Pharyngula

So that’s why they do it…

Comments

  1. #1 Holbach
    April 16, 2008

    There is the picture of absolute insanity without doing anything. Can any illustration portray it definitively?

  2. #2 MME
    April 16, 2008

    Seriously. “I’ll pray for you!” What, you think I can’t pray for myself if I wanted to? Or does your god think your prayers are more important than mine?

    I’ll do a little rain dance, and if it rains eventually that will mean that god liked it.

  3. #3 Sioux Laris
    April 16, 2008

    I pray, if reciting sutras and doing occasional spells counts as praying. Heck, I even have tarot cards and an I Ching book, and occasionally consult them! I just don’t pretend they are anything but traditional mental (ha! a funny!) reflectors that stimulate a particular sort of lateral thinking and creativity.

    Please, please note that I understand it has not the slightest effect upon others in any way (otherise I’d have voodoo dolls of Bush and Rice, like in some episode of “Hammer House of Horrors”), save through my own real-world actions and interactions.

    So, do I still get to be an atheist? What level? Is there a secret decoder ring?

  4. #4 ferfuracious
    April 16, 2008

    “Is there a secret decoder ring?”

    Cliches are more effective at making their users look silly than their targets.

  5. #5 Ray S.
    April 16, 2008

    Is that Jesus i see in that guys bald spot? Or maybe an angel with a halo? I know it can’t be a turban, can it?

  6. #6 Sioux Laris
    April 16, 2008

    Then, mission accomplished!

  7. #7 Ted D
    April 16, 2008

    Is there a secret decoder ring?

    No, but there is a lightsaber. If you don’t know that, you don’t qualify.

  8. #8 Holbach
    April 16, 2008

    # 3 You are definitely not an atheist, and if you do get a decoder ring, you can pray to that and still maintain your state of mind, whatever your mind states.

  9. #9 Jason Failes
    April 16, 2008

    “So, do I still get to be an atheist? What level? Is there a secret decoder ring?”

    Level 10.

    You can use the symbols of woo purely symbolically/psychologically, and can actually maintain some pleasurable effect without having to trick yourself into thinking there’s something more to them than there is.

    In short, you have reached the much-coveted Richard-Dawkins-singing-Christmas-carols level of atheism.

    The good news is that there is a secret decoder ring.

    The bad news is, like all atheists (and anyone else in the reality-based community), you have to build it yourself.

  10. #10 Confused
    April 16, 2008

    Gotta love the create-your-own-motivational-poster gadget at demotivators.

    My current desktop…

  11. #11 Daniel
    April 16, 2008

    My mom takes it one step further. She says, “I’ll put your name in the temple.”

    Yep, Mormons think that if you phone the nearest temple (or go there yourself), and tell them the names of people who need extra-special prayers, it’ll somehow make things better because they pray for those people with extra-super-duper intensity. It’s probably the most para-Catholic thing in the LDS church.

    Of course, god’s such a dunce that he’d never know you needed help unless someone put your name in the temple.

    And I know it’s Mom’s special way of saying that she loves me, so I try to appreciate it on that level, but honestly.

  12. #12 Dennis
    April 16, 2008

    While working as a supervisor for a security firm I caught a guard sleeping at his desk. I cleared my throat to get his attention and without missing a beat he opened his eyes and said “amen”. I let him off, best use of prayer ever.

  13. #13 dubiquiabs
    April 16, 2008

    I wonder how many might pray as a means of hedging their bets. When asked if he thought his horseshoe brought luck, Niels Bohr’s neighbor said that “they say it helps even if you don’t believe it.” (As recounted by W. Heisenberg)

  14. #14 Kitty
    April 16, 2008

    On the 31st March 2000 a talented, kind, gentle and very popular young friend suffered a brain haemorrhage.
    Many people wanted him to survive.

    The Reiki masters did whatever they do to heal him from their conference 200 miles away.

    The Mormons posted his name at the local temple.

    The local Catholics prayed for him at mass.

    At least 3 local protestant churches mentioned him in despatches.

