The Raving Theist

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Hunter and Prey

September 20, 2006 | 56 Comments

I once proposed an atheist prayer-test, whereby the petitioner could prove his or her disbelief in God by requesting that grievous and painful harm come to loved ones. Few here had the courage the try it, but hedge fund energy trader Brian Hunter recently tried something similar. He wagered $5 billion that a devastating hurricane season would drive natural gas prices higher. Mild weather is now laying waste his employer, Amaranth Advisors.

Ostensibly Hunter relied on sophisticated weather forecasts and other data to conclude that a Katrina-like catastrophe would strike. But consider the mindset he must have been in once he placed his bet. Call it “wishing,” call it “hoping”; I bet he spent a considerable amount of time on his knees or otherwise trying to will the universe to comply with his desire for death and destruction, especially as his losses began mounting. And while everyone was breathing a sigh of relief as hurricane Ernesto weakened, Hunter was likely cursing.

If you are reading this, you probably laugh at those who pray. But even assuming it is ineffectual (where by virtue of God’s non-existence or dislike of tests), at least it focuses some people’s thoughts in the right direction and holds the possibility of inspiring them to help those who are the subject of their supplication. If you laugh, laugh harder at the Hunters of the world — who in pursuit of the wrong god pray for the wrong things.

Comments

56 Responses to “Hunter and Prey”

  1. CycloneRanger
    September 20th, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

    I think you mean “…even assuming it is ineffectual…”. As written now , it doesn’t make much sense. [Corrected — Ed.]

    Also, I don’t think it is productive to pray even for beneficial things to occur, because prayer by its very nature entails a reliance on the supernatural to make the object of the prayer occur. It is a far better thing to forgo useless prayers, and instead use the time and effort to make whatever change in the world that you would otherwise be praying for.

    All of this assumes that prayer in ineffectual compared to real action, which, as far as I can tell, is the position best supported by the evidence.

  2. Marcus
    September 20th, 2006 @ 1:34 pm

    I wouldn’t take the original test for a few reasons:

    1. You’re asking me to say and mean something spiteful toward people I love. Just because I know something doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s not spiteful. 2. As any atheist will acknowledge, human knowledge is imperfect. If there’s a .00001% chance that there’s such a spiteful god who would do something like that, then I can’t be justified in proving my sincerity at that risk, especially since 3. It doesn’t prove your sincerity anyway. 4. Maybe my loved ones wouldn’t want me to say something like that. In that case, I’d have to do it against their wishes and then keep it as a secret (or tell them and piss them off), and I don’t like secrets.

    I don’t have a problem with Hunter’s bet though. The truth is, we all want bad things to happen some times anyway.

  3. Los Pepes
    September 20th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    What does an individual’s bad hedge-fund speculations have to do with prayer?

    Hedge funds are notorious for accumulating tens of billions of dollars and winning–or losing–big money for the speculators that participate in them. They’re not regulated the same way other markets are, and frankly, you’d damn well better have money to burn before you even think about messing with them!

  4. Kate B.
    September 20th, 2006 @ 2:28 pm

    Actually, there is a case in which prayer is effectual, and it works regardless of the existence of a deity.

    Take someone you dislike. Pray for them. That is, spend time and energy wishing (and supplicating) for good things to happen to them. Done?

    Now try disliking them.

    Prayer for one’s enemies makes it harder to hold them as your enemies. Whether you chalk that up to a habitual meditation intilling certain habits of mind, or to a deity changing your hardness of heart, the result of the prayer is the same.

  5. choobus
    September 20th, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    Kate B, is the B for BULLSHIT? Your “argument” is as asinine as it is wanky. What if you pray for your enemy to suffer ill? What if you forget to pray? The only possible result of any praying is a psychological one on the part of the prayer, and in any case, to attribute this to the efficacy of prayer is disingenuous: I will pray for you.

  6. Godthorn
    September 20th, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

    It’s very unwise for an atheist to put “God” to such a test. If by chance what he/she tests for reverses the expectation, it’s seen as a sure sign by the faithing–and it’s one hell of an embarrassment for the bettor.

  7. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

    I’ll meet you half way: I’ll pray that my mother wins a million dollars, but bet you $500 she won’t.

