Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prayer vs. Actually Doing Something

I don't know the origin of this graphic, but I got it off of Facebook from a person that I don't know.  It requires no explanation or further commentary.

43 comments:

ANTZILLA said...

A perfect example of what is going on in Queensland Australia. There has been major flooding. My family have been supporting as much as possible. Donating money,we have a couple of families with us ATM untill they can return to there homes that have been cut off.
All you hear in news papers and radio,tv is people sending their prays.

Ganapati said...

Few religious people indulge in prayer as a substitute for action. It is in addition to action or when they are at a loss as to what action to take.

Antzilla, those sending their prayers for the flood victims are doing it after they have done whatever else they can. Read it as their wishes or hopes if you find the word prayer offending.

Brodes said...

I believe the original comes from Wellington Grey, but his site seems to have vanished so I can't confirm this or provide a link

Anonymous said...

@Ganapati: My experience (in the US) generally matches ANTZILLA, that those praying do it to avoid responsibility.

Jim said...

Hey, Ganapati, quit reinforcing the religious stereotype of making claims without proof.

"...those sending their prayers for the flood victims are doing it after they have done whatever else they can."

Really? You have proof that every single person who sent their prayers did something to physically help people who needed help? Not one single person prayed before doing something? Or (your made-up god forbid), instead of doing something?

Wow.

Feki said...

Hi Jim, Admin, Antzilla,

I think Ganapati is right.
[those sending their prayers for the flood victims are doing it after they have done whatever else they can]

They send their prayers ONLY after saying "oh my god" repeteadly, feeling "genuinely sorry" and then changing the tv channel.

I mean, what else could they possibly do? Their best bet is to ask their walk-on-water zombie friend to go help those in need.

Talking about cost-effectiveness, praying/wishing cost you nothing but it is 100% effective in fooling yourself.

Alice :) said...

I am an atheist, but I find this blatant disregard for the humane treatment of people with respect, no matter what their beliefs, unconscionable. Does refusing to bypass your intellect, somehow disconnect you with the understanding of the determination of the universe, and the natural human reaction of compassion, to realising that everything in the universe is such, due to the fact that it couldn’t be any other way? A person has a belief in God because they were caused to by their culture or later influences. Getting angry with Theists only causes them to feel judged and punished for their beliefs and does nothing to educate them about the reality of all things being natural – as opposed to the duality and superstition proposed by religious belief in the supernatural.

Admin said...

Are we mistreating and disrespecting PEOPLE, or just their BELIEFS?

I'll tell you what. When religious people stop killing people for being gay, and stop trying to get their imaginary friends into our politics, we'll take it easy on their poor little egos and their beliefs. Yes, we're "unconscionable".

I think you should read 2 more posts I wrote recently:

1. A Theist's justification for genocide

http://www.atheistpropaganda.com/2011/02/theists-justification-for-genocide.html

2. Why Muslims are my favourite people:

http://www.atheistpropaganda.com/2011/01/muslim-kindness.html

Now, which people am I treating inhumanely? As you wrote:

"blatant disregard for the humane treatment of people with respect"

So Alice, you can go ahead and coddle religious beliefs all you like. Or you can separate the people from the beliefs.

Anonymous said...

All activities related to prayer, including but not limited to sending prayer cards, writing about your prayers, asking others to pray, etc. are utterly useless. The time/effort/money spent on them is therefore wasted, i.e. they would be better spent on any real action to bring relief to the people you pray for.

No matter how much actual good you did (if any) before you started praying, you are still wasting time - both yours and those that read about or listen to your prayers. Time no one can buy with any amount of good deeds.

ANTZILLA said...

I made 'de-motivational' picture of this:

http://www.demotivationalpics.com/displayimage.php?album=toprated&cat=0&pid=21762#top_display_media

ANTZILLA said...

If an atheist people help one another it's no big deal. If religous people get off there asses and do somthing it a big fucking media event.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the religious actually believe in their gods, so in their minds, praying IS actually doing something...

Anonymous said...

I would have more compassion and respect for certain theists if they stopped trying to cram their god down my throat.

