Followers of Christ

By now the story is familiar to everyone. A couple with deep Christian belief prayed over their daughter rather than seeking medical care for a condition that would be cured with simple techniques known for decades to modern medicine. Their daughter died.

Except that this is yet another case.

This is NOT an April Fool's post. Although I wish it were.

In this case the girl was 15 months old. Little Ava had bronchial pneumonia and sepsis. Her parents prayed over her, wickedly, rather than seeking care. The state of Oregon is taking the proper action, charging them with manslaughter. The state had to pass a law regarding this group back in the 90s.

The couple's son died in August 2001. A police investigation into the death was closed after family members said the child had been stillborn and was three months premature.

Yes. You read that right. They have let two children die in their home. And their church let them pray over a deathly ill little girl, after this had happened within the decade. This one little faith group has its own cemetery. There are nine (9) graves in it full of children who died of unspecified causes since the 90s.

Please, someone, tell me how prayer for the sick is good and righteous. Please, I can't understand how that can be when I keep seeing all these dead kids.

92 comments:

Jason said...

You're incorrectly suggesting that the behaviour of these parents is somehow reflective of the overall Christian view of prayer. I don't believe it is otherwise we would see much higher death rates, higher infant mortality rates (like as is suggested in the first article) and a lower life expectancy throughout the Christian world.

However, Christians take vitamins, exercise, work, play, go to the hospital when they're sick, etc. just like everyone else. There are also any number of Christian doctors, nurses, surgeons, chiropractors, nutritionists, etc.

Unfortunately, like the people mentioned in your post, there are also a small minority who rely on faith healing alone instead of using the available medical services.

The second article in your post clearly describes a church that isn't reflective of popular Christian behaviour. As such, one should be careful casting such a wide net of accusations over the practice of Christian prayer.

Lee Randolph said...

So.....
their prayers don't work because they are the wrong kind of christian?

Rachel said...

Evan,

As I said in my last comment on your previous article about the alleged wickedness of praying for the sick, it was not the prayer that was the problem here. It was the lack of seeking adequate medical care that was the major factor in the death of this child. If someone prays or accepts prayer instead of doing tangible, common sense things to help (rather than in addition to doing those things), then that is a problem with them or people they've listened to. But it's not an inherent problem with prayer.

emodude1971 said...

Jason said: ...reflective of the overall Christian view of prayer

I love it how every Christian seems to think that the view they embrace is the overall view for all Christianity. I don't think I've ever seen a Christian argue that perhaps their view isn't the all-emcompassing view for Christianity, and they might in fact have the wrong view. Guess what Jason? Every Christian thinks exactly as you do; that the personal view they embrace is the right one. otherwise they wouldn't embrace it!

Jason said: Unfortunately, like the people mentioned in your post, there are also a small minority who rely on faith healing alone instead of using the available medical services

Medical services that, thanks to science, have been around for about 80 or 90 years. Tell me, what were Christians supposed to do before valid and worthwhile medical services became available? AND this only applies to Christians living in areas where valid medical services ARE available. And I certainly have not come across any asterisks in the Bible that footnote any of the numerous passages in the Bible that detail how prayer works that would indicate these verses should be ignored once medical services are available. This seems like an important distinction that God and/or Jesus should've specified, don't you?

Jason said...

Lee: No one's saying their prayer didn't work, only that it wasn't answered. Exactly why it wasn't answered isn't my call to make.

Rachel: Well put.

MadMerv said...

Here's a quote on prayer directly from my former boss on his return from a mission trip to Africa (during a presentation about his trip to employees):

"Last time we could only pray for them but this time we could actually do something since we brought medications"

It sounds like a shocking contradiction but I would like to suggest that this is how most people view prayer. They are steadfast in the belief that it could help, but in practice they know that it takes rational planning to get things done.

Some people believe in luck, others in prayer; if it helps explain success and failure that can be a good thing. But practical intervention must also be in the picture.

sacred slut said...

If prayer doesn't work, then why pray?

I don't pray, I get medical treatment when I need it. It works just fine.

Whereas prayer without proper treatment ALWAYS fails. Of course a certain percentage of some illnesses will always resolve spontaneously, with or without prayer.

It seems to me that Christians demonstrate that they really don't believe their own teachings when they obtain medical care instead of relying on prayer. "God works through the doctor" they say. But an omnipotent God would not need to work "through" an intermediary. If prayer worked, it would work directly without additional earthly intervention.

That is clearly not the case.

Jason said...

Emodude said: I love it how every Christian seems to think that the view they embrace is the overall view for all Christianity. I don't think I've ever seen a Christian argue that perhaps their view isn't the all-emcompassing view for Christianity, and they might in fact have the wrong view. Guess what Jason? Every Christian thinks exactly as you do; that the personal view they embrace is the right one. otherwise they wouldn't embrace it!

It's tough to ignore the reality of the situation. Christians are doctors and nurses, Christians go to hospitals, Christians go to chiropractors. The Catholic Church alone operates around 600 hospitals in the US. Then there are the hundreds and hundreds of other Christian-run hospitals spread around the globe.

I think it's more then fair to say the church in Oregon is not representative of worldwide Christianity. Wouldn't you agree?

larryniven said...

"Christians take vitamins, exercise, work, play, go to the hospital when they're sick, etc. ... Christians are doctors and nurses, Christians go to hospitals, Christians go to chiropractors."

I think, actually, the point here was that Christians also abandon their young. I'm guessing that isn't true of, say, Taoists, so it throws some doubt on the claim that Christianity is a more righteous belief system than, say, Taoism. Put it this way, jason: would you condemn scientology for withholding treatment from one of its members, resulting in her death?

Jason said...

Larry said: Put it this way, jason: would you condemn scientology for withholding treatment from one of its members, resulting in her death?

Sure I would. But Christianity isn't withholding medical treatment from one of its members.

MR. X said...

I don't agree - Visit: www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/

emodude1971 said...

Jason said: "I think it's more then fair to say the church in Oregon is not representative of worldwide Christianity. Wouldn't you agree?"

I'll agree, but with a gigantic but. That but is, wouldn't you have to agree that the church in Oregon is a more faithful Christian organization that others? You say there are Christian doctors, and Christian hospitals, etc, but the point I made (that you ignored) is that 200 years ago, what were Christians expected to do when struck with illness? The Bible doesn't say to go see a doctor, or go to a hospital! The Bible says to pray; and Jesus clearly emphasized the importance and rewards of faith. Therefore, I would argue that these people are better Christians by the very definitions of your faith.

So you tell me, does this church consist of better, more faithful Christians than yourself? Or are these people just stupid?

Dillie-O said...

emodude1971 said:
The Bible doesn't say to go see a doctor, or go to a hospital! The Bible says to pray; and Jesus clearly emphasized the importance and rewards of faith.

But I also don't see where the Bible states "Only believe what is written in this book, everything else is just rubbish".

There were doctors a good 200 years ago, naturally not as proliferate, but there was one in most communities. I would wager the Christian back then would pray for healing and see what the doctor could offer.

I don't see any lack of faith in doing things in this regard. Does God's intervention always have to come from the mystical ether, or can't He work though His own creation to have person A show up at the right time with the cure?

M. Tully said...

Any lawyers out there?

Let’s say I develop a product from snake oil. An anonymous book is published which claims unequivocally that my snake oil will prevent fatalities in an automobile accident. The anonymous author and I then both disappear to the Caymans, never to be heard from again.

Some slick, street urchin types then come across the book. They take money from people to interpret how to use the snake oil. They reinforce the idea that, if used correctly, the snake oil will always prevent a fatality in auto accidents (in their infomercials there is a fine print note saying, “This claim has not been scientifically tested.”) Others refuse to condemn such practices based on the fear of upsetting the tradition of giving deference to dogmatic claims.

People who believe said urchins stop wearing seatbelts. Several are killed in auto accidents that would not have died had they worn seatbelts.

Who, if anyone, is liable in this case?

Any ethicists out there?

Who, and in what proportion, are worthy of blame?

M. Tully said...

dillie-o said:

“I don't see any lack of faith in doing things in this regard. Does God's intervention always have to come from the mystical ether, or can't He work though His own creation to have a person show up at the right time with the cure?”

Now, isn’t that convenient! If your desires are answered you give to thanks to your god, if they are not you claim it is just your god’s will. Well, if that makes you feel good, fine. But realize the exact same logic could be applied to the will of leprechauns, fairies or the “power of positive thinking.” However, there is a rub. You, claim “a person show[ed] up at the right time with the cure” to make this happen. How about a dozen atheist doctors with proper, scientific training, show up at the homes of ill people and a dozen people with no medical training, but possessing great faith, show up at the homes of other ill people.

Which group do you think would have the higher success rate? Which group would you want treating yourself? How about those you love?

Or, it is possible, that your god prefers to work through those trained in their professions.

Again, how convenient.

Trou said...

Jason said,
"No one's saying their prayer didn't work, only that it wasn't answered. Exactly why it wasn't answered isn't my call to make."

