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Preconceived belief – the only way Prayer works

As I am examining WordPress’s “Latest Posts” section I note an interesting blog entry entitled “Does Prayer Really Work?”. Interested, I followed the link and read the article. Apparently a woman suffered a stroke with partial paralysis and her husband (as well as her friends and church members) began a campaign of prayer to beg the All Mighty to heal her of her sickness. The husband then asks the question “Does Prayer Really Work?” and describes how his wife’s recovery progressed dramatically and immediately declares that “Yes! PRAYER REALLY WORKS!”

This is an excellent example how people will ask a question that they honestly have no intention of seeking an honest answer for. They will be intellectual dishonest with themselves simply to maintain the facade of their beliefs. While the husband received the desired results there is no logical reason why prayer would be the source of those results. As a matter of fact, the only rational and obvious reason that the wife recovered as well as she did is through human innovation and ingenuity. Researchers developed methods and medicine to aid in her recovery, Doctors were educated and trained to diagnose and treat her illness, and nurses, aids, and therapy staff worked diligently and effectively to help her recover as much function and mobility as they could. And finally the strength and will of the wife herself would also prove crucial in how effective all that medical talent would have on her.

At best Prayer offers only a calming effect for people that have been indoctrinated into thinking that it somehow helps them. A simple placebo of the mind that they have been convinced works. Many studies have been performed on prayer that consistently show it as having the same success rate as flipping a coin (and in some cases having a detrimental effect). One would think that if prayer were truly effective you could easily see a distinct difference between people who believe and pray and people who do not believe and do not pray. The reality is that believers and non believer both experience the same amount of successes and failures when it comes to anything. Regardless if you are praying for something as frivolous as a winning sports team or something as serious as the health and well being of others, the fact remains that the results are left to circumstance and the nature of probability, not prayer. Some people make amazing recoveries, surviving staggering odds, and persevere through mind boggling hardships that are far outside the bounds of what is called “normal” and it is simply because we expect to see these occasional long shots.

If you look at Prayer from another point of view you discover that the very notion of prayer would be impossible with a creator who is deemed as Omniscient or Omnipotent (all knowing or all powerful). Assuming for the moment that god does exist – wouldn’t the very act of prayer suggest that one was unhappy with the way god set up the universe? Doesn’t “god have a plan”? If people ask for things through prayer then they are in effect telling god that they aren’t happy with his plan and want him to change it. Also, if god is all knowing, then wouldn’t he already KNOW what your prayer is, negating the need for you to even pray? When you really start to think about how prayer works with gods and such, you really start to see how silly the whole thing appears.

So how could someone make the claim of prayer working in these circumstances? Prayer was the only thing that WASN’T required in order for the wife to recover. If its a matter of faith, then what is the need for doctors and medical personnel in the first place? Shouldn’t god be watching over his own? And if god is answering prayers and healing people, why is it he always heals things that humanity can handle fine on their own. “Why doesn’t god heal Amputees“?

The honest and simple answer here is that there is no evidence that prayer works. Religious believers simply ascribe things to a god in order to self-fulfill their own preconceived notions of what they believe their god can do. If someone prays for something and it happens to come true then they claim god granted their prayers. If it does not come true then they claim either god has not answered it yet or “god words in mysterious ways” and has denied the prayer. The circular logic of this is obvious. But how is it that someone can so willingly turn a blind eye to the obvious? Faith, or more accurately stubbornness.

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May 15, 2007 - Posted by | Discussion, People, Religion, Scams

10 Comments »

  1. There is evidence from recent studies that prayer can be harmful.The idea that people who seek natural healing,rather than supernatural are more likely to get better.

    Just common sense.

    P.s. There is evidence that church attendance can be beneficial.So I guess any thing that gets people off their ass and around people promotes health.

    Comment by freedy | July 2, 2007 | Reply

  2. Yes, I think you are referring the Study of over 1,800 patients along a ten year period. The evidence in that study showed that

    Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery

    and that

    patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms

    most likely caused from the expectations the prayers created. In study after study the results of prayer has simply been shown to be non effective.
    As for the idea that church attendance is beneficial, I agree. Regardless of the negative effects often found in religion, it still provides a community interaction with ones neighbors and family. The socialization between members as well as the community support would naturally provide a beneficial effect to each person. But church is not needed for that. You can get the same thing by simply getting involved with stuff with many people – such as bowling, baseball, golf, leagues, etc. or Bingo groups, sewing rings, or even something as simple as being part of online forums discussing topics that are enjoyed and shared.
    I think it does a community good to have people get together regularly. It allows everyone to get to know their neighbors and allows for people to work together to solve their problems. Sadly this usually only happens in churches and people are led astray when taught intolerances to people that are different. You don’t need to worship mythical beings in order to achieve a strong community relationship.

