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- Original Email:
- Dear Teba,
- Thank you for your response. Believe it or not, I too have wrestled at times wondering if prayer really "works" or if I could just live this life all by chance.
- I think God is at work all the time all around us. Sometimes God answers prayers in the way we think they ought to have them answered, and I also believe that God knows what is ultimately best. When I wrote that I've seen God do amazing things through prayer, one personal experience came to mind.
- My Mom - she was diagnosed with stage-4 lymphoma cancer. After undergoing several rounds of treatment, the cancer wasn't eradicated. The doctors gave her two options -go for more chemo (which could kill her as she was very weak) or go for quality of life, and let the cancer eventually kill her. My mom chose "quality of life" over more regimens of Chemo. She stopped all treatment and chose to just live life as long as God gave her breath. Throughout this time, many many people were praying for healing, but also for strength and guidance. All the indications showed she would only have a few months to live. I'm happy to say that she is in remission. Do I believe that chemo played a part, yes... but... when the cancer wasn't going away and the chemo had stopped working, I believe God intervened and took care of the rest.
- Sometimes it's easy to say that things happen by "seemingly magical happenstance". Can I ask you to consider a paradigm shift for a moment? Do you think God is dependent on man? Do you think that God could and does work, even if we don't ask him to? Could God be at work all around us because he loves his creation, and somes we get to see glimpses of what he's doing? Could all those happenstances actually be God at work without our awareness? Sometimes I think of prayer more like glasses. Glasses help bring things into focus. I may see circumstances with my own two eyes and understanding, but I see/understand much more clearer when I pray. Things that may have been out of focus are brought into focus.
- I would like to hear your thoughts. Also, what are your beliefs right now about God? Who do you say that Jesus is? What you believe in these areas shape what you believe about other things (like prayer).
- I hope to hear from you soon.
- Thanks for your reply April, I'm becoming more and more eager to hear back from you.
- I'll delve right in:
- If you've wondered yourself if prayer really works then you've assimilated information in a fashion similar to mine at one point in time. By that I mean you've questioned the potency of prayer, and how it doesn't SEEM to work. Could your life be running by chance? I would say to get an honest answer you will have to define to me what chance means to you. Do you mean that your life flows upon the ebb and tide of time purely at a whim? That whatever happens to you in sincerely and totally random? I would say no, there are many things that you can decide to happen, or not, in your life. You decided to eat breakfast this morning, or not, and it most certainly had some effect on the outcome of your day. Some of those outcomes may have been predictable (You weren't hungry come lunchtime) and some of them not predictable (The time you took eating breakfast stopped you from getting hit by a bus on your way to the supermarket). You and those around you cause changed in what could potentially happen just by doing what it is they usually do, they can cause things to happen on purpose, or cause things NOT to happen again, on purpose. This is very important because it brings my story full circle, that things happening by chance are not magical or particularly insightful at all. There doesn't have to be a deity controlling the passage of events. And because good AND bad things seem to happen to people without preferential treatment to their religion or lack thereof wouldn't you agree that it makes more sense that if there were a deity he wasn't controlling events... at all?
- You brought up the story of your mother and it so strongly reminded me of a song by Tim Minchin that I had to copy and past the lyrics in this email for you to read. Its about a man named Sam who said that his mothers failing eyesight was cured by god and that there was no other sane explanation. There is a bit of language, but please read each line with inquiry. It goes like this:
- I have an apology to make. I’m afraid I’ve made a big mistake. I turned my face away from you, Lord.
- I was too blind to see the light. I was too weak to feel Your might. I closed my eyes; I couldn’t see the truth, Lord.
- But then like Saul on the Damascus road, you sent a messenger to me, and so…
- I have had the truth revealed to me. Please forgive me all those things I said. I’ll no longer betray you, Lord. I will pray to you instead.
- And I will say “Thank you, thank you, thank you God. Thank you, thank you, thank you God.”
- Thank you God for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum.
- I had no idea but it’s suddenly so clear now. I feel such a cynic. How could I have been so dumb?
- Thank you for displaying how praying works: a particular prayer in a particular church. Thank you Sam for the chance to acknowledge this omnipotent opthamologist.
- Thank you God for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum. I didn’t realize that it was so simple, but you’ve shown a great example of just how it can be done.
- You only need to pray in a particular spot to a particular version of a particular god, and if you pull that off without a hitch, he will fix one eye of one middle-class white bitch.
- I know in the past my outlook has been limited. I couldn’t see examples of where life had been definitive. But I can admit it when the evidence is clear, as clear as Sam’s mum’s new cornea.
- That’s extremely clear! Extremely clear!
- Thank you God for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum. I have to admit that in the past I have been skeptical but Sam described this miracle and I am overcome!
- How fitting that the sighting of a sight-based intervention should open my eyes to this exciting new dimension. It’s like someone put an eye chart on the wall in front of me and the top five letters say: I C G O D.
