Prayer

I’m pretty sure that you all have heard of this phenomenon called prayer. What is it? Does it have any effect on the physical world? Does it do ANYTHING?
The short answer is no, prayer is useless. It does nothing more than make you feel good. Sometimes, it doesn’t even do that!
There was a study done on prayer called the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer or STEP. As you can read on the link, the study took almost 2,000 patients about to go into heart surgery. The people were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups:
1. Group receiving prayer, but unsure (604 people)
2. Not receiving prayer, but unsure (597 people)
3. Sure that they are receiving prayer (601)
Group 1 was told that they will get prayed for (they were actually getting prayer). Group 2 was told the same thing (but did not get any prayer). Group 3 was told that they were getting prayed for (they actually did get prayed for). This prayer was conducted for 14 days.
This study had surprising results:
In groups 1 and 2 complications occurred about 50% of the time (Group 1 = 315/604 – 51.655%; Group 2 = 304/597 – 50.92%). The The surprising part comes in the fact that the group certain of receiving prayer had complications about 60% of the time (352/601 – 58.56%).
Now, some Christians believe that this means that prayer does do something. The people conducting the study said otherwise. The conclusion (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567) was, “Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.”
So really it was that the people KNEW that they were being prayed for. The results are basically saying that the people who knew that they were being prayed for had worse results for the simple fact that they knew. In other words, if they were to be told that they were receiving prayer but didn’t actually get any prayer the results would be about the same.
This proves that prayer is nothing more than mental masturbation. Now, I have had someone get confused over that saying, confusing it with physical masturbation. When using the term MENTAL masturbation it means that prayer feels good to the person doing it, but does nothing for who they are thinking of.
Sorry if I am repeating myself, but it seems important to do. Prayer does nothing for human beings. It has no place in the minds of rational human beings (or human beings in general). Prayer is useless. It is a waste of time, and ancient ritual that has no effect whatsoever. It makes you feel good for a minute and then it goes away. Dust in the wind. It is an ancient ritual.
How then did this ritual start? To get a better look at rituals and religions at their start there was a case study that I think you will find interesting.
Part 1

Part 2

What this shows is that these rituals are formed from a type of mental programming called Classical Conditioning. Some people think that religious rituals are also a cause of Operant Conditioning. Essentially what this is all saying is that religious practices start when someone sees something (always a natural phenomenon) that they cannot explain (Luna/Solar Eclipse, volcano eruptions, mass disease [like the black plague], earthquake, thunder/lightning, etc.). These are all things we can explain today, but were scary to ancient people because they did not understand it. So they create a God that does these things because it makes sense to an ANCIENT person. Now what about these rituals? Well, once this God has been established, they try to talk to this God to see if he will hear them (prayer). Let’s use an example. In ancient Greece a farmer would pray to Zeus for good weather for farming so they can grow crops. This works a little under 50% of the time (chance). So they develop other rituals (like animal sacrifice). This gets quite complicated. Let’s assume that you take three animals and you sacrifice each one in the same way (chicken, cow, lamb). However, you only get good weather when you sacrifice the chicken. You would cease to sacrifice the other two animals because you have concluded that God wants you to sacrifice chickens. Now you are only sacrificing chickens and back to your chance outcome. Once you realize this you start to scratch your head and wonder what is going wrong. So you try three different methods of sacrifice (decapitation, bludgeoning, burning). You then realize that you get good weather when you burn your chicken for Zeus. This goes on and on until you have some incredibly complicated procedure for sacrificing animals to get good weather. Some people may say that this does not pertain to the Judeo/Christian religion. Obviously these people do not read their own holy book.
Genesis 22:1-13
Leviticus 1
Leviticus 14:2-32
and trust me the list goes on (for quite some time). So why do people still do this? In light of evidence that blatantly says that prayer is useless, people STILL do it. The thing is, these people are not stupid! They are smart, educated (sometimes Ph.D professors and scientists!) people. Why do they subscribe to such useless ancient rituals that have been proven to have no effect on people (actually negative effects on people)? The answer (ironically) could be natural selection and evolution of these rituals. In today’s society people don’t sacrifice animals to the God of their choosing, so obviously these rituals have changed slightly when society does (evolution is a good word to describe this change). People are brought up to believe that prayer has some effect and this carries on into their adult life. Sometimes I wonder if people KNOW that prayer doesn’t do anything, but do it anyway because that’s what their parents did. That is the reason that this silly ritual is still sticking around. The same thing with going to church. Why do this? Why waste a Sunday sitting in some uncomfortable wooden seat listening to a priest yammer on about God and how you should live your life? The easy answer is that you probably shouldn’t be doing these things, but I don’t know what is best for everyone. If it makes you happy, I can’t tell you that it is wrong (unless you are sacrificing animals or people, that is definitely not good). For the simple fact that people have stopped sacrificing animals I think is some recognition that it really didn’t do anything! So if it makes you happy to waste your Sundays and your time going to church and praying, then fine, good for you. I can’t tell you not to do those things, but I can tell you those things have been proven to be useless. If you want to keep doing your rituals, fully knowing (or denying) that it doesn’t doing anything, then that’s fine too.

Hell Houses

I want to step away from Philosophical debates and the sort for a second and talk about something that I think is truly a detriment to modern society. As the title of this post indicates the subject of my post is about these places called Hell Houses.
Now these places depict graphic scenes of what they consider sins. They depict the torment in hell that the sinful suffer. Some of you may be asking yourselves what makes these places different from other horror productions or stage performances? To be honest there is a gigantic difference between these places and haunted houses and that difference is, what I call, the depiction of reality. They depict what they believe is reality to scare people into agreeing with your religious beliefs. In my opinion these people who put these shows on are emotional and spiritual terrorists. For any other movie, stage show, or haunted house they will make sure that people know that the scenes depicted are not real. There is one more factor that hasn’t been considered (speaking of theater and stage), is age restrictions. The people putting on these Hell Houses do not hold strict age restrictions. For a child younger than 10 the experiences shown of stage, that these people say will happen to you if you sin, will give them nightmares and will have an extremely adverse effect on their minds. The official stance of these people is that they would rather scar a child for life with their spiritual terrorism than have that child grow up different from them (example: gay, lesbian, bisexual, atheist or a different religion, etc.) This is my opinion, but these types of tactics or extremely wrong, crude, and frightening. What I find most frightening is not the actual show, but how the people who throw them present it. The views they represent are quite extreme, and any extremism is dangerous. I think that the purpose of these shows are ironic, they throw these shows so as to make sure that the youthful do not come out damaged, however these shows are more damaging than anything else. I know I said that I would stray from philosophy but I think that a thought experiment is in order:
Let us imagine that a gay or lesbian Christian teenager is attending one of these events. The extreme anti-gay/lesbian views portrayed will psychologically damage and already psychologically frail teen. Being a teenager is extremely difficult in and of itself. I know know, I was a teenager once. Being a gay/lesbian teen is even harder WITHOUT bigotry, and I fear that the added bigotry these small minded people will be too much for some gay/lesbian teens to handle. Imagine that indeed these shows were just what it took to push a gay/lesbian teen over the edge and they committed suicide. Take a moment to let that last statement sink in. We are talking about a human being choosing to end their own life because of the views that someone else has tried to force feed this teen. I wonder what these Hell House people would say to that. Would they be happy? Would they regret what they have done? I don’t know what would happen, but I hope that they realize what they are doing before it gets that far.
In conclusion, I do not think that these are bad people, but I do think they are doing something bad. This reminds me of a quote from Steven Weinberg, “Religion is and insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
Take a look at what they are doing here