This is like what I heard my Mom say. When my Grandpa died instead of getting healed while being fervently prayed for she said that God did answer the prayer and Grandpa was healed up in heaven. It sounds like you have a similar view but you don't take the scriptures about healing as seriously as my family did. By the way, as I've said before, my Mom refused medical care and eventually died also. They had enough faith to bet their life’s on the scripture so it wasn't a lack of faith. Maybe it's that prayer doesn't work.

The point you refuse to get is that if you pray and I don't and we both get the same results whether it's healing or a safe trip then you can't say that your prayer was answered. Also, if a prayer isn't answered then you can't legitimately say that it was answered just in the negative. Don't dismiss these people as not being true Christians either just because they hold a more literal view of the Bible than you. From my viewpoint there isn't that much difference between you two. You believe that God is active in your life even when there is no indication that this is so. You might also believe in an afterlife, a literal hell, maybe Armageddon or the tribulation. Maybe you believe that God is the reason for the moral impulse that all humans seem to have. None of this is the least bit true to me yet some or all of it is true to you. Don't you see the parallel between the Oregon group and you? I do. It's just a matter of degrees.
By the way, you need to pick your arguments a bit better. When you try to defend the indefensible you only diminish yourself. You end up saying stupid stuff like when you agreed with Rachel about going to the doctor and ALSO praying as if that was the magic formula. Not a real smart thing to say because it just makes your God look like he can’t do anything on his own.

Steven Bently said...

That girls' parents were just doing what they were told to do and that is to mimick Jesus.

Those people including Jesus, whom lived 2000 years ago, were so dumb and ignorant, they had absolutely no knowledge of germs and bacteria and personal hygene, they eat with their fingers, they cooked food using camel dung.

They thought that diseases were caused by demons and evil spirits, their only hopes for a cure was to pray to the invisible sky god.

Jason, we now know,(thanks to the invention of the microscope) that diseases are caused by germs, bacteria, and viruses, also by an improper diet, stress, etc.,etc. not caused by demons and evil spirits, and witches.

The Bible was written by people of profound ignorance.

What you are worshipping is a book of people demonstrating their 1st century ignorance.

Jason said...

emodude said: I'll agree, but with a gigantic but. That but is, wouldn't you have to agree that the church in Oregon is a more faithful Christian organization that others?

I guess that depends on what the criteria is for bring ‘more faithful’.

You say there are Christian doctors, and Christian hospitals, etc, but the point I made (that you ignored) is that 200 years ago, what were Christians expected to do when struck with illness?

I ignored it because I don’t get it. Christians were expected to do the same thing anyone else did when they got sick back then – do what they could with what they had available.

The Bible doesn't say to go see a doctor, or go to a hospital! The Bible says to pray; and Jesus clearly emphasized the importance and rewards of faith.

The Bible also doesn't say to sit on your duff and wait for God to do all the work for you, as is evident by the amount and types of works in Scripture.

Therefore, I would argue that these people are better Christians by the very definitions of your faith.

What do you think the definitions are of my faith?

So you tell me, does this church consist of better, more faithful Christians than yourself? Or are these people just stupid?

I think they’re just a little misguided by their church leader as the article suggests.

Rachel said...

Trou,

You end up saying stupid stuff like when you agreed with Rachel about going to the doctor and ALSO praying as if that was the magic formula.

What exactly did I say that was "stupid"? I certainly never said anything about a "magic formula".

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
No one's saying their prayer didn't work, only that it wasn't answered.

so its possible that a prayer can work but not be answered?

How does that work?

Jason said...

Trou: The point you refuse to get is that if you pray and I don't and we both get the same results whether it's healing or a safe trip then you can't say that your prayer was answered.

Sure I can. The outcome you experience (safe trip, etc.) isn’t a carbon copy of what I must also experience. We’re all independent of one another. If I pray for my friend to get better and he does, I consider it an answer to prayer – irrespective of anyone else around the planet who got better at the same time.

Also, if a prayer isn't answered then you can't legitimately say that it was answered just in the negative.

Fine with me.

Don't dismiss these people as not being true Christians either just because they hold a more literal view of the Bible than you.

You're an atheist. Who are you to say what a 'true Christian' is? I haven’t dismissed anyone and my responses will show as much.

From my viewpoint there isn't that much difference between you two...It's just a matter of degrees.

Right. Just as it’s a matter of degrees between a human and a fruit fly.

By the way, you need to pick your arguments a bit better. When you try to defend the indefensible you only diminish yourself. You end up saying stupid stuff like when you agreed with Rachel about going to the doctor and ALSO praying as if that was the magic formula.

Trou, what exactly do you think I’m trying to defend…?

larryniven said...

So, jason...when Christians do this it doesn't reflect on Christianity, but when scientologists do it, it reflects on scientology. Why the double standard?

emodude1971 said...

Jason said: I guess that depends on what the criteria is for bring ‘more faithful’.

These people chose to rely on faith for their healing instead of a doctor, which you seem to suggest is 'misguided'. I'd say that makes them more faithful than you, don't you?

Jason said: Christians were expected to do the same thing anyone else did when they got sick back then – do what they could with what they had available

Show me 1 verse, just 1, out of your whole Bible, that suggests that faith in God and Jesus will not be enough to overcome any illness or obstacle.

And your comment brings to mind a funny scene from Holy Grail - how during the black plague people would walk around hitting themselves with a board, to try and appease God by punishing themselves further so God would stop the plague. I guess this is what you mean by 'do what they could with what they had available'.

Jason said: The Bible also doesn't say to sit on your duff and wait for God to do all the work for you, as is evident by the amount and types of works in Scripture

This 'amount and types of works in scripture' that you speak of I would argue rarely has to do with providing medical care or establishing hospitals. Rather is has to do with 'spreading the word'. Let's try and keep on topic here: we're talking about healing the sick and the lame. What did Jesus do to cure the sick and the lame? He typically replied 'Your faith has healed you' and allacazam, they're healed! Tell me what kind of example is Jesus providing here? Is he giving the example that one should seek out a doctor when you're ill, or that you should rely on your faith?

Jason said...

Lee,

From my point of view, prayer 'works' if it's simply received by God. If the answer to the prayer is a 'no', in whatever shape this comes in, it's not because the prayer didn't work, it's because God, in His infinite wisdom, knows something we don't.

For example, Moses pleaded with God to blot him out the book of life if the sins of the Israelites weren't forgiven. God denied Moses' request and punished the Israelites. God heard Moses' prayer (the prayer 'worked') but it wasn't answered (with a 'yes').

Jason said...

Larry,

Your question has been addressed already. Please read the posts.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
well then, from your point of view, what are you trying to accomplish with prayer?
*God knows what you want before you were born.
*God knows what the sick person wants before he made the earth.
*God knows whats going to happen, and obviously there are uncountable events that depend on this one event you are praying about.
*It is said that God has a plan.
* it is said that all things work for the greater good.

*Do you hope to tell god something he doesn't know?
*Do you hope to change gods mind?
*Do you think that the health of the person depends on what you tell god in any case whether he has planned on that person getting better or not?
*Do you think that your action reveals your intentions or love for god more clearly to god?

What is the purpose of prayer? What is the desired outcome? How do you measure the success? I know what the bible says about prayer, but gods properties seem to nullify any meaning to what the bible says about prayer. It seems to me that as god developed through the ages he outgrew the boundaries of prayer when someone carelessly assigned the properties of infinity to him.

Why pray at all when he knows what is in your mind and what your motivations are?
That's a 21st century translation of "god knows whats in your heart".

The description of prayer fits the model of the "hero's of old" who were gods that had a social heirarchy and personalities and limits. You do know that the Israelites worked their way out of polytheism, through henotheism finally to settle on monotheism don't you? And you can see the trend in the bible if you pay attention.

To me, prayer is the clearest evidence that the god of the bible is just like all the other gods before him. Folklore.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
did you know that there Moses seems to be the composite of several characters through the ages? I promised Harvey that when I get back from "real life" I'm going to do an article on that.
Google "sargon moses" for starters. I'm sure Moses story is the real one isn't it?

Lee Randolph said...

One more thing Jason,
How do you determine if, when god says no to prayer, that he's not decided to ignore it and leave it to chance? The bible doesn't say that he takes action on or carefully considers every prayer does it? If god takes no action on a prayer, he hasn't really answered it has he?

Gods performance on prayer is exactly what you expect from chance isn't it? Since that is the case, you really can't say you know anything about how God handles prayer since the results are not what you'd expect from its characterization in the bible is it? Its kind of exaggerated isn't it?

At what point do you stop pleading ignorance and start trusting your inferences? I'm sure your inferences work all right for everything else in your life don't they?

Jason said...

I know it’s difficult for most atheists here, but arguing for the sake of arguing doesn’t promote discussion. By way of reminder, the question asked in the original post was “Please, someone, tell me how prayer for the sick is good and righteous.”