  8. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

    I’ll meet you half way: I’ll pray that my mother wins a million dollars, but bet you $500 she won’t.

  9. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

    I’ll meet you half way: I’ll pray that my mother wins a million dollars, but bet you $500 she won’t.

  10. benjamin
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

    I seem to recall many people taking part in your prayer test, myself included. Is it time to poll the results? My prayers for great harm to befall my mother went unanswered. She’s doing just about the same now as she was then. Or did I pray for harm to come to my fiancee? I’m not really certain. My wife has just been told by her doctor that she’s in great health, and she has an easier job getting paid more than she did when I made my prayers.

  11. Professor Chaos
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    If nothing else, at least RA linked to an old post from back in the days when he was interesting.

  12. bernarda
    September 20th, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    You have a long way to go to beat these guys.

    http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ppt_homepage

    They even dare to ask their members to pray for Dick Cheney!!

    How perverted is that?!

    Here is another great site–about the importance of sacred relics!!

    I kid you not.

    http://www.ichrusa.com/

    One would almost think that this site is a parody.

  13. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    September 20th, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

    PRAYER is just about as worthless as this guys website has become.

    His so called prayer test is just plain silly. I suspect atheists don’t want to do it not becuase they think there is the slightest chance that some stupid unforgiving deity would make it come true but rather that it is just plain unsettling to “wish” those things upon the people you care for. What a crock of shit.

    “laugh harder at the Hunters of the world….” he says ….. every new post make is easier to laugh at RA:

    The great Raving Anitabortionist – oops I mean

    the great Raving Atheist

  14. Kamikaze189
    September 20th, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

    Dear god, please strike down my entire family with lightning, floods, bugs, or whatever weapon you find fashionable at this time. I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d be done with this by tomorrow at… oh… two in the afternoon central time. Thanks.

  15. Kafkaesquí
    September 20th, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

    Having been one of the few (ahem) souls who just happened to be, uh, courageous enough to take that test, here’s my follow up:

    I highlighted three God-fearing members of my family and one ‘fence sitter’ in my expletive-puncuated prayer (hope you’ll appreciate why I don’t mention them here by name). I asked for one of the following to be visited upon each: colon cancer, fatal car crash, poisonous untreated spider bite and meteor hit (I mixed things up to make it interesting). Assuming that nearly thirteen months is more than sufficient time for requested acts of God, none of these events have occured to any of the four in my call for God’s secularly-influenced wrath. Nor in fact has anyone in my personal sphere of awareness endured anything more than what I consider a normal (and livable) level of health, financial and social setbacks.

    Take that to mean whatever you need it to. With that out of the way, let me point out a few things:

    1. I was never influenced to make certain the requested harm, God’s will or whatever you want to call it occured to those referenced in my prayer. In regards to RA’s point that prayer can act as an inspiration to the instigator to go and do the good (or bad) being wished for, the opposite is more likely true. Relying on prayer is a way of denying the need to take action, since by doing so you’re putting it in “God’s hands” by hoping for a deistically-powered resolution.

    2. RA never seems to have taken his own test…

  16. Godthorn
    September 21st, 2006 @ 1:15 am

    Implicit in the practice of prayer is the assumption that God doesn’t know what the hell is going on and must rely on the faithful to keep him informed, just as he required angels to inform him of the serious problems in Sodom and Gomorrah.
    If “believers” were rational they’d petition him to stop fucking around and to decree a modicum of justice here and there. But if I ever encounter a “believer” who’s rational in respect to his or her religion, I’ll kneel down before him/her and pronounce him or her a wondrous new phenomenon upon the Earth.

    However, it seems to me that this atheist prayer business is a self-inflicted insult to any self-respecting atheist. I have no problem, if challenged in a casual situation, to raising a hand skyward and saying “Lord, strike me dead.” But in addition to the objection I put forth in #6 above, it seems to me that to acceed to such a “test” is to credit the opponent with a degree of authenticity that I do not concede. I scoff at religion. I laugh and shake my head at its preposterousness. I cannot take it seriously, and I will not honor it with a serious contest. If the criticisms I level at religion are not sufficient–and no amount of such criticisms are sufficient to the “believer”–why would I honor his/her superstition with a respectable test? Its results would be unnecessary for me and lost on my opponent.

