About prayer

I’m going to start off here with a bit of a disclaimer. I don’t believe in prayer—or in the supernatural for that matter—but many of you do, and many of you have even told me that you are praying for me. I thank you for your prayers. Really, I do. It’s your way of saying that you care, and I am touched by your caring.

I originally intended the following “dialogue with God” to be funny, but after many hours of editing, I gave up because I realized I couldn’t cut or soften it enough to keep a great many of you from becoming so offended that you would stop reading by the end of the first paragraph. I then rewrote the piece as a straight-up fictional dialogue in which I challenge my childhood church’s teachings about God. It will still offend many, but I have done all I can do to present myself honestly without causing what might be considered gratuitous offense.
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Me: Today, I would like to ask a few questions about prayer. You, being God and all, know everything, right, so you know what a person is going to pray for before he prays for it. Why then, does he have to pray?

God: To humble his heart so that he will look to me as the source of all goodness and mercy, and so he will glorify my name forever.

Me: Let’s say that he prays for another person though. Are you more likely to help that person because of his prayer, and are you more likely still to help that person if a dozen or even a million other people pray for him?

God: Prayer is not primarily a tool for getting things done; prayer is primarily a means of instilling dependence upon, and glorification of, the Creator. Therefore, the prayers of the many are more likely to be heard than the prayers of the few simply because dependence and glorification are more effectively instilled when they are answered.

Me: Millions of people pray for kings, presidents, world peace, an end to hunger, and so forth everyday, yet I can’t see that it helps any. Besides, if it is just and merciful for you to do something, aren’t you (being perfect in justice, mercy and every other virtue) obligated to do it regardless of whether anyone prays?

God: That which is just and merciful is no more and no less than what I say is just and merciful. As the creator of all things, I also create morality.

Me: So, when you told the early Jews to invade other countries and to murder everyone who lived there except for the young virgins—who they were free to rape—it was moral?

God: It was more than moral; it was obligatory. You will remember that I had King Saul killed because he failed to destroy enough people and livestock.

Me: Yes, I do remember, and it always bothered me. The way you describe morality, it can mean rape, robbery, and murder one day, and compassion and fair play the next. You throw out all standards except for your say-so.

Him: Yes, for I am The Lord.

Me: I have edited out what I think you are.

God: Your blasphemy will earn you a place in Gehenna.

Me: That’s really your trump card, isn’t it? If I, in good conscience and intellectual honesty, doubt you or question you because I dare to use the brain which you yourself gave me, then you say, “I’m sending you to hell.” And I’m supposed to, not just love and respect you; I’m supposed to worship you?

God: Who are you to question the ways of the Eternal God who out of emptiness laid the foundations of the world and set the stars in the firmament of the heavens?

Me: Uh, that’s pretty much what you told Job after he got upset that you allowed Satan to torture him so you could win a bet; but could we get back to the subject of prayer? As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time in church, and this means I’ve heard many prayers. Those prayers were for sundry things, for example, rain, money, healing, guidance, forgiveness, a safe journey, courage or some other virtue, etc. What I’m getting at is that I never, ever, even once heard a prayer for something so miraculous that it couldn’t have happened unless you did it, something like an amputee growing a new leg or a wrecked airplane being put back in the air. Yet, the Bible does say: “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” It would appear that your followers don’t want to hold the bar too high lest you be proven a fraud.

God: Your desire for showy miracles comes from your failure to believe. I will but say to you as it is said in Scripture: “…some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it…’”

Me: Uh, tell me if I’m wrong, but are you saying that you won’t answer a prayer if the answer might influence evil and adulterous people to believe in you? Don’t you want evil and adulterous people to believe in you?

God: As Jesus said to Thomas: “…blessed are those who have no proof, and yet have believed.”

Me: But isn’t belief without proof credulity? Honestly, if insistence upon proof is a shortcoming, doesn’t this leave the door open for anyone to believe anything--Christian or otherwise--no matter how absurd? Furthermore, if unsubstantiated belief is a virtue, does that virtue increase when someone believes things that are so totally absurd that no prudent person could believe them—things like a resurrected Jesus eating fish and walking through walls?

