Christian, Tell Us in Advance Which Prayers if Unanswered Would Count Against Your Faith

I recently pointed out how a high profile prayer on national TV was not answered by God. I claim this as yet another piece of evidence that God doesn't answer prayers even if he exists, which he does not. So along come the Christian wannabe apologists, and guess what, surprise...

...they are defending God. You see, they know a priori (on the surface, before examining the case at hand) that God never does anything wrong, ever. They know this. Some of them claim to know this with certainty. But if this is what they think then no amount of evidence will ever convince them otherwise. They laugh in the face of this or that particular evidence to the contrary without realizing that when I point to one specific important failed prayer request it is symptomatic of all failed prayer requests.

Now think about this for a minute. Why would anyone ever judge these cases before examining the evidence? Why would any thinking person ever be put in the position that no matter what happens as the result of prayer God did nothing wrong, ever? You have placed yourselves in a theological unfalsifiable box of your own making. No thinking person should do this. None. For if you will not allow yourself the possibility that God did something wrong by not answering a prayer then you are not open to the evidence. You are, well, brainwashed. I really mean this. It does not matter to me if most people agree against me either, for it is obvious to everyone that most people have been brainwashed by birth into believing in mutually exclusive religions. The question a Christian MUST ask herself is if she is one of the brainwashed ones. [I happen to think most all believers are brainwashed but that's irrelevant for now]. We all agree there are religiously brainwashed people in the world, billions of them, unless you can harmonize all of the religions, but this cannot be done. So are you one of the brainwashed, or not? Remember, brainwashed people DO NOT THINK THEY ARE BRAINWASHED!

I would think that when dealing with unanswered prayers that would further God's glory or help his children he should answer them, especially once-in-a-while on national TV when given the chance! A link to what I wrote can be found here.

Christian think on this. You retreat every single time in the face of an unanswered prayer request by discounting the misses and counting the hits. Every. Single. Time. You even discount the many scientific studies on prayer that show conclusively there is no evidence that prayer helps at all. Again, that's science, as in scientific studies. Not one, but a multiple number of them. And they all conclude the same damn thing. Prayer does no good. None. I really think that honest believers who truly want to know whether God exists and answers prayers would not do what they do every single time. Do you really want to know whether God exists and answers prayer, or not? I think not. That's the hallmark of a brainwashed person in my opinion.

You see, there is always a reason why God didn't answer a prayer, isn't there? So let's do this. Tell ya what, give me one observable scenario such that if God failed to answer that specific prayer you would no longer believe God answers prayer. A prayer you would expect to have answered such that if it's denied you could no longer believe. Or a series of them. At the very least tell me what kind of prayer request, if unanswered, would count against your faith. Go on. Tell us in advance. Only if you do so can I take you seriously when you continually discount the myriad number of failed prayers after the fact.

The answered prayers are easy to explain. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. ;-)

Cheers.

59 comments:

Houx said...

I don't see prayer as something where I ask God this or that and He is suppose to respond. I always end my prayers with "If it be thy will." I see prayer as communion with God. It helps bring me into a concious contact with His love and it helps wash my brain from impurity. God knows my brain needs a little washing.

Joshua Jung said...

Dude, John. You forget that God has FREE WILL. He can say NO. This means that HE CAN DO WHATEVER HE WANTS.

This means, OBVIOUSLY, that every prayer is ANSWERED. This is ABSOLUTE PROOF that prayer is real!!

Don't you get IT!?!

It is so simple:

*God can do whatever he wants (as long as it isn't against his NATURE)
*We pray
*God answers IN HIS OWN WAY

Sometimes God answers in a way we don't understand, but that doesn't mean God is not listening or not answering! It just means God said "no" or "maybe"!!

Praying for ya, man. God is listening.

- E.A.Poe

Mike D said...

I think it was TheraminTrees on YouTube who said something very poignant and concise, like, "Praying to a god who will only grant your prayer if it is accordance with his will, and whose will is unknown, is no different than praying to a god that doesn't exist."

Chuck O'Connor said...

Joshua,

Your savior had a different take on prayer as long as we asked what we wanted in his name we could ask for anything. Your theology is in contrast with JC's. Sorry bud, how about some consistency?

Houx said...

Hey Mike D,

I would have to disagree with TheraminTress. I make a distinction between God's sovereign will and His revealed will. Of course His sovereign will is hidden in mystery to me. I don't know that until it comes to pass. I just try and go by His revealed will which is loving Him above all else and loving my neigbor as myself. The secret things belong to God. Prayer, for me, helps bring me into a concious contact with His love.

Brian_E said...

Chuck,

Look at Joshuas signature. You fell for it :)

Chuck O'Connor said...

Brian,

You are right, I am chagrined.

Ginx said...

"When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers."

~ Oscar Wilde

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I've come to peace with the truth that cynicism is antithetical to grace and faith.

You seem frustrated by that simple truth.

Your projection of a gracious perspective being the result of brainwashing is consistent with cynicism.

Again, grace offends our base instincts to fight or flee that which is viewed as threatening to us.

Bye,
3M

Double A said...

God's creation is so much bigger than you or I. I am amazed that such a positive activity such as prayer gets attacked by anyone. I guess if I was constantly annoyed over somebody's faith, I might try to capsize them with worldly assessments in an attempt to spoil their faith.

Double A said...

I prayed hard for my brother-in-law not to die when he was 27 and his liver was failing. God did not save his life. He died this year. Am I down on my knees screaming "Why did you not save him, God?" No. Do I miss my bro? Yeah. But since my eyes are open I have seen unbelievable things happen with other family members as a result of the loss. Does that mean I'm glad he died? Heck, no. But when I consider eternity, thinking about the extra years he could have spent with us doesn't sting as badly.

Lee said...

How about Jesus' prayer in John 17 (i.e. God's prayer to Himself!) that the world would believe that Jesus was who He said He was as a result of the perfect (v.23) unity of His followers?

Has God answered that prayer? Are Christians perfectly united? Is the world being convinced of Jesus as a result?

Can't wait to hear how this one is explained away.

Brad Haggard said...

John, thanks for the shout out. If was still posting I'd try to get some more traffic over.