    I must have arrived here after RA’s “prayer test,” so I’m not sure of its purpose. Perhaps he suspected one or two posters of pretension. I have encountered numerous people who talked like atheists but whom I later discovered to be covert “believers.” Some such adopt the atheist or agnostic ruse in order to be accepted in the cadre of the intelligent. Some, I surmise, are strong doubters, but cannot surmount their fear. I am currently acquainted with a fellow of genius-level intelligence who is in the throes of the latter category. HIs father was a fundamentalist minister.

    A reasonably scientific and well-publicized test of prayer was just recently concluded. The results were reported by RA. The findings were no surprise to any true atheist. The results were utterly ignored by all true believers. There is nothing to be gained by an atheist in trying to prove the inefficacy of prayer by daring the believer’s god. Ninety-nine such challenges will prove the atheist right. The one that happens to be contraverted by sheer chance will be celebrated by the faithful forever.

  17. Lily
    September 21st, 2006 @ 7:25 am

    Thorn:
    You are mistaken in your belief that we assume “that God doesn’t know what the hell is going on and must rely on the faithful to keep him informed”. Prayer doesn’t inform Him or make God change his mind; it changes us. This was beautifully described by Kate B. above.

    We already know that God knows all and will act. But by praying for others, we are actually using a very great gift we have been given– we get to share God’s love and concern for them. We get to rejoice with them over a positive outcome and we get to share their sorrow when it isn’t the one we all wanted. It is hard to express all that is implicit in this– but any time we focus on others and not on ourselves, we are enriched. That has probably never been harder to understand than now in an era that has become so narcissistic that notions of self-sacrifice and love of neighbor seem not merely quaint but positively harmful, if not evil.

    As we grow (hopefully) in spiritual maturity, prayer becomes one of the most important means by which learn to conform our wills to the will of God.

    It is incomprehensible to me that someone could “pray” for harm to others. That is so evil, that it is beyond my ability to express how I feel– and I am bilingual.

  18. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    September 21st, 2006 @ 7:59 am

    Liy: typical load of convoluted crap I hear on christian radio all the time … oh thank you lord for answering our prayers …. oh thank you lord for NOT answereing our prayers … DUH?

    Godthorn: good post. I’ll go one step further and say that their prayers are not only irrational but border on freaking mental illness!

    And Raving Antiabortionist supports that insanity. This is getting amusing indeed!

  19. Professor Chaos
    September 21st, 2006 @ 8:22 am

    Lily: “God is gumdrops and lolipops and sunshine and flowers! Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!”

    God, what an idiot.

  20. hagiograph
    September 21st, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    So am I to read correctly that the RA, while ostensibly an atheist, is telling me that prayer does some good, even if it is just in my own head by “focusing” my thoughts “in the right direction”?

    And then Lily and Kate B chime in with an explanation of how prayer helps us get inline with what God was going to do anyway, or at least helps us change ourselves.

    So essentially prayer is humanism writ insane, right? Instead of thinking about my own responses I need to go through some ritualized action to force my brain to “like” my enemies and “think about good thigns”.

    Sorry, I’ve got Anafranil and behavior modification therapy to help me get over that need to have “proper” and “good” thoughts.

    So I guess you can rearrange the letters in G-O-D to spell O-C-D, huh?

  21. Viole
    September 21st, 2006 @ 9:42 am

    Professor, I’m putting you on my watch list. Lily is my chew toy–stay away from her, or bad things will happen.

  22. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 21st, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    “It is incomprehensible to me that someone could “pray” for harm to others.”

    But Lily, according to a plain reading of the biblical text, God himself certainly has in the past willed harm to others. (I presume I do not need to provide examples.) If one is to “conform [one’s will] to the will of God,” then, it would seem that willing harm to others would be part of the package.

  23. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 21st, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    “It is incomprehensible to me that someone could “pray” for harm to others.”

    But Lily, according to a plain reading of the biblical text, God himself certainly has in the past willed harm to others. (I presume I do not need to provide examples.) If one is to “conform [one’s will] to the will of God,” then, it would seem that willing harm to others would be part of the package.

