangelist on a talk show – I think it was Robert Schuller, whom I don’t actually dislike; I think he’s the best by far of a bad breed – saying that he loved doubters, that his favorite apostle was Thomas, because he doubted, but he ended up saying, “My Lord and my God”. I just shook my head; he couldn’t see that he was arguing against himself. Thomas believed because he saw Jesus resurrected, because he put his finger in the wound – but let someone today voice similar doubts, and ask for even more modest evidence, and they get that other quote thrown at them – “Blessed is he who has not seen and believes.”

    I am so sick of all the rationalizations: You don’t really want to believe; it’s God’s prerogative to do with us as He likes; it isn’t our place to question; what you’re asking for [whatever the hell it happens to be at the moment] would compromise your free will [a concept very few of them even adequately understand] – anything so that they can continue to believe. And, of course, the end result is that those of us who don’t agree get consigned to hell for all of eternity – all so that they can enjoy a few brief decades of ontological security while they are here.

    I’m tired of being sacrificed on the altar of their convenience.

  • 66. cipher  |  December 5, 2007 at 10:36 am

    “We are told by contemporary philosophers that to know the truth of a statement is to know what it would mean for it to be false…. To get back to the question of God, can our faith in Him be truly faith if it cannot face the question: Suppose there is no God? … Perhaps the response is that of Nietzsche: there is no God, therefore man himself must shoulder the responsibility of creating a genuinely moral world. Here at least God is not utilized as a means to moral ends, and belief in Him becomes a significant option. Such an attitude need not be incompatible with belief…. Faith must not be a haven for our desire of security; it must, as Kierkegaard says, be accompanied by a sense of risk – which goes with an absence of rational certainty – if it is to be worthy of being called faith…. Albert Camus said that the big question for man … is, ‘Can one be a saint without God?’ Only if one can will he ever be a saint with God.”

    My thanks also, Kat. The Catholic theologians often are willing to confront issues from which the Protestant fundamentalists shy away – including the need for certainty.

    Thinking Ape,

    Dossey has a website – http://www.dosseydossey.com – although there doesn’t seem to be much on it. I’d start with Healing Words – I think it was the first one in which he talked about doing a meta-study, and I believe it was footnoted. It’s been out for about ten years, and it’s in all the libraries now. You could check out the ones he’s written since, as well.

    Bear in mind that I’m not arguing in favor of his opinions. I’m just curious about the discrepancies. He claimed that the evidence supported the efficacy of prayer, and he was very convincing at the time. LeoPardus looked at the evidence and came up with a different conclusion. I also heard that there was another experiment done recently which also indicated a negative correlation. It was in the news, yet I didn’t hear Dossey say anything about it publicly. So, as I said – now I don’t know what to think.

  • 67. wayne  |  December 5, 2007 at 11:18 am

    LeoPardus,

    Sorry if you don’t like that. It’s just true.

    No problem, I’m good with whatever you say. one of us is wrong and that is that.

    But I like this site as it gives me good insight for appologetics. Not appologies however.

    nothing returns void and we will converse again i’m sure

    thanks,

  • 68. LeoPardus  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Busy couple days coming up. I’ll try to drop in a bit, ’cause this thread is interesting.

    One quick response and I’m off and running.

    Mark:

    Can you give any detail on the kinds of prayers that went unanswered? Would you say there were they tests (do this and I’ll believe in you) or humble requests (please change this circumstance)?

    Any and all prayers. Heal D’s cancer. Bring B back to the faith. Restore N’s mind to her. Plenty of others where it would have been clear whether or not there was an answer.

    Throughout 25 years they were requests. And when they weren’t answered, I took the same tack Christians always seem to take (i.e. “It’s not His will.” , “Maybe He’s testing us.” . “This will make D’s faith stronger.” , “He’s better off in the arms of Jesus.” , etc.) And I actually believed those excuses.

    At the end the requests were nothing more or less than screams of fear and anguish. I did NOT let go easily or willingly. I was DESPERATE to hold on. I wanted anything at all, any lifeline to hang on to.

    At the end the request came with tears, shakes, upset stomach, you name it. I so much wanted a loving father to show up and show me in thoroughly, unmistakable, tangible ways that I was not alone. That He was there.

    No god, no angel, no visions, no anything came. What was left to do? I let go.

    It’s been about year since I finally admitted the inevitable. I’ve been rebuilding. I can honestly say, “LIfe is good.” But I still wish in some way that God was there. And I’ll allow still that there could be something. That’s why I said, “If you have an ‘in’…..” If there is something there, and you can reach it/him/etc, do it.

  • 69. Thinking Ape  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Cipher, I will check out the book in the libraries, thank you. I do not admit to reading all the research on the subject, but I do perk my ears up whenever something recent comes along. In the last seven years there have been several double-blind studies and other neurological research that Leopardus was probably referring to.

    Honestly, the the prayer thing always comes across as somewhat shallow because Christian prayers are often so shallow and even as a Christian, I would often think to myself that “If I was God, I probably wouldn’t answer that” for various reasons. If there is a God, God made the natural order of things, why would we expect the Godself to screw around with it because we are uncomfortable?

    What currently interests me more than something as vague as prayer is research on ecstatic experiences, such as glossolalia and so-called “faith-healings” of any religious tradition.

  • 70. Rachel  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Cipher,

    Just so we’re clear here, I am most definitely NOT a fundamentalist. I just wanted to clear up a few things in regards to how miracles function in a life of faith. As you said, it really comes back to the desire for certainty. I don’t think that any Christian would tell you that they believe in God because he has unmistakably appeared to them. Faith isn’t really “faith” if you are completely certain about everything.

  • 71. Rachel  |  December 5, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Thinking Ape said:

    “If there is a God, God made the natural order of things, why would we expect the Godself to screw around with it because we are uncomfortable?”

    Thank you, that’s exactly what I said earlier.

  • 72. cipher  |  December 5, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Rachel,

    I won’t lump you in with the fundamentalists, then. But I HATE the “free will” excuse. Conservative Christians (and, in my experience, the theologically conservative of other traditions as well) use it to rationalize away just about anything and everything. Most people who argue for it see it as some sort of absolute, inviolable quality. Even if we are free – and that in itself is debatable – I don’t know that we are in an absolute sense. Of course, if one acknowledges that, it becomes the slippery slope fundamentalists so fear – so they hold onto it. No matter how difficult your circumstances, how pervasive your programming – they posit that there’s some part of you, no matter how deeply buried it is, that remains untouched by your experiences, and is capable of making a “choice” – and what is that “choice”? You choose either to “accept” or “reject” God.

    (BTW, the Buddhists do the same thing – they just don’t bring God into it.)

    Life is like a carousel ride. We go round and round, and we become dizzy and think we’re going to fall off. To steady ourselves, we reach out for the first thing available – the brass ring. Unfortunately, it comes off in our hands, so we just continue to go around, denying the unsteadiness. The brass ring is free will.

    It’s also about a step away from telling the non-believer, “You don’t believe because you don’t want to be held accountable” – because every person of faith knows that we’re all leading lives of debauchery and immorality.

    Actually, now that I think of it – where is all this hedonistic pleasure I’m supposed to be experiencing? Did I miss a meeting?

  • 73. cipher  |  December 5, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, and if you really agree with what Thinking Ape said –

    “If there is a God, God made the natural order of things, why would we expect the Godself to screw around with it because we are uncomfortable?”

    Thank you, that’s exactly what I said earlier.

    Well, at that point, it isn’t even Christianity any longer. It’s Deism.

    BTW, when I used the term “fundamentalist” in reference to that quote from the Catholic theologian, I wasn’t necessarily referring to you. That’s one of the reasons I posted two separate responses. There are others posting here who would more clearly fit that definition.

  • 74. cipher  |  December 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    One more thing – I disagree with you. I think that a lot of Christians would say that God has manifested himself in their lives in such a way that it has removed all doubt. I think that’s a HUGE selling point with them.

    As far as faith goes – someone once told me that “faith” was the dirtiest word he knew. I agreed then, and I agree now. It’s another concept that Christians have used to beat non-Christians over the head with for centuries, yet most of them would be hard-pressed to define it. And, in my experience, some of us have the aptitude for it, and some do not. Which,from my perspective, is a large part of the problem with Christianity – it’s a “one size fits all” theology, and, unfortunately, it’s also a “lowest common denominator” one as well. In order to be spared an eternity of unimaginable torment, I have to try to force myself to “believe” (whatever that actually means, if anything) the same things believed by people whose temperament, life experiences and level of education are utterly different from my own.

    Oh, Thinking Ape – I meant to tell you. I came across this article recently about research done on entheogens. I would have thought it impossible to do given the attitude of the current administration, but, incredibly, there it is. Advocates for their use have been saying for years that they can be used to “jump start” mystical experiences for those who don’t seem to be hardwired for having them. Huston Smith, the philosopher of religion, is mentioned. He experimented with LSD back in the sixties with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass). He’s been saying for decades that he appears to be one of those without the hardwiring, and that the experiences he had enhanced his faith enormously.