Now as for the falsifiable prayer, I couldn't say because all of my expectant prayers are personal in nature, that is, I don't know what I'm going to ask for.

But I do keep a list of things to pray for specifically for my ministry, and this fall of the 10 things I set out praying for, 9 of the 10 have been specifically answered, and the other has ceased to be a concern. Why am I brainwashed to believe my own personal experience, especially when it is verified for me?

I don't expect this to be persuasive publicly, but I cannot ignore it personally. Especially when it is a consistent pattern, verified in writing and journaling, over a pattern of years.

Chuck O'Connor said...

MMM you said,

"I've come to peace with the truth that cynicism is antithetical to grace and faith."

I think you are mistaking skepticism for cynicism. Not believing remarkable truth claims does not mean the possibility for belief is ignored.

Skeptical inquiry can enhance emotional maturity and intellectual dexterity.

You should try it some time.

John W. Loftus said...

Brad, how many of these nine prayers were self-fulfilling and non-falsifiable prayers? Don't bother telling me about them. I just want YOU to think about them in this light. Scientific studies show conclusively that prayer does not work. Given this scientific evidence perhaps you ought to look back through your list and see how many of these prayers are answered in the same manner as horoscope readings are answered every day in the minds of people who read them. Every. Single. Day.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee wrote, "How about Jesus' prayer in John 17 (i.e. God's prayer to Himself!) that the world would believe that Jesus was who He said He was as a result of the perfect (v.23) unity of His followers?"

Jesus doesn't abolish the conditions that qualify us for His grace - it is humanity that holds weakness, diversity, and fallibility in contempt, not God.

Then from Chuck: "Skeptical inquiry can enhance emotional maturity and intellectual dexterity.

You should try it some time."

Chuck, I want to personally thank you for affirming a very deep rooted and heartfelt conviction that I will never travel back to where I came from again!

Yours truly,
3M

Chuck O'Connor said...

MMM,

You said,

"Chuck, I want to personally thank you for affirming a very deep rooted and heartfelt conviction that I will never travel back to where I came from again!"

Care to elaborate?

Houx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ACM said...

Double A said...
I am amazed that such a positive activity such as prayer gets attacked by anyone.

I don't think it is being attacked, only questioned. The main thing I've noticed here is that no one has answered John's question.

Samphire said...

Nine things Brad didn’t pray for:

1. World peace.

2. Global cooling.

3. A rabbit fossil in the Cambrian levels.

4. A free national medical service.

5. A free Hovind.

6. The Second Coming.

7. Re-attachment of unattached amputated limbs.

8. Richard Dawkins’ conversion.

9. Ecumenism.

One thing Brad did pray for:

1. Oral Roberts' continued good health.

Lee said...

MMM said: "Jesus doesn't abolish the conditions that qualify us for His grace - it is humanity that holds weakness, diversity, and fallibility in contempt, not God."

I'm not sure how that answers the question about the disunity within christianity in light of Jesus' prayer. It's a simple prayer: "Father make them one even as we are one that the world may believe." In other words, "Father cause my followers to be united in such a way that the world will see it as evidence that I am who I say I am and therefor believe in me." Are you saying that God can only answer prayer when allowed to by humans?

But besides that, what are the "conditions", i.e. "qualifiers" for grace? Isn't grace by definition unconditional and unearned? Freely given?

Of course I know it depends on whether you are arminian (people choose God) or calvinist (God chooses people). The arminian will say that yes grace, despite it's own definition, is conditioned upon a free will belief to choose God. The calvinist will say that grace is not conditioned on anything since God chose beforehand the people who He would cause to believe in Him by His spirit.

They both have their issues.

Lee said...

@ John W Loftus and Samphire:

But don't you guys understand that God can't answer prayers in such a way that would make it obvious that He exists to those who aren't already predisposed to interpreting events as answers to prayer (i.e. skeptics)? I mean, He can't make it obvious that He exists or else He won't be able to justifiably send anyone to Hell for being unable to believe in Him. I mean think about all that wasted space and fire! That's why He doesn't heal amputees or raise anybody from the dead (I mean, like after several days, not spontaneous resuscitation), even though He supposedly used to do stuff like that all the time. Now all we've got to go on are the bible and the subjective anecdotal experiences of His followers. ;-)

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan O'Leary said...

Damn John, getting slammed by the fundies today. For the rational folks out there, reminds me of the "why won't God heal amputees" series.

Brad Haggard said...

John, I know that response. 2 of the prayer items weren't even connected to me, they were completely 3rd party, so there is no self-fulfillment going on. Three of the remaining were of the self-fulfilling variety, and three of the others were answered without expectation in the period of about 20 minutes. The other one concerned someone near to me, and it was a miraculous change of course, but I was involved.

There is the disclosure, and I've already stated why prayer studies have a faulty methodology (or theology). I've read the studies, too (and 3 studies probably isn't "conclusive" yet, anyway).

You can scream "brainwashed" and gnash your teeth until you're blue in the face, but, epistemologically, I'm going to trust my self-presenting experience over your authority. That is the most justifiable epistemic conclusion.

Lee said...

Brad said: "I'm going to trust my self-presenting experience over your authority. That is the most justifiable epistemic conclusion."

Does that apply to all personal beliefs? Are all personal beliefs justified by subjective personal experience? Or just yours?

For example, when someone says they "know" they were abducted by aliens because of some personal experience you won't question it?

Ironically, the reason I walked away from christianity after 21 years was realizing that I couldn't really "know" nor prove that what I believed was true. It didn't ring true with what I could know through my physical senses

Should I, like you, not trust the "authority" of scripture or the church over my personal self-presenting experience?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Brad you said,

" I'm going to trust my self-presenting experience over your authority. That is the most justifiable epistemic conclusion."

Just don't expect us to trust it okay as anything more than superstition and wishful thinking.

Gandolf said...

Brad said .."That is the most justifiable epistemic conclusion."

I see so things are simply "justifiable" if they happen to suit us all personally.

No need to worry if it might infact effect others.

And still some christians will try suggesting atheism is whats connected to anarchism.

Brad Haggard said...

Chuck, that's why I never present it as a public argument, because you're not me and can't feel the force of the experience.