There’s been little or no attempt by anyone here to intelligently respond to the Christian answers to this question – and this kind of avoidance and sidetracking seems to be becoming more and more common on this site. Instead, most are choosing to attack the effectiveness of prayer, needlessly criticize individuals for praying to a God that apparently doesn’t exist in the first place, and, lately, trying to discuss the story of Moses.

Rachel’s initial post dealt with the topic fairly and intelligently – her comment addresses the question.

Questions about what the Bible says about prayer can be answered in, incredibly enough, the Bible. Some measure of work is expected from all you ex-Christians, ex-ministers, and ex-apologists for the Christian faith.

Let’s be clear: The conclusion that Christian prayer is evil and unrighteous is being based on the happenings of a single church, when it’s already been shown that this church, for any number of reasons, doesn’t reflect the global Christian view of prayer. Christianity doesn’t support the behaviour of the parents nor does it condone the teaching of the church pastor.

Evan said...

Lee,

You do know that the Israelites worked their way out of polytheism, through henotheism finally to settle on monotheism don't you? And you can see the trend in the bible if you pay attention.

Wow you nailed it there. As I have said before, the fact of prayer is a primitive religious trait that starts with polytheism. When a local god can be beseeched to help with a problem, there is much point to beseeching them.

People become accustomed to this kind of worship since it is personal and local. As theologians, exploration and science make the gods move further away, the local priests and leaders need to keep the prayer up because that's what keeps the buildings maintained.

It's hard to imagine the move from polytheism abolishing prayer. Imagine telling people, "Well, we now think that Asherah and Shamash are really just aspects of a unified divine being who we are subsuming into the concept of Yahweh, so you can stop praying altogether since the unity of this deity logically obviates any possible benefit to prayer."

I think if a believer thinks prayer works, she must believe in a limited God.

Evan said...

Wow Jason. For someone who is as obtuse and unlearned as you, you manage to call the kettle black and identify yourself as a pot all in one post.

You chide us for not answering the claims brought up in the defense of allowing children to die.

Then you say:

Let’s be clear: The conclusion that Christian prayer is evil and unrighteous is being based on the happenings of a single church, when it’s already been shown that this church, for any number of reasons, doesn’t reflect the global Christian view of prayer.

Except of course that you haven't even read the posts. There are at least TWO faith based groups, Unleavened Bread (the title of one post) and Followers of Christ(the title of the other). Both are in the news within the same month.

Have you ever heard of Christian Scientists?????

That's THREE!

Jason ... you really need to get some facts under your belt.

Jason said...

Except of course that you haven't even read the posts. There are at least TWO faith based groups, Unleavened Bread (the title of one post) and Followers of Christ(the title of the other). Both are in the news within the same month.

I was basing my comment on the two links in the original post. If there was a third link elsewhere, I apologize for not referencing it accordingly.

Have you ever heard of Christian Scientists?????That's THREE! Jason ... you really need to get some facts under your belt.

That may very well be true but the point I'm making is that the behaviour in the extreme minority of churches shouldn't be construed to be representative of the global Christian movement. The fact is, Christianity en masse doesn't actively withhold medical treatment from its members.

I expect you to agree with this statement.

emodude1971 said...

Jason,

Are you kidding me? All my posts have had EVERYTHING to do with both your and Rachels responses. You have failed to give me a decent answer to anything.

Perhaps we need a re-cap.

I'm going to assume you're refering to Rachels answer of: If someone prays or accepts prayer instead of doing tangible, common sense things to help (rather than in addition to doing those things), then that is a problem with them or people they've listened to.

Every one of my posts has been to demonstrate that the explanations and actions provided by the Bible, in context to illness and disease, suggest that faith and prayer is your best recourse.

Again, I re-iterate my plague example. Rachel says that people 500 years ago who contracted the plague shouldn't pray, but rather do some 'tangable, common sense thing'. PLEASE, either one of you, tell me what a Christian 500 years ago with the plague should have done, instead of praying, to deal with the plague?

I'll also extend that same challenge to any Christian who 20-30 years ago, was told they have cancer, or AIDS. Again, it's amusing how your answer of 'tangible, common sense things to help' changes with scientific advances!

Jason said...

Emodude said: Every one of my posts has been to demonstrate that the explanations and actions provided by the Bible, in context to illness and disease, suggest that faith and prayer is your best recourse.

And this is wrong. How many OT or NT men and women are recorded as doing nothing in their lives except pray? The fact is, everyone in Scripture has put in some amount of work in addition to praying, as far back as Adam to as far forward as Christ. From buying food and growing crops, to washing in clean water and burying the dead, to preaching and and traveling around, the message is awfully consistent.

Again, I re-iterate my plague example. Rachel says that people 500 years ago who contracted the plague shouldn't pray, but rather do some 'tangable, common sense thing'. PLEASE, either one of you, tell me what a Christian 500 years ago with the plague should have done, instead of praying, to deal with the plague?

Where does Rachel reference the plague?

Hamilcar said...

Jason,

If I hear that a fried is seriously ill, some emotions come up right away. I'm concerned for them. I feel empathy towards them. I worry about whether or not they'll be OK.

At some point, I'm likely to tell them something like, "I sure hope everything works out. I hope you get better soon. I know this is a tough time for you, and I want you to know that I'll be there for you if you need help."

If my friend pulls through, does this mean that my atheistic "hopes" were answered? Or is the hope or desire of an atheist something that simply cannot be "answered" in this way? Perhaps only prayers can be "answered" and only by a personal "answerer"?

It seems that if we flip the example around, and I'm a Christian who is praying for my friend to get better -- and he makes it -- you'd say that the prayer was answered. I'm intentionally leaving out the reason for his recovery, because I think you've made it clear that you'd consider the prayer answered whether the resolution was through medical means or not.

larryniven said...

jason:

"That may very well be true but the point I'm making is that the behaviour in the extreme minority of churches shouldn't be construed to be representative of the global scientologist movement. The fact is, scientology en masse doesn't actively withhold medical treatment from its members."

I hate to make things so terribly explicit, because I feel like it condescends, but apparently that's the only way you'll understand. Your same arguments can be used to excuse scientology - just switch out the words as I've done above - and yet you continue to uphold a double standard. Either justify it or give it up.

Jason said...

Hamilcar,

If, as an atheist, you think hopes are ‘answered’, so be it. All I can say for sure is that Christians think God is the 'answerer'.

Jason said...

Larry,

There's nothing wrong with your reworded argument. Do you sincerely believe the behaviour of an extreme minority of anything should be construed to be representative of a entire global movement?

If a single Scientologist kills a child by withholding medical treatment, is it fair to say Scientology withholds medical treatment from its members? If a dozen atheists band together and start shooting immigrants, is it fair to say atheism is anti-immigration?

No one's excusing the actions of the parents. We're just explaining that, in this case, the actions of the minority aren't the actions of the majority.

Ed Bruner said...

this amounts to an Ad Hominem argument against Christianity.

Should we judge Atheism based upon the misrepresentation of a few wackos like Stalin?

The ironic thing here is, that destroying your offspring is much more in line with an Atheistic ethic than a mainstream Christian ethic.

Rachel said...

emodude,

I didn't know you were addressing anything I said.

Nevertheless, Jason's answer in his comment (at 11:59AM on April 2) is the same as I would say. I can't find any Scripture that tells people to pray for healing and not do anything else to help. Can you?

OTOH, I do see many Scriptures, as Jason noted, where people do lots of tangible things to help others and themselves. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Tim. 5:23 to drink a little wine "for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." Note that Paul did NOT tell Timothy, "gosh, sorry you're so sick, you should probably pray more". In fact Paul doesn't even say a word about prayer there.

Rachel says that people 500 years ago who contracted the plague shouldn't pray, but rather do some 'tangable, common sense thing'. PLEASE, either one of you, tell me what a Christian 500 years ago with the plague should have done, instead of praying, to deal with the plague?

I've yet to say a word about the plague, but I'll answer anyway. A Christian 500 years ago, 50 years ago, or today, should do the same exact thing to deal with their illnesses. Pray and seek the best medical help available. I don't see the problem here.

Again, it's amusing how your answer of 'tangible, common sense things to help' changes with scientific advances!

I don't know why that would be amusing. Doesn't your answer of what a sick person should do change according to scientific advances too? "Tangible, common sense things" = doctors, medical advice, etc. So obviously as medical advice advances and changes, the tangible things that a sick person should do changes.

How is any of this a problem with my point that if someone dies because they prayed instead of seeking medical help, then the problem is with their misunderstanding of Scripture/God rather than the prayer itself?

Hamilcar said...

ed bruner,

The ironic thing here is, that destroying your offspring is much more in line with an Atheistic ethic than a mainstream Christian ethic.

I'm sorry, but I'm unaware of such an atheistic ethic. Perhaps that's because, as atheism is not a specific philosophical/ethical system but rather a rejection of Gods, there is no specific atheistic ethic, per se.

Do you mean to argue that all ethics other than "mainstream Christian" are more in line with destroying one's offspring?

Why should we believe this is so?

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Fourth time's the charm?