    The article appeared originally in Tikkun last spring, and is no longer available at their site, but it’s been reproduced in this forum:

    http://www.entheogen.com/forum/showthread.php?s=412f825fcb65a6bb8b57944e6892e246&t=13553

  • 75. tobeme  |  December 5, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Dispite what one’s faith is, or if they believe or don’t belivie in a divine being, I do believe that prayer, when said with true belief is a great form of energy that we send out to the universe and that prayer does have a positive impact on the world. Agree, most prayers can not be seen as answered in the way that we had set our self up to believe they would be answered, however, I do believe that they are answered in many ways, and usually in ways that we do not see or understand.
    Our linear thinking often blinds us to what miracles are happening all around us.

  • 76. Matt  |  December 5, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I guess you’re not supposed to be praying then. Looks like praying just isn’t your thing. Probably Religion itself isn’t working out so well for you either. Enjoy Naturalism, don’t get so caught up and resentful or bitter against the Religious, they have rights too.

  • 77. CoryScott5  |  December 5, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Very good post. This is a very important thing to note….the comments below have no comment on the facts you’ve presented, and offered only personal experience. Perhaps this is what you mean by “They all pulled up short and scurried off into comforting, yet unsatisfactory answers.” If prayers made a difference — there would be proof. But what we se are newscasts about the mother mary’s face on a tree, or a window, or a potato. These are the best miracles that can be dragged out by those who claim their reality. The laws of nature are not suspended, daily and repeatedly, based on the shopping lists of the faithful. Doesn’t happen. The studies prove it, and the facts just get in the way of the scripture. Perhaps that is why they weren’t addressed. Thank you for the post, and I hope to read more of your views.

  • 78. Matt  |  December 5, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I think there are two valid points that everyone wrestles with here:

    1. Praying doesn’t always work for some reason.
    2. When applying the scientific method to prayer, it doesn’t hold up.

    Here’s your answer:

    From a fundie: That’s because the devil is in charge of the scientific method, Francis Bacon talked to demons, you guys!!!!
    Other fundie: They’re making this crap up prayers work damnit
    Other fundie: God works this way and that way you cant test him blah blaaah

    Why I Pray:
    Because….it…makes…me…feel…better… no more no less. I am superstitious, I think it works sometimes, I dont even try to understand it. Trying to understand it would prove the atheist right, that its nothing but superstition. But wait, I know it is a superstition, but I choose to embrace prayer anyway.

    Why?

    1. It makes me feel better. while praying it helps me to meditate on a subject I’m praying about, giving me the ability to address it better. It also makes the said subject more easy to remember. Do I recommend you pray though? Hell no, because I don’t think it makes athiests feel better. I think they feel downright silly, or even hypocritical.

    2. Coinsidence or not, I’ve seen prayers work. Perhaps I could be praying to a lump of salt. At any rate, the behavior of praying has been rewarding for me, otherwise I would have stopped. Could this point stand to the scientific method? Hell no, but even knowing that I still like the idea of prayer, even if it is a complete facade. I like it anyway.

    3. Praying for others that believe in prayer, makes them feel better too. Yes, I’ve lived it, seen it, it can be emotional, it can be powerful, it can be great.

    Do I recommend everyone pray? No, do I think people that believe prayer is nothing but a superstition are WRONG? Absolutely not. I only get pissed off when I’m told my beliefs are wrong. I like to leave room for possibilities. Even my mouse turning into a robot and talking to me, that would be cool, and I don’t care how rediculious it sounds. It’s fun to have an imagination. I dont know, maybe I’m just wired differently.

    Being as honest as I can,
    Matt

  • 79. mike  |  December 5, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    A Poem by Rumi(13th century muslim):

    Love Dogs

    One night a man was crying
    Allah! Allah!
    His lips grew sweet with the praising,
    until a cynic said,
    “So! I have heard you
    calling out, but have you ever
    gotten any response

    The man had no answer to that.
    He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

    He dreamed de saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
    in a thick, green foliage.
    “Why did you stop praising?”
    “Because I have never heard anything back.”
    “This longing
    you express is the return message.”

    The grief you cry out from
    draws you toward union.

    Your pure sadness
    that wants help
    is the secret cup.

    Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
    That whining is the connection

    There are love dogs
    no one knows the name of.

    Give your life
    to be one of them.

    ~translated by Coleman Barks, I am a practicing Buddhist, I just thought you might find this useful in your quest for truth.

  • 80. Thinking Ape  |  December 5, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Cipher says in response to my “God not screwing around with the universe comment:

    Well, at that point, it isn’t even Christianity any longer. It’s Deism.

    Please don’t forget my qualification: “because we are uncomfortable.” The proper definition of a miracle is generally something that occurs outside the natural order of things; if I am to believe in a theistic, rather than a deistic god, than I can accept such happenings. I would, in fact, expect such things from said god. What I wouldn’t expect is that god to go “out of ‘his’ way” to say “yes” to us all at all the time – that is what some “occult” or “neo-pagan” religions believe and is something that is very common in contemporary Christianity (especially in North America). Whether it is health or wealth, egotistical Christians think God should say “yes” out of eternal mercy, compassion and love (as do skeptical atheists/agnostics).

    This is the whole reason that so much of medieval theology centered around selflessness, sacrifice, and suffering: the lives of people during that time were horrible, but instead of blaming a god, they just created different conditions (and probably more scripturally accurate). Now we are materialistic and much more self-assured, since we have less to fear about (no, not getting that new plasma tv is not a real fear – some city-state deciding to pillage your village is), and so we feel we deserve more from our gods of commercialism, statism, and Christianity.

    Anyway, that was a tangent – and thank you again cipher for that link, I will check it out.

  • 81. Rachel  |  December 5, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    “I HATE the ‘free will’ excuse. ”

    Fair enough. But I still think it’s silly to expect God to go running to the trampoline every time we say “jump” to bail us out of problems that we created for ourselves.

    “Life is like a carousel ride. We go round and round, and we become dizzy and think we’re going to fall off. To steady ourselves, we reach out for the first thing available – the brass ring. Unfortunately, it comes off in our hands, so we just continue to go around, denying the unsteadiness. The brass ring is free will.”

    So, are you saying here that free will is a delusion we have created for ourselves because we are going round and round into epistemic nihilism?

    “because every person of faith knows that we’re all leading lives of debauchery and immorality.”

    No, not necessarily. That would be denying Catholic and Calvinist concepts of Natural Law and Common Grace which essentially say that you don’t have to be a believer to know what is good, right, and beautiful.

  • 82. Rachel  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:07 am

    “As a Christian, I sincerely asked God to reveal himself to me in some unmistakable way to me. For years, I got nothing.”

    That sounds an awful lot like Mother Theresa’s book that just came out…apparently she spent the last 50 years of her life doubting God’s existence. God’s silence is just as much a mystery to me as it is to you. But I think it has to be said that if God exists, he himself has been to this dark corner of the human experience. Do the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” sound familiar? So then the God who chooses to remain silent silent is the same one who deeply identifies with our suffering.

    To cipher and others who won’t take “no” for an answer this will sound like another “excuse.” But I think that’s about all you can say at the end of the day when it doesn’t seem like God is showing up.

  • 83. Mark  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:12 am

    HIS & Leo,

    I greatly enjoyed reading your posts, and I think I am starting to see your perspectives pretty well. Thanks for the clear writing, and HIS–you are speaking to another lengthy typist. I appreciate your thoroughness to help me see where you are coming from.

    I plan to come back later tonight with more thoughts when I have time to write. I must say that both my heart and my mind are engaged here. These are the weightiest matters of life, not the simple stuff of a philosophical argument.

    One question before I leave–would it serve you and the rest of the readers here if I were to ask some friends to describe experiences when they believed their prayers were answered? I think comparing their experiences with many of yours could help us dissect the situation and get to the bottom of this critical question Leo has raised: Does God answer prayers (and if not, why believe there is a God at all)?

  • 84. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Mark:

    would it serve you and the rest of the readers here if I were to ask some friends to describe experiences when they believed their prayers were answered? I

    If they just believed their prayers were answered, no, it wouldn’t help. Everyone plays that game (I call it “Where’s Goddo”.) and it’s just self deception.

    Now if someone prayed over a guy born blind, and the guy suddenly had perfect vision, that would be an answer you wouldn’t have to play “Where’s Goddo” with.

  • 85. Brian  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    It’s scary to think that there may not be someone watching over us, someone who cares, who understands us and our struggles in this world. It’s true: prayer requires a bit of self delusion. To think that a being you can’t see or hear is listening to you, while at the same time seemingly ignoring, or even causing, a myriad of bigger problems. You may praying to pass a math test while eight people were gunned down in a Midwestern mall the same day. In the end, prayer is merely a form a meditation, to help you find what’s really important to you, and to show you when what you want is perhaps foolhardy. A direct link to god, or a way to focus your priorities…you decide.