Lee, I've had to take a more inductive approach to biblical authority than before, and I'm still working it out. I understand your concern there. But my experience, my waking, physical experience, lines up with the basic set of Christian doctrine. I wish I could say more on why you don't perceive it, but I'm not you.

Gandolf, (I like your tag, btw). If someone presented me with objective evidence disconfirming my prayer experiences, like the outcomes really didn't occur or I really didn't pray for them, then I would have to abandon my belief. Otherwise, why should I let someone else deride my cognitive faculties?

Russ said...

Brad,
You said,

But I do keep a list of things to pray for specifically for my ministry, and this fall of the 10 things I set out praying for, 9 of the 10 have been specifically answered, and the other has ceased to be a concern.

Is it the case that you make a list of objectives that are important enough to you that you commit time, effort, and resources in making them come to pass, and, then, after you've made them happen, you attribute their happening to your version of a god? Is that what's going on? Are you suggesting that none of the items on your to-pray-for list could have occured had you not prayed for them?

I, too, make lists of things that I really want to make happen. In fact, I put them on the list specifically to make sure I regularly apply myself to them in order to make them occur. In a given year, I make hundreds of listed items happen without gods or prayers. So, too, do lots of other atheists, like most of China, most of Sweden and most of Denmark.

You asked,

Why am I brainwashed to believe my own personal experience, especially when it is verified for me?

In part because personal experience is a poor indicator of reality. For instance, people don't feel the Earth spinning a thousand miles an hour at the equator, but, nevertheless, it is. Also, people tend to accept without question those explanations adopted by their social groups. This is especially true in the case of religious social spheres. You appear to do exactly that, including thinking you have real answers when you do not. You are brainwashed. You balkanize the reality we all share into two parts: one small fragment which you choose to understand only because some minimal comprehension of the real world is required to make it through the day, and another much larger fragment which you purposely choose not to understand because it serves as the wellspring for your miracle claims.

Is it true that Islam is not the one true path to salvation? If so, are Muslims not brainwashed to believe what you consider to be obvious untruths? Are you not brainwashed from their perspective?

Brad, I've investigated a great many religious claims, like your claim that your personal experience has been verified for you. If I were to shadow you at Tate's Creek after you had prayed for something specific related to your youth ministry, what I would find would be you fulfilling your own prayer and, then, dutifully giving credit to your version of god for the work you had done. Why can I say this? Because that is precisely what I've observed in every single instance of answered prayer I've looked at over the years where the prayer being answered depended on the person doing the praying.

It's not a secret and it's not a miracle. It's a social phenomenon. You pray for something; you answer your own prayer; you credit your version of god, and, voila', the answered prayer has been manufactured.

It's unfortunate, Brad, but you are deeply mired in a social structure that will not permit self examination. If you stop seeing miracles, even though none have ever occurred, you will no longer belong. You must force your children, under threat of losing your love, into believing exactly as you do.

How do I know? Observation. That's what Christians do, almost universally. Christianities, including Tate's Creek, survive via threatening children. Brainwashing.

Andre said...

Houx, are you also MT/creep?

We all have to also remember that God knows before hand whose or what prayers he's going to answer or reject, even before you were born. So when you are desperately trying to convince him to grant your wishes, his decision has already been made. You see, God knows whether he's going to say yes or no to your prayers before you even think of a prayer, and before it's coming through. But get this, God tells you to pray knowing he will not answer it, while pretending it depends on how much faith (for example) you have at the time of prayer that will be the deciding factor.

This is one way to see how people waste a lot of time praying, especially when they say they're praying for us non-believers. No amount of praying will change what God already knows he's going to say no to. In such a case, God will not even change his mind if it were to help strengthen the believer's faith if answered "positively".

Now as I mentioned in another post, the idea of prayer is one that means you have to pray so your prayers can be answered, just as you have have to for it not to be answered. How convenient is that eh? How do you really discern that your prayers weren't answered from your prayers are never answered?

Why don't you christians challenge yourselves by not praying all of next year (make it your new years resolution). Remember, if you do, it will simply be in God's foreknowledge that in 2010, DC's christian visitors would stop praying. And there is nothing to fear since it's also in his foreknowledge if you're going to heaven anyways and you'll come around somehow. Come on do it! Surely you don't think you can change your sequence of prayers that God will answer right?

Houx said...

Andre,

Yea it's me MT/Creep.

You made some good points. Let me go over them. I acknowledge your position and promise to weigh it carefully.

Russ said...

Brad,
You said,

But I do keep a list of things to pray for specifically for my ministry, and this fall of the 10 things I set out praying for, 9 of the 10 have been specifically answered, and the other has ceased to be a concern.

Is it the case that you make a list of objectives that are important enough to you that you commit time, effort, and resources in making them come to pass, and, then, after you've made them happen, you attribute their happening to your version of a god? Is that what's going on? Are you suggesting that none of the items on your to-pray-for list could have occured had you not prayed for them?

I, too, make lists of things that I really want to make happen. In fact, I put them on the list specifically to make sure I regularly apply myself to them in order to make them occur. In a given year, I make hundreds of listed items happen without gods or prayers. So, too, do lots of other atheists, like most of China, most of Sweden and most of Denmark.

You asked,

Why am I brainwashed to believe my own personal experience, especially when it is verified for me?

In part because personal experience is a poor indicator of reality. For instance, people don't feel the Earth spinning a thousand miles an hour at the equator, but, nevertheless, it is. Also, people tend to accept without question those explanations adopted by their social groups. This is especially true in the case of religious social spheres. You appear to do exactly that, including thinking you have real answers when you do not. You are brainwashed. You balkanize the reality we all share into two parts: one small fragment which you choose to understand only because some minimal comprehension of the real world is required to make it through the day, and another much larger fragment which you purposely choose not to understand because it serves as the wellspring for your miracle claims. It's interesting that the less you understand, the more you can claim as miracles for your version of a Christian god.

Is it true that Islam is not the one true path to salvation? If so, are Muslims not brainwashed to believe what you consider to be obvious untruths? Are you not brainwashed from their perspective?