    Comment by mtdew | July 3, 2007 | Reply

  3. I guess preconceived belief (or non-belief) does not come into dismissing the claim. A rational approach would have been to examine the circumstances. How unlikely was the woman to recover, had medical treatment options been exhausted. Reading the source blog it seems as if this case may not be a clear cut example one way or the other.
    On the other hand those who work in the health system can attest to to unexplained spontaneous recoveries. Either one goes with “it happens” or perhaps “it’s karma” and dismisses it or, in the absence of preconceived belief that it could not have been a “miracle” one looks a bit deeper and asks if perhaps there is a God after all.
    As for the study proving prayer does not help, two comments.
    Firstly studies can be constructed to prove anything – remember there is no link between smoking and cancer. How robust was the study? Clearly miracles are not common place so the statistics that back a 1,800 sample study to establish an event with maybe a 1:1,000,000 probability is fundamentally flawed. But accept the results as gospel if you want, it fits with your preconceptions.
    Second, and even more questionable is why resort to science in the first place? Science is able to confirm that certain things are testable and repeatable, that is, empirically verifiable in the present. Any reasonable understanding of a miracle clearly places it outside of the scope for scientific study. Miracles are collectively rare, individually unique and transitory phenomenon without necessary physical form. So physical science is the wrong tool here. Even for rare and unique physical phenomenon you might not use science. As an illustration, consider that while living in a community that has no prior experience of ball lightning (a fairly uncommon form of lightning that genuinely may never be seen in the same place twice) you are walking through unpopulated hills and observe ball lightning. Excited you tell your community. They don’t believe you and set out prove the truth or otherwise of your claim. The scientific study to confirm your claim would be to walk up and down the same path a number of times to try to confirm your sighting. When the study failed to encounter what you encountered I presume you would admit you were wrong.

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  4. I guess preconceived belief (or non-belief) does not come into dismissing the claim.

    It’s a preconceived belief that made the claim in the first place. The facts are pretty obvious. The woman was getting health care and she recovered. That they prayed has no bearing on her recovery. Both believer and non-believers recover from severe illness/injury all the time. The fact that the statistics do not show a significant effect of one over the other tells us that prayer really doesn’t matter other than as a placebo calming effect for those that believe – but that does not mean that it is divine in origin any more than a child’s blanket or a athlete’s lucky charm is divine.

    one looks a bit deeper and asks if perhaps there is a God after all

    Perhaps you should examine the website http://www.whywontgodhealamputees.com/ that asks the question “Why does god only perform miracles that are easily copied, faked, or explained away? Why does he never heal amputations, regenerate 3rd degree burns, or bring the dead back to life?”

    Firstly studies can be constructed to prove anything

    The prayer study I listed is only denied by the fanatics who refuse to accept anything that challenges their belief. There are many religious groups that accept the results.

    But accept the results as gospel if you want, it fits with your preconceptions.

    Er… now you are confusing me – I thought it was obvious that I DO NOT accept the results of prayer as gospel.

    consider that while living in a community that has no prior experience of ball lightning

    If god is that rare, then why do so many claim he is all around us? That prayer is so successful? Simply sounds like people making up excuses to cover the lack of proof in their claims.

    Consider this instead – people die all the time and people recover from a wide variety of illness/injury all the time. Sometimes its because of their stamina or body, sometimes its because of the medicine and knowledge of physicians. Since both believers and non believers experience the same results then the claim of prayer is simply wishful thinking.

    Basically, your argument is based on ignorance – if we don’t know everything then its possible. I use my rational mind and put together the evidence to draw a conclusion based on what is presented. The claims of prayer simply do not hold up to critical inspection. It is a system that requires people who want to believe it and results that are entirely normal taken out of context.