This topic's continuous updatings are likely partially to blame, but I wonder if there isn't some intentional avoidance involved regarding my repeated question, to which no self-proclaimed Christian has yet answered (of which I'm aware, anyway), and which has evolved into two equally representative questions:

Do the parents have the right to withhold non-experimental medicine (including the practice thereof) from their minor children based on religious freedom?

Should parents in general be required by legislation to follow sound medical advice from bona fide medical professionals (read: M.D. or better)?


I'd love to hear Jason's or Rachel's responses -- hopefully it isn't a glib one-sentence reply -- as I feel that this question (or these two effectively identical questions, if you will) are central to the whole problem, and an answer from a religionist's perspective would be an interesting read, I should think.

--
Stan

Trou said...

Rachel said,
"What exactly did I say that was "stupid"? I certainly never said anything about a "magic formula"."

No, you didn't say anything about a magic formula but that was my little flourish that came to mind after 50 years of dealing with my family who believe God answers prayer but only if you do it right or hold your pinky finger just so or have enough faith or whatever. There is always a reason as to why the prayer wasn't answered.
I said Jason was being stupid because his tactic is to claim that whatever the post is about doesn't represent true Christianity but he then proceeds to argue, dispute, obfuscate, move goal posts, etc. When someone says something pro Christian then he makes an approving comment even though it may be silly and without merit as your comment was.
I thought it was stupid because evidently the true way to pray is to first deal with the problem yourself then pray and pretend God answered your prayer.
Realize this about me and others commenting here. We came from Christianity and none of us made a smooth transition I suspect. We had to give this a lot of thought and it wasn't easy or impulsive. It was more like a divorce or dealing with death or an illness. To suggest, as some like Jason and Ed Bruner do, that we have moral short comings or are just being hateful or self indulgent by being unbelievers is insulting and if done purposely it would suggest projection on their part.
Dealing with us takes more that throwing out weak points that you haven't really thought through. We've all wrestled with these issues and more.
I'm sorry if I offended you because you shouldn't be hammered for an innocent, one time comment. I was irritated by Jason who is dishonest and seems to enjoy making an ass of himself.

“Trou, what exactly do you think I’m trying to defend…?”

Jason, I have no idea. Why would you want to comment on this post if you thought that it did not represent the teachings of your belief system? If it doesn’t challenge your beliefs then why comment at all. Starting the comment thread by saying that it doesn’t reflect mainline Christianity makes no sense because it does represent the teachings of a lot of Evangelical Christians and that’s what this blog is about. You don’t get to choose the topics. If you don’t have anything worth saying then why do you even bother to comment?

M. Tully said...

Here are my questions to Christians.

I tell my children that they do not need to wear seatbelts in the car because God will protect them.

We are in a violent auto accident and the children die. All the accident data available indicates that, had the children been wearing seatbelts, they would have lived.

Did I commit an act of reckless endangerment?

Do I deserve punishment?

Should freedom of religion be considered a defense? And would you consider that defense legitimate if it came from a Wicca cult?

From an ethical standpoint, were my actions immoral?

I’m just looking for an answer and a rational.

But, more importantly, I’m wondering where the Christian moral outrage is. Where are the letters to the editor, signed by dozens of Christian clergy? Where are the candlelight vigils? Where is the President, flying in from vacation to sign midnight legislation?

Hypocrisy, thy name is religion.

Lee Randolph said...

Jason,
the effectiveness of prayer is EXACTLY WHAT IS IN QUESTION HERE.

If prayer is not effective then these people are committing 'evil deeds' (wooooooooo). They aren't just a lunatic fringe, additionally they are practicing a well established tenet based on scripture, just like you, except for the dying kids part.

The point is that prayer doesn't work. Therefore, these people are doing a bad thing by praying for the sick. It is voodoo, mojo, black magic, fraud.

Nice attempt to dodge my folklore argument though.

a prayer that is answered with a "no" is not a prayer that has been answered. It is a prayer that has been declined.

As in
Lee: "nurse, in Jesus name, please give that man some more valium because he is in tremendous pain"
Nurse: "I'm afraid I can't do that because he needs to be in pain so that you can see the glory of god as he praises him for not making his pain worse"
Lee: "oh, I see, that makes perfect sense. So the answer is no?"
Nurse: "yes, the answer to your request is no"
Lee: "so you are not going to do it?"
Nures: "no I am not going to do it".

See, she did not answer my prayer/request instead she declined the prayer/request.

The premise was that I believed that whatever I asked in Jesus name she would do, but the conclusion was flawed because the premise was false and she corrected me.

Lee Randolph said...

oh yea, we haven't even broached the logical inconsistency of people praying for different outcomes that are mutually exclusive!

That is one sure way to guarantee a prayer gets answered isn't it?

I don't know which one god will choose but principles of chance predict something will happen! praise god! praise him and praise him, get your hands in the air Somethins gonna happin, amen.

Rachel said...

Trou,

I wasn't offended, just surprised, because I hadn't seen anyone even respond to my comment, let alone think that it was "stupid". But thanks for explaining.

I thought it was stupid because evidently the true way to pray is to first deal with the problem yourself then pray and pretend God answered your prayer.

Actually I would pray first and then do what I could to deal with the problem. But either way, did you see my comments on Evan's other thread about the wickedness of praying for the sick? In case you didn't, I said that I don't really think that my prayers actually change God's mind or cause Him to change a course of action He had been planning to do. I do think it's possible, but I don't think it's likely. In that thread I named several other purposes of prayer. I guess that's why I haven't responded to most of these comments, because they seem directed to people who do believe that prayer causes God to change a course of action.

I'm actually very hesitant to claim that God "did" something out of the ordinary. However, I do attribute many "ordinary" things to God. For instance, if I arrive at a destination safely, I will thank God for providing for my safety. I believe that His provision included my health (eyesight and coordination), the safe driving habits of those I passed, safe driving conditions, etc. Are those "normal" and "ordinary"? Yes, but God doesn't have to do a miracle to help me. I also believe that He generally provides those things for unbelievers as well. So when I thank Him that I arrived safely, I am NOT saying that my safe arrival was some sort of specific answer to prayer. I'm just acknowledging God's general provision in life, His general blessings and goodness as reflected by such events. I'm not "pretending" that God gave me some special answer to prayer. Again, this is where the purposes of prayer that I named previously come in to play.

Realize this about me and others commenting here...

I used to debate atheists and other nonChristians a few years ago. I have a friend who used to be a Christian and who is now an atheist, with whom I've talked extensively. So I'm pretty familiar with where you're coming from.

Dealing with us takes more that throwing out weak points that you haven't really thought through. We've all wrestled with these issues and more.

Yep, me too. I have yet to throw out a point that I haven't really thought through. Could you explain what exactly was "weak" about my point that the prayer wasn't the problem, rather a misinterpretation of Scripture was the problem?

When someone says something pro Christian then he makes an approving comment even though it may be silly and without merit as your comment was.

Okay, so it wasn't "stupid", just "silly and without merit". Well, thanks for toning it down anyway. :-)

For reference, here's my comment on this thread again:

As I said in my last comment on your previous article about the alleged wickedness of praying for the sick, it was not the prayer that was the problem here. It was the lack of seeking adequate medical care that was the major factor in the death of this child. If someone prays or accepts prayer instead of doing tangible, common sense things to help (rather than in addition to doing those things), then that is a problem with them or people they've listened to. But it's not an inherent problem with prayer.

Could you explain what you find "silly and without merit" about the above?

Jason said...

Trou said: Why would you want to comment on this post if you thought that it did not represent the teachings of your belief system?

Because it doesn't properly represent the teachings of the Christian belief system.

larryniven said...

"If a single Scientologist kills a child by withholding medical treatment, is it fair to say Scientology withholds medical treatment from its members?"

...let me try this again. Scientology, as a belief system, cannot do anything: it has no power to perform physical actions. Thus, regardless of what its followers do, it's never correct to say that scientology literally did something in the physical world. When we say things like, "scientology did x," what we mean (or, at least, what I mean - I hope this is true of other people) is that a belief in scientology led someone to do x. Likewise for Christianity - Christians who refer to their religion are the ones to whom we really refer when we say "Christianity did x."

So, do you agree that a belief in Christian principles led to the death(s) in question? It sure seems like it did. You might reply that yes, some Christian principles were involved, but they were misunderstood/wrongly prioritized/etc., but that's an evaluation we can only make after the fact, so it doesn't teach us anything about the right way to interpret these principles, nor does your claim that these are the actions of the minority. The problem you have yet to address is that the Christian Bible goes out of its way to say that prayer alone is sufficient in cases like this, and yet that's clearly false. If you want to say that those passages need further spin and interpretation, you put the entire rest of the Bible on thin ice - which, yknow, go right ahead. I've got no problem with that. But you don't seem to realize that's what you're doing, because you continue to talk as though there are parts of the Bible that are indubitable and thus a "proper" construction of Christianity.

Jason said...

Lee,

As stated in the original post, the question is whether or not prayer is good and righteous. It has yet to be shown what’s inherently evil in communicating with God.