Brad, I've investigated a great many religious claims, like your claim that your personal experience has been verified for you. If I were to shadow you at Tate's Creek after you had prayed for something specific related to your youth ministry, what I would find would be you fulfilling your own prayer and, then, dutifully giving credit to your version of god for the work you had done. Why can I say this? Because that is precisely what I've observed in every single instance of answered prayer I've looked at over the years where the prayer being answered depended on the person doing the praying.

It's not a secret and it's not a miracle. It's a social phenomenon. You pray for something; you answer your own prayer; you credit your version of god, and, voila', the answered prayer has been manufactured.

It's unfortunate, Brad, but you are deeply mired in a social structure that will not permit self examination. If you stop seeing miracles, even though none have ever occurred, you will no longer belong. You must force your children, under threat of losing your love, into believing exactly as you do.

How do I know? Observation. That's what Christians do, almost universally. Christianities, including Tate's Creek, survive via threatening children. Brainwashing.

Lee said...

Brad said: "I've had to take a more inductive approach to biblical authority than before, and I'm still working it out."

I'm not sure what you mean there honestly. As an evangelical I was taught to believe that either the bible is authoritative throughout or it's all up for grabs. If the latter is granted, then christianity falls apart. What do you believe? Are you an evangelical? Does the bible stand apart as it's own authority as the inerrant, unchangeable "word of God" (as evangelicals believe) or is it subject to ever-changing social mores and personal interpretations of individuals (as many non-christian theists believe)?

"If someone presented me with objective evidence disconfirming my prayer experiences, like the outcomes really didn't occur or I really didn't pray for them, then I would have to abandon my belief."

The question isn't really if you prayed and if a desired outcome happened that coincided with your prayer, but whether or not they were truly connected by a divine action. In other words, how do you know that it was a divine answer to prayer and not a coincidence misinterpreted by your wishful thinking? How do you know the difference, unless God himself shows up and said, yeah that was me?

That's the point behind questioning why God doesn't answer prayers that would obviate His existence, such as healing an amputee, or a leper, or raising a dead person (even though He used to according to the bible). It's easy to ask God to heal cancer or deliver people from addiction, etc, and then claim it was a miracle if it happens, even though it's far from obvious that it had to be a divine miracle. If you knew someone that had lost a limb or was disfigured in an accident, would you even bother to pray for healing? Would you expect it to be granted?

Brad Haggard said...

Russ,

I'm sure you've done copious research on this, including googling me (gotta say, a little over the top). But you fail to see that two of the answered prayers were third party and not ministry related. I barely even had contact with the involved parties, so there is no self-fulfillment here. I'm sure you know better than I do, though.

Brad Haggard said...

Lee,

I used to take the usual 2 Tim 3:16 approach to scripture, but that is deductive and not very rigorous. Now I am taking the Bible's authority based on a number of factors, like it's wisdom, beauty, and witness to Jesus. I had to take a serious look at some other texts before I could say this.

You're right to point out that the connection between prayer and the outcome is the key. The only thing I can say to that is that I'm compelled by years of the same outcomes. If it was just this fall that this happened, I think I'd be much more cautious and skeptical.

Scott said...

Brad,

Why do you feel the need to ask God to intervene in some cases but not others?

Or perhaps a better question would be to ask what items you would not put on your list and why?

Lee said...

Brad, you said:

"I used to take the usual 2 Tim 3:16 approach to scripture, but that is deductive and not very rigorous. Now I am taking the Bible's authority based on a number of factors, like it's wisdom, beauty, and witness to Jesus. I had to take a serious look at some other texts before I could say this."

I'm still not sure what you mean. I know the difference between inductive and deductive bible study, but the question still remains: is the bible the word of God, and thus inerrant, unchangeable, and authoritative, or not? I swear, sometimes nailing down what a christian actually believes is like trying to nail down a drop of water! :-)

You also said:

"The only thing I can say to that is that I'm compelled by years of the same outcomes."

Years, decades, centuries, whatever. It doesn't make a difference how long you've "experienced" supposed answers to your prayers since your belief compels you to see anything that happens as an answer to prayer, either God's "yes", "no", or "not now". The question remains: how do you know that anything that has happened (or not happened) in your life is an answer to prayer, that could not have otherwise occurred w/o God causing it to happen?

Russ said...

Brad,
I have indeed done copious research on this material. However, anything I've said relating to you here is all material that has been said on this site before. I remember, what?, three facts - Tate's Creek, youth minister, Lexington - that I have gleaned here from months back. I didn't google you to get those tidbits.

You said,

But you fail to see that two of the answered prayers were third party and not ministry related. I barely even had contact with the involved parties, so there is no self-fulfillment here.


What's one supposed to understand when you say, "But I do keep a list of things to pray for specifically for my ministry, and this fall of the 10 things I set out praying for, 9 of the 10 have been specifically answered, and the other has ceased to be a concern."[emphasis added] You claimed that the prayers were for your ministry. And now you spin it differently.

So, two of the prayers were "third party." If that's the case, then the only difference is that instead of you answering your own prayers, the social structure, the rumor mill, the gossip pipeline, the interpersonal grapevine, that is the church itself, spread the word and some other living breathing human being answered your prayer. I've lived it, Brad. I was forced to "answer" people's prayers, or even "be" the "answer." I've seen it in action. I've witnessed parents lying to their children to make them think that a prayer was answered and I've witnessed my own father(clergy), and both grandfathers(clergy) lie through their teeth to make it appear as though miracles had happened. They lie to children, parents, siblings, extended family. Do you listen in on your own children's prayers and then lie to them to make a fraudulent "answered" prayer?

Do you literally never delve in to how your prayers get answered? Is it the case that you simply accept the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy? Is it the assumption of the faithful that simply because a wish was uttered as a prayer, that that utterance is a divinely answered prayer if it actually happens?

Every year I donate $500 worth of hats and mittens to area elementary schools. If a child has cold hands and has been taught to pray for simple comforts like gloves, is it an answered prayer simply due to the fact that the child wished for it and my gift made it available? Most years, I buy the items and deliver them to the schools while the days are still warm. So, is it still an answered prayer if the mittens are already in the office before the prayer is prayed?