God: Verily, I say unto thee as it was said of old, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”

Me: My Sunday school teacher used to quote that verse when I asked hard questions, but it’s not really an answer, now is it? It’s really just a way to shut people up when you don’t have an answer. In this instance, it enables worshippers to claim that your “power and mercy” is demonstrated when someone finds a new job despite the fact that your “power and mercy” allowed 35,000 children to starve to death that same day and thousands more to be abused and murdered. Your believers even pray for help in finding their car keys despite the fact that someone dies from hunger every two seconds while they’re looking for them.

I am confounded by such a hell-bent determination to believe that which is not only patently absurd but portrays you as a whimsical monster who is desperate for worship and who, if they are lucky, just might reward prayer givers with favors that are small at best and trivial at worst. Every time someone says he is praying for me, I think of the countless millions of humans and other creatures that you are allowing to suffer and die in excruciating misery and indescribable agony at that very moment, and I wonder why my well-wisher thinks you are going to answer her prayer. The difference between believing in prayer and believing in the sweepstakes is that some people actually win the sweepstakes.

Of course, the believers among them give you credit for even that. For example, let’s say Jane loses her job and gets it into her head that a “prayer of faith” will win her the lottery. Jane falls to her knees, prays her heart out, and goes off to choose her nine-digit lottery number. “Which numbers would Jesus choose?” she wonders, and 111222333 pops into her head. Voila! Jane wins the lottery. “It had to be a miracle,” she testifies, “because the odds of that precise number coming up were miniscule.

As I see it, Jane has two problems. One is explaining why, out of all the thousands of people—many more needy than she—who prayed to win the same lottery, God chose her. She will no doubt claim ignorance here (your ways being mysterious and all), but the second problem is more substantial. To wit, the chance of her number being drawn was exactly the same as the chance of any number being drawn. Our species has survived largely because of our ability to recognize patterns. The downside is that we also imagine patterns where none exist. The odds of a coin toss coming up heads ten times in a row is the same as any other combination, yet ten heads LOOKS impressive whereas two heads, three tails, one head, two tails, one head, and one tail, doesn’t. When people tell me how God has intervened in their lives, it is nearly always a case of them having mistaken a coincidence for a purposeful event.

I have yet another problem with prayer. It is very common for the faithful to develop a “crisis of faith” following a tragic event such as the death of their child. My problem is that millions of children die everyday, so how is it that those deaths didn’t cause a “crisis of faith”? Whatever believers might claim, I view prayer as being primarily an attempt to keep God on their side. This means that, when someone close to them—especially someone who was good and harmless and should have had her whole life ahead of her—dies, they feel betrayed. They can maintain their belief in an all-powerful and all-merciful God when he lets horrible things happen to other people, but when horrible things happen to them, it challenges their faith.

Here’s how I see it. If people want to believe in prayer, reincarnation, divine revelation, L. Ron Hubbard, the atoning blood of Jesus, or the Norse pantheon, it’s their right, and I wouldn’t stop them if I could. But neither do I respect a belief that seems silly to me simply because it falls under the heading of religion.
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For a long time, I figured that my failure to believe was somehow my fault. The Bible spoke of faith as a gift that would be given to those who asked for it, so I asked, and asked, and asked, but I never felt it for more than a few minutes at a time and only then when I got myself worked into a lather at a revival meeting. Since everyone else I knew in fundamentalist Mississippi seemed to have no trouble believing, I grilled them every chance I got, trying to find a reason for my failure. Their answers were either non-existent or shallow. I finally concluded that I must have committed the vaguely defined “unpardonable sin” spoken of in the New Testament. My best guess was that I had done it one summer afternoon during my twelfth year when I got so mad at God for not answering my questions that I cursed him. This sent me into years of absolute terror about which, at the time, I was too ashamed to speak. I dealt with those years by trying to think of other things, but the terror stayed with me through many a sleepless night.

Then I let it go. Simple as that, although hardly so fast as that. I realized that I didn’t believe because there was no evidence to substantiate belief. This alleviated my terror, but it left me with another problem, namely, if there is no evidence for belief, why then do so many people believe—is it simply a matter of honest disagreement? I thought this unlikely because no evidence means no evidence. It doesn’t mean that different people can examine the same evidence and come to different conclusions. This reduced, in my mind, religious faith to wishful thinking or the blind acceptance of authority. It also explained why religious people are often so petty, vindictive, and mean-spirited. Because their faith lacks evidence, they can only sustain the illusion of faith—even to themselves—by coercion. Remember the fable entitled “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Everyone knew in their heart of hearts that the emperor was naked, but as long as they were afraid to say so, they halfway fooled themselves into thinking that their eyes deceived them. It’s called group-think. Secretly pay a hundred people to say they see three ducks walking by when there are only two, and the hundred and first person will nearly always say that he sees three ducks.