I recently have gone through hellish times, and I have had a lot of religious folks (all Christian, sorry) offer actual assistance and prayers. They also, unfortunately, attempted to seize the opportunity to help me bring their god into my life.

Get in line, I told them. And don't hold their breath. One especially numb coworker asked me, knowing I am an atheist, "Don't you think prayer would help?" Um... no, I don't. I think positive thoughts and kindness do help, though, so that's what I tried to sift out from their misguided attempts to help me. Don't give me a god. Just be a good fellow human, for goodness sake.

Ben said...

Rigorously examining beliefs should be a continuous process. It's 100% accurate to say that some theists do not follow through with action after saying their prayers. But it's also unreasonable to think that makes them worse people than an atheist who flips the channel, of which there are plenty. Proud skeptics often decide to stop critically thinking through a situation after disassembling a religious stereotype which only exists in the media.

As for the uselessness of prayer, consider the changes it brings about in your own mind. Prayer is not a fire and forget one time shot. It's a day in and day out investment of time in contemplation. No need to necessarily call it prayer, but take 10 minutes each morning and think about a particular misfortune in the world. Doing so daily will bring about changes in your perception. You start to see more ways that you can solve the problem, and the small sacrifices of time, money, or energy needed to effect change are put in the proper perspective. It bridges the gap between blogging on the internet about problems and actually making a difference. That is the natural mechanism behind God's gift of prayer.

Jim said...

"That is the natural mechanism behind God's gift of prayer"

Natural? Prayer? Are you kidding? What is natural about sitting around with your hands clasped in front of you muttering to a non-existent being?

"No need to necessarily call it prayer, but take 10 minutes each morning and think about a particular misfortune in the world."

How about instead of spending 10 minutes a day thinking about things, we spend 10 minutes actually doing something constructive? I could think of nothing that would help less than sitting there just thinking about people dying or starving, or whatever the case may be.

Also, you should notice that the chart does not differentiate between theists and atheists (granted 0% of atheists pray). It only exams prayer and doing something tangible.

It could represent a group of 50 devout Christians who pray, and 50 devout Christians who don't pray, but instead do something.

Which would you say is the group that is in the wrong?

Would you argue that the people who just prayed did less?

Or would you suggest that because the group that didn't pray did less?

Do you understand that by saying the group that prayed did less implies that talking to god doesn't really matter?

And if you suggest that the group that didn't pray did less, then that would mean we should all pray instead of actually doing something.

And why is it so easy to trap an omnipotent, infallible being in a paradox?

Ben said...

I illustrated the purpose of taking 10 minutes each day to think about the world's misfortunes. When you spend that time thinking about something other than yourself, it makes you less selfish. Your own concerns become smaller in your mind, and you're more willing to give up time, energy, and money in service to other people.

The question you pose is an easy one. I would say that the Christians who just pray have accomplished less than those who did not pray but spent time helping other people. That's the scenario and the two choices you gave me.

You disallow for the possibility of someone praying and then taking action. You need to be more exhaustive if you're going to claim to have devised a paradox. And even catching me in a rhetorical paradox would not say anything about God. I'm a human being, and I don't have the conceit to think I have the same amount of wisdom as God.

It's questionable whether those people who prayed and did not take action have actually been spending time in prayer if it has not caused a change in their behavior. Think of it as the difference between sitting through Calculus and learning Calculus.

Admin said...

"When you spend that time thinking about something other than yourself, it makes you less selfish."

No, when you DO something for someone other than yourself, you become less selfish. But many, many of your kind believe that prayer is all they have to do and leave it at that. This is because your doctrines teach them that it IS helping them.

"You disallow for the possibility of someone praying and then taking action."

No, he did not disallow such a thing.

"I'm a human being, and I don't have the conceit to think I have the same amount of wisdom as God."

You disallow for the possibility that your imaginary friend does not actually exist, and that you are delusional.

ANTZILLA said...

"I illustrated the purpose of taking 10 minutes each day to think about the world's misfortunes. When you spend that time thinking about something other than yourself, it makes you less selfish. Your own concerns become smaller in your mind, and you're more willing to give up time, energy, and money in service to other people."

I agree. This doesn't need a deity to happen.