This is silliness, Brad. If the gloves are not available, prayers won't make them magically appear. That's why I donate them in the first place. Prayer does not work. If we stupidly relied on prayer, many children would get frostbite. People caring works. People helping people works. People praying counts for nothing.

You sarcastically said,

I'm sure you know better than I do, though.

More than likely I do. I have actually studied this material for more than forty years. I've studied the statistics. I've studied the science. I've closely observed how the religious delude themselves into believing that because the coincidence worked in their favor this time, but not the other thousand times which are conveniently forgotten, that their lord had exempted natural law just for them. It's a miracle!

smitty1e said...

The very title of your post asserts the capacity to become God and direct others to prophesy.

You funny.

Brad Haggard said...

Lee, the doctrine of inerrancy that I've come to accept is "the Bible is true in everything that it affirms". It's a little more tentative, and not based on a presuppositional approach (e.g. the Bible is God's word because it claims to be-deductive), but on more careful study of what the text actually affirms (inductive Bible study) and lining those affirmations with my experience and intuition (inductive theology).

This is a side question, but why are so many atheists interested in "nailing down" a Christian's belief. That strikes me as fundamentalist, but you may have other reasons.

As for relating prayer to the outcomes, I don't think that my personal testimony will make a strong public argument, even though it is compelling to me. Again, that is why I never argue this as one of the knock down arguments for faith. If you want to know a little more about how I view epistemology, read N.T. Wright's chapters on "critical-realism" in "The New Testament and the People of God." It's not comprehensive, but it's a starting point.

Brad Haggard said...

Russ, I'm going to answer your posts from both threads here.

This is going to sound cheap, but I've got to get it off my chest. Your answers are the standard atheist response to theists' arguments: a) you are socially deluded, b) you don't know anything about science, c) I'm smarter than you!!!!11!!!!

Now that I've purged myself, lets get to your arguments.

1. You say that I'm inculcating the weak in youth ministry, but we have seen more adult baptisms (read: outsiders) this year than children. They must be mentally ill, I guess.

2. The x-rays I referred to were from a report in England, so I don't think you've seen them either. See, the problem with your view is that you have to chase down every single report and x-ray to disprove it.

Look, I'm as dubious about flashy healing ministries as you are, but I have seen miracle turnarounds and have heard stories from people I trust that don't have the same "propaganda" feel. I think you are generalizing too far the results of your study.

3. Re: your contention that the Danes are healthier because they are atheist.

This, I'm sorry, is a bad argument. There are so many problems with it I'm not sure where to start:
a) do you have survey evidence showing the Danes are more compassionate than Americans?
b) What are the numbers of atheists vs. christians in hospitals in Denmark?
c) Control, control, control. You should know that the hallmark of the experimental method is control, and your argument isn't even close to proof because you don't control for a number of things, like: environment, socio-economic status, nature of illness, genetic history. I'm amazed at how many "scientific" arguments proffered by atheists are actually bad science.

I'm still waiting on one cancer study article that controls for religious belief (you have to produce it because you made the assertion, but I seriously doubt it would exist because of the ethical concerns. You really think Barna has a study like this?) Just give me the goods, here.

But I have an article, a meta-study, actually, which chronicles the health benefits of religious activity, including prayer (from secular psychologist, no less)
http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Papers/Relig_self_control_bulletin.pdf

I know, I know, don't confuse me with the facts.

4. Re: religious grapevine inducing answered prayer.

I'm sorry that your family participated in false assertions. Christians are obviously not immune from that and I would be upset if that were my story.

Your "grapevine" theory doesn't hold, though, because the people in question don't attend the church, nor do they even have any contact with anyone from the church. And these prayers were private. It would be a bigger miracle if someone actually did make personal contact from the church.

But the larger theological issue with your contention is that God working through people is the prophetic concept of God's sovereignty. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, even Esther, they all saw God working through foreign nations, even pagan ones. Babylon, Assyria, and Persia were all God's instruments. This is the prayer theology in much of Acts as well

So I think that you could still be someone's answered prayer. I think you are doing a great thing by donating the mittens. It should be emulated by others. I also think that God may be using you to fulfill someone else's prayer. It's not coercion or manipulation, it's providence.

I guess I just think you shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. You seem genuinely interested in people and I think that God wants to honor that desire, even if you don't recognize Him as the ultimate mover.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee said, "But besides that, what are the "conditions", i.e. "qualifiers" for grace? Isn't grace by definition unconditional and unearned? Freely given?"

We all qualify for the need for grace -- our neediness shows itsself in the way that we behave towards one another. A believer is not exempt from that need, but connects to the source of it.

We need grace to progress forward towards becoming gracious. Although grace is freely offered by God, it costs us our egotistical pursuits (which can amount to an entire life and be a mountainous overcoming!) to embrace it.

take care,
3M

me said...

Brad,

First let me say I'm glad that the things you wanted to happened came into fruition. I'm sure its a great feeling to have that happen as the holidays are here.

But, I want to suggest my take on the matter where you said

"you fail to see that two of the answered prayers were third party and not ministry related. I barely even had contact with the involved parties, so there is no self-fulfillment here."

Now, I'm no authority. So I'm just a layman giving you my view. Perhaps this is a case of selective memory. You've seen these two particular prayers answered without self-fulfillment. But out of all that you've prayed for, not just in this particular list of 10, I feel that the laws of probability will allow at least SOME prayers to be "answered". Think of all the other prayers that were unanswered.

All I'm saying is, isn't it possible that of all you've prayed for, statistically some will be "answered" even without your doing?

There have been MANY things in my life that I've needed or wanted, and then - wow look at that! It falls in my lap! I didn't pray for it, the person that gave me it had no idea I needed it. Last year I was thinking to myself how I want to travel more. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon first. It was the closest wonder of the world to me I hadn't yet seen. A few months later my parents called and said "We're taking a trip to Arizona" just a few miles away from the Canyon! I didn't pray for it, my parents didn't know I was thinking about it. It just happened!

