Why Prayer is B.S.
To give a little background and context of what my beliefs are and where I stand, if you were to ask me a few months ago if I was a Christian, my answer would be a resounding yes. I went to church almost every Sunday, joined an out of church prayer group and prayed individually every day, all the time. I never had any real qualms with religion and never had trouble accepting the basic premise of my belief system. That was mainly due to the fact that I never critically thought about the religion I was involuntarily a part of, I blindly followed along like sheep do to a shepherd. Then, one day the Youtube algorithm showed me, Jordan Peterson. I’m sure many of the people that will read this article will know of the phenom, Jordan Peterson. For those that don’t, he is a psychology professor, clinical psychologist, captivating lecturer, persuasive debater and the best selling author of the book 12 Rules of Life. I could keep going on and on about Jordan Peterson but he is someone who is making massive waves in our culture and on peoples lives, including mine. He genuinely has changed my life and enriched the way I think. Jordan Peterson is purposely vague on his belief system, one way he defines his belief is that he “acts like God exist”. At first, when I was watching Jordan Peterson, in some way it made my belief stronger. Knowing someone as smart, successful and influential believes what I believed in, gave my belief extra validity. That was until I stumbled upon the debates Jordan Peterson had with Sam Harris. At first, you could say I was in Peterson’s corner. In the beginning, I was rampant with confirmation bias, I would be agreeing with all the points Peterson would make while in my head be refuting any counterpoints Harris made. There are four debates in total, ranging from three cities. After finishing each debate, the points that Sam Harris made, especially on religion, started to make more and more sense. Even Peterson, who is an eloquent speaker, couldn’t answer certain lingering questions (to be fair to Jordan Peterson he did pose questions that Sam Harris had no answers to as well). Around the same time, my interest had aroused for philosophy and famous philosophers of our past. I watched videos and read pieces on Neitzche, Kierkegaard, Camus, Spinoza, Aquinas, etc. After consuming all this content, serious doubts came across my mind about God, religion, Christianity and my faith. These were thoughts I didn’t want to wrestle with. This probably sounds cliche, but the first stage was denial. Neglecting the fact that my parents are what most would consider devote Christians and breaking the news to them of my defection from the family religion would be hard enough, believing in God and having the Christian faith has brought me through a lot. I was baptized when I was very young, being religious and believing in God is one thing that has been with me for my whole life, making the decision to turn my back on it is not something you do on a whim.
“Knowing someone as smart, successful and influential believes what I believed in, gave my belief extra validity.”
I kept digging, at the start I was demonstrating a great deal of confirmation bias and belief perseverance. But, once you know something it is impossible to un-know it. Since I was privy to conflicting information, my brains level of cognitive dissonance was at the max. I’m not sure the exact set of videos I watched and articles I read but I had an epiphany. How can prayer even work? Like I said before once you know something you can’t un-know it. Coming to this insight completely changed my outlook on religion, if before coming to this conclusion I was leaning more on believing in God, after, I was drastically slanted to, who on earth can believe this fairy tale. I began religiously researching into depth to see if my assumptions held any weight. Then I watched a great video by Crash Course called What is God Like. In a section of the video, they do a great job explaining the dilemma with prayer. When I started to amalgamate my thoughts together, the argument for prayer starts to hold little or any weight. The dilemma is if God is to be thought an Omni God, defined by Augustine and Aquinas and a tenet that is widely accepted in Christian faith prayer couldn’t work, with a little analysis it clearly contradicts Gods Omniness.
If God is omniscient then he knows everything that has happened and will happen. If this is true then your future, in some sense is already decided for you. If he is omnipotent then he is all powerful. If he is all powerful then he has the capacity to change any outcome in your life. If he is omnibenevolent meaning he is all good, he will make sure the results in your life are the best possible outcome dependant on what he considers good for you. If he is omnitemporal he is at all times at once and if he is omnipresent he is at all places at once. Take the example of applying for a job. If God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent then he knows what is going to happen even before it happens, he also has the power to change any event to make sure the outcome is the best possible outcome in whatever terms he defines. If this is all true, what is the point of prayer? If he knows what is going to happen and has the power to change the result, and, will make sure the result is the most beneficial in his eyes than why pray at all. If the future is already known then anything you do now can’t change it, that also means prayer. If you believe prayer can impact your future than you don’t believe God is all powerful. Prayer in a sense contradicts Gods Omni power and actually undermines your faith in him. Another problem with prayer is that it is selfish. Again take the example of applying for a job. Why would God, who sees all of his “creations” as equal, favor someone else over another. If two people applying for the same job, ceteris paribus, and also pray the exact same, how would one person prayer affect the result since it has already been preordained? The fact that you believe your prayer will work over someone else’s prayer or even over someone who doesn’t pray is egotistic and definitely a contradicting value if you are someone who reads the Bible.
“Once you know something it is impossible to un-know it”
I realize prayer is not only meant to ask for things. Prayer is also a utility for giving thanks to God and showing gratitude. This would be all fine and dandy except I would say most people use this form of prayer as an afterthought. How many times have you witnessed or done it yourself, you’re at your wits ends, maybe you haven’t prayed for ages, but regardless, you drop down to your knees, clasp your hands tightly and muster enough courage to beseech God to answer your call to action. On the off chance that the situation swings in your way, you quickly rejoice God’s greatness and then move to push him to the corner for the next emergency.
As many of you are probably wondering “why is this even a big deal, prayer doesn’t hurt anyone”, my rebuttal to this point is that you are right. I understand why people pray, it is the same reason why people curse down their enemies. People want to feel like they have control over the world, the ever-changing, inconsistent, unjust and confusing world we live in. Praying brings comfort and clarity, prayer, for the most part, works as a placebo. Just thinking that you are contacting an eternal Omni God can bring great peace and can help make sense of a nonsensical world. Nothing is inherently wrong with thinking that, this piece was not meant to persuade or convince you. My purpose is to enlighten you, to give you a new perspective on the beliefs that you hold so dearly and truly to your heart. I think something as imperative as your belief system shouldn’t be taken lightly. What you believe in determines how you live, act and treat others. If these aren’t some of the most important things you can ponder, I don’t know what should be. It isn’t good enough to believe something that is this decisive on a whim or because your parents told you so. Things like this need deeper thought and critical analysis. Like I said before I’m not here to change your mind. I am only here to offer a new perspective and hopefully, get you thinking.
*defining God as he for simplicity sake