“But,” you might say, “there is evidence to substantiate belief. For example, the universe is too complex to have come out of nothing, so some immensely powerful entity must have created it.”

If the complexity of the universe proves that an outside force created it, then that outside force, being infinitely more complex than the universe, would also require a creator. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that one complex entity, like the universe, requires a creator because it is complex, but that another—and infinitely more complex—entity doesn’t require a creator. Instead of offering a solution, such “proofs” of God are self-defeating due to internal contradictions and do not, therefore, constitute rationally coherent evidence.

If a person wants to believe despite the absence of evidence, and if he doesn’t use his religion to harm other people, I have no particular problem with it; but more often than not, religion creates barriers rather than bridges. When I walked away from the church I grew up in, everyone in that church who had been important in my life walked away from me. This is what religion is about, people dividing themselves off into groups that think they are more special to God than other groups. They build their little churches and look askance at the people in the church across the street. I quite literally see no good in religion that can only be attributed to religion, but even if I am wrong, I can’t begin to imagine that the good comes anywhere close to the harm. As my mother used to say, “Don’t discuss religion or politics in polite company.” Indeed, one or the other—or both—is behind every war, and neither is safe to talk about except among those who agree with you. Yet, religion, at least, claims to be about love.

43 comments:

Sonia ;) said...

I am not offended, and actually believe part of you is right. I dont believe in the bible other than most read or viewed piece of fiction. I dont think one book written by one order of ppl is the belief of all ppl. I have hope in all that is good in ppl, places, things. I believe a grain of truth is in all considered lore, fiction, or miracle. What part is truth no one will ever know. But Im sure glad to be able to ask, think, and research it. That right there is a miracle to me..the power of the human mind, body, and history of ppl's struggle in life and with life.

Very good thought provoking post Snow ya ol aristotle. How ya been?
Prayer to me is one way a person tries to put positive wishes, thoughts outloud or out there. Sometimes like talking to yourself or the tv does.

xoxoxoxox

Bernie said...

Oh Snow I feel as strongly about my faith as you feel about your not believing in one.....It's okay Snow, you are what you are and I am what I am.....I still care about your pain and will keep praying for you....be well soon my friend and I do hope your dog is on the mend as well......:-) Hugs

Snowbrush said...

Sonia: "Prayer to me is one way a person tries to put positive wishes, thoughts outloud or out there."

Peggy expresses gratitude to the universe everyday, yet Peggy does not believe in the supernatural. To her, it is simply a way of acknowledging the goodness in her life lest she take it for granted.

Snowbrush said...

P.S.

Sonia: "How ya been?"

In considerable pain--in both shoulders--and also in a funk due to the fact that I can only use one arm. Plus, the endless Oregon rain gets me down every winter but I'm doing much worse this year due to my physical limitations. I see the doctor next week, and am wondering if he will let me take the sling off (I will be six weeks post-op), or if he will want to do an MRI first to see if everything is holding together in there. If I get to take the sling off, I still won't be able to lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee for another six weeks, after which I can slowly start building my strength up. Getting that sling off and being able to use my arm even a little bit would be a real boon though.

lakeviewer said...

MY, this is quite a treatise, for someone who doesn't believe in faith.

The concept of a deity is a human construct. We must have a major need to believe in a such. We also have a big need to believe in good fortune.

All this takes us out of the equation, leaves us blameless for things we can't control. It helps to move on afte a big tragedy.

Strayer said...

Could everyone who believes, please pray I win the lottery. I'd use the money wisely, to fix stray cats, all the cat in Oregon, in fact, right after a nice relaxing vacation on a warm sunny beach but not in Haiti, at least not right now. I would love to drop tons of food, medical supplies, water on Haiti right now, to be honest, if I just had the money and the plane to do it, lots of planes. Sorry, Snow, I had a beer, and this causes emotional rambling. But I am sincere in wishing I had the bucks to make everybody ok in Haiti, and the magic wand I'd need too. I dont' drink. Boy, shouldn't have had even that one beer. Am feeling it.

Strayer said...

Oh, Snow, and, by the way, I am glad you can hold a cup of coffee now. I don't know what I'd do without that cup of coffee in the a.m., probably be really super cranky.