I don't want to take away the good feeling you have that what you wanted to come true did. Because no matter how they came to be - they did. And that's great. I just think it's more amazing to think of the more real possibilities of how they may have happened than to pass it on to a god who's so apparently loving that he doesn't want to present himself to me in a way that I'll in no way doubt what I'm seeing.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

One of the symptoms of having been indoctrinated into domineering and subjugative ways is that there is an expectation for immediate compliance and an offense at uniqueness (that not all ppl value or desire the same things as one's self).

'me' wrote this: "I just think it's more amazing to think of the more real possibilities of how they may have happened than to pass it on to a god who's so apparently loving that he doesn't want to present himself to me in a way that I'll in no way doubt what I'm seeing."

I used to be a deconvereted believer -- and I thought I had 'erased' any notion of divine existence. But by faith, I have come to recognize the value of the supernatural as an ideal medium to reveal what is harbored in human hearts and minds. The way that ppl relate/perceive to the supernatural can be a projection of the way they were indoctrinated into perceiving/relating to human authority.

While I now trust what Jesus said that He didn't come to condemn and that God does love all ppl, I have also come to recognize that not all ppl love Him in return, but instead, reveal and express unabated contempt by applying a guilty and condemning characterization upon Him.

This sort of relationship virus happens between ppl (habitually casting guilty and condemning labels upon one another) all the time and it is not a symptom of love, but of contempt (for which God offers salvation, not condemnation).

Holiday happiness to you and yours,
3M

Scott said...

But I have an article, a meta-study, actually, which chronicles the health benefits of religious activity, including prayer (from secular psychologist, no less)

Brad,

Any religion with any kind of guidelines could lead to these results.

This also validates the kind of "science of the mind" that Sam Harris promotes and the form of philosophical Buddhism that I follow, which has nothing to do with theism or the supernatural. That which is beneficial in religion can be abstracted from the supernatural and scientifically proven to be effective, such as meditation, etc. Belief in a God or God's is not necessary.

In regards to prayer, Individuals who are more self-sufficient are better equip to bring about their own goals, rather than have them fulfilled by the intersession of a supernatural being. And the same can be said about third parties who are more self-sufficient.

Should I think there is a moral axis to the universe, or even thousands of moral peaks by which we could reach maximal well being, then I can promote these values above others without invoking the supernatural. They need not be divinely inspired.

Please see Can We Ever Be Right about Right and Wrong?

Furthermore, the study makes it clear that the kind of self-control exhibited could be use to oppress others.

In other words, a self-regulation analysis of religion suggests that religion is well suited to motivate any behavior that is predicated on self-control and self-regulation, whether that behavior is studying hard for final exams or donning an explosives belt and then detonating it on a crowded city bus.

That God X want's Y cannot be actually determined, instead it's asserted by human beings who supposedly receive supernatural divine revelation. And it is these people that exhibit control over others.

The hypothesis that religion exists to control people’s behavior is one of the oldest hypotheses in the scientific study of religion (e.g., Durkheim, 1912/1965; Malinowski, 1935). In the present article we have extended this line of thinking by evaluating evidence relevant to the proposal that religion also controls behavior indirectly by facilitating self-control and self-regulation. This review has led us to conclude that religion, self-control, and self- regulation are indeed intimately related. However, many of the interconnections among these concepts require further empirical scrutiny.

Furthermore there is a study that indicates a higher lack of self-control by Journal of Reproductive Health. Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States shows that teen birth rates are higher in families that hold conservative religious beliefs.

Increased religiosity in residents of states in the U.S. strongly predicted a higher teen birth rate, with r = 0.73 (p < 0.0005). Religiosity correlated negatively with median household income, with r = -0.66, and income correlated negatively with teen birth rate, with r = -0.63. But the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate remained highly significant when income was controlled for via partial correlation: the partial correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate, controlling for income, was 0.53 (p < 0.0005). Abortion rate correlated negatively with religiosity, with r = -0.45, p = 0.002. However, the partial correlation between teen birth rate and religiosity remained high and significant when controlling for abortion rate (partial correlation = 0.68, p < 0.0005) and when controlling for both abortion rate and income (partial correlation = 0.54, p = 0.001).

Scott said...

But by faith, I have come to recognize the value of the supernatural as an ideal medium to reveal what is harbored in human hearts and minds.

M3, Faith isn't required. Religious text are filled with such examples in the form of myths. And the way people respond to them in the text and how the response of those who read them are indeed valuable.

But your response is an example as well. You embrace the Christian idea of salvation in the form of dualistic separation.

While I now trust what Jesus said that He didn't come to condemn and that God does love all ppl, I have also come to recognize that not all ppl love Him in return, but instead, reveal and express unabated contempt by applying a guilty and condemning characterization upon Him.

Again, how do you discern between contempt and the necessary process of determining between many possible logical (or illogical) possibilities?

Yes, how we respond to the concept of God can be useful in many ways, but why is your response not an example of contempt?

Perhaps you think your choice to accept Jesus, and reject others, is not concept because only Jesus offers salvation. But why should we stop there? How do you discern from the many possible means and definitions of salvation? Is your choice to accept a dualistic form of salvation over some form not an indication of concept? If not, why?

Linda said...

I believe that the God as written about in the bible, does not answer prayer. I am a former fundamentalist christian. Unanswered prayer was one of the issues that lead me to walking away from the faith. God's way is not our way, or we don't understand God sometimes, but we must trust him., blah blah. Sorry, after 40 years of it, I had had enough. I could write a few books on my research and studies, but not here, for sure.

Brad Haggard said...

Scott, I think that Buddhist philosophy has a lot going for it. But without the metaphysical aspects of Buddhism, I think that the meta-narrative will break down. That's what religion ultimately brings, a meta-narrative that demands action.

Anyways, there is a lot more to be said, and I don't want to have to scroll down all these comments to start a new conversation. Maybe you can post something about this on your blog and we can dialogue there.

Also, I looked at the article you posted, and I think that there is a problem with the method. The Pew data was used to form a general pattern of religiosity within a state, and then used that score to correlate with the pregnancy statistics. In other words, there wasn't any sort of one to one continuity of subjects. They would have been much better served to do a longitudinal study. At least they would keep the same subjects. And r= .66 is a pretty strong correlation, but when they had to control for income, it went to a much less impressive .54 (remember, these coefficients are squared). I think good sex education is important and hard to find, but there was a little bit of ideology behind this study (but not too much, the researchers definitely have the public interest at heart). How did we get on that, anyways?