However people who pray think this is doing something. Therefore don't do anything else. We could agrue weather it benifits the person praying or not. But the pray/s itself has no effect on anyone else.

Ben said...

Admin,

My reference to him disallowing for someone praying and then moving to action was for the highly specific example he put forward. Skim his post and look for the phrase "50 devout Christians." He did just as I said.

Antzilla,

I'm glad you can see the benefit of the contemplation. Prayer does not need to impact other people through some sort of "magical" process. When prayer changes me, then prompts me to take action which in turn affects other people, prayer has accomplished something. God can work changes through natural means, everything is not a drastic, supernatural intervention.

Admin said...

No, he didn't do that. He was using two extremes to illustrate which one is better. He's well aware of the in-between cases.

Some people help and pray. We know that. The question for you is if somebody helps and somebody prays, who did more?

Jim said...

"When you spend that time thinking about something other than yourself, it makes you less selfish."

Yeah. It, in theory, makes you less selfish. But in actual reality, it makes you incredibly selfish. You think that your prayers are so powerful that they can change things through no real action. I can't think of anything more selfish than a person thinking they can help someone solely through the power of their thoughts. Not only that, you hold yourself on a pedestal, claiming to be more righteous than us atheists who don't take the time to pray. Look how important and amazing you are!

Also, to clarify my point, I gave you a scenario of 50 people praying and 50 people who skipped praying and did something. I don't need to include people who prayed and did something, because they would be (and hold your breath because this references the Scientific Method) the CONTROL group. I don't need to represent the control in my questions, because clearly they don't count when it comes to my questions.

And I was not trying to catch you in a paradox. If I wanted to do that, I would have done that. I was catching your god in a paradox. Believe me, I could give you plenty of those. Happens all the time. Which, again, is odd for an infallible being.

Also, I like your answer: "I would say that the Christians who just pray have accomplished less than those who did not pray but spent time helping other people."

So you agree that prayer is pointless, as nothing gets accomplished? I assume so. Because if you truly believed in the power of prayer, than you would have stated that the people who prayed did more. Surely god was listening to those prayers and helped the people out.

Or perhaps god decided to wait it out?

Or maybe god just wasn't listening that day?

Or perhaps he was testing you? (My favorite response.)

Or maybe god doesn't exist?

But you prayed! And you were unselfish! Surely god would reward this in some manner!

Would your god reward you more for being "less selfish" and praying for others, or would he reward you more for being totally unselfish by actually helping?

Clearly we can all agree that the latter would be true. If this is the case, why even bother with prayer? Who does it help? You? No, because it's not the best you can do. Anyone you're praying to help? No, because actual help would be better than sitting on your knees and taking "10 minutes each morning and think about a particular misfortune in the world".

Who is being helped by prayer? Who benefits from it? Every single study and test that has been conducted testing the power of prayer has proved that prayer does nothing. So what is the point?

I say save your ten minutes "think[ing] about a particular misfortune in the world", and spend ten minutes DOING something about a particular misfortune in the world.

Ben said...

Okay, a lot of questions here. I'm thrilled to be able to share with you guys. Let's get started.

"I can't think of anything more selfish than a person thinking they can help someone solely through the power of their thoughts."

Prayer is about opening yourself up to God's control, which is a humbling and selfless position to put yourself in.

"Not only that, you hold yourself on a pedestal, claiming to be more righteous than us atheists who don't take the time to pray."

That's something you've brought into this discussion from a previous interaction with Christianity. There are people of all types following all beliefs. Very fundamental to Christianity is the idea that no human is righteous without Christ. I am not more righteous than anyone else no matter who is praying or not praying.

"Also, to clarify my point, I gave you a scenario of 50 people praying and 50 people who skipped praying and did something. I don't need to include people who prayed and did something, because they would be (and hold your breath because this references the Scientific Method) the CONTROL group."

Obviously I completely misunderstood your example. I'm glad you're being so rigorous, but please spell out your controls for me next time because I would like to not make too many assumptions. That might make me misinterpret you further. Of the three, prayer+action is best. Next comes action. Last comes prayer alone (again, I would argue that people not moved to action through prayer are not letting themselves truly be open to God's will).

