Friday, April 21, 2006

The purposelessness of prayer

Believers in the Christian god advocate prayer. But what is the purpose of prayer?

The typical response I hear is that it is talking to god. But why? These same people argue that the god they believe in is all-knowing. So what precisely could one tell this god that he doesn’t already know.

God allegedly knows everything before it happens. Perfect knowledge, which is what one would need attribute to a perfect being, means knowledge of everything that was past, everything that is current, and everything that is yet to come. So there is absolutely nothing one can tell this god that he doesn’t already know. It is communication without purpose except perhaps to make the believer feel good.

But why would they feel good? Here the main reason given is that in praying the believer is making requests to the god. But again the deity knows these requests already. Could it be that one can then persuade this deity to act differently. There are incidents in the New Testament that imply this is possible. That Jehovah/Jesus made one decision and by pestering the diving creator one can get this being to reverse decisions.

But perfect knowledge works against that concept. Humans change their minds all the time and the reason for that is the lack of perfect knowledge. We don’t know all that was, is, and is to be. We make judgements based on very limited knowledge. As such we are always refining our judgements based on new knowledge or because we felt our old decision was wrong.

A perfect deity could have no new knowledge and make no errors. Thus he/she/it is incapable of changing his/her/its mind. It would seem that supplication or begging, pleading or prayer could change the mind of humans prone to error. But a being with perfect knowledge would make the correct decision right from the start.

But what we have here is not a theological concept that makes sense. Theology and sense don’t go together. What we do have instead is a leftover from man’s dark past. In the past men believed in gods that were merely super versions of humans with all the foibles of humans. Such a deity could change his mind, make errors, etc. This is not the case for the Christian god. But when the culture accepted Jehovah/Jesus as god it never refined its concept of the prayer. Prayer merely implies a fallible god and the theist usually needs things to be explicitly obvious before they see the connection. This is one step removed from the obvious. So people continue to pray for no apparent reason at all --- and that means no apparent reason even if one thinks their god exists. Which I don’t.


Blogger oscar wilde said...

A little pearl for a quiet moment.

April 23, 2006

Blogger Derreck said...

Heh, I can give you a reason why we pray.
We pray, to seperate the thoughts from what you really want to tell God. Of course God is almighty, and He probably is reading our minds at this very moment. Now, we humans, have very, VERY dirty minds. We think about sex, hate, and sin all day long. So prayer is a simple way of being a bit gentle towards God, and tell Him what you really want to tell Him. Besides that, thinking is far easier than saying, and people believe that saying things, is confessing things to yourself.

April 24, 2006


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