  • 86. bipolar2  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    ** no matter of fact can overturn a logically empty claim **

    — The lack of a response is not a response of ‘no.’

    It’s simply a non-response. But, then it’s really important that a so-called “God” never respond to prayer, ever.

    Of course you can’t presuppose that prayer reduces to the ancient doctrine of “do ut des.” [I do this for you and you’ll do that for me.] You’d make it too easy on yourself.

    No theologian would concede the point. These guys have been around for 2,000 years getting paid to play pointless games . . . I mean defending the faith. Let an old atheist role play one for you:

    ## Jesus admonished his followers against prayer as asking-for-stuff — “consider the lilies of the field”, or prayer as public performance — “they have their reward.”

    That ritualism too often substitutes for openness the Quakers made central to their practice of awaiting an “Inner Light” — the equality of all believers, without clergy or any hierarchy, to be open to a divine presence here and now.

    Getting rid of dead formalisms, prayer amounts to an alignment of a person’s intentions with “the will of God.”

    Just how one explicates the concept of “God’s will” and how one would know it are other matters altogether.

    But, we were concerned about the concept of prayer. And, I’ve given an answer to your question. ##

    — Prayer, basically, is just a red herring.

    The word ‘prayer’ simply gets redefined until the action it points to is rendered into attitude adjustment. This is the common answer — it’s your problem. Religion and psychology are together in blaming the one who seeks assistance. God can’t be the problem — you, dear Sir/Madam, are the problem. (It is you who need cognitive therapy.)

    Here’s the response to authority. A god whose existence could never be examined or tested conceptually would simply be a nothing.

    Which has been the correct answer all along.

    bipolar2
    c. 2007

  • 87. LeoPardus  |  December 7, 2007 at 12:50 am

    onthuhlist:

    It is presupposing that science is a more accurate yardstick for measuring truth than faith.

    Science is supposed to be objective. Faith is only subjective. Hence science can investigate matters. Faith cannot. Using something that is purely subjective as a measure for anything is simply useless.

    “The truth”, whatever that may be, is out there, and is objective, even if it is not discoverable. The truth about life, about prayer, about our existence, and whether or not our lives possess purpose, or whether our longing for purpose is meaningless in itself.

    And you said I’m presuppositional?? You just made a bald assertion with nothing to support it and you regard that as a fact?! The word “objective” doesn’t even belong in your sentences.

    The only way to completely ascertain an objective truth is by faith.

    The only way to completely ascertain an objective truth is by purely subjective means. Do the words “logical fallacy” mean anything to you?

    But science is always changing as we learn more. When we say that something is “scientifically proven”, we need to clarify which science we’re talking about. Are we talking about the science of 2007, the science of 2099, the science of 1700 (when flies spontaneously generated from meat) or the science of 1342 (when the earth was flat). Science changes.

    One of the favorite rallying cries of the scientifically illiterate. “Science changes… It’s unreliable…” And they love to say it over the internet, on a computer, in a modern building, with their car parked nearby, while listening to airplanes fly over…… In other words, you’re surrounded by proof that science does indeed get some things completely right.

    No lad. There are clear and unchanging facts in science. Aerodynamics, gravity, physical chemistry, optics, and so on. They were true in 1342 and will be true in 2099. We may learn more about them, but they will remain true.

    [Side note: No, it was not believed that the earth was flat in 1342. People could see it wasn’t. They could travel great distances and never see, let alone fall off, the edge. The curvature had been calculated many times by various means and people. In short, the people of 1342 weren’t dumb enough to believe the earth was flat. The people of the 20th century on the other hand were and are dumb enough to think people used to believe something so dumb. If you wonder where the historical revision came in, it crept in during the early to mid 1900’s.
    Try reading “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians” by Jeffrey Burton Russell, OR try reading the early church fathers, OR read some actual writings from the middle ages (like from the School at Chartes perhaps).
    Oh the stupidity that passes for historical education and acumen. You’d be appalled at how much else you think you know, that’s wrong.
    Oh and by the way.... I didn’t ascertain all that by faith.]

    If someone tells you something that is absolutely true, then the only way you’re going to know for sure that it’s truth and to walk in the way of that truth is by taking a leap of faith, and believing in it.

    Uh huh. So when a Hindu mystic tells me that truth will be found by sitting on a mountain for 3 years and staring at my navel, the only way to “know” is to waste 3 years on a mountain?

    The danger is that we will use one of our rubber rulers (science, our feelings, what we heard “the experts” say, what influential people in our lives have said, or even what seems to “neatly fit” into a worldview that appeals to us) to explain away the truth and adopt an untrue viewpoint.

    So you use what your pastor, friends, family, or yourself tells you and call that a golden ruler? And why? Because it fits into your worldview. And when something doesn’t appeal to your worldview, you call it rubber. Pfah!

    That being said, let’s examine prayer from the standpoint of scripture, not science.

    Use an old text that tells about a primitive people’s superstitions, is loaded with conflicting info and accounts, and portrays a vicious, capricious deity, and has produced many of the world’s wars, instead of using a systematic method that allows me to fly, drive, cure diseases, and disprove many specious claims?

    Uhmmmm….. No.

    A scientific study of prayer will only look at prayer’s effectiveness in getting what we ask for. But scripture has some things to say about the purpose of prayer:

    So we could use objective criteria to obtain clear results or we can use subjective criteria that let us make truth claims no matter what. Lovely.

  • 88. Rachel  |  December 7, 2007 at 1:37 am

    “The only way to completely ascertain an objective truth is by faith.”

    Hmm…I think that onthulist might sort of have a point here. If I may get a little philosophical here (heaven help me), I think that what he/she is trying to say is that we do science with the presupposition that we can know things about the universe. And the only way we can do that is to presuppose that the universe is real and our minds are telling us the truth. Is there an objective way to prove that you’re not being completely deluded when you assume that matter is real? Maybe if you have faith that your mind is oriented toward the truth…

  • 89. LeoPardus  |  December 7, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Rachel:

    For me, what you speak of in post 88 fits under the heading of, “it doesn’t really matter”.

    When I fold a piece of paper in certain ways, it flies. Happens every time. There are principles of aerodynamics that I understand to govern that flight. They never change.

    Overall the world keeps behaving according to the principles I’ve observed and learned. I don’t know anyone for whom that isn’t the case, and I seriously entertain no idea that it will ever cease to be the case for me or for all of us.

    So I’m free to explore things on such bases as ‘matter is real’, ‘physical laws are true’, ‘truths exist’, and so on.

    I know a lot of folks spend a lot of time musing over the sort of things you mention. Heck we see it a lot in this blog site. For my part it seems a waste of time. Maybe, someday, if we all start morphing into Picasso-ish figures and floating off the planet that suddenly looks like a flower, I’ll change that opinion.

  • 90. JM  |  December 7, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Prayer is hog wash. So is all that mumble jumble stuff behind it that claims the only way to prove it is by faith it’s self.

    Positive thinking, followed up by positive actions does change the world and peoples lives.

    There is a correlation between having a positive attitude and recovery from illness. There is no correlation between people praying for you and your ability to recover from illness.

    Some people think that when the sun rises god is smiling on them personally. Others understand that the earth is rotating and the sun is rising for every one on the same longitude, and thought the day the sun is continually rising some where.

    I am amazed at all the christen funnies arguing that you are delusional for not seeing the inviable truth, when in fact you can see clearly because you have opened your eyes and mind.

  • 91. Mark  |  December 11, 2007 at 12:17 am

    HIS, Leo, and anyone else reading my comments,

    It took me a lot longer to get back here than I wanted. I have been thinking about this thread, and after reading the comments here, there are more thoughts in my mind than I could possibly communicate. I wish I could.

    I’ll start with a basic statement that I hope no one finds offensive–nothing anyone has written here has surprised me or dissuaded me one inch from faith in a Sovereign God who controls all details, who answers His people’s prayers according to His perfect wisdom, and who has humbled Himself to become a “man of sorrows” for just these heartbreaking troubles. I minimize nobody’s struggle and sadness. My life has had both. Yet, I have seen so many examples of people in similarly troubling circumstances (loss of child, loss of spouse, violence upon their children, etc.) who have humbled themselves before their Maker and have said “Lord, you control these circumstances, not me. You know what you are doing, and I don’t see it, but I trust you.”

    This is different from praying for inner strength. It is also different from saying God *must* do this or that. It is not passive or fatalistic. It is simply, well, honest. It is repenting.

    Friends, could at least some of the problem be a lack of humility in your life? This is the most common thing. Yet, Scripture is crystal clear: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). This is the key. It could very well be that God is opposing some of us here because we are being proud towards Him.

    This is dangerous, and I really do not want anyone here to miss the grace available in humble prayer.