    Comment by mtdew | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  5. You missed the point on the statistics. The statistical basis for the study is flawed – it is worthless in a scientific sense, no matter who accepts the results! But as you indulge in partial quotes to avoid the context accepting the findings of a study while ignoring its methodology fits.
    Second you missed the point on science being the wrong tool to use to validate (or otherwise) miracles. Please re-read.
    You claim to use your rational mind and put together evidence. Why then do you dismiss the first hand evidence of credible witnesses (yes there are nutters etc out there – I am talking only credible cases and witnesses and I agree that the case that triggered this is a poor example). Do you dismiss their evidence because it cannot be recreated in the lab – SO WHAT? Do you think all unique events that can’t be recreated in the lab did not occur?
    The appropriate tool to examine transitional unique events is firstly the evidence of firsthand witnesses. If the event, while individually unique is found (from witness accounts) to be collectively common then we can apply statistical methods to predict the occurrence of such an event, but not to test if the original event(s) occurred. If the event while individually unique and collectively common is also physical in nature then we could construct an experiment to recreate it within the bounds of statistical probability. Unfortunately for some, miracles are not collectively common and are metaphysical in nature – so in this case the experiment is irrelevant. Now, in the absence of valid scientific testing we are faced with a simple choice – all the witnesses are deliberately lying or they are not.
    It is preconceived belief that leads us favour one choice over the other. You have made a choice as to which to believe – that is your right – acknowledge it as your choice … but if you try to use this study as proof, you do yourself and science a disservice – in this case the science is clearly flawed!

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 29, 2007 | Reply

  6. “You missed the point on the statistics. The statistical basis for the study is flawed – it is worthless in a scientific sense, no matter who accepts the results!”

    Please explain why you think it is flawed. I accept that statistics can be twisted to reflect whatever result one wants – but that requires at least some level of dishonesty. What do you find dishonest about creating groups of people and having various religions pray for them and reporting the results over time? Granted it is not comprehensive, but it certainly is an eye opener and a suggestion what anyone should be able to recognize if they simply approach it honestly.

    It doesn’t matter which religion you follow or even if you don’t follow any – no one is favored in life. Believers and non believers alike experience the same things. The believers are praying and following their god, but bad things still happen to them. Prayer simply doesn’t work. The statistics simply provide a visual means of seeing that.

    The quote from the bible is merely an example of how the claim of prayer fails.

    “Second you missed the point on science being the wrong tool to use to validate (or otherwise) miracles”

    If this is some inane “god cannot be tested” claim then we are wasting each others time. If god interacts with this world then that interaction can be tested and compared to natural phenomena to determine if it is of this world or not. Frankly, believers must limit their god in order to believe. If god did exist and he did interact then his interactions would be unmistakeable. I would know god existed if he wanted me to know or desired that I would believe. That believers must rely on unknowns and the flim flamery of ignorance only further proves how suspect their beliefs are.

    “Why then do you dismiss the first hand evidence of credible witnesses”

    What credible witnesses and to what event are you talking about?

    “Do you dismiss their evidence because it cannot be recreated in the lab”

    I need examples of what you are refering to. People believe because they want to believe and if they want to believe then they are going to attribute the unknown to their beliefs. My mother in law is convinced that ghosts exist and that they roam through our house. Any bump or strange event is attributed to the ghosts doing something. Does that mean they exist or that they are here? Not in my book, especially when nearly anything that happens that she attributes to ghosts that I check out turns out to be something normal.

    If someone believes in god and something strange happens they will attribute that thing to their god and with that confidence of mind they will fill in or alter anything that makes their story weaker. Look at how people see the shapes of Jesus or the virgin in toast, water stains, and clouds.

    Are there things that cannot be explained? Of course! But that is not proof of god! That is merely non understanding of something. Simply because we don’t know is in no way reason to run out and then claim that god is real. This is an appeal to ignorance – and it a logical fallacy.

    “Now, in the absence of valid scientific testing we are faced with a simple choice – all the witnesses are deliberately lying or they are not.”

    You left out the possibility that they are simply seeing things as they want to see them because of their belief (as I explained above). In that sense, then yes, they are lying, but not purposely. You cannot judge accuracy by limited subjective events. The fact of these events is not proof of anything supernatural, simply that understanding in life is not always had.

    Even if what they describe is accurate and beyond normal natural events, it does not prove god. Again, their belief system has effected them to attribute what they saw as divine. Someone else might see ghosts, aliens, demons, or spirits.

    Ignorance is not proof.

