The Atlantic blatantly touts religion: why “thoughts and prayers” are great for stopping gun violence

The Atlantic continues its downhill slide (I swear, is every good journalistic outlet going to become clickbait?) with a new piece by Katelyn Beaty,”The case for ‘thoughts and prayers’—even if you don’t believe in God.” Of course, Beaty, a believer, slants most of it toward fellow goddies, not atheists. Her author profile describes her as “an editor at large with Christianity Today magazine, and the author of A Woman’s Place.”  They omit the entire title of her 2016 book: A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World).

So what’s her case for prayer? First, the one for nonbelievers. Beaty describes, tediously, the studies showing that meditation improves calmness and focus, and reduces fear.  That’s been known for a long time. But you don’t have to pray to a god to get those benefits; Zen, or any form of focused meditation, will suffice. So the case for atheist “prayers” collapses immediately. Nevertheless, she continues by arguing that the emotional calmness induced by prayer can lead to political action:

But prayer is not inaction. I would argue that it is perhaps the most powerful form of action you can engage in during a crisis—and that’s true whether you believe in God or not. There are good reasons why prayer remains a daily activity for more than half of all Americans (55 percent), including about one in five religiously unaffiliated people or “nones.” Even for those of us who aren’t sure that God exists and that our prayer can change God, prayer can certainly change us.

. . . But are we really to think that prayer and meditation will help stop gun violence in the United States, even if many Americans aren’t sure there is a God who answers prayer?

Actually, yes—especially in the initial throes of a tragedy. Since prayer aids in clear, calm, and empathetic thinking, if we are going to respond well to complicated issues such as gun control, prayer may be more helpful in leading us toward better policy solutions than would an urgent, fretful, ill-considered response.

The same applies to our elected officials: If we want them to use their power to change gun laws (or tackle any other incredibly complex issue of the day), then we should want them to be engaging with “thoughts and prayers”—although in order to have a positive effect, this does need to be a sincere and regular activity, not just an ad-hoc performance on Twitter. Again, the positive effect on mental and emotional health is there even if they don’t believe that human prayer can change God.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Notice again that she conflates prayer and meditation, even though the title of her piece mentions not meditation, but “thoughts”—and the mantra “thoughts and prayers” is conventionally used to mean “good wishes and prayers”, not “meditation and prayers”, so she’s again downgrading the atheist bit. Note as well that most people think that “thoughts and prayers” help in themselves—they’re not seen as vehicles to center your mind so you can get on with gun control. Were that true, and given who’s doing most of the praying in America (see below), we’d already have a ban on assault weapons and private ownership of handguns.

More important, though, is her ridiculous claim that prayer and meditation will stop gun violence in the U.S, because “prayer aids in clear, calm, and empathetic thinking”. Well, let’s test that. Which party is the party that most opposes gun regulation? You’d think it would be the party that prays the most, right? That’s not true, of course. Here are data from a Pew “religious landscape” study in 2014. It shows what we already know: Republicans are far more religious than Democrats:

And here’s the frequency of prayer, showing pretty much the same thing. Only 16% of Republicans pray “seldom or never”, but that jumps to 28% for Democrats. 62% of Republicans, but only 50% of Democrats, say they pray daily.

Conclusion: given that Republicans are the main advocates of gun lunacy, as well as the party that deals the worst with “complicated issues” Beaty’s claims are falsified.

That should be the end of it, and the Atlantic’s editors should have consigned Beaty’s piece to the circular file. But Beaty, being a Christian, can’t resist banging on about her theistic God:

Most Americans—nearly three in four—believe that prayer is a direct line to a God who cares about the world and is intimately involved in the lives of all people. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this God is not the removed watchmaker, who set the natural laws in place and let things run their course, passively looking on as innocents are killed in mass shootings. This God “bends down to listen” and “inclines His ears to hear” the utterances of every person who prays, to quote the psalmist of the Bible. This God is radically interventionist, and can move nations’ leaders to pursue righteousness and justice on behalf of said innocents.

This is no less true in the wake of a tragedy like that in Las Vegas. If you really believe that there is a God who responds to prayer, is intimately involved in human affairs, and could heal this nation’s deep pathologies of violence and revenge, then prayer should be the first thing you do after a mass shooting. Not the only thing, but the first thing.