    A simple example. I saw how my own pride this weekend made it tough for my family to be around me. I was angry at the number of little difficulties I had to deal with around the house. Mundane circumstances, and a sinful, ungrateful response from me. With God’s help, I prayed and repented.

    And what did God do? He changed my heart so that I could obey Him and serve my family.

    I know God did it because I could not do it myself. Man, I was angry. I was that kind of angry that does not want to stop until it vents and breaks some stuff. Everyone here knows what I mean.

    I know God did it because of this reality: Christ lived a sinless yet undeniably authentic life, He endured my penalty for these very sins on the Cross, and He was resurrected to life forever. Now, I know these are all articles of faith, but they commend themselves as entirely true events that no one has ever invalidated in a satisfactory way to me. I cannot imagine another person devising God’s plan of salvation. It is too amazing and sublime to be rooted in frail human minds like ours.

    So, knowing what Christ did in history to forgive my sins of this weekend, and what the Holy Spirit does in my own heart, I can pray to the Father with certainty of being forgiven and restored to unbroken fellowship with Him. A real change of heart happened to me this weekend. Given my frequency of sin, this is a daily experience for me.

    I think the more dramatic prayers we ask God to answer–and sadly, sometimes demand that He answer–are often not answered because the physical life and death of people may not be as important to God as the spiritual life and death of people–that is, the character of our hearts before Him.

    Is this not reasonable, when one thinks in terms of eternity?

    Here is my heartfelt concern for anyone–including me–who questions God’s very existence because He does not answer prayer in a certain way: Should we not question ourselves first, to see if there be “any evil way in me”?

    I don’t doubt that many more good comments will follow what I have said. For the sake of keeping my contributions to these discussions manageable, I am going to invite you guys to another site, which I am creating with a friend. Both of us have really enjoyed this discussion, and we feel like it is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • 92. God is on US I-35 « de-conversion  |  December 11, 2007 at 1:30 am

    [...] 10, 2007 LeoPardus recently wrote about a prayer he prayed during his de-conversion journey where he asked the following of God “God, if [...]

  • 93. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 11, 2007 at 8:29 am

    [N]othing anyone has written here has surprised me or dissuaded me one inch from faith in a Sovereign God.

    Of course not. The way believers typically construct their notions of god, there is nothing they could think or experience that would contradict it. Such impregnability is considered a bad thing by skeptics.

    Friends, could at least some of the problem be a lack of humility in your life?

    No. That’s not the problem. And it’s quite arrogant and offensive of you to suggest it.

    I saw how my own pride this weekend made it tough for my family to be around me. I was angry at the number of little difficulties I had to deal with around the house. Mundane circumstances, and a sinful, ungrateful response from me. With God’s help, I prayed and repented.

    You needed a god’s help with this? Most people figure this stuff out on their own in the third grade.

    Is this not reasonable, when one thinks in terms of eternity?

    Neither you nor anyone else is truly capable of thinking in terms of eternity. It’s such a rarefied abstraction that we an approach it only indirectly.

    Here is my heartfelt concern for anyone–including me–who questions God’s very existence because He does not answer prayer in a certain way…

    This is a ridiculous trivialization and straw man of apostasy and deconversion. Nobody deconverts because God didn’t give them a pony. They’re tired of their religion’s endless guilt, unjustifiable sanctimony, outrageous arrogance, and, perhaps most importantly, the gross stupidity and egregious bullshit.

  • 94. LeoPardus  |  December 11, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Mark:

    Friends, could at least some of the problem be a lack of humility in your life?

    Ding, Ding! I always like to award a point to anyone who chooses from the list of “Reasons that explain de-converts”. You get one point!

    We really gotta find a handy place for that list. Like in a FAQ list. Or maybe we could make a FNR list. (Frequently needed responses.)

    A simple example. I saw how my own pride this weekend made it tough for my family to be around me. I was angry at the number of little difficulties I had to deal with around the house. Mundane circumstances, and a sinful, ungrateful response from me. With God’s help, I prayed and repented.
    And what did God do? He changed my heart so that I could obey Him and serve my family.

    Uh huh. Ya know, a lot of folks do that same thing without attributing it to an imaginary, invisible friend. They just realize, “Hey! I’m being a real rectal pore today. Time to get my act together.” Others might go hug their teddy bear. Whatever gets you through the holiday I guess.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something like, oh I dunno, maybe a spirit of holiness that could get into you and make you be a better person? Too bad there ain’t.

  • 95. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 11, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something like, oh I dunno, maybe a spirit of holiness that could get into you and make you be a better person? Too bad there ain’t.

    Wouldn’t it be even nicer if there were some sort of spirit of holiness that started off in you and make you a good person in the first place?

  • 96. kerrin  |  December 11, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Barefoot Bum, I’m interested in your prospective of human nature if you say:

    … some sort of spirit of holiness that started off in you and make you a good person in the first place

    Are you saying that we are not good to begin with? Or that we have the potential to be good only there is no natural force within us to go in that direction?

    Maybe I just missed the point and you are making a joke. If so I’d still love to know your answers to these questions.

  • 97. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 11, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Maybe I just missed the point and you are making a joke.

    I was indeed just making a joke. Under the Christian view of the world, where we cannot become “good persons” without the intercession of the Holy Spirit, it would seem more efficient to imbue a person with the Holy Spirit right from the get-go, so he or she does not have to be “redeemed”.

    I’ll answer your first question, though.

    Are you saying that we are not good to begin with?

    According to whose standards of goodness? It’s definitely the case that a lot of people do not behave in ways I personally find good. A lot of people seem to report difficulty behaving in ways they themselves find good, a situation I find counter-intuitive and difficult to understand: I personally have never have had any problems behaving in ways I myself consider good.

    I don’t understand your second question.

  • 98. kerrin  |  December 11, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Barefoot Bum, Thanks for the intelligent answer. No need to answer the other question; by answering the first you answered the other.

    I run the risk of offending the gods of post discussions here, whoever they may be, by continuing this conversation because I seem to have taken it way off course from the post title “Praying My Way to Losing Faith”. Your joke intrigued me and prompted questions as does your answer.

    I personally have never have had any problems behaving in ways I myself consider good.

    This also has been my experience. If goodness is relative to ones own considerations wouldn’t this excuse evil?
    (i.e. Hitler considered what he was doing good)

  • 99. Mark  |  December 12, 2007 at 1:30 am

    Barefoot Bum,

    Good to meet you. Not being impregnable here. Just saying that the perspectives and experiences I have read here seem to flow back to a few simple root beliefs–and all ultimately are faith positions. This is no closed-minded view. I don’t know that you would be open to walking through this, but you are placing a lot of faith in your own standard of goodness and in a belief there is no God who defines that standard. You cannot ultimately validate God does not exist, so you are as much a believer as me, no?

    In terms of my comment on lacking humility, not trying to be offensive, just realistic about all of us. If you take offense, might I ask why? Am I hitting the mark?

    Now, your concerns about the egregious B.S. of people in the church throughout history is legit–all people are filled with pride and lack holiness. Your various comments touch on this all too well. This is indeed the great stumbling block…

    Leo – disappointed in the negative turn in your tone, though I do believe I am getting clearer on your perspective, which is good. I hope we can get back to a substantive dialog?

    Gotta run for now, but happy to pick this up later if you guys still want to…

  • 100. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 12, 2007 at 6:50 am

    kerrin:

    If goodness is relative to ones own considerations wouldn’t this excuse evil? (i.e. Hitler considered what he was doing good)

    This is confused notion of subjectivism introduced by philosophers, who are as much invested in objective morality as theologians.

    Briefly, it is not the case that what one believes to be good establishes what is objectively good. It is the case, rather, that that there are only differing opinions about what people approve and disapprove of. See my series on Meta-ethical subjective relativism.

    Mark:
    Just saying that the perspectives and experiences I have read here seem to flow back to a few simple root beliefs–and all ultimately are faith positions.

    I suspect that you and I mean very different things by “faith position”. I mean “unfalsifiable statements about reality held as true.”

    [Y]ou are placing a lot of faith in your own standard of goodness and in a belief there is no God who defines that standard.

    I don’t need any faith to know what I approve and disapprove of; the knowledge is properly basic and available by introspection.

    You cannot ultimately validate God does not exist, so you are as much a believer as me, no?

    No. I cannot know with absolute certainty that any God exists. Indeed I cannot know anything with absolute certainty, at least not anything outside my own mind. Since absolute certainty is unavailable, it seems gratuitously perverse to define knowledge to require absolute certainty.

    The simplest conclusion on the available evidence compels me to believe that no god exists. Or, more precisely, any god which might exist compatible with the evidence is so utterly irrelevant that my any specific faith is entirely unimportant: If a god were to exist, it is taking such great pains to hide that a gracious person would disbelieve out of ordinary courtesy.