Pam said...

Universal kindness seems to be the answer.

kylie said...

i'm missing you , snow

i struggle with this stuff everyday.
i say i have faith but i have the same questions and i wonder what kind of faith it is if i question it constantly.
am i just hedging my bets?
and how do i justify it to others when i cant justify it to myself?
i guess all i am left with is

1. if i try to be Christlike it will make me a better person even if its all a myth

2. i havent done a fantastic job of my life so if i hand it over to a higher power (while still taking personal responsibility) i might do better and i cant do worse

i expect you will ask me some questions i cant answer......

love
k

nollyposh said...

Oh my Lordy THAT was a long one! (S'cuse the blasphemy) So when you say that you are talking to "God" you're actually talking to the picture book God of the "Bible" right, the "Religious-Church" God? Well i personally think (in this day & age) that everything just gets too muddled when you stick to THAT idea of God... The Bible God (who technically didn't actually write the book)...In my opinion the Bible is actually a bit convoluted, and twisted somewhat by the notions of the flesh to fit the understanding of the time/s it was written in... My point being that once we needed advice on how to keep clean & to be told what technically was right & wrong etc, because we were simple folk then, right & in need of a bit of guidance? And well i guess some of us still do need a stricter guidance than others even now, & i'm not saying that there isn't a lot of wisdom buried there but i guess my point is that it is just that... buried deep in the book! (Maybe deliberately by the churches of old?) ...But i figure we have come a long way since then & my personal idea of God is more like my Higher Self, you know that part of myself that isn't the human part (We humans can be so self centered most of the time)...i think of God as that interesting bit of myself that isn't flesh, that inexplicable bit that knows of the mysteries of Life & can see the bigger picture without all the distortions of the flesh...You know the bit that dreams & knows when mum is gonna call & when the kids are sick & that someone has died without being told... the interesting bit that i cant quite explain...
AND ~Prayer~ well i simply see that more as an energetic exchange... that has the potential for physical effect (Besides there is a heap more scientific proof for this sort of thing these days, you know like our cells actually exchange with an energy that is measurable for example) ...and talking about "proof", well i figure that even dear Jesus needed a pinch of that! (AND there might be a little more written about THAT if the old Catholic church hadn't ripped out a few of the pages of the old Bible (ie) About His travels as a young man to Eastern culture & such)... and just between you & me i also believe that all dogs go to Heaven, but hey "Heaven's" a whole other conversation right!?! ...Oh & Snow i have this quote on my fridge by Robin Williams that you might like: "i pray & do meditation. But not religion. That's too close to organized crime"
Lol!... Besides My idea of God... Loves ya warts & all... for that is what being "Human" is all about... well in MY Bible anyway!
(Ps) and here's a thought, i think we are all God ...just trying to explain Himself! <3

Natalie said...

Bible smible.

Thoughts are energy. Energy sent towards something, or someone with love, is palpable. If you can not feel it, then you are blocking it.
'Prayer'is just another word, for sending loving,human kindeness to another. There have been scientific studies done where thoughts have impacted on water particles. When love was sent, a beautiful ,symmetrical pattern formed. When hate was transmitted, the pattern was discordant.

I have experienced another realm, so I believe absolutely. I also agree with many things you have written here. Why does it have to be black or white?

I am not much for organised 'religion', but I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt, that there is something out there.

The something I believe in, is not a person in the BIble.x

nollyposh said...

LOOks like you did it again! X:-)

http://nollyposh.blogspot.com/2010/01/conversations-with-my-soul.html

geek said...

I'm not a big believer of religion, myself. I have seen how some of its influences (and not always good) have encroached in my society.

However, religion, I believe is the only thing some people hold on to. And I respect them for that. But there can be a lot of religious hypocrites, and it's those people who annoy me.

Hope you're doing well, Snow.

Marion said...

I *am* the supernatural. (Tee-Hee) I believe in air, God, love, dragonflies, poetry and flowers.

I love you, Snow, and will never dump you no matter how much you rant. We're all entitled to our own beliefs. I respect yours. Hope you're feeling better and healing. Blessings, my friend!!

JOE TODD said...

Snow, I've had to many prayers answered in dramatic and direct fashion not to be a believer. Has made me much more careful about how and what I pray for.

KC said...