    Pagans burnt candles and chanted. Tarot cards were consulted.

    So much prayer!

    He died.

    They then said he HAD to die young as he was TOO GOOD for this earth – all of them!

    Each of them claimed him as their own.

    Those of us who were his friends and knew him well meet on the anniversary of his death, get pissed and laugh a lot about our time together.

    We also raise a glass to Robert de Niro – the only thing he ever worshipped – ‘You lookin’ at me?’

  15. #15 woody, tokin librul
    April 16, 2008

    Usta be a saying in the war:
    Pray in one hand and poop in the other, and compare which one got stinky…

  16. #16 Peter Ashby
    April 16, 2008

    Confused, thankyou as a DevBio I love it to bits. Worthy of Gary Larson himself that is.

  17. #17 Brownian, OM
    April 16, 2008

    The good news is that there is a secret decoder ring.

    The bad news is, like all atheists (and anyone else in the reality-based community), you have to build it yourself.

    What a great line! You’re really bucking for a Molly this month, Jason.

  18. #18 Nemo
    April 16, 2008

    Sometimes there’s nothing people can do, and they want so badly to help… so, they pray. I can’t fault them for that. It’s ineffective, but well-meant.

    It’s only a problem if they think of prayer first, and stop there, when they actually could have done something real to help instead.

  19. #19 shpx.ohfu
    April 16, 2008

    This version made the rounds last year. “Lookit how earnest I am, Jeebus. Kin ah pleese have another war now?”

  20. #20 Pocket Nerd
    April 16, 2008

    @ #15: See, and you liberalist humanist secularist progressivist Darwinist atheistists still claim prayer doesn’t work!

  21. #21 Jason Failes
    April 16, 2008

    Neat. Thank you, Brownian, OM.

    I was confused at first, kept getting this kind of result:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorable_Order_of_Molly_Pitcher

    …but then I searched within ScienceBlogs and, well, that makes much more sense, as my contribution to U.S. Field Artillery is minimal at best.

    But honestly, I just vent what’s on my mind.

    Nominate Cuttlefish: A lot of work must go into busting those rhymes.

  22. #22 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 16, 2008

    Anyone else see a piet[ā] in that guy’s bald spot?

    No, a hammerhead shark… :-°

  23. #23 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 16, 2008

    Anyone else see a piet[ā] in that guy’s bald spot?

    No, a hammerhead shark… :-°

  24. #24 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 16, 2008

    BTW, Cuttlefish, do you really pronounce “prayer” as a single syllable? I find that outright difficult… ~:-|

  25. #25 MikeM
    April 16, 2008

    Wow, Stubl… People wear colored wristbands mostly because they’ve donated money to cancer research.

    You think people should stop doing that?

    Say that to Lance Armstrong in person, and I bet he’d introduce you personally to his fist.

  26. #26 Nemo
    April 16, 2008

    I would deem “prayer” as a single syllable, though a long one.

  27. #27 Louise Van Court
    April 16, 2008

    To pray for someone is a way of expressing your love and concern. Sometimes others can pray for you better than you can for yourself when you are going through a hard time. I am deeply grateful to those who have prayed me through some of life’s trials in the past, nothing humorous about it. Since I have started reading this post I have been stopped twice (interestingly) with calls/requests from the prayer chain at my church, I will pray and call the request on to the next one on the list who prays and calls etc. We pray not only for healing if it is about an illness or surgery but also for strength and courage to be provided to those who need it most. We pray that they might be comforted and know a sense of peace in the midst of turmoil. We pray for the physicians and nurses who might be caring for the person. We pray for the family of the one in need. The prayer takes only a minute or two and can be done silently at work or at home.
    Many times we will get a praise report days or weeks later that things did go well or that the person was comforted and felt unafraid. No not all are healed, but does that mean the prayer was ineffective or did nothing?
    Sometimes because of distance or not knowing the ones in need prayer is all you can do. Other times you can demonstrate your love and caring by sitting with someone in a waiting room, providing childcare or meals to a family, or crying with them as they grieve.