    In terms of my comment on lacking humility, not trying to be offensive, just realistic about all of us. If you take offense, might I ask why? Am I hitting the mark?

    It’s offensive because it erodes the assumption of mutual good faith. It is also in-principle ineffective: If a reader were not arrogant, it is mistaken; if a reader were arrogant, he would therefore not admit to a lack of humility.

    Now, your concerns about the egregious B.S. of people in the church throughout history is legit–all people are filled with pride and lack holiness. Your various comments touch on this all too well. This is indeed the great stumbling block…

    Indeed. Given that Christians posit that God has singled out the Church for promulgating His views, one might expect Him to exercise a substantially more control. After all, the behavior of people appears to be the only evidence the Christian God is willing to offer on His own behalf.

  • 101. Mark  |  December 13, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Barefoot Bum: Might you elaborate on what you mean by ““unfalsifiable statements about reality held as true”?

    Re: Your faith in what you approve/disapprove of…I am not saying you need faith to know what your standard is. I am saying you need faith to say that your subjective preferences are the ultimate standard by which your life will be judged. This is a blog about de-conversion, the movement away from faith in God. It takes great faith to be able to say that one’s Maker is not real. No small risk.

    I am sure you have your counter-claims, but as I said before, all those claims boil down to a faith position. If I could show you this in a clear way, do you think it would make a difference for you?

    Per my original point (and your astute observation is well taken about the ineffectiveness of arguing against arrogance), this would take genuine humility and faith (not in me as your guide, but that God would work in the process). That is the path to discovering whether God indeed is real. He is on record as saying He responds to the humble. If you or I or anyone want to see Him move, we must humbly acknowledge that He is God. Then we can see.

    For this reason, Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

  • 102. Mark  |  December 13, 2007 at 1:03 am

    LeoPardus,

    You mentioned “a lot of folks do that same thing [change their attitude] without attributing it to an imaginary, invisible friend.”

    I agree that it is possible and common to change one’s attitude in some way without any help from an “invisible friend.” I should have been clearer. The change of disposition this weekend was to go from a man who fundamentally was demanding that God change my circumstances to a man who acknowledged that God was good in giving me those circumstances, so I could see what kind of rectal pore I was being. The relational aspect of this is key. It was not just acknowledging I was wrong, but that I had offended God, who has given me so many good things, none of which I deserve. Yes, I did act to change my attitude, but that relational restoration and new desires to please God did not come from myself.

    The bottom line is that the gospel is as much for the Christian as the non-Christian, and even for the de-convert. When I look at the many struggles that we all face, including the genuine tragedies that we pray for God to change–I find that the root problem is sin, not God. Yes, God gives man a choice to sin or not, but He is not at fault for that. We are for rejecting what is truly best for us and instead choosing the emptiness of sin. Sin is rejecting God, plain and simple. As one of your pages here clearly reflects, the Biblical remedy is the penal substitution of Christ. He bore my blame and received my penalty on the Cross. It is that simple for me. I need forgiveness daily, not just at the start of my Christian life.

    And for anyone reading this, anywhere on the path of de-conversion, it is the same gospel of repentance and faith in Christ that will restore your relationship to God. Again, it takes humility. But when one receives what God offers in Christ, one will have eyes to see God answer prayer, change hearts, and even change circumstances.

    So, in a roundabout way I have come to my original reply to this post. I do believe I have an accurate view of your perspective, though of course I don’t fully get it. My simple reply is this: God will heal people change circumstances when that is the wisest choice. But God is eternal. To see from His perspective, as He invites us to do in humble faith, we must have eternity in view (not that anyone can see it all, as Barefoot Bum stated). From that standpoint, we can look to the day when God promises to wipe away every tear and restore all the sin has broken. Think about that for a moment. Every tear. All that sin has broken. What would compel anyone to reject that promise? That redemptive process is going on now, and our prayers are a major part of that. I don’t want to see you, Leo, or anyone here miss that. That’s the big story going on right now in history…by faith we can be part of it.

    Eager to continue the dialog…

  • 103. LeoPardus  |  December 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Mark:

    But when one receives what God offers in Christ, one will have eyes to see God answer prayer, change hearts, and even change circumstances.

    If God answers prayer, changes hearts, and so on, I should be able to see it regardless of what I’ve “received”. Read the Bible. Did folks “receive” first then see miracles? Most of the time it’s the other way around.

    God will heal people change circumstances when that is the wisest choice.

    A circular and unanswerable cop out. If God answers prayer, you can say, “See?!” If not, you can say, “It’s for the best.”

    What would compel anyone to reject that promise?

    Maybe:
    -Belief that it’s just words in an old book that isn’t all together reliable.
    -Belief that it’s just not true.
    -Failure of other “promises”.
    Maybe others will expand this list.

    That redemptive process is going on now, and our prayers are a major part of that.

    This statement, and most of what you’ve posted, points back to the fact that your reasoning is all presuppositional, and hence circular. Your system of belief and reasoning only works by assuming your correct to start with. That is NOT an honest way to think.

    Mind you, setting those presuppositions aside is horrifying. You feel naked, unprotected. And frankly you have no motivation to do it. Why set aside something that gives comfort, assurance, hope of eternal life?

    The only reason I can give for doing that is to find out what it true and false. If that comfort, assurance, and hope are just delusions, I don’t want them. BUT most folks do want them, and aren’t willing to risk them. Not even for truth.

  • 104. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 13, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Mark:

    Might you elaborate on what you mean by ““unfalsifiable statements about reality held as true”?

    An unfalsifiable statement is a statement that implies both the facts in evidence as well as the inverse of the facts in evidence: A -> (B or ~B) (e.g. if God exists, then either I will win the lottery or I will not win the lottery). Neither the observation B nor the observation ~B would allow us to conclude that A was false. And we of course cannot conclude that A -> (B or ~B) is false because it’s a tautology. In essence, to say that A -> (B or ~B) is to simply state a theorem of logic, it does not state any fact about the world. We have not said anything about A or B. It is equally “true” that if height is yellow then either electrons are happy or electrons are not happy.

    A falsifiable statement, however, implies only one case: A -> B. In this case, the observation of ~B would allow us to conclude either that A is false or that A -> B is false.

    It’s well-understood that observing B does not logically entail that A is true and/or that A->B is true. This is uncomfortable with philosophers and theologians insistent on strict deductivism, but the problems of axiomatic foundationalism require that we sacrifice deductive certainty if we want to say anything meaningful about reality. Read Popper, or see my series on The Scientific Method for a more complete exposition.

    I am saying you need faith to say that your subjective preferences are the ultimate standard by which your life will be judged.

    Indeed. Happily, I don’t believe that my subjective standards are the ultimate standards by which my life will be judged by anyone other than myself. If you are referring to the deconversion wager (which I had no hand in) one could say in the subjunctive mood — used for hypotheticals and counterfactuals — that if I were to have faith in a god, I might as well ascribe my own subjective standards to it as anyone else’s.

    It takes great faith to be able to say that one’s Maker is not real. No small risk.

    It does not, however, take any faith at all or entail any risk at all to say that other people’s notions of some mythological “maker” do not refer to reality. If some hypothetical maker were to exist, and considered my belief in it to be in any way important, it’s nonsensical to believe it would choose to act through the agency of individuals’ unprovable, unfalsifiable opinions, especially when those opinions exhibit exactly the characteristics we would expect from individuals inventing fictions for their own benefit.

    [A]ll those [counter-]claims boil down to a faith position. If I could show you this in a clear way, do you think it would make a difference for you?

    But of course. Keep in mind that making this issue clear would be a good first step; the second step would be proving it. If I’ll believe Quantum Mechanics, I’ll believe anything, so long, of course, as it can be proven, at least in the scientific sense.

    However, I’ve been discussing these issues for a long time, and I’m familiar with the standard tactics: equivocation of “faith”, misunderstanding of the scientific method and phenomenalism, and the observation that if I were indeed required to have “faith” in some sense, I might as well have faith in my own reason and perceptions rather than ludicrous superstitions and violent characters from ancient mythology.

    hat is the path to discovering whether God indeed is real.

    Apparently, the path to discovering whether God is real begins with assuming he is real. Circular logic, anyone?

    He is on record as saying He responds to the humble.

    You seem have a curious notion as to what constitutes “on record”. The statements of a character in a work of fiction do not usually qualify as constituting a “record”.

  • 105. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 13, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Oops… Forgot to close the bold tag. Sorry :(

  • 106. karen  |  December 13, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    The bottom line is that the gospel is as much for the Christian as the non-Christian, and even for the de-convert. When I look at the many struggles that we all face, including the genuine tragedies that we pray for God to change–I find that the root problem is sin, not God. Yes, God gives man a choice to sin or not, but He is not at fault for that. We are for rejecting what is truly best for us and instead choosing the emptiness of sin. Sin is rejecting God, plain and simple. As one of your pages here clearly reflects, the Biblical remedy is the penal substitution of Christ. He bore my blame and received my penalty on the Cross. It is that simple for me. I need forgiveness daily, not just at the start of my Christian life.