I am not offended, but totally agree. Even though I grew up in the religion based State of Utah religion has never had much appeal to me. It just didn't ring true for me personally. I didn't and still don't understand the suffering of so many when a God was supposed to be watching over them. I walked away from faith based organizations at a young age and never looked back.

It intrigues me that you spend so much time and effort thinking and writing about something you do not believe in. I do, however enjoy the intellectual stimulation and knowledgeable arguments that back up my gut feelings.

I am sorry to read that you are still suffering. I will keep my fingers crossed (not any better than prayer I realize) that you will be better soon. KC

Snowbrush said...

Lakeviewer: "MY, this is quite a treatise, for someone who doesn't believe.."

Well, it doesn't take a waterfowl to study ducks, I suppose--or a child molester to study pedophilia for that matter. In my case, religion has had a major impact on my life personally and as a citizen of a very religious country. My interest is in the history of belief as well as the psychology of belief.

Strayer: "Could everyone who believes, please pray I win the lottery."

So far, none of the believers have shown any interest, Strayer. I'm sorry, dear, I guess you'll just have to fight your way up the corporate ladder like the rest of us have done.

Pam: "Universal kindness seems to be the answer."

Do I hear in you the ghost of Thomas Paine who said, "The World is my country, all man and women are my brothers and sisters, and to do good is my religion"? Naturally, he was so hated by the "good Christians" of his day that they even dug his corpse up and abused it.

Kylie: "am i just hedging my bets?"

For a long time, I couldn't believe but I couldn't let go of wanting to believe. Even today, I would like to think wisdom and goodness guides our world, but it's so obviously untrue that I no longer struggle to cram belief down my throat.

Nollyposh: "my personal idea of God is more like my Higher Self, you know that part of myself that isn't the human part"

No, I truly have no idea what you mean. Could you go into more detail?

Nollyposh: "i think we are all God ...just trying to explain Himself!"

Oh, please, Nollyposh, explain how this works and why things are set up this way.

Nollyposh: "Thank you Snowbrush for the inspiration yet again.'

And thank you, Nollyposh, for you kind words. I did read your entry, and the main difference I see between your beliefs and the fundamentalist Christianity that i grew up with is not so much dogmatism (you too have a great many specific beliefs) or an evidential basis (both are equally lacking, as I see it), but the degree of inclusiveness. This makes your beliefs less dangerous, although I don't know that any belief that is without evidence can be pronounced beneficial or harmless since I suspect that human progress proceeds best when it is founded upon rationality. if I have portrayed your beliefs in a way that you consider unfair, I hope you will see fit to correct me.

Snowbrush said...

Geek: "I believe is the only thing some people hold on to. And I respect them for that."

I can understand why you would feel sympathy, compassion, pity, and even empathy for them, but I have no idea why you respect them, at least in regard to their religion.

Marion: "I *am* the supernatural. (Tee-Hee) I believe in air, God, love, dragonflies, poetry and flowers."

How do you define the supernatural? I ask because you place God among all these things that are very much a part of the natural world, yet God is commonly believed to exist outside the natural world except among those who, like myself, are pantheists, or those who believe that the natural world is an illusion (like Christian Scientists).

Marion: "I love you, Snow, and will never dump you no matter how much you rant."

I thank you for your loyalty. May I inquire though...A rant, as I see it, is a highly emotional piece of writing that contains little in the way of reason or evidence. Is that how you see this entry? I can scarcely imagine that you do, so I suspect that, in your response, you focused on the emotion I expressed, whereas, in this entry at least, I am a thousand times more interested in the actual points I made. I say this because my goal was to inspire people to think. Perhaps, it was a presumptuous goal, but I feel qualified for the task by virtue of much thought and long experience.

Joe: "Ive had to many prayers answered in dramatic and direct fashion not to be a believer."

Joe, do you have any thoughts about why God so faithfully answers your prayers but not mine?

KC: "It intrigues me that you spend so much time and effort thinking and writing about something you do not believe in."

Lakeviewer said as much (please read what I wrote to her). You seem--if I understand you correctly--to imply that only those who have a part in something (or want to have a part in something) have a legitimate reason to study it. Is this correct?

Snowbrush said...

Natalie, oh, Natalie, I went down the list and responded to everyone, I thought, and then I saw that I had overlooked you. I am so sorry. i had especially looked forward to your response, so I certainly didn't omit you on purpose.

"There have been scientific studies done where thoughts have impacted on water particles."