  28. #28 Heather
    April 16, 2008

    Will it still work if you say a nursery rhyme instead?

    I think the part that works best is when you say “the cheese stands alone” 14 times in a row. Then people really take you seriously. But if it doesn’t work, it’s probably because God doesn’t want the cheese to stand alone. He has plans for that cheese, and standing alone is not part of the plan. Even if you don’t understand it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good plan.

  29. #29 stubl
    April 16, 2008

    Say that to Lance Armstrong in person, and I bet he’d introduce you personally to his fist.

    Why? Is he incapable of considered argument, too?

    Actually, I was a tad too generous towards Fair Trade, wrist-bands, and recycling plastic bags above. At least with prayer, you’re only fooling yourself that you care. All this conspicuous compassion is much more insidious – trying to fool others that you care.

  30. #30 noncarborundum
    April 16, 2008

    BTW, Cuttlefish, do you really pronounce “prayer” as a single syllable? I find that outright difficult… ~:-|

    This is the standard U.S. pronunciation. See Encarta, for example.

  31. #31 craig
    April 16, 2008

    When I was a kid in the 70s our class went for a field trip to the Buffalo Jewish Center, there was some Israel Expo thing going on there. While there we saw in one display a big replica of the wailing wall, painted blocks of styrofoam or papier mache or something.

    It was explained that Jews would visit the real wall and insert prayers into cracks between the blocks… and visitors to the display had put their own prayer slips into the cracks of the model. One of my teachers impishly took one out and sneaked a peak at it when nobody was looking.

    If a prayer stuck in a thousands of years old, archaeologically significant wall is useless, how much is one stuck into a crappy styrofoam replica worth?

  32. #32 craig
    April 16, 2008

    “Praying does nothing.”

    Not true. It does many things. It burns a small number of calories, it reinforces delusional thought, it wastes time and annoys passers-by…

  33. #33 hexatron
    April 16, 2008

    Maybe prayer is kind of like sleep.
    No one really knows what it’s good for.
    It seems necessary to those who practice it.
    It’s main dicernable effect is to keep one immobile when moving around (food- or mate- gathering) is more dangerous (being noticed moving & being eaten) than immobility.

  34. #34 Flamethorn
    April 16, 2008

    Prayer as one syllable is pronounced “prare”, and rhymes with square, except the a is a little bit longer.

  35. #35 Kseniya
    April 16, 2008

    David, the simplest way to approach the one-syllable prayer (!) is to start with “rare”… then prepend the “p”.

    “Prayer”. Rhymes with “air”.
    :-)

  36. #36 Kseniya
    April 16, 2008

    Ooops. Me be slower than a Flamethorn today. (Why should today be any different?)
    :-)

    Other times you can demonstrate your love and caring by sitting with someone in a waiting room, providing childcare or meals to a family, or crying with them as they grieve.

    Now you’re talking.

  37. #37 Sastra
    April 16, 2008

    Louise Van Court #37 wrote:

    To pray for someone is a way of expressing your love and concern.

    If this is what prayer really is — another way of saying “I hope you get better,” another way calming oneself enough to have the strength to prepare for and accept whatever happens — then nobody, here or elsewhere, would quarrel with its value.

    But that’s not what you’re really saying, is it? No. Though I could be wrong, I think you’re also claiming that prayer will effect the outcome magically. God will answer the prayer and change the situation in ways that go beyond the psychological benefits. Prayer is not just seen as a sort of ritualized poetry or metaphor for caring, concern, and inner strength; you’re tapping into a Force which acts, a Power which transforms transcendently.

    It is very common for religious, spiritual, and pseudoscientific advocates to try to blur distinctions between their supernatural faith claims and something which sounds very similar, but is natural and reasonable. The magical belief gains credibility by riding along on the back of the natural belief. If one is true, then isn’t the other just as likely, a different form of the same thing? Bait and switch.