    “It is preconceived belief that leads us favour one choice over the other. You have made a choice as to which to believe – that is your right – acknowledge it as your choice … but if you try to use this study as proof, you do yourself and science a disservice – in this case the science is clearly flawed!”

    I disagree. Some rationalize and contemplate while others merely accept. People are taught that prayer and miracles are real and they never question that. They accept it so much that they attribute the unknown to that without even thinking about it. They are ingrained so much with their beliefs that they critically examine the answers that they give, but they never really examine the questions.

    This study is not proof, it is evidence that supports a conclusion. If I misrepresented that earlier then I apologize. There is no single proof of anything. All we have is mounds and mounds of evidence to look at. Some ignore the evidence and believe what they are told. Others examine the evidence and draw a conclusion based on that.

    Comment by mtdew | July 30, 2007 | Reply

  7. To finish the point about the study being flawed. Do the stats yourself, a sample size of 1,800 gives an 80% confidence level of detecting events of with what probability? Why would any reasonable person assume that miracles – acknowledged to very rare even by believers – would be that common?

    I am interested in your last assertion about the study, you say:
    “This study is not proof, it is evidence that supports a conclusion. If I misrepresented that earlier then I apologize. There is no single proof of anything. All we have is mounds and mounds of evidence to look at. Some ignore the evidence and believe what they are told. Others examine the evidence and draw a conclusion based on that.”
    Basically we are both saying the same thing. There is no proof absolute, so we review the evidence and choose.
    Also, I think we should agree that preconception plays an important role in evaluating evidence. This is easily observed, for instance in the area of psychology – the explanation of the results or lack of repeatability of some experiments (and I am not talking religion or theology here – just science) are widely debated in academic psychology circles. Each side to the debate interprets the results from the standpoint of the “school of thought” to which they belong. We are no different here and now in this discussion. The key is can we cast aside our preconceptions and be open to other ideas. You say that “Some rationalize and contemplate while others merely accept” – true, but I hope that we are both rationalising and contemplating otherwise one or both of is wasting their time.

    You wanted an example of an event. OK. An event involving someone we do know quite a lot about (where he was born, where he went to school, who his teacher was) and a well recorded event is the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus. There are many non-religious events that we could look at instead, and it may be a little perverse of me choose an example from the Christian history expecting that it will in itself wind you up … but hey, it’s more of a challenge for me. So, here is an individual who is intelligent, a conformist in terms of his day, not know for questioning the status quo, well educated and highly regarded by his peers. There is no known history of mental illness or epilepsy (before or after the event). He had nothing to gain by claiming what he claimed. The contrary is true; by his claims he invited persecution and reasonably anticipated an unpleasant life and death. His claim was also contrary to his beliefs and those widely held in society at the time. Now, was he lying or did he have the experience?

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  8. Why would any reasonable person assume that miracles – acknowledged to very rare even by believers – would be that common?

    I disagree. It has been my experience that ‘miracles’ get tagged to any significant event, as well as even the most common events – and those people actually believe what they say.

    I get the impression that you are trying to separate yourself from mainstream believers because you recognize them for their fundamental fanaticism, but your reasoning (evolution of theology in your previous post) is a bit suspect and simply smacks of more cherry picking.

    While I understand your need to define miracles as something very rare and untestable, the plain fact is that is a desire and acceptance of relatively very few believers.

    Also, I think we should agree that preconception plays an important role in evaluating evidence.

    This is a common accusation from believers, that everyone has preconceived beliefs and I strongly disagree. The majority of non believers were once believers themselves. It is because they accepted to evaluate evidence and study with an open mind that they were able to develop new understandings. Nearly all people of belief never had the opportunity to make that choice. They have been indoctrinated since birth and grow to simply accept what they were taught as truth. In many cases even when a person began to question there were those around them that guided them (sometimes forcibly) back into acceptance.

    The non believer, on the other hand, has already shown a propensity to weigh the information and make a decision based on what appears to be true.

    If I tell the average person “Jesus Christ was not a real person” their reaction is going to be “No true, the bible tells me he is real”. Even when I show that in comparison one could accept Huckleberry Finn as more real than Jesus Christ by written record the believer will still automatically reject that analysis and lean on their faith that what they have been told is truth. That is basing your understandings on a preconceived belief.