Oh, please, please, please, tell me where I can find these studies, because I would dearly love to know who conducted them, how many participants were involved, how bias was eliminated, how changes in the water were measured, and whether other researchers came up with the same results. As you might expect, I have as much confidence in such evidence having actually been obtained (such a thing being so extraordinary) as I would in accounts of wrens giving birth to goshawks. Yet, I will gladly read any such studies that anyone can produce.

Natalie said...

http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/ephoto.html

This is the link to the water experiment people. You can email them, and ask them questions about the experimentation. I have not done so.

julie mitchell said...

I don't have the time to read your whole post right now but the first bit of dialog has me smiling...I'll be back...

rhymeswithplague said...

I am going to follow your mother's advice (and mine) and not discuss religion, politics, or sex in polite company. This is polite company, isn't it? I fervently hope so.

But I do want to ask you a question: are you getting any therapy on your shoulder? It sounds (I may be misreading) as though you have spent weeks and weeks with your arm in a sling and being in very great pain, but I don't remember reading about any therapy. Of course, my mind is not what it once was and you may have mentioned it many times and I have just forgotten. I just checked with Mrs. RWP (who had rotator cuff surgery in 2007) to be sure, and she said her therapy started almost immediately after her surgery. She did wear a sling, true, but there was plenty of movement and exercise (i.e., therapy) on the arm in question.

Please tell me you have been having ongoing therapy and have not just been sitting there doing nothing with your shoulder.

An aside: The doctors did tell us that of the three largest joints (hip, knee, shoulder) the shoulder was the most complex and the therapy was also the most complex and the recovery took the longest.

KC said...

Snow, Thanks for your response. I misunderstood your passion about religion. By your writings I got the impression you were being tortured in a way by it rather than using it as a topic of interest.

I think the study of any subject that is interesting to a person is a worthwhile endeavor whether you are involved in it or not. Your study choices are certainly thought provoking and entertaining. Thanks for that.

nollyposh said...

Hey Snow there's a conversation ova at my place *wink*

Snowbrush said...

Everyone simply must give me a round of applause for what a splendid job I am doing responding to comments before they pile up and I feel overwhelmed. If some of my questions seem confrontational, I can nevertheless assure you that they come from a sincere desire to understand.

Julie: "I don't have the time to read your whole post right now but...I'll be back..."

Thank you, Julie. I look forward to it.

Rhymes: "are you getting any therapy on your shoulder?"

None. I take it out of its sling three times a day, and bend over while I gently swing it pendulum-fashion for ten minutes. Then, I sit down, hold my forearm and gently turn my lower arm sideways ten times. After my last surgery, I waited three months before I was sent to therapy. The therapist was bummed about this, but I don't know that it did me any harm (of course, I don't know that it didn't). I just know that stiffness wasn't a problem before surgery, and my flexibility quickly came back with therapy. 90% is about as much as one can hope for, and I achieved that. When I see the surgeon next week, I will pressure him to send me to therapy earlier (I am twelve weeks out). His concern is that therapists are too eager to move into strength training, but I will assure him that he can trust me if not the therapist. I'm not going to change doctors over his reluctance about therapy though.

Rhymes: "The doctors did tell us that of the three largest joints (hip, knee, shoulder) the shoulder was the most complex and the therapy was also the most complex and the recovery took the longest."

How well I know it. What's more, the type surgeries I had require a more difficult recovery than a complete replacement, but I'm not at all keen to go that route until I have no other option.

KC "By your writings I got the impression you were being tortured in a way by it rather than using it as a topic of interest."

Well, you weren't entirely wrong. People can become interested in all kinds of things that are (or have been) quite harmful in their own lives or the lives or others. Just as someone might consider the Holocaust fascinating while hating the suffering it caused, I find religion fascinating, although I had just as soon that it didn't exist. I am also disturbed by--what I consider--the irrationality of religious faith. Like a lot of nonbelievers, I have lived up close to it my whole life long, but never truly got it.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. to KC When I said I never "got it" (in regard to religious faith), I meant that I never understood it.

Nollyposh: "Hey Snow there's a conversation ova at my place *wink*"

I will drop by later, but you must promise me that you won't attempt an exorcism. I just hate having to jump through windows bleeding and naked.

geek said...

Well, as someone had already said here in the threads, people are entitled to their beliefs. If people believe something which is different from mine, I do not think they don't deserve my respect as long as they're not doing harm. I'm not going to hold their religion against them. I give the same respect to Catholics, Christians, Buddhists, Animists.