The point is that prayer doesn't work.

And Christians say it does. :) Now what?

A prayer that is answered with a "no" is not a prayer that has been answered. It is a prayer that has been declined.

Prayer is simply communication with God. Requests can be included in a prayer the same way a request can be included in a conversation with a parent. If God hears the prayer, it hasn't been declined. If God answers with a 'no' to a prayer He's received, the prayer has been answered.

Jason said...

Larry,

You’re beating a dead horse. The point is Christianity doesn’t teach/practice/encourage withholding medical treatment from children. If the extreme minority choose to, their beliefs shouldn’t be taken as representative of the beliefs of Christianity as a whole. So in a situation like the one we’re discussing, it’s no good saying “Christianity is disgusting because Christians believe it’s okay to withhold medical treatment from children” because the statement ignores the remaining 99% of Christianity which object to the behaviour of these few individuals.

So, do you agree that a belief in Christian principles led to the death(s) in question?

No. It’s not a Christian principle to withhold medical treatment or kill your children.

…nor does your claim that these are the actions of the minority.

Are they the actions of the majority?

The problem you have yet to address is that the Christian Bible goes out of its way to say that prayer alone is sufficient in cases like this, and yet that's clearly false.

It's difficult to address without references.

Evan said...

Jason it's interesting to me that you continually feel comfortable pronouncing whether various beliefs are or are not orthodox.

For instance, you say:

No. It’s not a Christian principle to withhold medical treatment or kill your children.

Yet you can go to the unleavened bread ministries website and see that they most definitely believe otherwise, based on scripture.

It is my understanding from some of your posts that you believe Jesus was not God. Is that a standard Christian belief?

If it's not, then in what way can you claim to speak for the truth of Christianity in other ways, since you most definitely hold to a heterodox, heretical position on that issue?

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Jason, I apologize for the condescension, but you seem to ignore the vast differences in Christian beliefs, from which arise the multitudes of denominations.

The simple fact is that there is no single representative version of Christianity, and that is part of the point here -- since all Christians (individuals and denominations) must interpret the bible in their own way, there are necessarily different interpretations, even though each is using the same text.

It's not a math class, where the correct answer is presented by definition.

Since there is no single source for orthodoxy, your claims regarding what features of Christianity are orthodox are therefore at least partially false. At best, you may be offering a statistically more common view of Christianity (which statistics will vary depending on the particular feature being discussed), but even that cannot be verified in the absence of polling data or a source of any kind (and no, I'm not asking for that directly -- I'm instead asking for an admission that you do not have a monopoly on what is and is not "official" Christian doctrine).

The truth is that these two different sects of Christianity are fundamentally no different than any other sect (or denomination, if you prefer), as all claim to take their interpretations directly from scripture. Sure, there are groups which do not take all of their interpretations directly from scripture, but we can agree those to be whacko cults, I think, and remove them from consideration.

Unfortunately for your cause, these two specific examples explicitly make their doctrinal claims based directly on the bible. If you have the right to claim what is and what is not orthodox Christian doctrine, then so do they.

Anyway, will you not answer my question regarding the legislation of medical care for minors by their guardians -- regardless of religious convictions?

--
Stan

larryniven said...

jason, you're beating a dead horse. Christianity, to use your overly literal standards, doesn't teach much of anything, cause there are so many different branches of it that contradict each other. Care to be more specific? I know for sure, though, that the Scriptures portray prayer as a sufficient remedy to basically anything - certainly a common illness on the level of diabetes. It's not like people have hidden these verses away somewhere (they're even linked from an earlier comment), so pleading ignorance here doesn't help you much.

"No. It’s not a Christian principle to withhold medical treatment or kill your children."

Har har. That's quite obviously not the principle I meant, and I suspect you know that. Until you address something even moderately resembling my argument, I'm going to stop responding to this kind of thing.

"Are they the actions of the majority?"

Clearly not, but the Bible doesn't operate on democratic principles. It says what it says regardless of who believes or follows it, hence my point. Even if 100% of the people on earth called themselves Christians and believed that prayer had no power in cases like this, that wouldn't mean that the Christian Bible actually says prayer has no power in cases like this. Similarly, no number of Christians saying that prayer works means that prayer works. Unless you think it does, somehow?

Jason said...

Evan said: Jason it's interesting to me that you continually feel comfortable pronouncing whether various beliefs are or are not orthodox.

If you can prove withholding medical treatment is orthodox, then please go ahead and do so.

Yet you can go to the unleavened bread ministries website and see that they most definitely believe otherwise, based on scripture.

So you’re saying it is a Christian principle to withhold medical treatment and kill your children…?

It is my understanding from some of your posts that you believe Jesus was not God. Is that a standard Christian belief? If it's not, then in what way can you claim to speak for the truth of Christianity in other ways, since you most definitely hold to a heterodox, heretical position on that issue?

I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed to speak for the ‘truth of Christianity’, but since you think I have, please, quote away.

Jason said...

Stan said: The simple fact is that there is no single representative version of Christianity, and that is part of the point here -- since all Christians (individuals and denominations) must interpret the bible in their own way, there are necessarily different interpretations, even though each is using the same text.

So like I said, it can't be claimed Christianity withholds medical treatment from its members when in fact only a small group of individuals actually follow this practice.

I'm instead asking for an admission that you do not have a monopoly on what is and is not "official" Christian doctrine.

That's fine, but I've never claimed as such. My point, and it's been an awfully simple one, is that considering the vast majority of Christianity doesn't teach or support withholding medical treatment from its member, it’s safe to say that withholding medical treatment isn’t orthodox within Christianity. That's the only point I'm making.

Anyway, will you not answer my question regarding the legislation of medical care for minors by their guardians -- regardless of religious convictions?

If you can explain how this relates to communicating with God, sure.

Jason said...

Larry said: Christianity, to use your overly literal standards, doesn't teach much of anything, cause there are so many different branches of it that contradict each other.

They certainly don't teach it's right to withhold medical treatment.

I know for sure, though, that the Scriptures portray prayer as a sufficient remedy to basically anything - certainly a common illness on the level of diabetes.

Already addressed.

Clearly not, but the Bible doesn't operate on democratic principles.

Great! Now we can say that since the kinds of actions witnessed in the two churches aren’t found in the majority of Christianity, withholding medical treatment isn’t orthodox. Therefore, the argument isn’t against Christianity as whole, it’s against the two churches.

Evan said...

Jason again you're wrong. The vast majority of Christians believe God heals people in answer to prayer.

District Supervisor Harvey has told us he has been involved in many healings. Is he not a Christian?

Shygetz said...

Look everyone, it's not Jason and Rachel's fault. All true Christians know that there is no measurable difference between praying and not praying. It's a purely aesthetic choice, like whether an artist paints clothed or naked. All true Christians know that praying doesn't really do anything at all as far as results are concerned.

Jason said...

Evan,

I haven't stated otherwise. My point is that the majority of Christians don't withhold medical treatment from members.

As for District Supervisor Harvey and being Christian, Stan says there is no single representative version of Christianity so you'll have to go to him, or Harvey, for the answer to your question.

Trou said...

z"Could you explain what you find "silly and without merit" about the above?

Yes, I will explain once again but if you can't see that the point of this post was the ineffectualness of prayer then I doubt that repeating myself will persuade you.

Rachel said,

"Actually I would pray first and then do what I could to deal with the problem.”

“...it was not the prayer that was the problem here. It was the lack of seeking adequate medical care that was the major factor in the death of this child. If someone prays or accepts prayer instead of doing tangible, common sense things to help (rather than in addition to doing those things), then that is a problem with them or people they've listened to. But it's not an inherent problem with prayer."

Here's the thing. It matters not whether you pray first then seek medical attention or pray afterward or during, the point is that pray is ineffectual. You seem to be saying; of course it isn't a stand alone remedy, only a side dish to the main course or just a supplement to it. This is silly. Prayer does not work. In fact one study found pray to actually hinder recovery from illness.
You are straining at a gnat by parsing words about prayer but are swallowing the camel, that being the fact that prayer doesn't work.
I see no sense in doing something that doesn't work and then claiming that it was somehow important in the process. That is why I find your argument silly and without merit (but you shouldn't concern yourself with my views) and I will be downgrading it to stupid once again should you continue to repeat it.
And Dog help me if I'm stupid enough to repeat myself also.

larryniven said...

So basically, if I understand this correctly, you're promoting an understanding of Christianity that wantonly ignores Biblical teachings. Again, that's fine - I do that already myself. I just find it curious that you should do this while simultaneously advocating Christianity. I mean, if you were a U.S. voter who believed in little to no government intervention in the free market, libertarian freedom, fiscal responsibility, etc., why vote Democrat? And yet you want us to ignore pretty much all of the fundamental Christian tenets but still take Christianity seriously. I don't get it.

Rachel said...

Trou,

If you can move past your unnecessary condescension, you would see that you've missed my point. Did you ever read what I wrote in Evan's "prayer for the sick is wicked" thread? Did you find the purposes of prayer that I listed, the ones that don't include healing?