Beaty doesn’t seem to realize that she’s gotten herself all balled up in theodicy here. If—and given her book, I’m sure she believes this—God really does listen to prayers, and even answers them, and is interventionist in many ways, then you have to ask yourself this: if God is so powerful, why didn’t he stop Stephen Paddock from killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500? Is this some sick divine tactic to make people beg God for gun control? Seriously, any god who is “intimately involved in human affairs”, and had an ounce of compassion, wouldn’t have left hundreds of people dead in our many incidents of mass slaughter, and thousands more bereft at the loss of their friends, family, or loves ones. Beaty’s god is not a kind god, but an evil one: he refuses to stop mass slaughters when he could have. Why, Ms. Beaty? Further, when tested scientifically, prayer doesn’t work (see also here). So if God exists, he’s both nasty and deaf. Beaty has failed miserably in her appeal to both atheists and believers.

h/t: Diane G

p.s. I see that Andrew Seidel, a lawyer for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), has written his own rebuttal to Beaty’s ridiculous article. I haven’t yet read it because I wanted to convey my own thoughts here, but now I will; and you can see Seidel’s response at Freethought Now!, the FFRF’s blog.

94 Comments

  1. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    PRAYER: How to do nothing and still think that you’re helping.

  2. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I do not meditate, & I know no fear – except perhaps that the sky might fall on my head!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_justitia_ruat_caelum

    There could be a god who is insane!

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    100 tractor trailers full of thoughts and prayers were loaded onto 21 cargo planes and sent to Puerto Rico.

    They were 100% ineffective on supplying water or power.

    Maybe they can be used to rebuild the airport or as fertilizer. Nope, didn’t work there either.

    Who would have thought!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      At least corporeal manure works as fertilizer.

  4. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Mark Twain must be turning in his grave. Thank goodness for Quillette.

  5. Sshort
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Isaiah 1:15…

    “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”

    I do think He means Republicans. And the NRA.

    • W.Benson
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      The Old Rogue could be talking about Puerto Rico and Obamacare too:

      “15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
      I hide my eyes from you;
      even when you offer many prayers,
      I am not listening.
      Your hands are full of blood!
      16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
      Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
      stop doing wrong.
      17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
      Defend the oppressed.
      Take up the cause of the fatherless;
      plead the case of the widow.”

  6. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I still maintain that two hands at work accomplish more than a million hands at prayer.

  7. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I read the article several days past with revulsion. Happy (now more calm and centered, surely, as well) to find PCC(E)™ supports my take.

    Now off to read Freethought Now!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Revulsion was the first (and last)thing I felt reading this piece. Her conflation of prayer with meditation (oops, almost wrote “medication”)is glaring and disingenuous. How did this get past an editor?

      I, too, am off to Freethought.

  8. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    “Praying is like a rocking chair – it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere” – Gypsy Rose Lee.

  9. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “Prayer, among sane people, has never superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end.” – George Santayana

  10. busterggi
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    ” improves calmness and focus, and reduces fear. ”

    So does a nice hot cup of tea and its real.

  11. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    “The inventor of the plow did more good than the maker of the first rosary, because, say what you will, plowing is better than praying.” – Robert Ingersoll

  12. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    “The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.”

    “Labor is the only prayer that nature answers; it is the only prayer that deserves an answer; good, honest, noble work.”

    “It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good, and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.”

    Robert Ingersoll

  13. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    “The sailor does not pray for wind, he learns to sail.” – Gustaf Lindborg

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Great quotes all, Colin, thanks for posting them. I wonder what those who call Dawkins shrill would think of Ingersoll?

  14. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Praying is politically correct schizophrenia.

  15. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The family that prays together, is brainwashing the children.

    • Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      When children are concerned, I like to call that brainforming. Strongly, and often permanently influential on inscure young beginners.
      Likewise, teaching “good” things is brainforming too. Eventually, everyone should at some (early) point in life learn to think for themselves.
      .-

  16. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    “Prayers are to men as dolls are to children. They are not without use and comfort, but it is not easy to take them very seriously.”
    – Samuel Butler

  17. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It has always struck me as strange that people pray for God to do something. It amounts to “I know that you are omniscient, but I have a better idea.” How come He/She didn’t think of that first?

    • busterggi
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      “Here’s how you need to correct the unchanging plan you made before you created the universe.”

    • Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      An omniscient go, existing outside of space and time would already know everything, so prayers are unnecessary as their god already knows what they did, what they will do and what it will do.

      Plus if “God has a plan for each one of us” they are, in essence asking their god to change His mind. What is such a god to do? Admit “My bad!” and change the plan?

      Their ideas are not even internally consistent, let alone aligned with reality.

      • Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Descartes, no atheist, said that by all means, pray, but you should only pray for what god would do anyway. (I think his point was ethical rather than metaphysical, but the gist comes out the same.)

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Well that’s one way to improve the chances of your prayers being answered…

          cr

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            Apropos of which –

            some years ago there was yet another drought somewhere in South Island, and a local minister led his flock in praying for rain. This was sufficiently quaint (in New Zealand) that it made the TV news.
            Reporter: “Does it work?”
            Minister: “Oh yes, always. Eventually”.

            He really said that. Cracked me up/

            cr

  18. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    “Prayers never bring anything. They may bring solace to the sap, the bigot, the ignorant, the aboriginal, and the lazy, but to the enlightened it is the same as asking Santa Claus to bring you something for Xmas.”

    W. C. Fields

  19. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    “Watch people pray. Most people do it with their eyes closed, and this should tell you something.”

  20. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    When a believer prays to God to stop a wrong, is it because God doesn’t know what’s happening, or because it doesn’t know it’s wrong?

  21. Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    And in these surveys I wonder what constitutes a prayer. I suspect for many it is a formulaic utterance: “Dear God, please don’t let my bank account be overdrawn.” or “God, I hope there will be a parking space close to the store.”

    Also, it is clear that God hates amputees as nary a one of them has been found worthy of a new limb.

    The troubling thing is that so many people have bought into what amounts to propaganda and spin that there is no arguing with them.

    • Liz
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      “And in these surveys I wonder what constitutes a prayer.”

      I am wondering the same. I think you are right, though. Looked up what exactly meditation is and there were a bunch of different ways people do it/perceive it/define it. It seems like it’s more about self-awareness maybe than about asking a god to help/change things. I’m not really sure. I gave up prayer basically when my parents stopped tucking me in bed and have never meditated. I’ve done Bikram yoga for about a month at a time three different times. It was more like my frosh year soccer hell week than meditation but they don’t like it if you call it exercise. It’s 90 minutes in a room heated to 110 degrees F. Curious also about what constitutes meditation technically.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Google ‘Sam Harris meditation’ for a recommendation of it that leaves out the woo component. 🙂

        Also, IIRC, our host has posted that he hasn’t found meditation all that life-changing (nor have I); obviously, it’s a matter of opinion; perhaps it depends on some variant(s) of neural pathways that differ from person to person?

        Depending on your level of interest you might want to look at Harris’s book, Waking Up, which Jerry has also reviewed here.

        • Liz
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          Thanks so much. I appreciate it. I actually looked up Sam Harris yesterday afternoon and found that he wrote Waking Up. I’m interested. I might be overly critical but would like to check it out. Would love to read any reviews also. IIRC? I tried meditating one time and didn’t really get anything from it.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 13, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

            I think Harris surprised a lot of people when he began to discuss meditation, which was actually quite a while before he wrote Waking Up.

            Have you read anything else by Harris? If not, I can highly recommend The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. That last one one is a short, quick read, but brilliantly stated, like everything he writes.

  22. Colin
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    “Prayer of desperation is the adult manifestation of infantile crying.”

    John C. Wathey

    A great listen:

    http://www.pointofinquiry.org/religious_belief_naturally_selected_-_with_john_c._wathey/

    • Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Colin, dude. Ease up on the posts. A word (well, four) of advice – read the Da Roolz.

      You can find a link over there
      <- on the left side of your screen.

      • Colin
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        You may have noticed that I eased up (ceased actually) on my posts an hour ago, but thanks for the tip, I suppose I should have put them into one post.

        • Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          No problem. I liked the quotes.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          I liked them, too. Yeah, one or just a few posts probably would have satisfied da roolz. I think all your posts were appropriate, though.

          • Colin
            Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

            I was unaware of the rules, but shall remember that for the future – my apologies.

