So very simplistic.
If we get people to come together as a community for one day a week, to change their behavior from ordinary selfish pursuits and instead to focus for an hour or two on being a community, on listening to lessons about kindness and generosity, on personally focusing on the needs of others and wishing them well, do you really believe that has no psychological effects? We see all kinds of positive effects in organizations from ongoing weekly professional development experiences, even though those are mostly sit-on-their-butt learning sessions.
So if we're really interested in evidence-based claims, the question you have to address is why religion would be uniquely ineffective when other forms of social gathering, professional development, and meditation are effective. I don't think you've got evidence to support that claim.
So absent any evidence to the contrary, we should probably conclude that it's quite likely that prayer does do shit. Like any personal discipline and community endeavor, it changes the people who participate. In fact, I believe there's some evidence to suggest that the religious are actually more generous with their donations of both time and money to charity.
There is also the potential that the people attending the religious two-hour session can feel that they've done their bit for their religion, and can go back to living entirely selfishly for the rest of the week. I'm pretty sure prayer does do shit, but literally so.
Praying is actually a great way to pretend you care, When someone hears about a guy who prays for people. They would think,"wow what a pure hearted guy praying for people he doesn't even know! Let's give him an award!:
I don't know.. let me pray on it and get back to you.
@ Dr. Bob
There's no doubt it does some good for the people doing the praying, especially if they don't think too deeply about it. They feel like they really care and they feel like they are good people who are actually doing something to help. I'm sure that gives them a psychological boost and a warm fuzzy feeling. Unfortunately, it does fuck-all for the person or situation being prayed for. And that's the point.
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