    One recent example is in the book The Secret. The author sometimes talks about the Power of Positive Thinking as the ability of our Minds to manifest reality and attract results through the direct power of Conscious Intention. Think of a bicycle, and presto! the universe will make sure you get one. The universe cares – isn’t it great?

    Other times, the author seems to suggest that the Power of Positive Thinking is really the same as “when you feel good about yourself, others see this confidence and react to you in a positive way.” Or “when you make your mind up, focus, and work hard for something, you’re more likely to get it.” Think about a bicycle, get a paper route, save your money, and wow! a bicycle. Isn’t the universe great?

    Please don’t kid yourself that nobody sees this trick. And don’t kid yourself that it isn’t a trick.

  38. #38 Holbach
    April 16, 2008

    Louise Van Court @ 37
    Just to pick one incredible description of your prayers, you mentioned that you pray for the physicians and nurses caring for the person. Why in the name of reason and sanity would you have the need of physicians and nurses to heal the person when you are sure that your prayers alone will suffice? Are you willing to remove all medical equipment, drugs, doctors and nurses, and just pray over the sick and terminaly ill and know that they will be cured? Are you serious or just delirious with the insane and ludicrous and absolutely useless delirium of mumbo-jumbo? You are not even being disingenuous with such claptrap as this and expect most of us on this site to bow and accept this insanity! Direct your prayers to the morons at the Deranged Institute and the equally insane morons of that dreck movie,Expelled. It will do neither any good whatever, no mater how hard you supplicate your imaginary and fictitous god.

  39. #39 Emmet Caulfield
    April 16, 2008

    Will it still work if you say a nursery rhyme instead?

    That gives me an idea… I challenge you to bow your head and say the following solemnly without laughing or smiling:

    Dear Jeebus,

    Hey diddle diddle,

    The cat and the fiddle,

    The cow jumped over the moon.

    The little dog laughed

    To see such fun,

    And the dish ran away with the spoon.

    Amen.

    No, I can’t tell much difference either, except nursery rhymes, y’know, rhyme, but it is undoubtedly every bit as effective as “real” prayer.

  40. #40 karen
    April 16, 2008

    MikeM #53, here in Ontario those wristbands are being sold not just to raise funds for cancer research, but for just about every cause you can imagine, just like lapel ribbons. I’ve seen bins of them for causes ranging from cancer research through public elementary school fund-raising to Lebanese solidarity, as well as ones simply expressing various sentiments such as “peace” or “happiness”, etc.

  41. #41 Chief
    April 16, 2008

    Craig @46 –

    I have a photo of the wailing wall in my bathroom right above my toilet. Why? Well, because all the men lined up at the wall are visually reminiscent of the men lined up at a trough at a sports stadium. So, whenever I’m in there, I look up and I’ve got company.

    I heart blasphemy

  42. #42 Sastra
    April 16, 2008

    Craig #46 & Cheif #60:

    That reminds me of an old joke.

    A tourist went to Jerusalem, and visited the Wailing Wall. His guide pointed out a very elderly man at prayer, and explained that this man had been coming there every day for over 50 years. Intrigued, the tourist approached the man when he had finished, and asked “Please, may I ask a question. What do you pray for?”

    The old man replied “I pray, every day since I was a boy, for peace. Peace in the Mid East.”

    “And how does it feel, to be so close to God, and pray every day so fervently?”

    The old man leaned forward and whispered “How does it feel? Frankly, it’s been like talking to a wall.”

  43. #43 MikeM
    April 16, 2008

    Karen,

    Fair enough. But are they ever sold to cure cancer, make peace, or improve education? If they were, then I’d say stubl has a point.

    If they’re used to raise money for those causes, great. If you buy one for $100 to cure your own cancer, though, that’s woo-woo, 100%.

    Might as well pray instead. At least that’d be free.

  44. #44 Louise Van Court
    April 16, 2008

    Sastra @ #55. “Please don’t kid yourself that nobody sees this trick. And don’t kid yourself that it isn’t a trick.”