I do not need to claim that prayer is better than action. Christ explicitly asked his followers to meet the needs of His people (all people) when we see them. We should clothe the needy, feed, the hungry, and with regards to the Australian flooding, Christians should open up their homes to the homeless.

I would recommend not getting too hung up on the 10 minutes of prayer being a waste of time compared to 10 minutes of "action." The prayer facilitates the performance of the action by making the individual a cheerful servant. Plus, the debate isn't really about wasting time. If so, we'd all be better off harassing farmville or something. We can at least agree on that, right?

ANTZILLA said...

Ben
"When prayer [or contemplation?] changes me, then prompts me to take action which in turn affects other people, prayer [or contemplation?] has accomplished something."

You have acted apon empathy , congratulations. Why does a deity need to be involed?

"God can work changes through natural means, everything is not a drastic, supernatural intervention."

What is 'god' to you Ben?

How do you verify to anyone/everyone that any said actions are from a 'god' and not via some other measure?

Ben said...

"You have acted apon empathy , congratulations. Why does a deity need to be involed?"

This isn't a bartering system where I do a chant something or bow my head a certain number of times and then God grants me a specific amount of magical powers. Empathy is a gift freely given by God, and the process of prayer prepares me to receive it. There is no way God could not be involved in the process because it all originates with him.

"What is 'god' to you Ben?"

To me, God is the creator and originator of the entire universe. He created a perfect world, then gave mankind free will so that we could choose to love him. Unfortunately, mankind chose not to obey God, and death entered the world. Man lived awash in sin, which I would describe as "being apart from God" rather than some arbitrary measure of "badness." That's why any activity, when performed in an immoderate way, or without consideration for spreading God's glory, can be considered sinful. Rape, murder, theft, anger, spite, etc are all ways that mankind misuses gifts God freely gave us. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and literally become sin (that is, he spent three days in complete separation from God) which redirected God's wrath away from mankind. Now, we need only believe in Christ to be absolved of our sins.

"How do you verify to anyone/everyone that any said actions are from a 'god' and not via some other measure?"

If God created everything, then there is not an "other measure" which is apart from God. He had an absolute plan which did not originally include things like Nazis, or slavery, or hurricanes. These tragedies came after the fall. God's new plan redeems a flawed man and will make those who believe in him a part of his glory in heaven. He has made something even greater than the original out of Man's mistake.

Jim said...

You are a nutjob.

ANTZILLA said...

Ben,

you claim
"That's why any activity, when performed in an immoderate way, or without consideration for spreading God's glory, can be considered sinful. Rape, murder, theft, anger, spite, etc are all ways that mankind misuses gifts "

Things that most people would consider 'sinful' have been done 'spreading god's glory'
Without these atrocities 'faith' in any particular fashion would not have been a surviving trait of society.

It does seen contradictory for 'god' to sent his son to earth to have him become a human sacrifice, a rather 'sinful' activity.

If you god supposively acts though humans, how do we separate 'god/human actions' and human 'free will' ones?

Jim said...

Let's throw out some examples of god's love using the "sins" we have been provided.

Rape: Judges 21:10-24. This passage describes, in pretty plain laguage, that god told his people to "Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’” Sounds an awful lot like kidnap and rape.

Murder: Crusades, anyone? Spanish Inquisition? Need I explain further?

Theft: I'm pretty sure instructing people to kidnapping women and forcefully marry and rape them would be considered theft.

Anger: Didn't god smite down a shit-ton of people in the Bible because he was upset? The great flood? Sodom and Gomorrah?

Spite: I would consider murdering all the first-born children of Egypt to be pretty damn spiteful. But that's just my opinion. In fact, I think we can count all of the Ten Plagues of Egypt to be pretty spiteful.

So there is your god's love and understanding. At least he doesn't sin himself, or condone sin in anyway shape or form.

ANTZILLA said...

The Pope made a speech saying that the people of the New Zealand are in his prays and thoughts.

WOW what an effort! The Catholic church is one of the richest orgainisation on earth. Yet all it CEO can do is 'think' about helping.

RCC could complety rebuild New Zealand but I guess god needs all that money I guess.

Jim said...