Ok, post something on your blog so we can talk about your philosophy, I'd be real interested.

Brad Haggard said...

Me, you could certainly be correct, but that's why the journaling nails it home for me. I have a written record of the requests, and when they systematically are fulfilled, I don't feel the need to dismiss the link.

Plus prayer is a lot more than requests, I think I should emphasize that a lot more than I do.

Gandolf said...

'me' wrote this: "I just think it's more amazing to think of the more real possibilities of how they may have happened than to pass it on to a god who's so apparently loving that he doesn't want to present himself to me in a way that I'll in no way doubt what I'm seeing."

Pretty fair comment really i thought.After all without thinking this way,why we humans might simply have decided they best worship almost anything fairys and goblins included also.The biggest difference really in any evidence we have,is just that historically its a fact humans have happened to worship christianity more than they did fairys and goblins.The proof for goblins healing through prayer,remains about equal with the healings of gods.Me`s right,its wrong to simply "pass it on to a god" without some good evidence.Its dangerous and detrimental to the lives of many humans also.

Now our christian friend MMM is alway very concerned with "conceited" humans, specially often the atheist ones here on DC.He`s forever reminding us of the "conceitedness" in our matters of lacking faith.

And he spied poster "ME" and said .."MMM --"One of the symptoms of having been indoctrinated into domineering and subjugative ways is that there is an expectation for immediate compliance and an offense at uniqueness (that not all ppl value or desire the same things as one's self)."

And the rest of MMMs post seems mostly sort of about suggesting/asserting "me" is simply being willingly godless and is just simply a god hater "I have also come to recognize that not all ppl love Him in return," rah rah etc.

Poster "Me" gets absolutely no marks at all for the honest fact that ,1,gods are actually never seen and the evidence or proof available is really still nil even after THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

The irony of the matter is "conceitedness" it seems is about quote Dictionary--> "having an excessively favorable opinion of one's abilities" or "a fancy; whim; fanciful notion."

Strangley seems we athiests are often judged by MMM to be "the" conceited,type simply it seems for our needing some good evidence and proof before excepting things.

Where as the christian MMMs of this world would feel much better about us atheist, if we would simply agree to be like them and simply accept some "fanciful notion on a whim".Obviously somehow their conclusion/judgement is it that this somehow supposedly would not be one "having an excessively favorable opinion of one's abilities"

Ahhhh aint it jolly lovely hmmm?.

I mean who in their right mind wanting so much not to be seen to be "conceited" and be seen to be (thinking to much of their own abilities)...Would ever bother with the special need of first looking for to much evidence and proof?....Who really needs to first find evidence, when trying to make sure its not just you thinking and relying to much of your own personal ability?

Pfttttt!... scientists ....Conceited devils the lot of em !

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Oh, hi Gandolf! I honestly didn't think anyone was paying any attention to my comments, so thanks for the input! :-)

You wrote: "Strangley seems we athiests are often judged by MMM to be "the" conceited,type simply it seems for our needing some good evidence and proof before excepting things."

How did you come to that conclusion of my perspective?? Just wondering, but I suppose it wouldn't matter if I objected and tried to re-explain, would it?? Twisting my motives to conform me to your image is one of the key examples of how the very same thing happens with scripture. That is why God told us to be born of a spirit - literary works and blog comments get twisted and corrupted, but there is a spirit that teaches ppl how to love and it comes from God.

Then, this - "Pfttttt!... scientists ....Conceited devils the lot of em !"

I think scientists are amazing ppl and not necessarily conceited. What makes you think I'm interested in condemning anyone that God hasn't??? That would be really inconsistent, wouldn't it?? And about conceitedness - I've already confessed here that I was infected with it myself - I'm not trying to assert a sense of my own superiority -(that is a horrible life-robbing trap) and it would be a pretty obvious discrepency to spot since I proclaim a God whose salvation I have received. He's superior but He can be trusted with superiority. Because of Him, I don't have to alienate ppl by asserting a facade of superiority. Do you see what I am saying here???

You also added this: "Where as the christian MMMs of this world would feel much better about us atheist, if we would simply agree to be like them "

Subjugating and conforming ppl into mindless and obedient clones is not the object of faith--- I don't want anyone to be like me. There is a unity that brings about diversity -- another way of saying this could be that all within a faith community agree upon the Christ image of God as loving all ppl and respecting the diversity He has created within humanity and the world.

Have fun twisting this one around, Gumby, errr, I mean, Gandolf.

ttyl,
3M

Gandolf said...

MMM -->"Have fun twisting this one around, Gumby, errr"

Was that Grumpy?? :)

MMM -->"There is a unity that brings about diversity"

Im kinda keen on unity myself too MMM.Difference is maybe i dont agree with you that it will ever likely be found through use of any faiths. Because faiths are often naturally more about exclusive attitudes that historically have shown they dont always do much for human unity really either.If anything they have shown they destroy unity,many tribes were once quite unified in their tribal communities! until the multi devided faith religions all arrived and split and divided them.

Even your mate Jesus agreed with that!.

MMM sorry if what i said upset you.I just meant it often seems many christian folks think we should or would rather we would simply take their offerings of personal experience etc as being proven factual evidence.And except gods.

I also did notice you suggesting many atheist were maybe conceited quite often lately too, and i had been thinking quite a lot about it.I noted conceit was about "an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability, importance" or "something that is conceived in the mind" or "a fancy; whim; fanciful notion"

And yet atheists the folks who were supposedly conceited,are often seen to not be simply happy with "ones own ability" or happy about things that are only "conceived in the mind" they are not so keen on "fancy whims"

They demand and prefer to look for evidence and proof first.And often need evidence that is scientifically proven by far more than just any "ones own ability".

I dont know MMM, but im just being honest i cant help thinking just maybe the conceited title maybe better fits that of the faithful! than it does the non faith believer.

Now what else will ya go n "twist" me Gandy name around and call me.

Lynn said...

