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Petitionary prayer, put simply, is a type of prayer where a believer specifically asks ‘God’ to intervene in a situation and change the course of events.
Here is a nice response by a person called Wilstar in the comments section of the article “Governors Urged to Observe National Day of Prayer, Ignore Threats” appearing the Christian Post online, with regards to the apparent futility of petitionary prayer:
Petitionary prayer can’t work anyway and I can prove it. Not by relying on empirical evidence, which also shows that prayer doesn’t work, but by the bible itself. It goes like this: Christians claim that God has a divine plan. The bible also says that the will of God will be done. His divine plan is consistent with his will. So if you pray for something that is already God’s will, the prayer will be answered, but even if you had not prayed for it it would be done if it is the will of God, Regardless of your prayer, God’s will will be done, so why pray? Does prayer change God’s mind? It can’t if God has a divine plan, unless he changes His divine plan, and if he does that for prayer, then his plan is totally capricious. Therefore, prayer doesn’t work by the rules of the bible.
The notion of petitionary prayer does indeed contradict any idea of the omniscience of ‘God’. It is strange that most Christians do not realise this. Their philosophers, however, do recognise that there are serious problems with it:
There is certainly something very strange about the idea of God changing his mind. As God is omniscient, every decision that he makes he makes in light of all of the facts; there cannot arise any new information that God failed to take into account that might cause him to revise his decision. God, then, should never change his mind.
This means that telling God of our needs and asking him to meet them is a waste of time; God is fully aware both of our needs and of our desires, and will have taken them into account in making his original decision. Whatever decision he has made, whether it is in our favour or not, we should not question; our judgement as to what God should do will surely be inferior to his, and so we should let him get on with doing what he is going to do.
It therefore seems that Christians ought not to pray petitionary prayers. Prayers of worship and adoration are understandable, of course, but requests for divine intervention seem to be futile; whatever God is going to do he will do, whatever he is not he will not. Our prayers won’t change that.
So petitionary prayer is a waste of time!
…not that there’s any good reason to think a ‘God’ even exists, in the first place.
A nice response in the comments section of the article " As I didn’t say to the archbishop" appearing the Guardian online:
For as long as people feel the need to believe in a crutch, there will be those out there who don’t; that those who don’t no longer have to fear retribution, persecution and blackballing for our views is a good thing. If you’re unhappy that we find your ideas so contemptible, find new ideas, or accept that your ideas will be open to ridicule.Ideas are not sacred and should be open to as much opposition, as much derision and as much praise as is possible. If they stand up to reason – which, invariably, religion[s] does not – then they deserve to be taken seriously.
Indeed, ideas are not sacred… and should be open to as much opposition, as much derision and as much praise as is possible. All that matters is whether or not they stand up to reason- not how deeply people cherish them.
In the comments section, one of the readers (called BlackDog) posted a comment that I thought very accurately described the primary motivation behind the virulent homophobia being stoked by mainly Pentecostal pastors in Uganda. He wrote:
“If so, it makes them even more cynical and devious that I had previously thought. It’s one thing to support a draconian law because it supports your own misguided sense of morality. It is quite another to support and use that law in order to exploit public anti-gay animus to increase your own religious and political influence by eliminating rivals. That is truly despicable.”
It never was really about the gays, if you ask me. Oh, sure, lots of people in Africa hate gay people…this is something that mostly can be laid at the feet of American missionaries, too. But when it really comes down to it, it’s like this:
A lot of these pastors are Pentecostal. Pentecostals are often manipulative. For example, It was not uncommon to spend 58 minutes out of an hour arguing with my Pentecostal ex-wife, only to find out in the last two minutes what she really wanted…which was often only slightly related to the subject of the argument.
They tell you it’s about the gays, but it’s apparently about having a weapon they can use against their enemies (real and perceived) in their Pastor Wars. What it’s actually about is money and power. Among highly religious or uneducated people, Pentecostal pastors can live…and rule…like kings.
In a country where there’s a lot of Pentecostals and where the elite (See Janet Museveni for example) is receptive to Pentecostalism…to be the Last Man Standing in the Pastor Wars…would be like being a god walking on the Earth.
A false god, yes, but for all intents and purposes what does it matter if the masses can’t tell the difference?
That’s a prize guys like Martin Ssempa would do a lot of things to get, or even come close to. I don’t think it matters to them what the body count might be.
Talk about being spot on.
Also, certainly I would agree this is just another expression of the inquisition mentality.
Why is it, that people who want to do that sort of thing never seem to remember that it never works out for them in the long run? The medieval inquisitions led to the Reformation, and the Catholic Church lost a lot of power as a result. Witch-hunts in England led to at least one “Witchfinder General” falling victim to his own methods, the “Final Solution” while not a direct cause of the fall of Germany in WWII didn’t help matters in the end, and led to a whole new list of problems in the middle east later and the world is still dealing with that.
Why can’t people see that actions always have consequences? Are they that ignorant, or do they just not care?