  23. Historian
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    One way to look at organized religion is to view it as a business. The various religions compete with each other in vying for “customers.” The product they sell is some form of salvation or peace of mind. All religions have one problem: the product they sell often seems defective, resulting in the danger that it might be “recalled,” i.e., people will stop buying it. Such a situation would destroy the business model and create the possibility that the enterprise will go bankrupt. This must be resisted at all cost. When incidents such as the Las Vegas shooting happen, the marketing division of the business goes into full swing. They argue that such incidents are not proof that the product has a bug or is defective. No, this is a feature! Rather, it allows people to more directly experience the goodness of the CEO (God).

    Despite the fact that religion is a mature business with an aging and eroding customer base and an endless need to justify the necessity of a product that people are more and more looking upon as defective and obsolete, it still is a major player in the business world. Revenue still pours in. But like so many businesses that once dominated the world stage, religion may be passing from being dominant to a niche player, just as there are some people who will not give up their VHS players.

    • Carlos N Velez
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      This is a brilliant analogy.

    • Liz
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I’ve often thought this also about religion. With cults it’s easier to see. Even though I had initially wanted to be a deprogrammer, I think sometimes how good of a cult leader I would be. There are so many sheep out there. So. Many. Sheep.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      “…just as there are some people who will not give up their VHS players.”

      Jeebus. I probably have about four or five VCRs around here. But no godz. I know–I even looked under the VCRs.

      “I named my cats Thoughts and Prayers, because they are useless.” –Toshiba 6:66

      • busterggi
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        “Ask not what your cats can do for you, ask what you can do for your cats.”
        John F. Pyewacket

  24. Carlos N Velez
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    And then we wonder why people don’t read magazines anymore. What nonsense, as if The Lord of the Rings is proof that Hobbits exist.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Wait. Are you saying Hobbits aren’t real? I swear to Illuvatar I saw Bilbo behind some bushes along the road as I was driving to the office just this morning!

      Since we are talking about JRRT’s universe and Christianity, I think that in any aspect of grandness, awesomeness that Christians would claim for their religion that JRRT betters it by an order of magnitude.

      The one thing that cracks me up the most about believers is how unimaginative and small their mythologies are compared to what other humans merely intent on telling a good story have created. Let alone reality as revealed by modern science.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      I still read magazines. 🙂 The Atlantic has also published some pretty good stuff of late. What do you read instead? As always, one has to use one’s own judgment.

  25. Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Beaty thinks prayer is useful even if you don’t believe in God. I think prayer is absurd even if you do.

  26. Mike Cracraft
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The only thoughts and prayers of “our representatives” is how much $ can they get from the NRA to squash any discussion of gun control.

  27. RobD
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    See this about the NRA disease:

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      That was excellent! I’m going to use it some time!

    • Randy schenck
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Really good. Wish they would run that on TV all over America.

  28. Richard
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Prayer is the cheapskate’s charitable donation. I’ve been a long time Atlantic subscriber. I like the diversity of viewpoints but I have, like you, noticed an unfortunate slide. Most clearly, its embrace of (bromance with?) Ta Nehisi Coates and his post-modern, neo-Marxist venom that is his stock-in-trade, has me wondering if I should cancel my subscription and support Quillette instead.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Sigh. Perhaps they need more feedback from people like you and me.

  29. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Religion and New Age-ism share their origins in scientific illiteracy.

  30. DrBrydon
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Agreed the premnise is tosh, but if it’s incorrect to conflate prayer and mediation, it is also wrong to equate opposing gun regulation with committing murder. To make the argument you want, you’d have to show that most gun violence is committed by Republicans.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      “you’d have to show that most gun violence is committed by Republicans.”

      No, I think republicans help make the US a gun obsessed environment where mentally fragile individuals of all political persuasions can act out their frustrations with guns.

  31. Randy schenck
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Just an excuse to do nothing. You can pray or continue to put quarters in the slot machine. Probably both at the same time. Better yet, ask that guy on TV to send you some of that miracle water.

  32. darrelle
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Well, at least Katelyn Beaty’s article is good for something. It is an excellent example to point to when an apologist employs the “no one believes that except a few fundamentalists” argument. She rebutted that category of argument as well as Jerry or Richard Dawkins ever did.

