The problem of Prayer

I think many of you may know the problem of evil:

  • If there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God in the world, there should be no evil.
  • There is evil in the world.
  • (Therefore): There is no such God.

One of the usual defences against this is to use free will as a justification of God not intervening. If God has given human beings free will, therefore he will not interfere with the choices that they make freely, even if they are most evil, like Hitler or Stalin killing millions of people. Therefore, this world is the best of possible worlds that God can create.

Also in case of natural disasters, there is the matter of “bigger plan” as a defence and the fact that God is apparently responsible for natural laws as well. God has a bigger plan for all of us, one that we cannot see with our limited human vision.

I want to point out that these defences create two immediate result, which turn out to be very problematic for religions all over the world, specially Abrahamic ones:

Firstly, if this world is the best of possible worlds, and God is omnibenevolence, then God does not have free choice himself. He could not choose any other world other than this one, because then he would not have been omnibenevolence, would he?

But my main point in this post is the second one: If one believes that the God does whatever he does, because he has a bigger plan, or because he has given other people free will and he would not stop their choices, whatever those choices may be; then one has successfully destroyed the whole incentive and any point in prayer.

Why do you pray, when nothing is supposed to happen? Imagine a Jewish mother with her child, captured by Nazis and sent to “take a shower”. The woman knows that this is no ordinary shower, she prays as hard as she can for God to kill all the Nazis instantly. If not, just to stop the gas from pouring into the small chamber. If not, just to make her child immune to this and at least  save the innocent baby. But NO, God says: “I cannot do any of those things. The only thing I can do is to send both of you to heaven, and of course, even that was supposed to happen!”

Imagine people caught in a tsunami: They pray to the Lord almighty to save them. If not, at least make them suffer less. But NO, God says: “This is all a part of my plan. Even your suffering is a part of my plan, therefore even instant death is not an option!”

Well, except that people are told by their religion TO pray, there is nothing to pray FOR: Absolutely nothing will change with those prayers. And of course, that seems like some type of a sick joke from a sadistic tyrant, unless you do not believe in such a God?!



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7 thoughts on “The problem of Prayer”

  1. Prayer is comforting and offers a strong connection to God. It’s not engaged in, so that we can get something. It’s like praise, worship. It’s respectful communication.

    If you supposedly loved someone but never took the time to establish contact or communication, what kind of relationship would that be?

    1. Well, I don’t know about you, but some people like Rick Perry seems not to think so (remember praying for rain? My examples clearly show what I am talking about, and your point though may be relevant to some form of prayers (the perfect example in fact would be like the Muslim ordinary daily prayer called Salat), is not my target.

      However, that being cleared, I wish to ask you: Explain why is your prayer anything other than self delusion? Surely, it may make you happy, or be comforting as you say, but so does having any other illusion, an imaginary friend for example; or maybe the idea of “loving” and “having a personal relationship with” or even marring Angelina Jolie:

  2. I don’t know how I could explain something that you haven’t experienced for yourself. I also believe each person’s experience with prayer is probably different than someone else’s. My experience is probably not like your own or even anyone else’s because my life has been obviously very different and we’re all completely different people.

    I think there is something to be said for the fact that countless people have miraculous experiences with prayer, that prove it to be valid, beneficial, and valuable.

    1. Many people claim to have seen “Nessie”. This does not prove the existence of that monster, nor shows this belief is anything even remotely valid. Beneficial and valuable only come next: Only valid things “can” be beneficial, not vice versa.

      Consider all these people that believe in Nessie, say this gives meaning to their lives, or they have gained much money selling Nessie stuff to other believers, or if you take it from them, they cannot do anything else, their lives loses its meaning, etc, etc.

      Nessie is a Myth, and the rest is wishful thinking.

      * Perfect example of “Ad populum”.

  3. Prayer is something that allows the Christians to think they are doing something (I’ll pray for you!!)–when in fact they are doing nothing. It is a placebo, and the only thing that is going to make things happen is when we put them into action.

  4. Ha! I made some very similar points on my own blog a while back. I was relieved to discover that I posted first. (It’s alright, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that you plagiarised my post – why would you want to when you seem to set out your arguments much better than I could? – but I had a moment of worry that it might look like the reverse was true.)

    I’m not sure that prayer is such an issue, depending on how you understand it, but any form of answer to prayer or divine intervention definitely is.

    1. I just read your post on this, and yeah they are indeed similair! Telepathy?! 🙂

      It’s true what you say about understanding of prayer, even as the commenter above pointed it out. And ironically (maybe not ironic, but interesting), Muslims seem to have gotten away with the problem of this sort and their “prayer” based on a different word play (or understanding). The reason is they have two words for prayer, one is their daily “duty” prayer (which is called salat), and the other is the prayer they make for things that they want to happen in their lives (It is called do-a).

      Things go even further than this, but that’s maybe for another post about Islam.

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