    Mark, thanks for your friendly tone and your sincerity.

    What I think you’re not “getting” here is that all of us used to be Christians – many of us not so long ago. That means we understand the whole concept of sin, and redemption, and forgiveness and so on. There’s no need to preach here – in fact, it tends to annoy some of us because we’ve heard it ad nauseum our whole lives. ;-)

    When you refer to things like sin and atonement and assuming that god is real so we can “see” the truth of his reality, please understand that your arguments carry very little weight with people who are interested primarily in objective evidence.

    Once you don’t believe in god, you pretty much don’t believe in sin, or the need for redemption. And suggesting that we should believe in order to believe is a) impossible, unless you think belief is something one can force oneself to do and b) circular logic (as BB has pointed out) and very poor practice for anyone truly interested in finding the best answer to any question.

  • 107. DAve  |  December 19, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    THANKYOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS, HERE IS YOUR SIGN

    I AM GOD!!!

    how do i know i am god?

    cause whenever i pray i find that im talking to myself

    boom boom

    atheism ftw

  • 108. Sharer  |  December 24, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    You guys are arrogant and condescending, and argumentative, especially in your comments and attitudes toward Mark. Karen says that many of you were Christians and don’t appreciate the preaching. But you expect us to be tolerant to your preaching. Simply because you were born into a church going family makes neither they nor you Christian. And simply because Constantine’s Church appropriated the name of Christ doesn’t make it Christian either. Mark said that the essence of this dialogue is spiritual. It comes down to faith which may or may not be tangible. True Christians are few and far between. They aren’t represented by the atrocities of the Catholic Church and certainly aren’t represented by the majority of Christendom.

    The problem with your entire premise is “de-conversion.” There is no such thing. Each of you is familiar with the scriptures and each of you know the story of the sower in Matthew 13—good soil, bad soil. You also know 1 John, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out , that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
    .” Conversion is a one way journey. Once your heart comes to faith, and the Spirit comes to indwell, the work is on God’s shoulders, Anthony Perkins observed that “those who have true faith can lose that faith neither totally onr finally.” God promises in Jeremiah, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do then good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will NOT turn away from me.” Obviously, especially the glib among you, have never know Christ.

    Isn’t it absolutely interesting that something you don’t believe in occupies so much of your time and your conscious thought? You just can’t simply not believe and let it go.

    The reason is because God has called everyone, and the Lamb of God, the Christ, has taken away all our sins. The only thing that separates us from the Creator is no faith. There are no true atheists. Sure, some of us are angry with God. Others are confused and perplexed. Yet truth gnaws at our souls because the knowledge of God is woven right into our fabric, although some of us try hard to deny it. The undeniable evidence of God is all around us in the creation itself. Because of this, “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Rom 1:18-25 HCSB

    His sheep know His voice and they follow Him. To everyone else, this all sounds as foolishness. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor 2:14. Yet you search because everyone is called

    God is holy and just; man is sinful. You already know that—we lie (even little white ones), we steel (even if it is just little insignificant things), we lust (for wealth, sex, power), &c. Our faithlessness separates us from Him who can save us. Legally speaking, eternity is no different from life here on earth. If we break the law we are held accountable. Justice demands that the price be paid. It wouldn’t be fair if some are punished and others let free. That would be favoritism. God is the Rock of Ages. He has no shadow of turning. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can depend on Him to be consistent, not varying. The good news is that in eternity we have a advocate who has already paid our price. Jesus Christ has purchased us and has taken away the sins of the world. Now all He wants to do is give us a free gift, eternal life. All He asks is for us to put our trust in Him as our resurrected Savior. The only sin He cannot take away is unbelief. Each of us need to come to God on our own, crying Abba, Father.

    If truth is what you are honestly seeking, give God a chance. It is simple and you have absolutely nothing to loose but a few moments of time. With an honest, inquiring heart, simply ask, “God if you are real and Christ truly exist, I assume that You can make it known to me. So then, I ask You to reveal Yourself to me. And if You do, I will believe and trust and follow You for the rest of my life.”

    If you do this in faith, your whole life will change. If not, then you have lost nothing but a few moment of time. However, some of you seen to simply be evil and desire to drag the weak minded into eternal judgment.

  • 109. bry0000000  |  December 25, 2007 at 12:44 am

    “You guys are arrogant and condescending, and argumentative, especially in your comments and attitudes toward Mark.”

    I am really sorry you find us coming off as condescending. I know that I personally struggle against being too militant against Christianity, and I’m sure others do too. As far as being argumentative, well, that’s kind of the premise of the site… that, and being a de-con resource.

    “Isn’t it absolutely interesting that something you don’t believe in occupies so much of your time and your conscious thought? You just can’t simply not believe and let it go.”

    It is. I am completely fascinated with the thought process of the Christian, especially my old thought process, even though I know that in the end, it’s irrelevant, because God doesn’t exist. Just because I dwell for hours and hours on Star Wars or Harry Potter or something of that sort doesn’t mean it exists.

    As far as there being no such thing as de-Conversion, I guess the same thing can be said about Omnipresence. There is no such thing as Omnipresence because God does not exist, and I have a ton of areligious (word?) literature to back it up, just as you have a lot of religious literature to justify your non-belief in de-conversion. But here in lies the problem: just as you’ll discredit my sources for not being divinely inspired, I’ll discredit yours for having no outside justification outside of itself.

    I feel as though I have to keep my argument short, unfortunately, as you claim to already know us all (you don’t, sorry). You think that we KNOW that there is a God and we just choose not to believe in him. This is absolutely not the case! Some of us WANT to believe because our lives were much easier/we had some sense of absolutism/whatever. We just can’t stomach lying to ourselves anymore. But again, that’s pointless of me to say as you think you’ve already figured us out. I strongly encourage you to not write us off as irrational beings who blatantly deny truth. Read around the site some. Understand where we’re coming from. A lot of us have our personal de-conversion stories posted on the de-conversion.org site.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by! :)

  • 110. LeoPardus  |  December 25, 2007 at 2:29 am

    Karen says that many of you were Christians and don’t appreciate the preaching. But you expect us to be tolerant to your preaching.

    Uhm. Dude. You came onto this site voluntarily. Probably following a search, or some such. You could see at the top of the site what we’re about. So we might not be too out to lunch if we expected you to be tolerant of our preaching here. If you don’t like it, no one is making you stay.

    Simply because you were born into a church going family makes neither they nor you Christian.

    Thanks for that revelation, and here we all thought……………

    I’m glad you’re not “arrogant and condescending, and argumentative” like us. But then those aren’t the hallmarks of a true Christian, of which you are one of the rare representatives.

  • 111. ClockCat  |  December 25, 2007 at 4:37 am

    Why do you people keep saying the “de-convert”

    I’ve never heard of that term before, but it seems to have a negative implication in the way it’s being used.

    I was formerly christian, and grew out of it once I had too many questions that were not being answered. First there was reasonable doubt, and then as that doubt grew and story behind god, likelihood of existance of god, and the “bible” (our religion’s holy scripture. Ha!) was horrifying me with many of the things “god” wanted, then I finally decided to give up.

    Being afraid of a place called “Hell” is something that kept me holding on for longer than I needed probably, but that was it’s purpose in the first place. To hold on.

    Logically, it is safe to assume that these later religions (the Abraham-ic ones) were made to control people as a supernatural-enforced form of government. When some of the “laws” no longer apply to your situation, conveniently ignore them.

    That’s what evidence in history shows, anyway. That’s why the Catholic Church got so pissy about their holy text being distributed. But afterwards people still don’t understand what they read, so they subscribe to a church where someone tells them what is important, and what to believe.

  • 112. ClockCat  |  December 25, 2007 at 4:43 am

    So I read down farther, to the recent post from “a true christian”

    Well, I’m glad that you know better than everyone else.

    Please, direct me in my life’s goals. Tell me what to do so I don’t have to figure it out for myself.

    Believe in a God? okay. Follow only the scripture you want me to? Okay. Ignore other parts that you don’t think are right? check.

    Hypocricy. “Faith” is simply saying don’t think. It’s the same thing that all fascist governments in the world have promoted, because it’s hard to lead people if they think for themselves.

    It’s a difference from herding sheep, to herding cats.

  • 113. Sharer  |  December 25, 2007 at 9:45 am

    To: bry0000000

    You are absolutely correct!
    The discussion is about two opposing worldviews and there is no middle ground.
    Although Christianity is about belief and belief alone, I too have innumerable sources to support my side. I guess the answers will be found in the end. Either my side will be in the Kingdom and your side not or neither of us will be anywhere. I do prefer my possibilities better. Cause if you are right, then there is no point to life, no absolutes. Just look at the chaos in schools and the epidemic in teen depression, suicides and murders and the collapse of social order since God has been removed from the public forum. If this is what de-conversion offers, is it worth the pursuit?