  24. "Q" the Enchanter
    September 21st, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    “It is incomprehensible to me that someone could “pray” for harm to others.”

    But Lily, according to a plain reading of the biblical text, God himself certainly has in the past willed harm to others. (I presume I do not need to provide examples.) If one is to “conform [one’s will] to the will of God,” then, it would seem that willing harm to others would be part of the package.

  25. Professor Chaos
    September 21st, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    Come on, Viole. Share the mentally unstable, self-righteous half-wits!

  26. flea
    September 21st, 2006 @ 10:57 am

    Lily: you know what they say about having a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

    Professor Chaos: a half-wit beats a nit-wit any day of the week.

  27. Lily
    September 21st, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    Thanks for protecting me from the wrath of Chaos, Viole!! Let’s hope he obeys, ’cause he might not know who he is up against!

  28. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    September 21st, 2006 @ 11:58 am

    IT WORKS! IT WORKS!

    At the Presidential Prayer Team website Bernada provided a link to – they have this prayer:

    “In light of the E. coli spinach scare this week, pray for the safety of our food supply … ” and CNN has just announced that the “smoking gun” bag of spinach has been found !

    Thanks be to god!

  29. Professor Chaos
    September 21st, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

    flea, based on the stench of your post, I can see you’ve been chewing on your dogs ass again.

  30. Viole
    September 21st, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    NO! She’s mine! Find your own, it shouldn’t be that hard.

    Lily, you’re so cute when you do that. I have to admit, there’s something about your method of arguing that I find terribly cute. I’m not sure what it is, but it probably has something to do with reminding me of myself. The way you insist on pursuing what everyone believes is a lost cause, perhaps. Like trying to teach a kitten to do tricks.

    Ah, well. Let me know if the Professor doesn’t start leaving you alone.

  31. Marcus
    September 21st, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

    I’ve never heard that the point of prayer is to change yourself. If anything, I thought it was basically just to show respect to God. Asking God nicely, because that’s how he likes to be asked.

    I don’t think that’s obviously inconsistent. The problem, I think, is more moral: who the hell creates a bunch of play people, and then demands that they go around respecting him all the time? A total weirdo is who. My problem is with this whole idea of a God who insists on this kind of respect, while still not even responding, and still giving us no indication that he even exists (and lots of indications that he doesn’t exist). Also, basically giving all appearances — if he does exist — of just preying on our irrationality. Like, oh shit, maybe there is a god, and maybe he does insist that I show him respect all the time, so I guess I better do that. Believing in a God like that is like a guy who moves his chair two meters to the right, on the sudden fear that a metal spike could pop out of the ground and kill him, while ignoring that the same thing could just as well happen two meters to the right.

    In any case, I don’t think prayer puts people on the right side. If you’re praying for something good, then you’re on the right side already. It’s like the quote, whoever said it, that both religious and non religious people act good and bad, but only religion makes good people act bad.

  32. Professor Chaos
    September 21st, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

    Until I see ownership papers, you’re going to have to learn to share. I will not relent.

  33. A Voice of Sanity
    September 21st, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with prayer or praying. The mistake that most make is in assuming that what goes on in churches etc. is prayer. It is not. If anyone else tells you what to say, when to say it, where to say it, how to say it, or why to say it, it is no longer prayer — it is a magic spell. You might just as well walk three times widdershins around a cauldron as follow instructions like this.

    If you hit black ice at 3 am on a country road while doing 70 mph you will probably be praying. Saying magic spells at someone’s birth, marriage or death or on a magic day is not at all the same thing.

    In the ultimate of ironies, there is plenty of prayer in schools, even US ones. Students are praying for all sorts of things, from the teacher not calling on them to not getting beaten up on the way home – by other Christians.

    There just is almost never any prayer in church – or on TV. That is because prayer and religion are not compatible – at all.

  34. Lily
    September 21st, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

    Face it, Viole. No matter how many little tiffs we have had in the past and will have in the future, in some completely inexplicable way, we are soul sisters! Now, go beat up Chaos for me, sis.

    Marcus: I can’t do justice to your remarks here but I would like to try to address the issues you have raised…

    The New Testament practically begs us to ask God for what we need. It assures us that God knows us– down to the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7-14. Not sure if that is the correct range of verses but it is very close.)