I quote Bono of U2:

"...and a preacher on the 'Old Time Gospel Hour' stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the god I believe in isn't short of cash, mister."

It's amazing that god created everything, but that lazy bastard has reduced himself to begging. Shit, he doesn't even beg. He FORCES others to beg FOR him.

ANTZILLA said...

I wonder what happen to Ben?

Jim said...

Yeah. He gave up pretty quick.

ANTZILLA said...

I wonder what thought patten happens with religous when the tough questions are asked.
It must be hard to pray/contemplate them away.
Actully is must be easy for them or else they wouldn't be theist anymore I guess.

dawnfurman said...

I am not sure what I believe, but I cannot bring myself to believe in a biblical god, after all the bible study I did in the past, and all I have been through in my life. That being said I remember this little story, please forgive me if it isn't 100% the way the story goes, but it represents how I feel about it.

there is a man in a flooded area, sitting on top of his home. He is Christian, and knows God will help him. Another man rows past in a boat, and tells him to get in, to which the man responds "that's ok, God will help me." the boater continues on. Next a helicopter comes, as the water is getting higher. a ladder is lowered, and he is told to climb up. he replies the same. The man dies. He gets to heaven, and he asks what happened, he though God was going to help him. The response he was given is that God tried more than once to save him by sending a boat and a helicopter, and he refused.

basically it comes down to God helps those who help themselves. This is my opinion, and not meant as insult to anyone. I think theists and atheists can both benefit by accepting help when needed, and doing something to help others.

Admin said...

dawnfurman, unfortunately that is an unfalsifiable claim, essentially making it useless. If your god only helps people through the non-magical actions of other people, how do we distinguish between that and a situation in which there are no gods at all?

Jim said...

Do you know what the phrase "God only helps those who helps themselves" means? It means that you must help yourself, because god is not going to help. Why won't god help? Because he doesn't exist.

It's the same as "What is the difference between a god who does nothing, and nothing?"

Anonymous said...

Hah. Ben's comment are just irrational. If "God" created a perfect world, but wanted "man" to have free will, which messed everything up, why didn't"god" just create a perfect man with free will? What is the point of creating a bunch of screw-ups. And, if "God" answers prayers for some misbegotten sole of, let's say, an earthquake, why didn't "He" just protect the poor sole in the first place rather than allowing a natural event do harm. This whole construct is so rife with illogic that I don't see how folks like Ben can't help but laugh as they write stuff like he did. Religious people claim to love honesty, but they can't even be honest with themselves about how silly the religious construct is.

Anonymous said...

Obviously those people who choose to do good are first motivated to do good, and, in the same vein, those people who choose to do nothing are motivated to do nothing. I am not yet cynical enough to presume that those people who choose to pray believe praying to be ineffective and actually lack any motivation. I think those who pray are sincerely motivated to do good.

The problem is that if prayer worked, prayer would render good works beyond prayers unnecessary, inconsistent, and faithless. Praying thus robs the ability and even potential to do good from people with the altruistic impulse.

Marie said...

Just because the news reports that people are praying does not imply that they have done nothing constructive. And i don't think we should boast about the good deeds done. People help and ALSO pray. If all people ONLY prayed and did not help in cash or kind nothing would be done. From where are the NGO's getting the money to help. They are taking from US. REMEMBER THAT. yes helping hands are better than praying hands. But to say that people are only praying and i did this and i did that is egoistic!!! memsmiles@gmaial.com

Admin said...

"And i don't think we should boast about the good deeds done."

Why not, exactly?

"People help and ALSO pray."

This post is not directed at those individuals.

"If all people ONLY prayed and did not help in cash or kind nothing would be done. From where are the NGO's getting the money to help. They are taking from US. REMEMBER THAT."

I think what you need to remember is that some individuals give and others only pray. REMEMBER THAT.

"yes helping hands are better than praying hands."

Good, we're in agreement. This is the opposite of what we'd expect if there were gods answering prayers. Praying is a waste of time, QED.

"But to say that people are only praying and i did this and i did that is egoistic!!!"

Egoistic? Why? To criticise those who don't help in favour of asking their imaginary friend is unacceptable?

Anonymous said...