    ClockCat
    Wrong! And that was my point about Christendom. The bible isn’t a smorgasbord. It is the same story from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. You accept it all or none of it. And the Churches have hade a mess of it. How can there be over 3500 christian denominations if they are following the scriptures? I try to live by the bible and let God worry about helping me to grow. Otherwise, I would be as cynical as you—maybe I am.
    Still, without God, then what is there? Chaos, greed, self.

  • 114. Sharer  |  December 25, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Oops! Sorry, I did mean ClockRat.
    And, how obviously silly of me–
    Merry Christmas to all!

    It did strike me funny that when I was in Japan a few years back that there were Christmas decorations everywhere.

  • 115. bry0000000  |  December 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    ClockCat said:

    “It is the same story from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21″

    This is actually a case where the Bible can be used to contradict you. Examples include God’s mysterious and gradual disappearance as well as the stark schism between the teachings of Christ and the Teachings of Paul. But don’t take my word for it. Check out The Myth of Bible-based values and Does God Love Everybody for starters.

  • 116. ClockCat  |  December 26, 2007 at 10:18 am

    You people make me laugh. :D

    Without God?

    Atheists and Agnostics seem to have been doing quite fine. There seems to be a lack of “mass chaos” when people realize that it’s all self-control anyway.

    Greed? Greed seems to be mostly tied to those who claim the most religion. Most Atheists and Agnostics are the biggest humanitarians I’ve ever met.

    All of the most selfless people I’ve met were without religion. They care about people, and the future of people.

    But, since they are without a God to dictate to them how to live, clearly they must be without morals.

  • 117. LeoPardus  |  December 26, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    ClockCat:

    Why do you people keep saying the “de-convert”

    People commonly speak of converting to a faith. Most of us, at some time, converted to Christianity. Later, most of us left Christianity and now deny most of its central doctrines. Hence we have de-converted. It is a coined term, hence why you have not heard of it before.

    Greed seems to be mostly tied to those who claim the most religion.

    I’d dare to contend that greed is quite evenly distributed amongst all people, without regard to race, class, religion, etc. Of course your assertion and mine are equally difficult to validate.

    Most Atheists and Agnostics are the biggest humanitarians I’ve ever met.

    What are you trying to say here? How do you quantify humanitarianism? By most do you mean >50%? How many atheists/agnostics vs. religious have you met?

    All of the most selfless people I’ve met were without religion.

    This is what is called selection bias, or attribution error. You’d have to spend roughly equal amounts of time, and associate with roughly equal numbers of people from a wide cross section of both religious and non-religious to give this statement any meaning.

    Actually surveys have been done to try see who gives to charities, goes to the third world, etc. Rather than consult your own, very limited experience, you could look into such studies.

  • 118. One Tin Soldier  |  March 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Dear ClockCat,

    I gotta say that your position on this matter is kinda off-base. It strikes me as ironic when you use self-control as an explanation to religion, as it is said in the bible that god gave us free will and self-control and can not take either from us. It is quite interesting that you claim atheism indirectly (you may have claimed it directly earlier, but i have not read all of your posts yet) and yet you are defending your BELIEFS about religion. As i understand it, aren’t atheists not supposed have any religious beliefs? Isn’t that why they are atheists? And yet you seem to be trying to defend atheistic religious beliefs. See any problems with this picture? I sure do. Next, you seem to be confused about selfless people. I will not deny that some, if not many, of these people are atheists, but the reason for there denial of religion is not that they are selfless, it is that many of these selfless individuals have seen so much suffering that they no longer see how God could exist and how He/She could allow that suffering to exist. Now you are probably thinking that the suffering of others is proof of God’s nonexistence, but you’re wrong. God allows suffering to exist, not as punishment, but a way to acheive a greater love of life. And God does not miraculously end someone’s suffering, because that person will think that God will give them whatever they ask for because God did it once and God must have to do it again. In holding the belief that God will give them anything, that person will no longer try to help him/herself and will no longer try to help others directly because he/she will think that God hasn’t ended the other person’s suffering because God must not like the other person. You see, if God were to end someone’s suffering all that would come from it would be that person to give up on being productive or kind. Finally, no one said that atheists are without morals, the problem is that their morals are probably based on the morals they learned from their former religion and if their old reigion didn’t teach them morality, who do you suggest teach morality. The government? The media? Or perhaps you think that being politically correct is a good substitute for morality.

  • 119. LeoPardus  |  March 13, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    One Tin Soldier:

    as it is said in the bible that god gave us free will and self-control and can not take either from us

    Where the heck does it say that????? I’ve read the Bible several times and don’t recall ever seeing it.

    As i understand it, aren’t atheists not supposed have any religious beliefs? Isn’t that why they are atheists? And yet you seem to be trying to defend atheistic religious beliefs.

    Atheists believe there’s no god(s). They may still be religious though. Buddhism and Taoism are both classified as religions but they don’t have any deity in them.

    God allows suffering to exist, not as punishment, but a way to acheive a greater love of life. And God does not miraculously end someone’s suffering, because that person will think that God will give them whatever they ask for because God did it once and God must have to do it again. In holding the belief that God will give them anything, that person will no longer try to help him/herself and will no longer try to help others directly because he/she will think that God hasn’t ended the other person’s suffering because God must not like the other person. You see, if God were to end someone’s suffering all that would come from it would be that person to give up on being productive or kind.

    Hogwash. But I’m sure you find it a very comforting answer. It conveniently explains a do-nothing deity. There’s a post around here called “The call for miracles”. I dealt with this silliness there. Give it a read.

    Finally, no one said that atheists are without morals

    Lots of people say that. Just listen around.

  • 120. Prayer: Why do it Anyway? « de-conversion  |  May 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    [...] May 11, 2008 The subject of prayer has been widely contested over the years. We’ve discussed this topic on several occasions including Simen’s What’s the Point with Prayer?, MysteryOfIniquity’s Prayer: Communion with yourself, and LeoPardus’ Praying my way to losing faith. [...]

  • 121. From Fundy to Orthodox to Apostate « de-conversion  |  July 18, 2008 at 12:28 am

    [...] through 25 years of praying. Not just my praying, but others’ praying too. And I realized that no prayer had ever been answered, in a clear, unmistakable way, so far as I was [...]

  • 122. acryphaea  |  September 1, 2009 at 3:06 am

    how can you say there is “no” God if there is? you experienced happiness because of sorrow, of pain because of contentment, or of health because of sickness. check your question again to yourself… are you asking ” is there a God” or ” is there no God”? maybe you’re just confused… ask yourself if you are asking God’s existence or God’s absence…

  • 123. LeoPardus  |  September 1, 2009 at 10:33 am

    acryphaea :

    Ask yourself how anyone is supposed to respond to anything you say if you write such incomprehensible gobbledygook. Sheesh! Have you even heard of punctuation, syntax, and other elements of writing? They are designed to clarify and enhance communication. You need to master them and then try posting again.

  • 124. paleale  |  September 2, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    well, if I wasn’t confused before I sure am now, thanks to that post.

  • 125. acryphaea  |  December 10, 2009 at 4:30 am

    leopardus:

    now i know the reason you your faith is so hollow… you’re so busy checking on someone’s message but not understanding the essence of it… you’re such a very literal person… yes, i’m not good in writing but i know what i want to say, what my belief is, what is my purpose… very human… very blind… i pity you… you’re an intelligent person but you learned nothing…

  • 126. acryphaea  |  December 10, 2009 at 4:37 am

    leopardus:

    and you know these punctuation, syntax, and other elements of writing that designed to clarify and enhance communication… then why you cannot understand a simple word called “faith”?
    if you can’t understand a simple thing, how can you understand great things? and how can you understand mystery? submit yourself to GOD.. He knows you more than you know yourself…

  • 127. Teleprompter  |  December 10, 2009 at 5:43 am

    acryphaea,

    Understand mystery? I thought mystery was not supposed to be understood?

    I watch this universe containing billions of galaxies and I wonder how saying that there’s not only a god, but a specific humanoid god out there, is either simple or mysterious?

  • 128. Joshua  |  December 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    submit yourself to GOD.. He knows you more than you know yourself…

    Apparently acryphaea knows LeoPardus more than Leopardus knows himself. Are acryphaea and acryphaea’s God the same thing?

  • 129. Blue  |  December 10, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Aren’t most people’s gods an extension of themselves, Joshua? I ran across a great acronym for this, SPAG. Self Projection As God. Sums up practically every religious persons view of god that I’ve ever seen. It was definitely a huge part of my view when I was a theist.

  • 130. LeoPardus  |  December 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

    acryphaea:

    My faith isn’t hollow; it’s non-existent. Just like your deity.

  • 131. Joshua  |  December 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Blue, that was exactly my point.

    Theists who think they are right with God project their judgment as God’s.

