Saturday 28 July 2012

Atheist prayer — isn't this just silly?

Posted by Justin Brierley in his Unbelievable? Facebook group:
Are you an atheist? If there is a God do you want to find out? On the latest show I announced The Atheist Prayer Experiment. I'll post up more details in due course, but if you want to take part then email
What on earth could this be? Getting atheists to pray to a god they don't believe in? Is there any way this "experiment" could be in the least valid?

Who knows? This strikes me as another theistic attempt to inject scientific rationality into something intrinsically irrational. I was highly skeptical of the recent experiment aiming to determine the efficacy of intercessory prayer. As it turned out, the study showed a marginally negative effect — that is, heart patients aware that they were being prayed for did slightly worse in their overall recovery. But that doesn't change my view that such experiments are pretty much worthless; after all, who's to say that any patients weren't being randomly prayed for by people not involved in the study, with consequently unpredictable skewing of the results? And isn't God supposed to take a dim view of being tested (despite being perfectly OK with testing his subjects — Abraham and Isaac, for instance)?

To me the whole idea seems like a pointless waste of time — nevertheless I await Justin's explication (though I'm not holding my breath).

UPDATE 20120819:

The paper by Tim Mawson to which Justin Brierley referred in his announcement is available here:

The Atheist Prayer Experiment webpage is here:

UPDATE 20120822: 

More here:
Notes from an Evil Burnee: An experiment designed to be useless