I Didn’t Pray; Did It Matter? June 15, 2009

I Didn’t Pray; Did It Matter?

Whenever I get into the driver’s seat of a car with my mom in the passenger seat, she still tells me to pray as the engine starts.

I don’t — I can calm myself in other ways when I drive. So she’ll pray on my behalf.

Prayer is nothing more than a placebo. Even if you believe in it, it has no power other than in your own mind. So it was depressing to see this on PostSecret yesterday:


It wouldn’t have mattered.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Who would it matter to?

  • It may not matter to the person on the stretcher, but it’ll matter to the person praying. As long as someone isn’t trying to substitute prayer for medical procedures, let them pray.

  • 7fta

    Hey I prayed that the sun would rise this morning and it did! Therefor prayer works!!!

  • anna

    i think that when a situation is obviously out of one’s control and the worst case scenario is terrifying there is a natural inclination to try to have ANY possible effect on the outcome.

    I think that praying in these situations let’s people feel like they did everything they could, and is thus harmless, possibly even helpful for the person doing the praying. I catch myself doing this. I don’t really believe that it makes any difference, but it gives me something to do in the midst of my panic.

    as mentioned before, as long as the prayer doesn’t replace actual solutions, I don’t think that knocking out a panicked “oh, god, don’t let him die” totally destroys one’s atheist cred. I think it’s more of a reflexive superstition.

  • SarahH

    This one, also from today’s batch, makes me more sad.

  • I’ve got a family friend in a coma at the moment. He hit a moose while driving home and is now in the ICU at a local hospital (the moose was uninjured). I was uncomfortable to see family members asking me to pray for him (I’m still in the closet with this side of the family as they’ve already disowned one cousin and I don’t want to be next).

    Now that he’s coming out of the coma (thanks to modern medicine!) they’re thanking me for my prayers (needless to say, I never prayed).

    I think I’m more bothered by this than is required by the situation. I have to say, I’m really insulted that they’re crediting his recovery (so far) on prayer rather than on brain surgery, blood thinners, respirators etc.

    Also, if they’re so grateful to god for starting to heal him, why the hell aren’t they ticked off at god for making him hit the moose in the first place?

  • atomjack

    No, I actually NEVER prayed, just hoped for the best, trusting the medical folks, even when I was a catlicker.

    OT, how do I post an avatar?

  • Chal

    This one also makes me sad.

  • OT, how do I post an avatar?


  • Matto the Hun

    When I was a kid my parents would fight and I would pray that they would not get a divorce and that God would make them stay together.

    Now that I am gown up, my parents are still together, but they have an unhappy marriage, so much so that I hate visiting because one can feel the tension like a lead weight. I also hate hating visiting them.

    If I hadn’d prayed their problems would still be the same, and the situation would still be the same.

    And if God did exist and prayer did work, then clearly it doesn’t work very well… either than or God would be a major douche bag.

  • This one’s the worst of the batch I thought.
    They ask what to do with the information “God” gave them. I say get thee to a doctor because you’re hearing voices!

  • MaleficVTwin

    The fear of the weak-minded is a powerful tool. 🙁

  • Ouch, so sorry about your friend Sarah. Sadly moose always win. Hope his recovery goes well.

  • Richard Wade

    “I wonder if it would have mattered.” Sounds like the outcome was not a happy one. They wouldn’t be wondering about it at all if the outcome had been a happy one.

    This is the less often seen flip side of the double standard for prayer. The more familiar side is when people pray:

    When people pray and the outcome is good, they credit the outcome to the praying. But when they pray and the outcome is bad, they don’t think about any connection between the praying and the outcome at all.

    The flip side is when people don’t pray:

    When people don’t pray and the outcome is bad, they think that the not-praying might have caused the bad outcome. But when people don’t pray and the outcome is good, they don’t think about any connection between the not-praying and the outcome at all.

    Will more than just a few individuals ever grow out of this particular kind of fallacious thinking?

  • Brad

    I was prayed for as I had asthma. I’ve never had asthma since!

    My mum had a degenerative condition of the muscles. She was prayed for and healed.

    Prayer does work!

    By the way, prayer is not just about seeing things happen, it is about having a relationship with Dad (God).

  • Heidi

    “Prayer does work!”

    Tell that to Madeline Kara Neumann.

    Oh, wait. You can’t.

  • Richard Wade

    I had a headache. I took an aspirin and prayed. The headache went away. Prayer works!

    I had a headache. I didn’t take an aspirin and I didn’t pray. The headache continued. That’s what I get for not praying.

    I had a headache. I didn’t take an aspirin but I prayed. The headache continued. I must not have prayed with enough faith.

    I had a headache. I took an aspirin but didn’t pray. The headache went away. I didn’t think about prayer working or not, because I was too busy doing what the headache had prevented me from doing…. But prayer works, dammit!

    I had a headache. I gave up trying to argue with silly, childish adults who can’t see the inconsistencies in their illogical cause-and-effect thinking. I don’t have any headaches any more.

  • georgie

    I don’t pray and was never really one to do so as I was never really religious in any sense of the word. But I have a weird habit of crossing myself when there is a close call in the car, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to take your hands off the wheel at a time like that. Praying sounds safer at least. Now I just need to stop doing the sign of the cross, people may get the wrong idea.

  • Eliza

    Brad, that’s great that your asthma and your mom’s muscle condition both went away. With evidence like that, prayer sure seems to work miracles!

  • Brooks

    I wonder if this is why Orlando Magic lost their basketball game because they forgot to pray.

  • keddaw
  • Jason R

    it would have been even worse.

    If you pray to Shiva, then Zeus would get pissed. If you prayed to Zeus, then Thor would have smacked you with his hammer. It’s just a lose lose situation.

    Its best to just thank the doctor when you walk out of the hospital for all of his years of training and hard work. Oh, and don’t forget to thank the nurses, anesthesiologists and the EMT’s that helped.

  • Each passing week, I feel a little more like Post Secret is biased with the secrets that are posted regarding religion. It’s very common to see secrets suggesting atheism – or at the very least somebody’s slipping from Christianity – as being portrayed negatively or as a depressing incident (“I stopped praying and lost my house” or “I didn’t pray and the outcome sucked” etc). Very rarely is religion portrayed with that kind of negative stigma. Which leads me to wonder are atheists just not sending in positive secrets, or is the man in charge of the project just not sharing the positive atheistic secrets he receives.

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