    If anything, I thought it (prayer) was basically just to show respect to God. Asking God nicely, because that’s how he likes to be asked.

    Well, I don’t doubt that He does like being asked respectfully but, if that is a requirement, virtually 100% of us Christians are gonna be real sorry. We have all had moments of doubt, anger, despair, etc. many of us, maybe even all of us, have told him so in no uncertain terms.

    Even Jesus despaired and asked God why He had abandoned him.

    One of the decisions theists must make is that God is worthy of worship. It is possible to imagine that there could be a being who is omnipotent, omniscent etc., but if He is not also worthy of worship, forget it. Such a God might compel our worship but could never have our love– offered freely and without reservation.

    Because He is worthy of worship (in our opinion) and created us in His image, it follows logically that we want to be like Him. Therefore, the more we conform to His will, the more we become what we were meant to be. Jesus is our model. The more we imitate Jesus, who is God’s perfect human representation, the happier we must be.

    We will become all that we were meant to be… and we won’t even have to join the army!! (Sorry, a little theological humor, there.)

    Considered in this light, perhaps you will understand why we say that prayer is far more like conversing with a dear and trusted parent or friend. It is our opportunity to reflect on how well or how badly we have succeeded in living up to our calling to be perfect, as God is perfect. And to ask for help, where we have failed…

  35. Marcus
    September 21st, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

    Because He is worthy of worship (in our opinion) and created us in His image, it follows logically that we want to be like Him.

    It seems like you decided a lot there.

    Considered in this light, perhaps you will understand why we say that prayer is far more like conversing with a dear and trusted parent or friend.

    Well, it helps me understand how you look at prayer. It also seems to suggest the extent to which you’ve turned your religion into a form of meditation, as opposed to any conventional assertion about reality or the world. Which I suppose is fine, if that’s really how you look at it. Really, if people looked at religion as just a form of meditation, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it in the first place.

  36. Viole
    September 21st, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

    Possibly, Lily, but if that were true I would expect you to make more of an effort to communicate with me, in a manner that might avoid topics on which we disagree. As for the Professor, I suspect my main point of contention with him is his insistence on using slang terms for parts of the female anatomy as though they were an insult.

  37. Lily
    September 21st, 2006 @ 11:03 pm

    Ok, Viole. But what could we talk about, for instance? (Other than the Professor’s limited vocabulary, which, let’s be honest, cannot long sustain our interest) We already know that we disagree on politics and religion.

    Do you like cats? Indian food? Vintage postcards? 18th century English novels? Mahler?

    Of course, given that this is an atheist blog, we might have to commune, assuming that one or more of these topics strikes your fancy, via some sort of psychic messaging system. Sigh.

  38. Lily
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 2:06 am

    Marcus:
    While there is a place for meditation (though not of the TM or any Eastern variety!) in our spiritual life, Christianity is, emphatically, an assertion about the nature of reality, as well as an active call to love (of God and of our neighbor) and service.

  39. Marcus
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:47 am

    Lily,

    So you do pray, then, and it’s to a real Jesus, but you just never actually ask him to do anything? Or you never ask him to help you? Only to help other people?

    Christianity is, emphatically, an assertion about the nature of reality, as well as an active call to love (of God and of our neighbor) and service.

    I guess that’s your one of infinite views of Christianity. I’m curious how you learned all these things about God, but I also feel a bit silly interviewing you.

  40. Viole
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 9:16 am

    Now, Lily, please. Without even straining myself, I can think of at least three ways for us to engage in a private dialogue, at least two of which would require initiative on your part, but no information that is not publicly available. What we would talk about is a good question. My usual starting point is attempting to find something we can both mock–a movie, for example. If you are persistent enough, you might even draw me out with regards to my personal life, and in that is where all true conversation is rooted.