If you ask me, I’d say they are ignorant, and short-sighted.
What these pastors don’t realise is that what they are doing will be the very undoing of the Pentecostal movement in Uganda. All indications are that the anti-homosexuality bill will not be passed. The Pentecostal pastors and other social conservatives behind this hateful anti-homosexuality campaign will have thereby proven themselves to be completely incapable of being the engine for ‘social change’ they had deluded themselves into thinking they’d be in this country.
Eventually, Ugandans will realise they have much better things to do than be bothered about what grown men/women do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
And in a few years, everyone will be wondering what the fuss was all about.
Here are some of her posts, pertaining to us:
Thank you Ophelia. You rock!
There are also atheists in … Uganda! Freethought Kampala is the voice of reason in that country.
…the belief that science can and will discover the answers to all questions, that there are no inherent limits to the ability of science to solve all problems. In my experience it is a trait rarely seen in working scientists, but often accused of, as a way of dismissing scientific criticism.
Not surprisingly, the scientism straw man is one that is being widely criticised online in various blogs and forums.
This blog post is a collection of commentary on that straw man:
Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is a frequent target of the charge of scientism by Christian apologists, creationists, intelligent design advocates, and accomodationists. In a blog post titled ‘Can we apply science to the supernatural?’, he responds to one of his critics, as follows:
Okay, let me get one thing clear at the outset. I do not believe, nor have I ever asserted, that science provides us with all the answers that are worth having. Some answers worth having involve subjective taste: which bistro should I eat at tonight? Should I go out with Sue or with Megan? Is Joyce’s The Dead truly the best story ever written in English? (The answer to that, by the way, is “yes”.) Why does Beethoven move me to tears while Mozart leaves me cold? And there are the moral questions, such as “Is abortion wrong?”
Now some of these questions are at least potentially susceptible to empirical investigation and falsification (I may find, for example, that I first heard Beethoven during a really good time of my life, and that this somehow conditioned my neural response to the music.) But science certainly can’t “do everything.” It can’t relieve the tears of a bullied child; it can’t bring civil rights to blacks and gays; it can’t bring peace to Israel and Palestine. Still, many of the answers to these questions can be informed by scientific analysis. If our answer to the question about abortion involves knowing whether a fetus can feel pain, well, that can—in principle—be studied scientifically.
Dawkins, too, is not immune to the blandishments of art and literature, as you can see by simply reading his books. I suspect that both Richard and I are advocates of “scientism” only to the extent that when questions are amenable to logic, reason, and empirical investigation, then we should always use those tools. If that’s “scientism,” then so be it.
Astronomer Phil Plait of the blog Bad Astronomy wrote a blog post titled ‘Science IS imagination’ in which he responds to an article written by a creationist who was accusing scientists advocating for evolution of scientism, and that this scientism leaves no room for imagination. Part of Plait’s response reads:
First off, there is no such thing as scientism. What he is describing is simply science, because science by its very nature is an attempt to explain all things using natural processes. And he seems to think science has no imagination.
That’s insane. Without imagination, all we can do is categorize the world. Assigning names and numbers, statistics and categories. And while that sort of thing is important in the scientific process, it’s not science itself. Without imagination, science is a dictionary.
And in fact the opposite of what Todd is saying is true. It takes no imagination at all to insert a supernatural explanation in some spot where you don’t understand the process. It’s all too easy to say "the bacterium flagellum could not have evolved," or "The Big Bang theory doesn’t explain why the Universe is homogeneous everywhere," and therefore "God did it." But it takes imagination, soaring, incredible, wonderful imagination, to look beyond the limitations of what’s currently known, and see what could possibly be… and even more imagination to make sure this venturing beyond current understanding still stays within the bound of reason and known rules of science.
“Yes, some scientists are religious believers. Well, scientists are human, too, and they were raised in the same religion-saturated environments as the rest of us. But in fact, far fewer scientists are religious believers than in the population as a whole. In fact, education itself is associated with the loss of religious belief. The more you know, the less you believe in the fairy tales of your youth. And the top levels of science, the Nobel Prize winners, those scientists at the cutting edge of scientific discovery, are even less religious in general than those "scientists" further down the ladder. And who knows what Galileo, Newton, and Faraday would think today, with modern knowledge…”
The author of That’s Interesting… makes a good point.
Taking the U.S.A. (the most religious developed nation in the world) as an example – among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% believe in a personal ‘God’ as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population. A study shows that belief among members of the same National Academy of Science has been declining steadily since 1914.
The Internet is an awesome place where all kinds of ideas, on all kinds of issues, are being exchanged every single day.
My interest in blogging arose from reading other blogs and getting exposed to new and interesting ideas and perspectives. Almost everyday, I encounter something I find significant in the blogosphere, and so I’ve decided that I will start posting excerpts from blog posts that I think are worth sharing. I will, of course, also provide a link to that blog post so that you can read it in its entirety.
I will be posting these excerpts in a new category on this blog called “From the Blogosphere”