ρομπερτ said...

Dear Snow,
this seems to me like a revisit of the Book of Job, well done.
Please have a wonderful Saturday.

ellen abbott said...

You see, this is why I don't do religion. You are so right. The purpose of religion is to control men. And by men, I mean everyone. Religion is a construct of humanity. And I have said more than once that I think it is one of the worst things to happen to humanity and has done way more harm than good. That and the Industrial Revolution.

I've never been able, also, to reconcile the all powerful loving god and that same god consigning people who don't 'behave' to hell (also a construct of humanity).

That doesn't mean that I don't think there is some sort of 'ju-ju' going on. But religion? Not a part of it.

Snowbrush said...

Geek: "If people believe something which is different from mine, I do not think they don't deserve my respect as long as they're not doing harm. I'm not going to hold their religion against them."

I respect people's rights to hold beliefs that I don't agree with, but that is not the same as respecting them because they hold those beliefs. For example, I will respect your right to believe that invisible Martians live in your garage, but I won't respect your belief itself or what it says about you that you hold such a belief. I might very well respect you for all manner of other qualities, however.

When I say I respect someone's belief (as opposed to their right to that belief), I mean I admire the courage, intelligence, creativity, experimentation, and so forth that led them to adopt a rational conclusion about something whether I agree with their conclusion or not.

ρομπερτ: "this seems to me like a revisit of the Book of Job"

Yes, Job was a big influence. Only Job remained loyal to God, and so God later gave him more wives, children, and livestock, to make up for the ones that God allowed Satan to kill. If I were Job, I wouldn't feel that I had been done right by. Kill my wife, give me another one, and say we're even; I don't think so.

Ellen, I thank you for agreeing with me. Disagreement is welcome too, but there would hopefully be somewhat of a balance. I surely wouldn't want it all one way or the other.

Renee said...

AMEN.

Thinking you had done something to yourself by cursing God at 12.....

Religion divides that is all it does.

Love Renee xoxoxo

Matawheeze said...

Hey Snow - ya done good. I came to understand religion as two things: A way to control people, and an answer to the human need for an answer to unanswerable questions. I rejected Christianity early on and went looking for something to suit my own needs under #2. I ended up with a sort-of Wiccan/Buddhist/New Age construct that comforts but which I don't really believe. The paradox is that it works as long as I accept that I'm not required to believe and the construct works as a guide to being the best person I can be. As for other religions? I like the Wiccan rede: An it harm none, do what thou wilt. Of course the trick is knowing what harms, isn't it?

All Consuming said...

That took me forever to read as I'm full of painkillers. It's what you wanted, thought-provoking, and I enjoy reading all the comments and your replies almost as much as the post itself heh. You already know where I stand methinks, and I recently wrote my own religious piece, albeit with a humorous slant, mostly because it's been an actual source of humour to me on and off, though I do take it very seriously as a subject as well. I also, like Peggy thank the universe every now and again, and for the same reasons too. Take care, hope Bonnie is still on the up, Michelle xxx

Just_because_today said...

your posts are always well written and thought provoking whether I agree with them or not, that's what makes them so interesting.
I believe in prayer...and still question many things. But my faith in God prevails over my doubts.

Chrisy said...

I agree wholeheartedly Snow. Have you read any of Richard Dawkin's thoughts in this area...am sure you have... It's difficult for me to keep my mouth shut at family gatherings with the majority being religious (catholic) or spiritual (really into healing by expensive electronic devices!)...I try to let it go...as long as they don't badger me...I find it easier to be tolerant with my Dad as he's in his 80s and the closer he gets to dying, the more he clings to religion and I don't want to be continually questioning the comfort that he gets from it...with younger members tho I can become very angry but...it's futile...they're blinded by delusions...Friends tho well we think alike and what a relief that is!

NWFlamingo said...

Since you are the only one to comment on my blog entry about the "most depressing day of the year" I just thought you would want to be reminded that today is the day. (Monday of the second to the last week in January, according to British researchers who shall remain unnamed as I can't even remember where I read about it in the first place.) I didn't think it was all that depressing as the sun shined here today and the winds died down about 11:50pm, before this day started. Weather may have been different down in your neck of the woods.

Gaston Studio said...

Snow, something's not right with your latest post, Swan; blogger says it doesn't exist!!

Snowbrush said...