  41. Lily
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 11:46 am

    Well, Viole, I have looked at your fiction from time to time and find it well written and quite intriguing. We could have a go at that– but not for mockery! Maybe I will email you…

    Marcus! I do indeed ask Him to do things for me and also for others. But, and this is the hard part for so many people, believer and unbelievers, alike, God doesn’t *need* us to tell him these things. We need to tell him. And for pretty much the same reason that you have (surely) experienced the need to tell your wife/partner or dear friend about something that is happening to you or to discuss something that is important to you.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the part about offering God true worship and true thanksgiving. Again, He doesn’t need it. We do. We need to remember (and tremble) that He is Lord of all and that we do not draw a single breath apart from His will. And,of course, we need to give thanks for blessings because a) it is always right and necessary to thank anyone who gives us a gift. How much more so the Creator God? and b) we need to remember how much we owe Him.

    How did I learn all this? Just like everyone else; in Church; in Christian ed. (Sunday School); by reading, over a number of years, not only the Bible but the endless wonderful (and more than a few clunkers) popular and scholarly books on Christianity and its teachings; by talking to people far wiser and more perfectly Christian than I can ever hope to be. In this life at least.

    I am perfectly willing to be interviewed, as you put it. Email me if you like (mystic_mechthild@yahoo.com) and ask me anything else you want before this post and thread drop off the page.

  42. Viole
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    Editorial comments are always welcome(and something I get far to rarely), but, you should know, I tend to be rather obstinate. Incidentally, I’ve looked over my music collection, and I don’t appear to have any Mahler at all. Considering the sheer number of classical composers out there, I hope you do not take this as a flaw.

    My personal favorite is definitely Dvořák, but I’ve been known to delight in Rachmaninov, Grieg, Sibelius, and a variety of others. Sometimes, I’ve even been known to enjoy Mozart and Beethoven!

  43. Lily
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

    Hah! You should know that I am the world’s best editor. Or, at least, most stubborn.

    I have reduced grown men to tears of repentance. I do not, for instance, permit the passive voice ever, except as a sign of weaselhood in a character. I flat never allow it in non-fiction. Anyone who would write an abomination like “discomfort was experienced by the subject” should be killed immediately.

    Fair warning!

  44. Lily
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

    Wow! The lack of Mahler is a bit of a blow but I love the others (except for Rachmaninov, whom I like but do not love). Grieg is sadly undervalued, I think. He and Dvořák are tied for #1 in my heart. I also own a recording by Dvořák’s son-in-law, whose name escapes me Stuck? Struck? StuK? It is a fantasy so charming that I never get tired of hearing it…

    With that, I suspect, we better move this discussion to email…

  45. Marcus
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    Lily,

    My suspicion is that these books you have read and people you have talked to would have convinced you of this Christianity whether there’s actually any god or not.

    In any case, while I like the idea of being thankful, it seems to me that you’re trying to turn this into something more than it really is. Should I really be thankful if God created the universe? To me, that’s a pretty open question. 1. I don’t know that any god created the universe, largely because if there is a god, he refuses to talk to me. Meanwhile, he gives many indications that he doesn’t exist, for instance, by giving all appearances that the people who most believe in his existence are irrational. The point is, normally I only thank things that actually exist, or give me some indication that they exist. Which is why neither of us thank Mr. Invisible Refridgerator Man for keeping our food cold. 2. It looks to me like a god could have made life much better. How do I know? Well, I guess, in a manner of speaking, the idea of thanking itself implies that it is possible to do something nice for someone, that I can tell if someone has done something nice for me, and that someone has done something nice for me. Basically, this is the old idea that if you can call God good, then good exists outside of God, and that means that I can judge God as good or evil. Well, if you ask me, if God exists, he doesn’t look very good. In fact, he seems kind of like a giant a-hole inveted by Jerry Falwell. I don’t doubt that you can come up with rationalizations for his behavior, but I have a hard time believing that God couldn’t or shouldn’t have made things nicer. 3. Do I have to thank God, according to you, even if he could have made things nicer, just because he did ANYTHING for me? Well, I guess that depends on your thinking. Really, although I’m a pretty thankful person, I’m generally not that grateful for people who do the bare minimum, when it would have been much easier to do something more. This isn’t specifically about people who do things for me, but people who give crappy favors in general. Like if somebody gives me a fruit cake for Christmas, but it’s a year old and moldy, am I really that thankful? I guess that depends. 4. You could say it depends whether I think God on balance has been nicer to me than mean. Well, if I’m trying not to be so selfish, then I have a feeling that really depends on the person. People who commit suicide, then, seem to have objectively proven that they don’t have anything to thank God for, and that they really have a good reason not to like him at all, since humans seem to be significantly averse to killing themselves even when things are pretty bad. Of course, I’m sure many people are glad to be alive, and that probably includes me, but still; I have a pretty hard time saying that it has generally been that great for everybody, or that it seems very likely that it was done for the benefit of humans in the first place. If I consider the possibility of eternal heaven and hell, then I’m absolutely positive that creating anybody is not a nice thing, but an extremely evil act, if there could be any such thing.

