Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


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Why do atheists think prayer studies prove anything?

How could any educated person think that prayer studies have a hope of being scientific, let alone of producing meaningful results?

A new atheist teenager recently linked a friend of mine to www.godisimaginary.com, where the first “proof” of God’s nonexistence is that he doesn’t answer prayers, and the second is that scientific, statistical analysis of prayer shows it has no effect on events.

Now, pretty much any Christian knows from experience that God answers prayers—and the longer you’ve been a Christian the more obvious it is because the pattern of providence starts to emerge in your life. So as far as convincing believers to throw in the towel, this seems like a pretty misguided place to start.

But it’s really much worse than that, because when you sit down to think of an analogy to prayer studies, you quickly realize how bizarre the idea even is. So while this website extols the virtues of intelligent, critical, rational, scientific thought, the first thing it does is use an unintelligent, uncritical, irrational and unscientific “proof”. Par for the course, I’m afraid.

Here’s what I mean. Imagine running a study on the effectiveness of letter-writing campaigns to the prime minister, where:

It’s hard to imagine anyone seriously thinking such a study would be worthwhile, let alone scientific. It’s even harder to imagine an intelligent, critical, rational and scientific person seriously suggesting that the results of such a study prove anything about the efficacy of letter-writing campaigns.

Yet when it comes to running a study on whether a supreme intellect with a highly detailed plan responds to requests in the same way as a vending machine or some other regulated process, that’s a slam dunk?

This is what teenagers today think constitutes intelligent, scientific opposition to belief in God. Better homeschool your kids.

2 comments

  1. Peter Allan

    “…pretty much any Christian knows from experience”

    …sounds like a somewhat uncritical, irrational and unscientific stance from which to criticise something for being uncritical, irrational and unscientific.

    Nonetheless, let’s use this statement as our hypothesis:

    “God answers prayers – and the longer you’ve been a Christian the more obvious it is because the pattern of providence starts to emerge in your life.”

    If this is the case, perhaps we could devise a scientific study that measures these factors over a long period of time, using a very large and diverse cohort?

    “But,” you say, “it is not possible for science to interpret the actions of a supreme intellect with a highly detailed plan.”

    Yet, it is possible for Christians to know that their prayers have come true through simple ‘experience’?

    If I stare at the pavement every time I walk, I will always find a penny.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    …sounds like a somewhat uncritical, irrational and unscientific stance from which to criticise something for being uncritical, irrational and unscientific

    Hey Peter, could you elaborate on what you mean here? In what sense are Christians being uncritical and irrational when they discern patterns in their lives which seem obviously providential? I agree this isn’t scientific, of course, but if that’s a problem you should explain why.

    If this is the case, perhaps we could devise a scientific study that measures these factors over a long period of time, using a very large and diverse cohort?

    Well, I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe you could. Do you have any ideas for how such a study would be structured, what sorts of metrics it would look for, etc?

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