  33. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I get sick of the argument Beaty and plenty of others use about the number of people who “believe” a certain thing. She goes on about how many USians believe prayer helps. So what? Really, believing something is irrelevant. What is important is the truth. And the truth is prayer doesn’t help, no matter how much you believe it.

    And quite frankly, I have no issue thinking clearly and logically without resorting to prayer or even meditation. I don’t need her patronizing attitude telling me what I should think, or how I should think it. Like most adults, I’m capable of thinking without someone who thinks they’re speaking for an imaginary being telling me how to do it. In fact, I “believe” I’m far better off without listening to people who harbour such delusions.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      “She goes on about how many USians believe prayer helps.”

      Once upon a time ‘everyone’ believed the Sun went round the Earth.

      And now they don’t.

      What I’m trying to figure out is how such a fundamental change in planetary/solar orbits was achieved without the whole solar system going unstable…

      cr

  34. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I rarely comment before reading the whole piece, but feel compelled to do so now.

    It is prayer WITHOUT action, and prayer as virtue-signalling that irks me!!

    If you’re doing something concrete to help, and you aren’t getting on a religious high horse, and you feel more aligned with things through prayer, go ahead, but please don’t pray in all caps in 100 point font..

  35. Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    sub

  36. Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

  37. Gareth Price
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    During some difficult times I have had, a number of people have offered to pray for me. And often I replied by politely asking the person to spend the time thinking of practical things to help instead . This hasn’t always gone down too well.
    Recently I had such a conversation with a Methodist minister who insisted that he would pray for me as it was “literally the most powerful thing he could do”. It occurred to me that he must believe that god would do something as a result of his prayer that he (god) otherwise would not do: if so, perhaps god does little acts in response to brief prayers and much more in response to longer prayers.
    From now on, when someone offers to pray for me, I am going to ask that they spend at least two hours a day doing so, to maximize what god might do.

    • busterggi
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Maybe just a simple request for 500 Our Fathers?

      • mirandaga
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Your “500 Our Fathers” reminds me of the “Spiritual Boquets” we Catholic school children were instructed to make for our mothers on Mother’s Day. The boquet was made up of “ejaculations” (I kid you not!), which are short prayers like “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!” So the idea was to accumulate as many ejaculations as you could and then record the number in a card for your mom. Does anyone else remember this?

        • busterggi
          Posted October 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          I can honestly say that I never thought about my mother when I was accumulating ejaculations.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          You can’t make this stuff up! 😀

    • mirandaga
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      I don’t pray per se but I come from a large extended family, most of whom do pray. In times of crisis or tragedy, as when my niece’s son accidentally shot and killed himself at his 24th birthday party, I will write and say “you are in my thoughts and prayers.” I know it comforts them, and it costs me nothing. Similarly, when they do likewise, as when we recently learned that our 1-year-old grandson has cerebral palsy, I take this as a sign of their caring, not as a cue to debate the efficacy of prayer. To do otherwise would seem to me ungrateful, not to mention rude.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, at times like those I would certainly withhold my opinion as well. That’s why stupid articles like the one being discussed here present such a great opportunity for rebuttal!

      • Gareth Price
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t wish to be unnecessarily rude to someone but I am sick to death of people offering to pray for me but nothing else. If I specifically ask someone not to pray for me and he insists that he is going to against my wishes there is not much I can do, is there? But might that not be considered equally impolite?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

          I guess it depends on the context. If the guy is genuinely sincere and well-meaning then all you can do is accept it as an expression of goodwill. If (as sometimes happens) it’s a purely rhetorical device, then I’d be inclined to say ‘pray for me or curse me, it will have absolutely no effect; I don’t care and God ain’t there’.

          cr

          • mirandaga
            Posted October 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

            I agree. Similarly, when a clerk at a store asks me how my day is going, my usual response is “Fine. But the day is young—shit could still happen.” It’s a gentle reminder that he doesn’t really give a damn about how my day is going and should maybe think twice before asking.

        • Posted October 12, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it IS equally impolite.

          In my neighborhood, we always used to get the traveling Jehovahs Witnesses. I keep a nice brochure called Does God Exist?, written by John Clayton, who gave a pro-Evolution lecture in our local town. (He was and atheist, became religious. But passionately tries reconcile evolution with religion.)

          Said “I’ll read your pamphlet if you’ll read mine,” and briefly listed his bona fides. Neither would even *touch* it, and acted as if I’d offered them a snake. My response? “Then you should leave now.”