    The claim that the non believer basis their understandings and conclusions on preconceived beliefs is false from the get-go. Non believers are not angry at god, angry at the clergy, miscreants, immoral, lost, or simply refusing to accept god for one petty reason or another. We have examined the data, the claims, the stories, and the bible and have concluded that there is nothing there to support the claim of god.

    The argument of preconceived beliefs reflects entirely on that of the believer who propagates the idea of faith, or the need to believe in the absence of or in spite of contradictory evidence.

    We are no different here and now in this discussion.

    The problem here is that you are trying to argue for a belief system based on shaky evidence. Going back to your example of psychology this discussion could be the same as arguing psychology with someone who believed in phrenology. The evidence shows that phrenology is quackery. There is no debate – only the continued insistence of someone who refuses to accept that their system of belief is false.

    I’d also point out your usage of “school of thought” ties in with what I said before on religion : everyone has their own opinion of it and the common theme is that if you do not believe correctly and accept god then you suffer eternal torment.

    It is apparent that the majority of people want to believe – so why does god remain hidden and allow them to believe falsely? Either god does not exist or what you claim to know is false and god simply does not care what we think about him and the aspirations that people define god with are also man made.

    There are people with a desire to serve their god with a fervor that outshines the faith of most believers today – that the god these people serve vary so greatly among those people is what gives me pause. These people want to believe – they want to be servants of god – their only desire is to be righteous and to serve their Lord God. Yet these people do no share the same faith for the same god. Yahweh, Allah, Christ, Baal, Horus, Shiva, etc – they differ greatly. That any god would forsake anyone else with such fervor simply because they were born in the wrong culture is ridiculous. To remain hidden when such a god merely needed to provide even the least bit of guidance apart from the cacophony of religious chaos speaks volume of either the existence of god or the understanding of god.

    In either case, what you proclaim about god fails.

    You wanted an example of an event…Paul on the road to Damascus…Now, was he lying or did he have the experience?

    Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (13 March 1911 – 24 January 1986), better known as L. Ron Hubbard


    Hubbard was a highly controversial public figure during his lifetime. Scientology biographies present Hubbard as “larger than life, attracted to people, liked by people, dynamic, charismatic and immensely capable in a dozen fields. He was highly intelligent, an accomplished writer, well studied, and creator of Scientology – a religion that still grows today.

    One can only imagine what kind of status Hubbard will be lifted to in 2000 years. Now is he lying or did he have an experience?

    Comment by mtdew | August 2, 2007 | Reply

  9. You dodged a reply on Paul by referring to Hubbard, another of the non-sequiturs you seem fond of. By the way Yahweh, Allah, Christ are generally recognised to be the same God or at least revelations of the same God. If you want an explanation of the others I will be happy to oblige, but I suspect your preconceptions might get in the way.

    But as a last attempt at this post I will try to answer your main point which seems to be that atheist don’t suffer from deductive problems associated with preconceived ideas. I will also give you another example of a supernatural event since Paul was clearly not to your liking – so an example of a healing miracle this time.

    Miracles are a clear case where preconception determines the outcome of your thinking. If you do not believe in God or the supernatural then miracles are absurd as you cannot explain them in association with what you don’t believe i.e. they are not miracles because there is no God to have performed them – many atheists have a firm conviction that there truly is no God, that is a belief .

    On the other hand if you really have no belief in the existence or not of God then you are obliged to view all the evidence and explanations, in which case there could be miracles. Now if there is no natural law explanation for the event, i.e. you can’t run an experiment to repeat it or to verify that it occurred or you have no biological/medical case history to explain it then you have a simple choice. Either you dismiss the event as not having occurred – lies all lies – or if the people involved are credible and there is evidence that the unexplained event occurred then the rational thing to do is to seek another explanation (I suspect that I have lost you with the rational bit). If there are similar events then it would be rational to seek a common explanation – such a rational explanation is a supernatural one.

    So as an atheist, either unexplained events don’t/can’t occur, or there is an explanation but being an atheist precludes you from accepting it so you are obliged to leave them in the ”too hard basket”.

    Of course you can opt for “did not occur” and deny any knowledge of credibly tested miracles. That can easily be put right. Of course you know that in order to be recognised as a saint in the Catholic Church the person should have two miracles attributed to their intercession – there are special cases such as for martyrs. Now I accept that there has been considerable debate in the Catholic Church over the years on the truth of miracles (did you think only atheists were objective enough to question?) current Catholic theology accepts miracles, but and it is worth noting with a view different from that of many non-Catholic theologians. I mention this only so that you don’t trot out Hume’s arguments as beyond question – they have all been encountered before and addressed.