If you never got around to it (and based on your comments, it would seem that you didn't), here it is again:

I don't think prayer actually changes a part of God's plan. It's possible, of course, but I agree that seems to make God sort of subject to our whims. Others here have pointed out that prayer brings comfort. I agree, and I think there's a bit more to it. I'm not sure how to say this w/o sounding "Christian-y", so pardon the jargon. But I believe that the primary purpose(s) of prayer is to align our hearts and minds with God's, to help us express gratitude, to remember that God is in charge and we are not, to place ourselves under his authority, to keep our focus on Him, to "open the eyes of our hearts" and to "renew our minds", to see things the way He does, to humble ourselves appropriately, to invest in other people. Contrary to the assertions being made here, the more I pray for someone, the MORE likely I am to remember to ask how they're doing, drop them a note, give them a call, bring a meal, etc. I suppose if your idea of "praying for the sick" is to say "please bless so-and-so" while saying grace, then perhaps your point about prayer keeping people from actually helping others is valid.

So, if prayer accomplishes these purposes, then it has "worked" as far as I'm concerned - it has indeed been effectual. I used to see a bumper sticker all the time that said, "Prayer Changes Things". I'm not so sure about that, but I do believe that prayer changes me. I'm not saying prayer is any part of the actual physical "remedy" for sick people (it could be, but I doubt it). Prayer is to change things about us, not to change things about God.

I never claimed that prayer "works", i.e. prayer will get God to heal someone when He wouldn't have done so w/o prayer. I never claimed that so I'm not defending it. All I'm saying is that prayer IS useful and is certainly not wicked. If people die because they prayed instead of getting medical help, the problem isn't with prayer. (wow, deja vu, I feel like I've said this before)

So if anything is "silly and without merit" it is your arguments that are addressing something other than what I am saying. If your whole point is just that prayer doesn't help sick people get better, then I can mostly agree and we can drop it. Evan, however, has tried to say that prayer itself is actually wicked, rather than merely ineffective for healing, and THAT is what I am arguing against.

emodude1971 said...

Rachel, your explanation of prayer sounds a lot more like meditation than anything else. Remove 'god' from your explanation, and you have a formula for meditation to allow one to focus on their life, what is meaningful to them, and what they want to accomplish. In this respect, we probably agree, except for the need of your incorporation of a 'god'.

I remember seeing a skit on Sesame Street where Ernie was standing around holding a banana in his ear. Bert came up to him and asked him what he was doing. Ernie replied 'I'm keeping all the alligators away from Sesame Street'. Bert retorted 'There are no alligators on Sesame Street!' to which Ernie responded 'Well, I guess it's doing a pretty good job then!'

All the real-world, physical and mental benefits of your type of 'prayer' can be achieved by other means. The supernatural portions of your 'prayer' are the banana in the ear syndrome.

larryniven said...

Evan: "The vast majority of Christians believe God heals people in answer to prayer."

me: "the Scriptures portray prayer as a sufficient remedy to basically anything - certainly a common illness on the level of diabetes"

jason: "I haven't stated otherwise."

also, jason: "Christianity doesn’t support the behaviour of the parents [i.e., acting on their belief that prayer is sufficient]"

Blatant liar much? I guess it's easy to defend your position when your position is, in fact, two positions. In response to your upcoming comment: read the previous posts.

Jason said...

Larry,

Christianity doesn't support the behaviour of the parents in the sense of withholding medical treatment.

larryniven said...

Sooooo...Christianity doesn't support the idea that one should act on its teachings. Because, see, it teaches (and you agree that it teaches) that prayer is sufficient in cases like these. If we take this seriously, then it's reasonable just to pray and not to rely on medicine at all, but you disagree with that. The only version of your stance that I'm left with, then, is the following:

1. Christianity teaches (in general) what the Bible says.
2. Christianity teaches that one ought not to base one's actions on what the Bible says, at least in cases where science says something different.

Is that right?

Jason said...

Larry said: So basically, if I understand this correctly, you're promoting an understanding of Christianity that wantonly ignores Biblical teachings.

This has been touched on already. Considering the number of Christians who accept and embrace medical treatment in addition to the number of Christian-run hospitals and hospices around the world, either all of Christianity wantonly ignores Biblical teachings (save for two or three churches), or all of Christianity understands the Biblical teachings of prayer and responsibility. It's one or the other.

Sooooo...Christianity doesn't support the idea that one should act on its teachings.

The Bible doesn't teach believers to withhold medical treatment.

Because, see, it teaches (and you agree that it teaches) that prayer is sufficient in cases like these.

References please.

Rachel said...

Emodude,

All the real-world, physical and mental benefits of your type of 'prayer' can be achieved by other means.

Some of those benefits could possibly be achieved by other means, but not all. The purposes I named included aligning our hearts and minds with God's, reminding ourselves of God's sovereignty, humbling ourselves before God, and trying to see things the way God sees them. These things would be difficult to accomplish w/o a personality/person (God in particular) whom you are actually praying to.

Either way though, the issue I have been arguing against is that prayer for the sick is wicked. Whether or not prayer for the sick is helpful, useful, etc. (which raises the larger issue of whether or not God exists, let alone the Christian God) is a separate issue and is NOT what I am arguing against.

emodude1971 said...

Rachel,

But since your god is imaginary, any benefits you think you're receiving that require his intervention are just as imaginary. Whatever you're accomplishing, you're accomplishing it yourself; not because god is doing anything. God is simply the external party that you're focused on.

And again I think you and Jason miss the big point here. You can find plenty of support in the Bible for relying solely on faith for cures; if you couldn't, then these people and others like them wouldn't solely rely on it. Just because you and Jason and plenty of other Christians disagree with this, doesn't mean it's an incorrect interpretation of scripture.

Carbon Based said...

Jason:
"The Bible doesn't teach believers to withhold medical treatment."

Neither does the bible teach that you should seek medical treatment for your ills. On the contrary as many here have said, the bible explicitly teaches that you should pray to god for treatmentof your ills.

Rachel;
The purposes I named included aligning our hearts and minds with God's, reminding ourselves of God's sovereignty, humbling ourselves before God, and trying to see things the way God sees them. These things would be difficult to accomplish w/o a personality/person (God in particular) whom you are actually praying to.

What ever you claim prayer does there is no empherical evidence that it does indeed anything lest of all what you claim. No more or less than snake oil and in fact no more or less than the placebo effect.
Sacraficing a goat would have about as much effect as prayer would on the sick.

larryniven said...

"This has been touched on already."

References, please.

"The Bible doesn't teach believers to withhold medical treatment."

Perhaps (although perhaps not), but it certainly does tell them that medical treatment is unnecessary. Either you disagree with this (and thus the Bible), which you declined to do earlier, or you agree that Christianity teaches people to ignore the Bible. You can start picking one of these any time now.

Rachel said...

Carbon Based,

What ever you claim prayer does there is no empherical evidence that it does indeed anything lest of all what you claim.

But again, that's not what I'm arguing here. Evan continues to claim that prayer for the sick is actually wicked. I have shown that it is not. Whether or not prayer for the sick is effecual for healing is not something I have even claimed, let alone am arguing for.

Rachel said...

Emodude,

But since your god is imaginary, any benefits you think you're receiving that require his intervention are just as imaginary.

Once again, that is not the point. Whether or not God is real is not the issue we are discussing. Evan claims that prayer for the sick is wicked. I have shown that it is not. Whether or not prayer for the sick is actually effectual for healing is not something I have claimed, let alone am arguing for.

And again I think you and Jason miss the big point here. You can find plenty of support in the Bible for relying solely on faith for cures; if you couldn't, then these people and others like them wouldn't solely rely on it.

The "big point" that I was addressing was Evan's claim that prayer for the sick is wicked. Apparently you see another "big point". Okay. First, the fact that people base something they do on the Bible isn't exactly a proof that it actually IS in the Bible. I'm quite sure you don't apply that kind of logic anywhere else.

Second, I have yet to find anything in the Bible that tells me to rely solely on faith to heal me from my sickness and to stay away from medical help. Please do share where you found all of this support.

Evan said...

Rachel,

In case you missed it the first time, the primary reason praying for the sick is wicked is because it makes people's whose prayers fail (those who are dying) feel as if it is their fault that they are dying.

You've not once dealt with this objection.

A secondary reason, one which is really quite as bad, is that the concept of prayer leads to adults who are allowed to drive believing foolishness that leads them to let their children die. I've documented at least 20 dead kids here from this one group -- and certainly Madeline Neumann's death arises from this.

How you could be defending something that increases the suffering of the dying and kills children is beyond me, but that's that universal morality believers are always droning on and on about I guess.

H G Wells said...

Where is an actuary when you need one!

I am sure this is exactly the type of problem that can be solved by looking it up in an actuarial table listing various religions versus life expectancy adjusting for dietary restrictions.

Some one must have this table close at hand.