    After all, if you are right with God, how can you possibly be wrong?

    You want to listen to something freaky? Go watch Kent Hovind’s talks from jail on YouTube. The poor lout is so absolutely convinced he is innocent that he thinks everyone else is after him… and the way he talks to his family is so arrogant that he has got to be one of the most difficult people to interact with. I’m sure he is a nice guy, but… Jesus Christ he thinks he is basically one of God’s lone spokemen.

  • 132. Blue  |  December 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Oh I was agreeing with you, Joshua. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    About Hovind I met the man when I was a young lad at a Christian school and the narcissism was just palpable. You should check out his doctoral thesis for a laugh. I’m a staunch supporter of evolution and I could write up a better support of creationism.

  • 133. 4riozs  |  December 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Leopardus,
    I enjoyed your post. Where can I find information regarding the effectiveness of prayer? I like your form of looking at “truth”. It’s strange how some people will hold on to tradition out of fear or religions sake.

  • 134. LeoPardus  |  December 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    4riozs:

    Go to PubMed (just search it) and search for papers on prayer efficacy. There are dozens to hundreds. Here’s one link of a fairly extensive review article:.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19370557?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=17

  • 135. Joe  |  December 11, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Scrutinizing data to come up with a result that prayer has no effect I find to be a real hoot.

    It reminds me of this guy in Texas who heard a Pastor say that if you gave sincerely to God that you would be richly rewarded. He put $7000.00 in the collection tray. About 6 months later he sued the church and Pastor because he saw no “results”. I laughed my %^%%$ off when I heard that one,

    Unfortunately, anyone can sift through “data” and come up with results more in their own favor. Happens all the time. But we might as well do a “birthday wish/blowing out the candles” lab experiment also and see how many wishes come true while were at it. :)

  • 136. BigHouse  |  December 11, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Joe, what in your superior wisdom would be a better mechanism for judging the efficacy of prayer?

  • 137. LeoPardus  |  December 11, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Joe:

    The studies are not sifting data looking for results in someone’s favor. Studies have been done in many ways. Many well designed and controlled. The researchers have been believers, atheists, agnostics, christians, new agers, etc.

    Studies have been done with groups being prayed for or not; knowing they are prayed for or not; believing in prayer or not; and so on.

    And yes, it would be very easy to do a “birthday wish/blowing out the candles” lab experiment’ in a similar fashion. In fact the results would be the same too. Well actually they might be better, since blowing out candles is timed with an event guaranteed to bring you something.

  • 138. Joe  |  December 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    BigHouse— (#136)

    Not claiming any “superior wisdom” :) I just think prayer is not really something one can judge through experiments. It would be like telling a group of 30 people “think positively about everything for a period of 7 days” and then judging positive thinking based on the experiment.

    There are some who SWEAR that positive thinking has effected their lives in a massive way—-as there are those who claim prayer was answered. One main problem is that prayer oftentimes is not immediately answered. Many things I have prayed for may see fruition some time later–in fact, there have been times when I say “my prayer did get answered, just not in the time-frame or method I would have chosen.

    So I don’t take “experiments” with prayer very seriously.

  • 139. Joe  |  December 14, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Leo (#137)–

    Understood. There is just something about “controlled tests” regarding prayer which I find quite funny. It is as though those doing the tests think they can control God and how he answers prayers. As though prayer can be put into a “formula” which should be guaranteed by those doing the test. And when the criteria for THEIR experiment is not met, they conclude prayer is not effective. I just find it laughable. Just my opinion though I know. :)

  • 140. BigHouse  |  December 14, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Joe, so long as you understand that your position on prayer as stated above gets us absolutely nowhere closer to knowing whether prayer works and thusly, that it can be used as evidence that god exists, you have no quarrel with me.

    Frankly, your “skepticsm” on the scientific method of evaluating whether prayer works or not is not surprising and reveals a little bit about how you think.

  • 141. Joe  |  December 14, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    BigHouse— (#140)

    Fair enough. By the way there were numerous tests done in a closed, laboratory environment on the subject of what makes women tick—figuring out their emotions and thoughts, and trying to figure a method of probability for their reactions to certain male behavior. After several controlled tests they came to this conclusion:

    Women: can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.

    Those finding are actually quite remarkable. :)

  • 142. LeoPardus  |  December 14, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    It would be like telling a group of 30 people “think positively about everything for a period of 7 days” and then judging positive thinking based on the experiment.

    That is a valid way of testing positive thinking, and has in fact been done.

    There are some who SWEAR that positive thinking has effected their lives in a massive way—-as there are those who claim prayer was answered.

    There are some who swear that drinking some sugar water cured their gout/arthritis/halitosis/etc. So what? Subjective or anecdotal claims need to be tested objectively, otherwise you have no reason not to believe in every shaman who chants your direction.

    One main problem is that prayer oftentimes is not immediately answered. Many things I have prayed for may see fruition some time later–in fact, there have been times when I say “my prayer did get answered, just not in the time-frame or method I would have chosen.

    The prayer studies are always done with things that require a definite time frame: like surgery recovery time, or preserving life. That way you don’t have the indefinite frame problem.

    There is just something about “controlled tests” regarding prayer which I find quite funny. It is as though those doing the tests think they can control God and how he answers prayers. As though prayer can be put into a “formula” which should be guaranteed by those doing the test. And when the criteria for THEIR experiment is not met, they conclude prayer is not effective.

    The researchers are coming to a situation in which others have set the criteria. Believers are making the claims of efficacy. The researchers are simply putting together groups of people so they can observe to see if the claims are true.
    So who is saying they can control God? Not the scientists. They’re just looking for an effect. It’s the believers who are making the claim.

    So I don’t take “experiments” with prayer very seriously.

    I will contend that you don’t take prayer or belief seriously. Can you see the apostle Paul, or Peter making such namby-pamby excuses for such a totally ineffective deity? Read the book. Those guys would walk into a clinic doing a prayer study and instantly heal everybody in both study groups. How do you think the researchers would react to that? I for one would love to see the paper in PNAS. Bet it would get early, online publication.

  • 143. Joe  |  December 14, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Leo (#142)–

    Well said. I realize I have allowed aI high degree of subjectivity into the posts I made regarding this issue. The only thing I would mention concerning Paul though is he does say in one of the books (I believe it is Galatians) that his prayers WERE NOT answered concerning some ailment he had. Many think it was an eye problem.

    He says that it was “allowed” to teach him humility. So, even the “great ones” had times where they saw unanswered prayers and were frustrated. It was only afterwards that Paul says he learned a lesson from the unanswered prayer. I just wanted to add that because I think it is important to consider.

  • 144. Joe  |  December 14, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I looked it up and it is 2 Corinthians 12. But Galatians mentions the malady as he says “You would have given me your very eyes if you could have”,

    What is important to note is that Paul THOUGHT his prayers should and would be answered which he explains in 2 Corinthians 12. He says he asked “three times”. Many say this does not refer to only 3 prayers, but (3) time periods when he prayed and prayed his “problem” would go away, and it didn’t.

    This shows that there is no “formula” in prayer. Yes—it says “if you ask anything in my name”—but it also has to be “according to his will”. Paul was not healed and says that it was not answered so he would learn humility.

    I will be quiet now—-I just wanted to mention this because I feel it is important to consider in a discussion on prayer. Paul himself states that prayer is not “automatic”. Just wanted to point this out.

  • 145. Ubi Dubium  |  December 15, 2009 at 8:02 am

    This shows that there is no “formula” in prayer. Yes—it says “if you ask anything in my name”—but it also has to be “according to his will”. Paul was not healed and says that it was not answered so he would learn humility.

    So all that stuff about how if you ask Jesus for something, and he said he would do it, is actually “he’ll do it if he feels like it”. You can get the same result by praying to a jug of milk. It sounds like Paul was doing the same thing believers find themselves doing today. He fervently believed prayer would work, and then when it didn’t he had to come up with a rationalization for why. So he uses the lame “it was a test” or “god wanted to teach me something” or maybe the classic cop-out of “god workes in mysterious ways”. Out of all the tall tales and legends that wound up being confabulated into the bible, at least that part sounds like a real human experience. Even the founder of your religion had to deal with the problem that prayer does not work in any consistent way.

  • 146. LeoPardus  |  December 15, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Joe:

    I know the passage. Paul did get an answer. It’s not clear if it was definitely an out loud spoken one or what, but he did get an answer. Look, if someone prayed, “God, heal my lumbago.” and then heard a booming voice say, “No, I won’t and here’s why.” that would be a whole lot better than the absolute nothing that we all get.

  • 147. slrman  |  June 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Saying you are religious is stating unequivocally that you are willfully ignorant, stubbornly stupid, and have rejected facts and rational thinking in your life. Instead, you have chosen to accept as true things for which there is no supporting evidence and even much evidence against them.

    How sad. A mind is a terrible thng to waste.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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