    Now, as you know the life of the saint to be and the miracles are subject to considerable scrutiny with the appointment a “Devil’s Advocate” to challenge the evidence. Now as there have been some dodgy Popes and hence some dodgy canonisations, also earlier canonisation could be based on public acclaim which had its problems. So more recent history provides ‘cleaner’ examples and better documented miracles. Once again you can chose to disregard evidence if it does not suit your purpose, claim the “Devil’s Advocate” was not diligent in his task – I can only offer you the examples you asked for.

    As an illustration of the miracles try

    http://www.catholicprogress.com/livingproof.htm

    The key point is that a panel of doctors declared the healing unexplained by medical science. So again the choice is yours, as we have agreed there is no proof absolute, either …
    1) Blind faith atheist disbelief – it did not happen, conspiracy theory, ‘lies all lies’, whatever – it just is not true.
    2) Preconceived atheist disbelief. It was a spontaneous recovery, mind over matter, whatever – it happens, we don’t understand it, but we don’t believe in God so it was not a miracle.
    3) It was a miracle. The medically unexplained nature of the healing, the nature of the event itself, the evidence and the level of correlation leads you to a rational conclusion based on the evidence – it was a miracle. That was the finding of those who examined the case in detail – plus it aligns with other similar cases.
    By the way, St Fustian’s other miracle was the cure of a woman with Milroy’s Disease, a form of lymphedema (?).

    A bit of reading on miracles if you like the theology of it try looking up miracle: http://catholicism.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=catholicism&cdn=religion&tm=65&f=10&tt=12&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.newadvent.org/cathen/02364b.htm
    although it is a bit too dry for my liking.
    If you want some background on the process of recognition of saints
    http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php or if you like complex go back to catholicism.about.com and read what they have to say – I think it is interesting by a hard read.

    As I said on your other post, you can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink. Your choice.

    Comment by akakiwibear | August 2, 2007 | Reply

  10. You dodged a reply on Paul by referring to Hubbard

    I didn’t dodge anything. You pulled up a man who’s existence is buried in controversy. A man who created religion from his own subjective experiences and who’s story was later expanded and distorted into the story of Christ today. He hadn’t even personally met the Jesus of that time and his knowledge was second hand! (A common theme in Christianity) It’s very obvious that as the timeline increases for biblical authors that the miracles and stories of Jesus increase in showmanship. Like any other story, given time and enough passings the story gets embellished and outlandish – especially since Paul preached a spiritual Jesus. It wasn’t until nearly a century later that the circulations of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John grew enough tha people began to believe the earth walking, miracle toting, wise saying, stories of Jesus – stories that Paul NEVER made mention of in his letters!

    For example, Paul tells us that Jesus will be born of a woman and that he will be of the line of David. No where does he indicate a virgin birth – onlya child with the spirit of god. (Galatians 4:4 and Romans 1:3). But even the 4 apostles slip up in their story and miss loose ends – Mark describes how Jesus’s mother seems to think he is out of his mind; she goes to put him away. Would this be characteristic of a virgin mother of a divine child, whose nature had been communicated to her by a heavenly messenger before his birth?

    I’m sure that in your haste to affirm your belief you won’t even consider that superstition and ignorance of that time and how it would effect any unusual experiences. That is a common problem today with pareidolia, miracles, Near death claims, and UFOs. People take very real, yet unusual, experiences and then extrapolate a supernatural quality to them based on some personal experience of their own. Why Paul would have changed his life will be forever unknown. Perhaps he tired of the slaughter and bought into a story of peace? This doesn’t proove Jesus no more than the willing Kool-aid drinkers of Jones Town proved god in their self made rapture.

    The problem with Paul is that nothing of Christianity existed before him. There was no “christians” because Christ left nothing behind – no book, no letters, no historical accounts (other than vague references to his death). Then Paul comes along, and he is not the only one preaching about Jesus – and many didn’t even teach that Jesus was divine, to include the Jews, Ebionites, Essenes, etc. Paul hadn’t even met Jesus and much of his writings depict Christ in a more spiritual manner compared to what was later developed.