    Ok, I could go on with other problems I see, but you probably get the point. In the end, I haven’t been made aware of why I should think the world was created for the benefit of humans, or its inhabitants, or whatever. I guess the real problem is that when it comes to god, I don’t think any of us have been made aware of anything. If there’s a god, the fact is that we don’t know the first thing about him. Maybe he deserves to be thanked, or maybe he doesn’t. Most likely, it would seem, he wouldn’t care in the slightest. If I’m going to be thankful in my life, I’d think it should be for things that I actually know anything about.

    Anyway, that’s also all largely why I think that if god really does insist on being thanked, despite his intensely incomprehensible behavior, then he’s not actually worth being thanked at all. If I’m wrong, then I’m simply a bad judge, but then thanking of any kind is meaningless in the first place.

  46. Kamikaze189
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

    Just so everybody knows, my family is still alive. All of them. Not one of them smited. Anybody care to guess why? Does god not want to murder all of us the way he flooded the world before? He doesn’t want to do us like the egyptian babies? He can’t be happy while dashing us against rocks? I guess this is proof there is no god. What sort of angry, blood god REFUSES to take advantage of an invitation to slaughter? A non-existent one, that’s the sort.

    And don’t give me any of that “god is love” bullshit. If he made a world where people can slowly cut off childrens’ heads, he isn’t a loving god.

  47. Thorngod
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    Many good points, Marcus! Many apples, Many sodas. Just be careful of such unintentional phrasings as “HE gives many indications that he doesn’t exist….” Lily & company will pounce on that with a vociferous “AHA!” and accuse you of recognizing his actuality in spite of your adamant denials.

  48. Drusilla
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

    I guess the real problem is that when it comes to god, I don’t think any of us have been made aware of anything. If there’s a god, the fact is that we don’t know the first thing about him. …Most likely, it would seem, he wouldn’t care in the slightest. …but then thanking of any kind is meaningless in the first place.

    Marcus

    Another reason for prayer is to get to know God, to learn how He communicates, to discover that he does care, to discover that He answers the deepest longings of our hearts, to lose everything and gain more than we can possibly imagine. Any of us may hear of Him but until we encounter Him, until we relate with Him, it’s just hearsay and we are simply children who mimic the adults around us.

    Prayer is for us. Prayer is central in healing and restoring us. Prayer teaches us to see the truth of what it means to be human – that we are both more and less than we imagine, that we are created to love and to be loved. And prayer helps us begin to develop the courage to be human. Prayer acknowledges the Other and often, many others. Prayer teaches us a language that can begin with words but never ends with them because language is always so much more and words can make-up only a tiny portion of the communication that exists between us and Him.

    Do some try to misuse prayer? Yes. But since ugliness and destructiveness are part of what it means to be human, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that amongst humans of faith, ugliness and destructiveness exist.

    And thanking is never meaningless. It builds and strengthens relationships. It acknowledges the giver; it is the gift of the recipient. And though God does not need us to give Him thanks, we need to give it to Him. As Viole so aptly indicated, giving back to God makes us like Him, we become co-creators, gift givers.

    What sort of angry, blood god REFUSES to take advantage of an invitation to slaughter?

    Kamikaze189

    Has it occurred that He is not an “angry, blood god”? Has it ocurred that you do not know Him and lack sufficient information to make such characterizations at all?

    Viole

    Thank you.

  49. Viole
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

    You know where to find me, Lily–though forgive me if I doubt your editorial skills. I will, however, remain open-minded.

  50. Marcus
    September 23rd, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    Drusilla,

    Another reason for prayer is to get to know God, to learn how He communicates, to discover that he does care, to discover that He answers the deepest longings of our hearts, to lose everything and gain more than we can possibly imagine. Any of us may hear of Him but until we encounter Him, until we relate with Him, it’s just hearsay and we are simply children who mimic the adults around us.