No insurance company would fail to rate policies by type of religion if it had any effect!

DARWIN

the dank said...

These are just my random thoughts as I've been reading through the comments:

I understand Evan's point, but I do not think that prayer is inherently wicked. Sure I suppose it could be construed to be, but I just don't see the point in saying it is wicked when clearly those praying for the sick have good intentions.

Rachel and Jason are so determinho ed to stay on topic that they've completely avoided answering much more difficult and important questions that have been raised.

Rachel is perceptive, but clearly not interested in responding to the questions raised apart from: is prayer evil?

Jason is certainly not an idiot, but he insists on pretending to be one any way.

I keep waiting for one of them to reply to something like this:

And again I think you and Jason miss the big point here. You can find plenty of support in the Bible for relying solely on faith for cures; if you couldn't, then these people and others like them wouldn't solely rely on it. Just because you and Jason and plenty of other Christians disagree with this, doesn't mean it's an incorrect interpretation of scripture.

Jason said...

John is playing games and has decided to take personal issue with every single one of my comments, therefore he's refusing to post them. It's making it rather difficult to answer questions being posed to me but I'm trying.

emodude1971 said...

Several comments that I have submitted were rejected as well, so don't try playing the 'I'm being suppressed' card; it happens across the board.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason merely repeated some things he had said before.

Rachel said...

Evan,

In case you missed it the first time, the primary reason praying for the sick is wicked is because it makes people's whose prayers fail (those who are dying) feel as if it is their fault that they are dying. You've not once dealt with this objection.

Actually I HAVE dealt with this objection, several times. It is not the prayer that makes people think it's their fault. Reasons that people think their dying is their fault include misinterpretation of Scripture, exploitation by "Christian" leaders, general feelings of "karma", etc. But prayer itself is not the reason people think dying is their fault. Of course, prayer combined with these other reasons can contribute to feelings of guilt. But prayer in and of itself is not the problem, and thus is not wicked.

A secondary reason, one which is really quite as bad, is that the concept of prayer leads to adults who are allowed to drive believing foolishness that leads them to let their children die.

Again, prayer in and of itself does not lead to that. The VAST majority of people who believe in the concept of prayer do not do such things. Just because someone can take a concept and combine it with twisted logic and fundamental misunderstandings in order to do something, doesn't mean that the concept "leads to" doing that thing. If that's the case, than any concept could "lead to" doing just about anything.

How you could be defending something that increases the suffering of the dying and kills children is beyond me

I'm not defending anything that increases suffering or kills children. As I said before, most things can be used for good or evil. If people combine a misunderstanding of prayer with misinterpretations of Scripture, misguided feelings of guilt, etc. that is bad and I don't want them to do that. But again, that is not the fault of prayer itself. Using prayer wickedly doesn't make prayer wicked. Taking 100 Advil at once isn't too good, but using Advil properly is still very good and beneficial. The fact that some people misuse something doesn't make that something bad in and of itself.

Rachel said...

Dank,

Rachel is perceptive, but clearly not interested in responding to the questions raised apart from: is prayer evil?

Nothing wrong with wanting to stay on topic, especially when the off-topic conversation is as big as "does God exist". In any event, the reason I haven't been responding to other questions is, as I've said, they are directed to beliefs that aren't mine, namely, that prayer causes God to do something different than what He was already going to do.

I keep waiting for one of them to reply to something like this:

And again I think you and Jason miss the big point here. You can find plenty of support in the Bible for relying solely on faith for cures; if you couldn't, then these people and others like them wouldn't solely rely on it. Just because you and Jason and plenty of other Christians disagree with this, doesn't mean it's an incorrect interpretation of scripture.


You must have missed my comment to Emodude on April 4 at 5:27PM. I addressed that comment directly with the following:

"First, the fact that people base something they do on the Bible isn't exactly a proof that it actually IS in the Bible. I'm quite sure you don't apply that kind of logic anywhere else.

Second, I have yet to find anything in the Bible that tells me to rely solely on faith to heal me from my sickness and to stay away from medical help. Please do share where you found all of this support."

Evan said...

Rachel you keep eliding the difference between your position and mine.

Imagine a town with needy people in it who are in poverty, hunger, clothed in tatters. Tell them that you have a powerful friend who can get things for them, but they have to have the right relationship with your friend before he will give it to them.

Then tell them you are asking him to give things to them yourself, and ask them to ask him as well.

Imagine that this person has written a book, that you give to all the townspeeople. This book says that people he likes get anything he has to give them.

Now imagine that this person never gives anyone a thing.

Imagine that you, the person handing out the book and making the claims, know that he never gives anyone a thing.

Is it wicked to tell them they will get something?

You say:

Reasons that people think their dying is their fault include misinterpretation of Scripture, exploitation by "Christian" leaders, general feelings of "karma", etc. But prayer itself is not the reason people think dying is their fault. Of course, prayer combined with these other reasons can contribute to feelings of guilt. But prayer in and of itself is not the problem, and thus is not wicked.

Ah. The no true Scotsman fallacy again. I like the "quotes" around Christian there. But I see that you do admit that prayer can contribute to feelings of guilt.

If you believe prayer does NOTHING, it is wicked because it is a waste of time and *combined with other things* can contribute to increased suffering.

If you believe God does answer prayer by changing the facts of people's lives, you are wicked because you are telling people a demonstrable lie.

The ONLY way prayer can avoid being wicked is if God really does heal people. But several dead kids are showing us he doesn't.

You then say:

I'm not defending anything that increases suffering or kills children. As I said before, most things can be used for good or evil. If people combine a misunderstanding of prayer with misinterpretations of Scripture, misguided feelings of guilt, etc. that is bad and I don't want them to do that.

I don't see how you can state you're not defending something that kills children when you are defending prayer for the sick on a threat that is about prayer for the sick leading to dead kids. But then again, you believe the Bible. Ah, but that Bible it's a dangerous thing, isn't it. Most people disagree with you about the Bible. Yet you're sure you're right.

And people say atheists are arrogant.

That you have trouble getting these ideas is understandable, and you're very pleasant, but I hope this explains fully why prayer is wicked.

brewepau said...

Dear Rationalists,

It is pointless to continue "debating" with the Christian apologists here. Here is why: They set up one straw man after another, knock each one down, and then pretend that they've defeated the arguments of those who question them.

Christians believe what they believe not because they have compelling evidence. Their beliefs rest on "faith" which is just an evasive way of admitting that they don't have the evidence to support their beliefs. If they did, faith would serve no purpose whatsoever. Really, of what use is faith if compelling evidence is at hand?

Conclusion: Christians believe what they believe because they want to. Given that, we can't expect them to seriously consider anything we write whenever we question them about their beliefs. They don't want their beliefs disturbed by anything, especially reasonable and fair questions.

People who really want the facts, people who really want to know how it is, must also be willing to give up comforting beliefs if the evidence compels it. As non-theists, faith won't do it. Compelling evidence will.

Rationalists take note: Straw men might very well start raining down on this post very soon. Please don't expect reasoned arguments from the faithful.

Expect accusations instead. Expect atheism to be characterized as a "religion" that requires "faith". The apologists have to create straw men like these to shield themselves from real debate.

Unfortunately, the trick works very well on THEM because if they want to believe something it's real. If they don't want to believe something, then it's not real. Evidence to the contrary be damned.

Alas, reality itself, then, doesn't have a chance.

But, then again, every so often, one or more of them wakes up. Be ready to take them in with open arms. They'll need loads of support and reassurance. And we'll give it to them without empty promises. What we give will be real. And we'll have the evidence to back it up.

Rachel said...

Evan,

You are asking questions which I have answered over and over. As a result, this conversation is being dragged into the ground, so this will be my last comment on this subject.

Your scenario includes many elements that are significantly different from what I have been arguing. A more accurate scenario would have me bringing whatever supplies I could to the poor townspeople and telling them that my powerful friend had sent me to take care of them as best I could. I would tell them I would also be asking him to grant them peace, comfort, strength, etc. to make it through this time, and I can tell them from personal experience that he will indeed provide those things for them. How is any of that wicked?

Ah. The no true Scotsman fallacy again. I like the "quotes" around Christian there.

No. The no true Scotsman fallacy is when someone says that some bad thing someone did doesn't count against Christianity because that person isn't "really" a Christian. I used quotes when speaking of the "Christian" leaders exploiting people, not to say they weren't Christians necessarily, but to point out that they clearly were not acting according to Christian principles (i.e. Christianity doesn't teach people to let their kids die).

But none of what I said in that quote had anything to do with whether or not anyone is a "real" Christian. Take the quotes away and assume that the exploitative leaders are in fact Christians. It changes nothing about my point that it is not prayer that causes people to think that their deaths are their fault.

But I see that you do admit that prayer can contribute to feelings of guilt.

Yep, and my hand can be used to hold my child's hand or to slap his face. That doesn't make my hand wicked, it's the way I chose to use my hand that was wicked. Having a baby can contribute to feelings of guilt, but that doesn't make it wicked to have a baby. You're trying to make it look like I've admitted to some major point of yours, when the point above was never in question and in no way contributes to your assertion that all prayer for the sick in and of itself is wicked.