I believe it was MMM above who said he believes God loves all people. The Bible does not support that and has lots of verses to support that God hates most of mankind.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Gandolf --- you said this:"Im kinda keen on unity myself too MMM.Difference is maybe i dont agree with you that it will ever likely be found through use of any faiths. Because faiths are often naturally more about exclusive attitudes"

You are right about Jesus agreeing with that! And I do too! He didn't promote elitism -- the narrow path He mentions is when one awakens to the truth and respects that God loves all humanity. The narrow path happens to be the one that loves all. We tend to get infected with pride which corrupts the beauty of diversity into a cause for territorial mindedness.


Then you wrote, "I dont know MMM, but im just being honest i cant help thinking just maybe the conceited title maybe better fits that of the faithful! than it does the non faith believer."

I believe conceit is something that infects human hearts, whether they are religious or atheist. Conceit is a tempting attitude because if one can feel superior they feel as though they will be protected from harm. Only thing is that it alienates the very ppl that might offer companionship and caring. It's not a very good protective or empowering device. I know firsthand that God doesn't view those infected with conceit as worthy of condemnation - He views them as cooperating with condemnation and He offers a different way out.

Then, "Now what else will ya go n "twist" me Gandy name around and call me."

Hmmmmm, how about Grandy as in grandiose???? :-)

Nice talking to you Gandolf!

Then, this from Lynn: "and has lots of verses to support that God hates most of mankind."

All I can say is "Oy vey!"

ttyl,
3M

Russ said...

Brad,
You said,

Your answers are the standard atheist response to theists' arguments: a) you are socially deluded, b) you don't know anything about science, c) I'm smarter than you!!!!11!!!!

That you construe these to be standard atheist response to theists' arguments suggests to me that you've heard these claims before. That you recall them suggests to me that you you've heard them more than once. That you can be told the same things more than once and not be moved to question and reassess your understanding of the world suggests to me that you are unwilling and/or unable to do so. That you are unwilling or unable to question and reassess your understanding of the world suggests to me that you truly believe you have all answers to all questions.

That you would truly believe you have all answers to all questions suggests to me that you belong to a theistic religion. That you belong to a theistic religion, a specific theistic religion - the Tate's Creek version of one of the fundamentalist versions of Christianity, tells me that you do not belong to any of the tens of thousands of today's other extant theistic religions, including the thousands of mutually incompatible Christianties. That there are so many extant theistic religions today tells me you did not evaluate them to determine the veracity of their claims(you've only been alive for around 10000 days, Brad, and today there exist more than a thousand actively worshipped gods in more than 100,000 theistic religions, including most of the nearly 40000 theistic versions of Christianity). That you did not evaluate the veracity of all those other religion's claims, tells me that you do not, as point of fact, actually concern yourself with or care about what is true. That you do not care about what is true tells us that you are not to be taken seriously in matters concerning anyone but you alone.

Brad, what you said does not sound cheap to me, but it flies in the face of your blatant disregard for what is true.

Are you socially deluded? Yes, without a doubt. The fact that you will assert that other religions are wrong, including most of the rest of the Christianities, even though you can't possibly have researched them results only from having others who will back you up in that regard. Amongst your same-minded religionists you assert: the way we are is right; the way anyone different from us is is wrong.

Hell, Brad, you can't even see that the only thing literal about you and your fellow Creekers Biblical literalism is that you pick and choose what you want to call literal enough to say you believe it. Original sin? Love it. Let's say we believe it. Put the wife in a shed while she's menstruating? Nope. Chuck it. Sit on furniture the wife sat on while she menstruated? Ahh, no, throw it. Homosexuals are an abomination? Oooh, yeah. It's a keeper. Pork, shellfish, mixed fabrics? Naaa, our version of the Christian god didn't really mean those, and if there's one thing we know, it's how our version of god agrees with us.

All you have is a social delusion, Brad, but the beauty of such a social delusion construct, is that while it is self-reinforcing, it is not self-examining. It's only concern is for it own assertions. You even lie to yourselves about your belief that the Bible is inerrant. You call yourselves Biblical inerrantists, but you never consider all the other distinct Christian versions of inerrantism. You are simply one more independently self-created Christian-labeled social construct.

Harlan Quinn said...

This is a great article!
I have some other articles related to this topic over at QuIRP

Brad Haggard said...

Russ, that was an amazing game of psychological connect the dots. I won't even bother trying to argue with that.

Have a happy holiday season with your family and thanks again for donating your time and money for children in your area! We should all remember that at this time!

Scott said...

Brad wrote: But without the metaphysical aspects of Buddhism, I think that the meta-narrative will break down. That's what religion ultimately brings, a meta-narrative that demands action.

Brad, we are all motivated to reduce surfing. And when we see a way to reduce suffering we are motivated to act on it. When we see the "meta-narative" as a source of suffering (because it only represents a subset of reality), then it too becomes one of the veils of maya that we peel back.

A belief in rebirth is not essential because it can be a distraction to the task of reducing suffering. I don't need to believe in supernatural rebirth to be reborn, should it actually occur. Nor would I be aware that I was reborn, as our sense of self supposedly not retained.

Furthermore, we can just as easily discard the supernatural aspects from Buddhism without it becoming incoherent. We cannot do the same with theism.

I'm flying out to visit relatives for the holiday and will try to post something more specific about my views on Buddhism when I return.

Brad wrote: Also, I looked at the article you posted, and I think that there is a problem with the method. The Pew data was used to form a general pattern of religiosity within a state, and then used that score to correlate with the pregnancy statistics. In other words, there wasn't any sort of one to one continuity of subjects.

The paper was about the impact of religion on a large scale. This is in contrast to viewing religion as an effective "performance enhancer" in specific cases.

To use an analogy, a business might be great at building manufacturing widgets, but if they can't design widgets people actually want to buy or market them, the ability to manufacture won't translate into actual sales. The CEO might be great at getting people to perform a specific tasks, but unless the tasks selected are such that they result in unified success, then individual case studies only present a part of the picture.

Furthermore the key part of the article seemed to be the ability to predict teen pregnancies accurately based on levels of conservative belief in each state, not that the number of pregnancies for religious vs non religious families were significantly disproportionate.