Renee: "Religion divides that is all it does."

I think so. Even people who say they're spiritual as opposed to religious tend to turn away from those who disagree. That said, militant atheists erect walls that are as big as those of any fundamentalist. People will always find reasons to split off into warring camps. That's just how we are.

Matawheeze: "I ended up with a sort-of Wiccan/Buddhist/New Age construct that comforts but which I don't really believe."

I know what you mean. I was in a Wiccan Internet class until I got kicked out for questioning the accuracy of Tarot readings and denying the supremacy of the female godhead. I was attracted to Wicca because of the pretty rituals and the seasonable observances, but had thought that people took Wicca metaphorically rather than literally. I was wrong.

All Consuming: "That took me forever to read as I'm full of painkillers."

I know what you mean too, dear Michelle.

Just Because Today: "I believe in prayer..."

Do you have any thoughts about the objections I raised?

Chrisy: "have you read any of Richard Dawkin's thoughts in this area..."

Well, he's a bit bristly, so although I agree with his points, his venom leaves me a little sad. However, I highly recommend "Losing my religion : how I lost my faith reporting on religion in America--and found unexpected peace" by William Lordell. Robert Ingersoll is another great writer on the subject. (By the way, I used to be a non-resident editor for "American Atheist.")

NW Flamingo, thanks for the reminder.

Gaston Studio: "Snow, something's not right with your latest post...blogger says it doesn't exist!!"

Jane, I'm sorry for the confusion. I took my "Swan" post down because (and I should have learned this by now) I can spend days pouring my heart and mind into a long--and hopefully stimulating and meaningful--post. After I put it up, I can spend ten minutes on another post. Which one do you think everyone is going to read? Which one do you think no one is going to read? I'll tell you, no one (almost) is going to read the post that I worked my ass off on. There's the implication in blogland that newer is good and older is next to worthless, so I'm simply not going to take attention away from the post that matters more to me. I know that relatively few people will really read it anyway--they'll spend maybe three minutes scanning it--but I'm still going to give it a prominent position for a week or two.

khelsaoe said...

Now that classes have started back up, I've been getting behind in my pleasure reading, including your blog.

I really enjoyed your post, and hubby liked it too. He said to give you a high-five, but I fear that might hurt your shoulder.

"Wiccan Internet class"....I don't know why, but that made me chuckle outloud.

Nora Johnson said...

I too have been getting behind in my pleasure reading so have a lot of catching up to do here!

As for my blog, well, Snowbrush, you've seen right through me! You've guessed (if I'm correct) how I like to SHOCK... (If I'm wrong, have a look at my previous post & you'll soon be disabused of any false notions!

In any event, your frank, masculine assessment is particularly welcome as a counterpoint to that of the average female commenter. I particularly liked the "slutty" descriptor!Not sure if Messrs Balmain & Pucci would agree but that's up to them...

Coincidentally, was about to visit yr blog when you visited mine (but I found I couldn't access yr most recent post so that's why I've landed up here!)

Have a good weekend,

Lola & Nora

The Blog Fodder said...

I attended a fundamentalist church until about 11 years ago. I have many of the same questions you do about God and prayer, though I do not have the faith to be an atheist. I still believe in God and prayer but could not put verbal parameters around exactly what I believe.
Your blog is well written and certainly raises the right issues. We all keep looking for answers to those questions, so the questions must be the right ones.

C Woods said...

Wonderful post. It expresses almost exactly how I feel about god, the Bible, and religion. I came from a religious family, but started doubting at about age 12 when I received no logical answers to my questions ---similar to the ones you posted here. As a teenaged girl, I was especially horrified at how women were treated in the Bible.

We have one difference ---when someone tells me s/he will pray for me, I get a little stab of anger in my gut. I don't look on it as someone simply thinking about me or wishing me well. I see it as someone assuming I believe as they do ---and taking the easy way out. If someone thinks I am in need of prayer, then I need serious help.

Instead of offering a prayer, ask what can be done to help --- or offer to do something, like pick up groceries for me or drive me to an appointment when my knee is acting up (for example.) As Robert Ingersoll said, "Hands that do are better than lips that pray."

Few people really believe prayer is powerful. If they did, no one would bother to donate to the poor or to disaster victims. If they thought prayer was all it takes, they wouldn't go to the doctor, they'd sit home and pray.

Carolina said...

Could have been written by me. If I had your way with words and knowledge of religion.