If you believe God does answer prayer by changing the facts of people's lives, you are wicked because you are telling people a demonstrable lie.

Not me.

If you believe prayer does NOTHING, it is wicked because it is a waste of time and *combined with other things* can contribute to increased suffering.

Not me again. I don't think that prayer for the sick will cause God to make them better if he wasn't already planning to do so. But I also don't think prayer does "NOTHING". I've listed several non-healing-related purposes of prayer several times on both of these threads.

I don't see how you can state you're not defending something that kills children when you are defending prayer for the sick on a threat that is about prayer for the sick leading to dead kids.

Because you concluded from the dead kids in this situation that all prayer for the sick is wicked, which is not true. As I have stated several times, it is not the prayer that caused these kids to die. Using your logic, we could also say that going to church leads to dead kids, or making friends leads to dead kids, or doing what a leader tells you leads to dead kids. None of those things in and of themselves are bad, in fact they are all important things to do (I'm sure you would disagree on the going to church one, but you kwim). These things only "led" to dead kids when misused and combined with other problems.

I am not defending the actions these people took, or rather the lack of actions. I am simply defending the fact that prayer for the sick, in and of itself, is not wicked, and the bad choices of these specific people are not a sound reason to conclude that it is.

Hamilcar said...

For my part, I don't think it's the praying itself that is wicked. The thing that's wicked is prayer with the expectation that it will actually accomplish anything concrete in the real world.

If, for example, prayer for the sick is merely an expression of a hopeful desire for recovery, a "vote of confidence" that the suffering person will pull through, well, it seems pretty harmless. Perhaps pointless, but harmless.

If someone wants to argue that it has some positive emotional benefit, like some comforting quality, consider this. What's the difference between going to your sick friend and telling them, "I'm pulling for you, dude. I hope you get better soon." versus "I'm praying for you, dude. I'm asking God to make you better soon." So long as everyone understands that these two statements have precisely the same power to affect the disease in question (that is, none), it all seems pretty benign. Maybe you could argue that two Christians would share an emotionally-reinforcing "bonding" experience of shared belief, but that's about it.

But it's exactly that understanding that seems to be lacking from many Christians, and it's not hard to see why.

Take an analogy: defenders of Islam must answer the charge that Islam promotes suicide bombing. Not that all Muslims -- or even most Muslims -- support this view, but that within the teachings of the religion itself lie the seeds that are cultivated by violent jihadists. Islam teaches that martyrs for the faith are not judged for their sins, but have a free and immediate pass to heaven, where 72 virgins await them. Of course, moderate Muslims argue that no reasonable Muslims would take such an extreme position.

Defenders of Christianity must answer for the deaths of these children because Christianity promotes faith healing. Clearly, from all the bible quotes that have been posted on this blog, the seeds for these beliefs are present in the scriptures. Christianity does promise that prayers will be answered, and that the more faith one has, the more likely the prayer is to be answered. Again, moderate or mainstream Christians would argue (as they have, here) that nobody should take such an extreme view as the people who refuse to seek medical attention.

The argument from Rachel, and perhaps from Jason, is that, despite what the bible literally says, a proper understanding or interpretation of the bible would argue against the extreme literalism practiced by these Christian sects.

Fair enough, then. How are we to assure that this proper understanding that you possess is shared among all Christians, so some of them don't take the bible too literally?

A label affixed to every bible: "WARNING: this book contains many stories of miracles. There is no evidence that these miracles ever took place, and no reason to think that such things will happen now. Further, there are many references to the power of prayer, and promises that prayers will be answered. In no way should this lead you to think that you should abandon your common sense. Seek competent medical attention for all diseases. Neither this book nor any faith expressed herein is meant to cure any malady or affliction."

Perhaps you'd object that the bible is filled with many different ideas, and just like any book, a person can take things out of context, blow them out of proportion, etc. That the problem here is not the bible, not Christianity itself, but rather the imperfect people who practice it, and mis-use it to prop up their own funny notions. On this charge, you have to go to the text. What do we have? Do we have people who are really stretching the text, twisting it around to mean things that it doesn't really say? Or do we in fact have people who are reading and following what the book plainly teaches?

Isn't it the case that it's the Christian apologist who is twisting the text? Isn't the apologist the one doing all the mental gymnastics to try to prove that the bible doesn't really say what it seems to say? Doesn't the mainstream Christian "retreat into metaphor" whenever the bible says something inconvenient, or something clearly false? Isn't the bible itself on the side of those who interpret it literally?

The wickedness is not in the praying. Not if the praying is "properly understood". The wickedness is in the expectation, clearly and unambiguously supported by Christianity, that the prayer will actually DO something. The moment you entertain this notion, even a little bit, all the emotional consequences that Evan talks about gush forward like a torrent.

Evan said...

I am not defending the actions these people took, or rather the lack of actions. I am simply defending the fact that prayer for the sick, in and of itself, is not wicked, and the bad choices of these specific people are not a sound reason to conclude that it is.

I would love it if more Christians had your view of prayer (that it is merely a social behavior and does nothing to change the facts of life as it is lived). But it is quite clear that in the minds of these parents, they were acting.

Their act was evil. It resulted in the child's death, and has done so many times in this one church in this decade. Yet they did this action. In their minds, they were acting by talking to the most powerful being in the universe to request an intervention in their child's illness.

In your view, they were wrong to believe what the Bible says, and I agree with you, but your problem is with the Bible, not with these people.

Here is the litany of texts reposted once again which the families of these dead kids could rely on as words of God:

Matthew 7:7 – Ask, and it shall be given you.

Matthew 21:22 – And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

James 5:15 – The prayer of faith will heal the sick.

John 14:14 (quoting Christ) – If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 15:7 (quoting Christ) – If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

John 16:23 (quoting Christ) – Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

1st John 3:22 – And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him…


Rachel I suppose you are done with this thread and that's fine we are talking in circles a bit. But you really can't get away with saying that the position of these parents was somehow not truly Christian unless you agree that the Bible is a series of stories to be taken no more seriously than any other book.

If you believe the Bible is inspired by God, and you pray as the Bible instructs you to, hoping for divine intervention as the Bible instructs you to hope for, than you are engaging in a wicked act.

If you pray as Rachel does (purely for social purposes) you should not confuse the people who you are praying for, since the vast majority of people being prayed for are paying attention to the verses above.

Evan said...

Hamilcar I disagree that prayer can ever not be wicked because of the fact that in media res all believers hold to the position espoused by the Bible.

Take the survey done by Newsweek in 1997.

87% of Americans believe that God answers prayer. My assumption is that almost none of those people believe God answers prayer by always doing nothing.

Hamilcar said...

Evan,

Sure, I can see that. I'm just trying to acknowledge that a Christian could keep redefining prayer, keep retreating, to the point where they've basically admitted that it does nothing measurable. In other words, that it has no effect in the real world. They might still call it prayer at that point, but it would be much closer to my example of a "hope" or a "desire" for a given outcome. The Christians arguing for the non-wickedness of prayer seemed to take many steps in this direction in this thread and the other ones here at DC.

But perhaps, by definition, the Christian concept of prayer necessarily implies an expectation of results, at least some of the time. Perhaps Christians must maintain that God does intervene in reality in response to prayer. If, as you suggest, the vast majority of Christians do indeed adhere to this definition, then it's inherently wicked.

Trou said...

Here are some cartoons that may reveal the mind of Christ concerning prayer.

http://russellsteapot.com/comics/2007/mastering-your-operational-excellence.html

http://russellsteapot.com/comics/2007/omni-impotence.html

Carbon Based said...

Mr Deity explains prayer....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaZDcS-rMf4

Scott said...

Rachel: (i.e. Christianity doesn't teach people to let their kids die).

As far as they know, they are taking the most effective step to prevent their children from dying.

After all, if God really is omnipotent, omniscient, and created humans in the first place, God would know exactly how to heal someone and would clearly have the power to do it. Surely, if God can create laws of nature and the entire universe itself, he could easily heal one person. On the other hand, a Doctor has finite knowledge and finite abilities. Even modern medicine would be primitive compared to God's power.

If God really does exist, is all powerful and says he'll heal those we pray for, then why shouldn't they think God will heal those who should be healed?

And if God does not heal a particular sick person, but he really does exist and offers to do so, then surely God must have some divine reason which requires the sick person to die. Right? Why else would a omnipotent, omniscient God not heal the sick as he promised he would?

If you say that we do not have evidence that this person would have died anyway, since when does evidence trump faith? The same book that says "The prayer of faith will heal the sick" also said Jesus died and was resurrected three days later.

As Jason once said, "The only way we can ever know if prayer works is by rewinding the clock and doing everything over again without praying. But this is impossible".

One could retreat to the same position on God's divine reason for not healing a sick person. We can't go back in time, so we can't tell if they would have been healed by medical treatment.

Again, it all comes down to God's nature and his word.