    There is also a connection between Christianity and Mithraism. Paul was certainly aware of the Mithric (Mithral? Mithraistic?) beliefs as they originated in Tarsus. Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, where, according to Plutarch [46-125CE], the Mithraic Mysteries were being practiced as early as 67BCE.

    All you have done with the story of Paul is to romanticize it so that it provides a buttress to your beliefs. There is nothing here that can be used to prove Christ or god. Everything is heresay and depends on a willingness to accept it. You believe it because you want to believe it.

    The irony is that you would point to this story where a man was converted only because of direct intervention of god, yet you would scoff at anyone else that demands the same level of proof.

    many atheists have a firm conviction that there truly is no God, that is a belief .

    Not in the sense you suggest it – it is a belief based upon reason, evidence, and conclusion. It is a conclusion based upon the claim that religion makes and the failure of it to support that claim. It is not a conviction, but a conclusion brought about by understanding.

    So as an atheist, either unexplained events don’t/can’t occur, or there is an explanation but being an atheist precludes you from accepting it so you are obliged to leave them in the ”too hard basket”

    Or simply “I don’t know” but not turning toward mysticism and the support of the appeal to ignorance with “god did it”.

    I think it pretty clear that you have a very poor understanding of what atheism is. You, yourself, are an atheist to other religions. You have used your intelligence to critically examine and discard the claims of other religions, but then you become intellectually dishonest with yourself and do not apply those same skepticisms to your own religion. You have been programmed and indoctrinated into your belief system (most likely from birth) to simply accept it, not to unduly question it, and to automatically reject anything that doesn’t agree with it. I know this as a fact because I was like you, as was so many non believers now. The only difference between you and me is that I disbelieve in 1 more god than you do.

    did you think only atheists were objective enough to question?

    Are you serious? Some of the most brilliant atheists are ex-believers. Most ex-believers became that way because they did question so I encourage you to do it often! Faith only works when you stop questioning because faith is not required with knowledge. The problem is that many believers confuse their refusal to accept disbelief as knowledge (“I am 100% convinced there is a god!”, “nothing you say will convince me my god is not real?”) Those people are just being dishonest with themselves. That is blind faith and if you have blind faith then you immediately lose any respectability in discussion/debate on the subject of god’s existence.

    I hope you understand that last point.

    The key point is that a panel of doctors declared the healing unexplained by medical science

    Sigh. “ppeal to Ignorance”. “God lives in the dark”. “I don’t know so ‘god diddit'”. Doctor’s didn’t use to know what caused disease so for a long time is was construed that demons did it (and conversely that god healed). Ignorance causes so much mysticism! Just because we do not know does not mean that there is a god. It is not a proof!

    Preconceived atheist disbelief

    See above. Ignorance is not proof. The body heals – its a fact – and sometimes it heals against the odds (as well as fails for strange reasons). This happens in both believers and non believers with and without prayer. Your position that someone recovering from some terrible disease/injury against all odds simply shows your willingness to delude yourself. There is no correlation between healing and faith, so your position is nothing more than attributing the unknown to a god, once again.

    It was a miracle

    It was not. That you would start this conversation off with speculation about the rareness of miracles (so rare as to be untestable and statistically insignificant) and then jauntily declare UNDER A PHYSICIAN’S CARE as a miracle just goes to show what a self deluded person you are.

    plus it aligns with other similar cases.

    That recovery to injury/disease considered fatal is statistically rare, but in a world of billions even .001% translates into 10 million out of a billion. That you are now contradicting your earlier statements probably doesn’t even occur to you…

    In other words, there is nothing special about a person healing – it happens all the time. While statistically low, its comparatively common.

    Why are there no amputee miracles then? Why don’t amputees regenerate? That would be pretty miraculous. Why don’t the dead rise from the ground? I’m not talking recent dead like drowning victims either. I’m talking people dead long enough to have gone through cell decay. Or what about the spontaneous recovery of genetic disorders?

    Miracles and Prayer – pees in a pod. You believe because you want to believe. You have shown nothing here but a willingness to believe because you want to. You use the excuse of ignorance in order to do it and are so blinded by your need to believe that you cannot even recognize it. Anything surrounded in mystery is a beacon of proof to you.

    As I said on your other post, you can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.

    Neither I, nor my horse, is so gullible or stupid as to drink from the putrid brine you call water.

    Comment by mtdew | August 4, 2007 | Reply


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