    The problem is that to me and to a lot of people, that sounds exactly like descending into complete and utter insanity. Not in a good way, but in a bad way. Very much, in fact, like deciding instead to try a life of drugs. Which leads me to a question: Why would a god require people to descend themselves into insanity in order to find or learn anything about him?

    This is very simply terrible policy making on god’s part. Any rational person knows that if you want someone to take a leap of faith for you, you have to build up the level of trust, first. The reason for this is very practical: if you don’t do that, then you’re asking someone to do something that is objectively senseless. Now I’m sure that sounds romantic and awe-inspiring to many, doing something senseless for the sake of God, but the thing you’ve already assumed there is that I actually have some reason to believe this god exists, and that this is actually what he wants me to do. But since I don’t already know that, and I can’t already know that by god’s supposed design, then I only really know two things: descending into this insanity is 1. Very likely self-destructive, and 2. Equally likely not even what god actually wants me to do, if god exists, which he probably doesn’t.

    I mean, assuming you’re Christian, have you ever looked at the fundamentalists Muslims in the word? Doesn’t it kind of look to you like they’ve descended into insanity? Speaking particularly of those who are willing to blow themselves up? Now I’m sure you recognize that you could take a leap of faith and become a Muslim, but why would you? You wouldn’t, because you can easily see that God would never require you to do something so completely senseless. Or at least, I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons.

    Put another way, I know God wouldn’t require me to descend into insanity in order to find him, because if that were true, a godless world would necessarily be ruled by insane people. In fact, a even a godded world would be ruled by insane people, even if that wasn’t what god even wanted. In essence, I’m very suspicious of ways of thinking that require you to be self-destructive whether or not the ultimate claim is even true. Why? Specifically, because I know that an intelligent creator wouldn’t create such a system. Taking this one step further, as Thorngod implies, this means one of a few things: 1. God is unintelligent. 2. God doesn’t want us to know he exists. 3. There is no god. Seeing as 2 is completely useless to human affairs, and there isn’t any evidence for it, and it’s just as silly as believing in Mr. Cold Refridgerator Man who doesn’t want to know he exists, I put my money on 3.

  51. Kamikaze189
    September 23rd, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    Drusilla, God murdered almost the entire population of the world, according to the bible. I mean, wouldn’t you call me an angry, psychotic, blood crazed murderer if I did that?

    This fictional character in the novel called “The Bible” is really quite a sicko. It’s almost funny people have made a cult for him… except that many of them like to mimic his lust for blood.

  52. AnonAtheist
    September 24th, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

    I used to do this during thunderstorms when I was a kid. Well something similar. Many kids were afraid of god. They seemed to think he had a tendency to strike unbelievers dead. I wonder where they got that idea. Anyways, I used to curse this imaginary god during a thunderstorm. Nothing ever happened of course.

    Let me start a prayer. “Dear God who aren’t in heaven. I pray that every atheist on the planet, including friends and family, be stung to death by wild bees.” BTW, fuck you GOD!!! You don’t fucking exist!

  53. Marcus
    September 26th, 2006 @ 8:21 am

    And isn’t the irony that by doing the experiment, you actually increase rather than decrease people’s suspicion that you really do believe? Lose-Lose.

  54. Thorngod
    September 28th, 2006 @ 8:17 am

    Yeah. Next time you make that experiment, pay attention to the state of your anal sphincter. If you detect the slightest tightening, you may be deceiving yourself.

  55. Mijae
    September 29th, 2006 @ 7:02 am

    Been a long time since I bothered commenting here, but I must say that my husband and I still cheerfully joke about our participation in this test back then, and continue to say we wish horrid things on each other to this day. It certainly makes cutesy couple talk more lively. “Aww, thank you sweetie! I’m going to pray that you get terminal kidney failure!”

  56. Rien
    September 29th, 2006 @ 7:06 am

    Yeah, every day I pray to Jesus, Satan and Cthulhu that her internal organs petrify, and her brain leak through her nose. I’ve promised to sacrifise at least one black goat if they can deliver.

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