Monday, November 25, 2019

Atheists Pay To Not Have Prayers? Seriously?

By Professor Doom

     One thing about being a cancer/modern medicine victim, I sure get lots of people praying for me. I figure God/Jesus/Whoever already knows about my situation by now, but I still do nothing to discourage people from doing what they want to do, especially since I figure there’s no harm in it (even as I consider the possibility that repeatedly whining to God might infuriate him, but I digress…).

     A recent study of prayer caught my eye, because it had a few interesting results. I know, most studies are fraud now, and I have my doubts about some of their conclusions, so I must add my own thoughts:

Prof: ‘Welfare of atheists/agnostics is reduced” by prayers of others

      It’s so nice to have a study coming out of higher ed that isn’t about how white people are evil, or how milk/haircuts/studying/whatever are RACIST, isn’t it? Even if the results are arguable, at least it’s not simply shouting. Let’s look at the setup:

The study was conducted by rounding up various victims “shortly following Hurricane Florence” and giving them each their standard pay plus $5. Participants were then given the option of paying to receive or not receive thoughts and prayers from Christian strangers, non-Christian strangers, and a priest.   

   A real study should always discuss the methodology, the better to allow anyone who feels like it to replicate the results. There’s a big issue with reproducibility in science right now, with well over 50% of serious studies NOT reproducible. In other words, when you hear the results of some study, you now are better off not believing it. You could toss a coin, and have a better chance of getting accurate results of the study, at least for studies conducted in the last, say, 30 years or so.

       But if you know the methodology of the study, at least, with 482 Christian/agnostic/atheists involved, you could do a comparable study yourself and see if you get the same results.

Christian participants questioned were willing to pay $4.36 on average for a prayer from a Christian stranger, while they were willing to pay $7.17 for a prayer from a priest

       The above sure sounds legit, at least insofar as one might expect a priest’s prayers to be more valuable. The pricing strikes me as a little high. If I paid over $4 for everyone who prayed for me, that’d be approaching the kind of loot modern medicine has made off their many failed treatments on me.

      And what of the unbelievers?

But the “nonreligious” group containing atheists and agnostics were actually willing to pay people not to pray for them, $3.54 for a Christian stranger not to pray and $1.66 for a priest not to pray.

      Now this, this is fascinating. If you don’t believe, why would you be willing to pay people not to engage in the pointless behavior? Moreover, why would you be willing to pay less for a priest (whose life, from the unbeliever’s point of view, is devoted to pointless behavior) to pray for you? A priest’s prayers should have no more value than anyone else’s from this point of view, after all.

       At the risk of patronizing the gentle reader, I point out the above could be taken as evidence that even the unbelievers do, in fact, believe…it’s about the only reason they believe a priest’s prayers would be more valuable (or have “less negative value, if you want to be particular), after all. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into this:

Nonreligious people would pay $0.33 for a “thought” from a nonreligious stranger but were willing to pay $2.02 for a Christian stranger to keep them out of their thoughts…


     The above really strikes me as implying that “nonreligious” is a misnomer, and a more accurate description would be “antireligious.” Again, under the belief that none of it matters, a thought from a nonreligious stranger should be worth every bit as much as a thought from a Christian. But these folk are willing to pay extra for Christians to not to even think about them.

      Or perhaps I’m not the only one to worry that, much as a parent might get angry with a child who cries too often, so too might God simply choose to smite those who are getting sent to Him far too many appeals…

       I’ve long accepted that I see things very differently than most, and thus it doesn’t surprise me that the researchers reach different conclusions:

…concluding that this disparity suggests that thoughts and prayers could harm nonreligious people.

     And so we wander back into grievance culture, where literally everything a person does, no matter how piffling, ultimately results in harm to someone. I disagree with the conclusion, of course, and acceptance of the above conclusion could well lead to court cases and damages, years from now. Yeesh.

       I’m not kidding about the consequences of the above conclusion:

…these findings prove that Christians “benefit from” prayers from others but that “the welfare of atheists/agnostics is reduced by such gestures.”

--emphasis added.

      Prove? That’s some powerful language, and I assure the gentle reader no such proof has been provided. At best, it is shown there is a belief that benefit is granted, a belief that welfare is reduced. Of course, you can’t claim damages from a personal belief, while proof of such damage is a different matter entirely.

      While I can nitpick about conclusions, the fact remains is this is the kind of thing that is done by legitimate researchers (even ones confused about what “prove” means), and even if it’s a piffling study, all we’re looking at is a few hundred people filled in some bubbles on some easily graded survey, so a minimal cost, almost certainly less than what my insurance company was charged for the 5 minutes I spend talking to the latest specialist after traveling for many hours to meet him…

        I'm about to go in for yet another surgery, with no expectation of it helping to accompany the certainty that it's going to hurt quite a bit. For everyone granting me prayers, I thank you. Even if such triggers God’s wrath, I’ll take such comfort as I can in that while he’s venting on me, another is being spared, at least for a time. I tend to think the same way about letting the next doctor hack into me.


  1. My dear husband is going into surgery for the fourth time this year on New Year's Eve. I hope your surgery is successful and the pain, tolerable. Don't let them skimp on the pain killer meds! I also want to know that your latest series of stories here are superb. I am very much amazed at how you keep on doing this so frequently, your 'life force' is great, not small. We also call this 'the soul'.

  2. Oh, about the doctor visits: I have had a number of close visits to the Gates of Death in the past and know a number of surgeons and top doctors (in NYC) in the past. Most of their work is in the labs/analysis of incoming data and then surgery itself. Their main reason to visit with patients is to discover how the patient looks and if they are able to endure or benefit from surgery.

    I have sat in such meetings in the past where a patient's condition is debated. I hope you have an ADVOCATE for your situation, someone who is one step aside that can meet with your doctors to discuss things on you behalf. I have done this quite a few times, myself. It does help. I know that my interference with my husband's hospital care caused the staff and the surgeon to change things and indeed, change how they did things in the past once they saw that there was a better way to do it. Also, this means you can be more proactive which helps a lot.
    I know from cancer patients that gaining some control over care helps greatly, indeed, it is 'medical' in itself. Keeping the patient in a sense of 'I control this, not the doctors' helps greatly. Good luck with all that. If you want to chat with me about all this, let me know here and I can arrange this.

  3. A bit OT but thought you might be interested, Prof. Doom:

    1. It's so scary how social media is now a weapon against normal people.