    I am not trying to “trick” anyone. I was just relating some of my personal experience with prayer for anyone (atheists/agnostics) wondering what people actually do pray about. Beyond the human benefits of thinking about others and on the receiving end knowing that others are thinking about you (although the person may never know they were prayed for) yes, I do believe God is listening and responding. Sorry if I was unclear about that.

  45. #45 Emmet Caulfield
    April 16, 2008

    I do believe God is listening and responding.

    He isn’t.

  46. #46 Louise Van Court
    April 16, 2008

    Sastra “Just out of curiosity, what would it look like if God didn’t listen and respond?”

    Probably exactly like the world you see with your eyes Sastra.

  47. #47 H.H.
    April 16, 2008

    Probably exactly like the world you see with your eyes Sastra.

    So you admit, then, that for an objective observer, all evidence for you god disappears? I’d say that’s a pretty strong indication that you’re making it all up.

  48. #48 Kseniya
    April 16, 2008

    “I am not trying to ‘trick’ anyone.”

    I honestly and completely believe you.

    “Probably exactly like the world you see with your eyes Sastra.”

    This is surely more true than you intended…

    Evidence suggests that gods are, at best, indifferent. There is no evidence that gods listen and respond, though itt is comforting to believe so. However, there’s a downside. How do you reconcile a belief in the divine power of prayer with:

    1. Millionaire athletes and performing artists attributing their success to the power of prayer and the favorable gaze of God, and

    2. The death of a 43-year-old clinical psychologist, who’d devoted her adult life to helping those who cannot help themselves, of ovarian cancer; a woman left behind a husband, three children, and a community of friends and neighbors who prayed their souls out for her.

    Surely she and her loved ones didn’t deserve such a fate?

    Wait, wait, don’t tell me: God works in mysterious ways. Am I right?

  49. #49 Sioux Laris
    April 16, 2008

    “…you have to build it yourself.” Very, very nice one, Jason!

    Actually, I’d come to the same conclusion some time ago.

  50. #50 Daniel
    April 16, 2008

    I was just relating some of my personal experience with prayer for anyone (atheists/agnostics) wondering what people actually do pray about.

    Many of us have been religious at one time or another, so I think we have some idea.

    I dare say that some of us have deconverted from faith because we noticed the failure of prayer to have any real effect without shoehorning events into a faith-based template.

    Or we became annoyed by the superstitious silliness one had to go through to get an omniscient god to take notice and help you. Prayer chain, indeed.

    Your intentions are good, I am sure. But may I suggest that you do the concrete helping stuff first, and save the praying until after that’s done? Or leave it off entirely.

  51. #51 Malcolm
    April 16, 2008

    I’ve never understood the whole prayer thing. When bad things happen, Christians say that God has a plan. Then surely praying is like saying that you have a better idea. Isn’t that blasphemous?

  52. #52 AC
    April 17, 2008

    Probably exactly like the world you see with your eyes Sastra.

    Congratulations, you have just made a caricature of yourself.

  53. #53 karen
    April 17, 2008

    “Karen,

    Fair enough. But are they ever sold to cure cancer, make peace, or improve education? If they were, then I’d say stubl has a point.

    If they’re used to raise money for those causes, great. If you buy one for $100 to cure your own cancer, though, that’s woo-woo, 100%.

    Might as well pray instead. At least that’d be free.”

    I agree with all you’ve said; I was simply pointing out (in retrospect, probably unnecessarily ;) ) that those rubber bracelets have become almost as ubiquitous as lapel ribbons.

  54. #54 kcrady
    April 17, 2008

    Louis van Court, no matter what mental gymnastics you employ to sustain belief in ‘the power of prayer,’ it’s an inescapable fact: you live in the same godless universe we do.

  55. #55 red rabbit
    April 17, 2008

    Catholics where I come from post an ad in the newspaper for three weeks and THEN pray to get a miracle.

    I believed it when I was eight. But it didn’t work. Shocking.

    I’m a little disappointed actually, because if it had worked I might have all this warm fuzzy faith instead of… you know… reality.

  56. #56 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    July 16, 2008

    Prayer may be a useful mental exercise for the person doing it, like meditation