Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So, Why Doesn't God Answer Everyone's Prayers?

Last time, I started digging into a website that talks about prayer - how to do it, and how to get it to work, etc.

I found the first section to be somewhat incoherent, but extracted what I could from it anyway. 

Today's subsection is - "So, Why Doesn't God Answer Everyone's Prayers?"
It may be because they don't have a relationship with God. They may know that God exists, and they might even worship God from time to time. But those who never seem to have their prayers answered probably don't have a relationship with him.
I've babbled at length about how if a claim's truth is indistinguishable from it's falsehood, then the claim isn't particularly credible. This is a great example.

I took a step back and looked at these statements, and I've realized that it's actually quite staggering how many layers of fallacy can be packed into three sentences. It becomes sort of a Rorschach test for whatever logical fallacy comes to mind first.

At first glance, it's some kind of mutant hybrid between a No True Scotsman fallacy and a Black Swan fallacy. After all, if you really had a relationship with God, then your prayers will be answered. It doesn't matter if you think you have a relationship with God, if your prayers are going unanswered, that's because you didn't.

The problem is that in a world where God is answering prayers of those who have a relationship with him, and ignoring others, we'd expect to see a group of people who all think they have a relationship with God, and some of them are having higher rates of answered prayer than others.

If, however, we live in a world were there is no god answering prayers, we'd expect to see a group of people who all think they have a relationship with God, and some of them are having higher rates of answered prayers than others.

Of course, if someone prays more frequently, that person is going to have a higher incidence of answered prayer. If I were to go have fun in a firing range, I could take 100 shots at a target, and hit the bulls eye, even if I'm terrible at shooting. The more I shoot, the more times I'll nail it - even if my overall success rate is 1%. We don't need a universe-creating entity to explain why this is. This is also known as a "sharpshooter fallacy".

Have we compared the full data of prayers made, scope of request, time delay, and stretch factor for how far people are willing to go to consider an outcome "answered", for each group of people - those with supposed relationships, and those without?

You're asserting that a relationship with God is what distinguishes those with high rates of answered prayer from those who don't. How can we confirm this assertion?

It sounds like an ad hoc rationalization to me, to those who ask why their prayers aren't answered when they tried praying.

"Well I prayed and nothing happened"
-"Do did you establish a  relationship with God?"
"Yes, at 128KBps"
-"Did you jiggle the cables?"
"Yes, several times"
-"Did you light precisely six candles and arrange them equidistant from you at 5 feet 2 inches?"
"Yep"
-"Are you sure you established a relationship with God?"

Further, they have never received from God complete forgiveness for their sin. 
How the heck do you know that? Does God hand one a receipt saying "Sins 27% forgiven.". Do we have one confirming the relationship status with God, while we're at it?

You're spending a lot of energy coming up with bizarre rationalizations why the prayer didn't work, all the while ignoring the simple possibility that prayer doesn't work outside of random chance and perceived through psychological factors.

Well, maybe it's not that simple.
What does that have to do with it you ask? Here is an explanation. "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."3
Oh. There's the Biblical connection. Got it. We're still massively begging the question, I see - as to whether any of this is actually true.

I suppose that's not unexpected. I don't see this page as a how-to guide for atheists, but for those who already erroneously believe that prayer works.
It's pretty natural to feel that separation from God. 
My separation from Spider man is what really breaks my heart, though.
When people begin to ask God for something, what usually takes place? They begin with, "God, I really need your help with this problem..." And then there's a pause, followed by a restart...
No joke - this is very critical. God's processor is very unstable. It takes a long while for the electricity to enter a stable state, and that's why his clock rate is down about 0.33Hz. I suppose if everyone's prayer requests are operating on a time-sharing basis, maybe this is the response time we can expect... like a high-traffic website being slow to respond.

You have to get the header information just right too. If the content type was "God, I kind of need your help", your prayer might get rejected as improperly formatted.
"I realize that I'm not a perfect person, that I actually have no right to ask you for this..." There's an awareness of personal sin and failure.
There's this curious blend of being inappropriate to ask for something, but expected to do so anyway. After all, as the first section of this website pointed out, you're supposed to depend fully on God to fix your problems. 
And the person knows that it's not just them; that God is aware of it too. There's a feeling of, "Who am I kidding?" What they may not know is how they can receive God's forgiveness for all their sin. They might not know that they can come into a relationship with God so that God will hear them. This is the foundation for God answering your prayer.
So this concludes their section as to why God doesn't answer everyones' prayers.

I have a question. How can we tell whether we've successfully established a God-relationship connection? Is it because more of my prayers are answered?

Here's the thing - and this is where the prayer model descends into a rabbit hole. By the time you believe you've established this relationship, your mind is warped. You've likely established not a relationship with God, but rather a set of self-reinforcing beliefs and biases that cause you to broadly interpret prayer results as successfully answered prayer.

How can we tell the difference? Essentially, what I'm saying is that your assertions about prayer working, because one has a relationship with God, have the same problem I've been detailing - the truth of the statement is indistinguishable from the falsehood of the statement.

I think it's a combination of biases and priming. How do we demonstrate otherwise - by me trying to establish a relationship too?

If I were to successfully do that, I may actually experience what you're describing - but I still have a problem. I still haven't answered that question. How can we tell whether it's real or just a combination of psychological factors? For all I know, now I've succumb to psychological factors.

It's a curious prayer model you have. I literally cannot tell the difference between it and illusion.

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