So I'm gathering that all prayer does is make the person praying feel better. It motivates them, it centers them, it puts them in the right frame of mind to go "do something good"...well I think that IS the definition of selfishness. Taking a chunk of time out of every day to talk to an invisible man in the clouds to make yourself feel better? What a complete indulgence for spoiled beings who can't accomplish anything on their own without having to lean on an invisible crutch to get something done.

Oh, and Christian extremists...please listen up: it is not only completely useless to use bible passages as "proof" of anything, but it is also a waste of time. Someone could just as easily quote Dr. Seuss back to you in rebuttal and it would hold the same weight as carelessly throwing around hand-picked passages that were written by man and hidden behind a feared, nameless god.

Hitch said...

Who's the patented idiot ignoramus that writes this blog anyway?
A blowhard nobody with a deep psychosis.

What a poser! All evident in this single post.

It's debatable if anyone could get more ignorant than this.

The "thinking" atheist? rotflmao
Talk about a self contradiction!
Yet another atheist that can't understand the logical implications of his own belief system!

As for the suckers that preach their own evangelical atheist fundamentalism here, your comments are almost as devoid of truth as the authors.

Atheists - Ignoramuses and/or really poor thinkers all - otherwise they could not remain such ill-reasoning dupes.

No wonder atheists have always been a small minority of disgruntled pseudo-intellectual fools on earth.

The quack that wrote this article really needs a good lesson in history but I think no lesson of any kind could ever get through his skull.

Atheists are posers, bad thinkers, moral parasites, religious fanatics, immune to logic & usually very gullible folk, seeking security from their fears and in their numerous moral crimes.

Even Voltaire has you athies pegged for what you really are:
"The atheists are for the most part imprudent and misguided scholars who reason badly who, not being able to understand the Creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis the eternity of things and of inevitability....."-Voltaire

The materialist cannot see the inherent contradictions in his flawed world view because his mind is handicapped by an acute cognitive dissonance engendered by his initial rejection of absolutes followed by persistent pursual of faulty reasonings ie sophism's.
Materialism necessitates relativism and relativism (being itself relative) incapacitates the minds ability to reason correctly - because it generates powerful cognitive dissonance.

We witness this many times right here in this ignorance based article.

Get real you atheist blind followers of the blind.

Admin said...

Insults? Check.

Not a single reason why or counter to the points presented? Check.

Argument from popularity? Check.

Argument from famous quote? Check.

Jim said...

Either this moron is attacking multiple sites, or he is plagiarizing.

His rant about materialism comes from a person called Borne on this site: http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/does-atheism-poison-everything-debate-between-david-berlinski-and-christopher-hitchens/

Besides that, I have no idea what the point of all that was. He made no argument for his beliefs being true. He argues that atheism is wrong because a philosopher once said it was (note that we can find thousands of quotes against gods).

He said, "Yet another atheist that can't understand the logical implications of his own belief system!" I wasn't aware that atheists had a belief system. That is interesting. I know there are no gods, beyond that, there is nothing to believe, let alone an entire system of things to believe.

"No wonder atheists have always been a small minority of disgruntled pseudo-intellectual fools on earth."
Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume this guy is American. Let's post a quick list of "disgruntled pseudo-intellectual fools" this guy probably endorses:
Abraham Lincoln
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Franklin
James Madison
Thomas Paine
George Washington
Albert Einstein

Just look at those fools. Two were among the greatest leaders America has ever had. One wrote the Constitution. One discovered electricity. One discovered the Theory of Relativity. I could go on and on, but I think we get the point.

"Atheists are posers, bad thinkers, moral parasites, religious fanatics, immune to logic & usually very gullible folk, seeking security from their fears and in their numerous moral crimes."
Yeah. We use complete sentences, don't plagiarize, make actual arguments without resorting to quotes from dead people, don't believe in a book published by a council 70 years after the death of some Arab Jew. We pretend to worship gods. We molest children entrusted in our care. We believe in a book that endorses slavery, kidnapping, rape, and abuse toward women and children. We believe in a book that tells us to kill non-believers or sinners. We judge everyone in the world based on a book. What a bunch of assholes we... no, wait. That's Christians. Sorry.