- Thank you, Sam, for showing how my point of view has been so flawed. I assumed there was no God at all but now I see that’s cynical. It’s simply that his interests aren’t particularly broad.
- He’s largely undiverted by the starving masses, or the inequality between the various classes. He gives you strictly limited passes, redeemable for surgery or two-for-one glasses.
- I feel so shocking for historically mocking. Your interests are clearly confined to the ocular. I bet given the chance, you’d eschew the divine and start a little business selling contacts online.
- Fuck me Sam, what are the odds that of history’s endless parade of gods that the God you just happened to be taught to believe in is the actual one and he digs on healing, but the AIDS-ridden African nations, the victims of the plague or the flood-addled Asians, but healthy, privately-insured Australians with common and curable corneal degeneration?
- This story of Sam’s has but a single explanation: a surgical God who digs on magic explanations. It couldn’t be mistaken attribution of causation, born of a coincidental temporal correlation, exacerbated by a general lack of education vis-a-vis physics in Sam’s parish congregation. And it couldn’t be that all these pious people are liars. It couldn’t be an artifact of confirmation bias, a product of groupthink, a mass delusion, an Emperor’s New Clothes-style fear of exclusion.
- No, it’s more likely to be an all-powerful magician than the misdiagnosis of the initial condition, or one of many cases of spontaneous remission, or a record-keeping glitch by the local physician.
- No, the only explanation for Sam’s mum’s seeing: they prayed to an all-knowing superbeing, to the omnipresent master of the universe, and he liked the sound of their muttered verse.
- So for a bit of a change from his usual stunt of being a sexist, racist, murderous cunt, he popped down to Dandenong and just like that, used his powers to heal the cataracts of Sam’s mum – of Sam’s mum!
- Thank you God for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum! I didn’t realize that it was such a simple thing. I feel such a dingaling, what ignorant scum!
- Now I understand how prayer can work: a particular prayer in a particular church in a particular style with a particular stuff and a particular book for particular problems that aren’t particularly tough, and for particular people, preferably white, for particular senses, preferably sight – a particular prayer in a particular spot, to a particular version of a particular god.
- And if you get that right, He just might take a break from giving babies malaria and pop down to your local area to fix the cataracts of your mum!
- That's the end of the song. He makes a myriad of good points. One of which is the explanation for god doing something can be substituted with an ulterior, more explainable, less magical reason. "One of many cases of spontaneous remission" is another great line that pertains to your story. Unless you are a doctor with proper training in that particular cancer do you really think its fair that you marginalize the effects of chemo by saying god must have filled in the parts where chemo couldn't? Or had 'stopped working'? Why couldn't the advanced medical practices employed on your mother along wither her versatile immune system alone not explain her getting better? I think that it can, and did.
- I'm all for paradigm shifts! Assuming there is a god, and assuming he pays any special attention to us, and assuming he loves us and intervenes in the world we interact with I understand how prayer can act as a set of glasses, clarifying why he allows things, and prohibits things from happening. However... lets shift away from that, and assume there is no god to pay special attention to us, or there is a god who doesn't care for us or even knows we exist; then glasses that you wield serve the purpose of rendering the phantasmal world you and your fellow parishioners have created in a more visceral and less abstract way. So then prayer is employed to assimilate happenstance of the world that did not occur because of a god, into a worldview in which a god is an intricate and necessary part of the explanation. You've created prayer because you NEED it to help explain why things that don't seem to fit in with your worldview are the way they are. You've also created morals and religious laws to accomplish the same thing. Thou shalt not have any gods before me, if you blaspheme god will not allow you into heaven, richard dawkins is sick because he is an atheist, babies in Africa have aids because their parents aren't christian, etc...
- I am Atheist. By definition that means I do not believe in god. Being Atheist does not mean I say god DOESN'T exist, I still retain the possibility that there is a deity. However I don't BELIEVE in one. I don't say one exists, since I have no evidence. I implore you not to become confused with the dichotomy of the term Athest, Agnostic, and Anti-Theist. Whereas A(theism) refers to belief in a diety, A(gnostisism) refers to the knowledge of something, and Anti(theist) referring to the beliefe that a deity does not exist. I am not an Antitheist. I certainly am Agnostic of the existence of god seeing I've never been privy to any valid evidence that one actually exists, and you could also say I am not Antignostic either, I do not say that it is impossible for us ever to know if one exists, as I reserve the possibility that we may one day find out for certain.
- And because of my lack of belief in any particular deity I do not subscribe to any particular religious dogma, to include that which tells of a man named Jesus who was sent by god to men. This completely and totally drives my interpretation of religious text and apologia.
- My question back to you is, why do you think god had something to do with your mothers sickness, when her outcome was most certainly in the realm of medical possibilities? And since one instance does not make a statistic what other (possibly more convincing) reasons do you have to think that prayer has any power at all?
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