          • Colin
            Posted October 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I’ve had the same response from JWs and Mormons; JWs being the toughest people to reason with and possessing the most damaged minds. People who want to share their religious views with you never want you to share yours with them. It reveals their intellectual dishonesty and delicate, fragile bubble of delusion which must be protected from scrutiny. Through persistence, I did manage to give a copy of “Atheist Universe” once to a couple of young Mormon fellows, and I often wonder if they ever had the courage to read it.

  38. Patrick Q
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Where are the Sophisticated Theologians? Any time an atheist addresses the problematic aspects of a personal god, the Sophisticated Theologians tell us that this is an old fashioned god-concept that vitually no one adheres to today. God is merely “the metaphysical foundation for existence” they say. This is invariably accompanied by the claim that the atheist is ignorant of the best arguments for the existence of a god and should keep quiet until they are properly educated. Of course, no amount of study is ever enough to satisfy the Sophisticated Theologians. Only agreement with their conclusions is evidence that you understand their arguments.

    And yet, when a believer like Katelyn Beaty makes public claims that god is a personal, intervening entity the Sophisticated Theologians are silent. They do not say that she is wrong. They do not tell her to be silent until she has studied the best arguments for the existence of god and understands that god is merely “the metaphysical foundation for existence.” Dead. Silence.

    One might almost suspect that these Sophisticated Theologians aren’t really sincere in their claims – that the entire purpose of Sophisticated Theology is to provide cover for belief in a personal god by convincing believers that arguments from atheists are intellectually bankrupt and can be ignored.

    • busterggi
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Sophisticated theologians are sincere, they just know that, given the chance, the whackos would kill them just as they’d kill any unbelievers if they spoke against them.

    • Posted October 12, 2017 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      Good comment, Patrick. I think many ST’s are really deists, or even agnostics, but in the church they’ll act as if there’s a personal God. And yes, I never see them going after the theists. After all, they’re all in the same boat, and if it sinks. . .

  39. Sastra
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    What indeed would theists do without the fallacy of equivocation? Take your favorite religious object of the moment (prayer,God, church, faith) and couple it with some fine and secular thing (reflection, love, humility, friendship)and then pretend that they’re really the same thing, more or less. Endorse one, you’ve endorsed the other; object to one, you’ve objected to the other. Point out distinctions, and you’re splitting hairs in order to destroy harmony.

    I think they also do this within their own minds. There has to be a God, because isn’t hope something which makes life better? Clarity is not their friend.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
      That perches in the soul –
      And sings the tune without the words –
      And never stops – at all

      — Emily Dickinson

  40. Posted October 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    When children are concerned, I like to call that brainforming instead of brainwashing. The formation of young neuron circuits has a strong, and mostly permanent, influence on insecure young beginners.
    Likewise, teaching “good” things is brainforming too. But eventually, everyone should at some (early) point in life learn to think for themselves.
    .-

  41. eric
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    So what’s her case for prayer? First, the one for nonbelievers. Beaty describes, tediously, the studies showing that meditation improves calmness and focus, and reduces fear.

    Wow, how selfish an myopic. Did she really just say that people should send thoughts and prayers to hurricane victims because it will improve the well-wisher’s health?

    • Posted October 12, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      She adds that when your health is improved, then you can actually go out and DO something! It’s a ludicrous argument.

  42. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    If ‘thoughts and prayers’ worked then Goddy USA should have lower gun-violence statistics than less-Goddy Europe, no?

    cr

  43. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    “this God is not the removed watchmaker, who set the natural laws in place and let things run their course, passively looking on as innocents are killed in mass shootings.”

    (Did IQ’s just drop sharply while I was away?)

    Given that the crowd in Vegas was ‘murican, and given the percentage who must have been Xtian, G*d must have been deafened with the prayers coming up to Xer. And what did s/He do about it? Passively look on as innocents were killed in mass shootings? Yeah, well, pretty much precisely that.

    Keep digging, Beaty.

    cr

  44. Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Or, one other one, at first glance pious, but should provoke the believer if it is thought through:

    “Dr. Sidney Freedman: Is it true that God answers all prayers?

    Captain Chandler: Yes. Sometimes the answer is “no”.”

    From one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H.


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