Of Prayers and Discrimination

From January 28, 2008

Two years have passed since this post was originally published elsewhere.  As near as I know, studies on the efficacy of prayers are still focusing on difficult-to-measure results.  For instance, there are studies aimed at reducing pain in post-operative patients.  Pain being subjective and hard to quantify from patient to patient, it seems to me it would be difficult to do accurate studies.  Still, none of the studies . . . sorry, none of the good studies show any correlation.  But I still like my proposal below.


I came across a couple of items which prompted some thinking on my part.  Shocking, isn’t it?

The first was a small blurb in an American Atheist article.  The author offhandedly mentioned people pray for the help of god in curing diseases, but not for mending broken bones.

It struck me that I’ve been blind, and have unintentionally let the occasional debater slide on the issue.  The issue being, why don’t we have studies on the efficacy of prayer on things that are easily tested, and less subject to the unknowns relating to a disease’s interaction with the human immune system?

Here is my suggestion.  We test a group of people who 1) regularly get hurt, and 2) regularly thank god for their successes.  I’m talking about athletes.  Here is the scenario.  During one of the instances god was rooting for “the other team”, a player (football, for example) gets tackled hard, and two of his ribs get broken.  In rushes the local congregation, flips a coin, and pick one of the two ribs as the target of their fervent prayers.  Doctors monitor the healing process and report on any differences.  Of course, the subject would have to be under constant surveillance; we’d need to ensure he does nothing to favor or hurt the healing of one rib versus the other.

We have thousand of athletes, with injuries all over the place.  This seems like the perfect group to test out this kind of thing.

Seriously . . . why are prayers restricted to diseases instead of physical injuries, deformities, or anything else that is readily observable and reasonably quantified?  Baldness?  Allergies? Limps?  Body Odor?  Stinky Feet?

I say we take George Hrab, sit him down, listen to him swear a while, and then bring in a group of people to pray over the right side of his head.  Or the left, I really don’t care.  No, wait; a stripe down the middle.  If prayers really worked, he’d be sporting a Mohawk in no time.

The second item concerns a comment by one of the blowhard cable anchors regarding how Christianity is under attack by those nasty secular people (Note: two years later this still comes up a couple of times a month).  Let us examine this; at most, with generous estimates, we secular people make up about 10% of the population.  Our “attacks” consist of us asking for the same rights enjoyed by other groups. We are not advocating taking anything away from anyone.  We just want our own rights to be represented.  Our own chance to live without someone dictating to us the how and why we should approach life according to what’s written in some corrupted ancient book.

Contrast that to the religious folks, who are all about dictating to us how we should live, which god we should pray to, and which rules (of said god) we should obey. Who is attacking whom here?

And of course, I also pondered once again about all the instances of the pious, compassionate, religious people ostracizing, threatening, and otherwise making life miserable for people who do not agree with them.  To my knowledge, there are no Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people of any other crazy belief who live in fear of being “exposed”.  In fact, all these people proudly state their affiliation and beliefs at every opportunity.  Further, there are laws in place to ensure believers are not discriminated because of their religious affiliation.

Contrast that to the non-theists, who often live a lie, afraid being exposed will hurt their careers, and worse yet, their ability to live undisturbed amongst those altruistic, kind, salt-of-the-earth Christians.   And guess what?  There are still states with laws on the books stating one must believe in a god to hold public office.  (http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/StateConstitutions.htm)

Admittedly, the Constitution should supersede these myopic laws, but the practicality of it is that an openly atheist person has zero chance to get elected to any significant political office.   Again, who is attacking whom here?