For hundreds of years it has been thought that this world is a result of God. God made everything we see, hear, touch, etc. but is this really the case? In science, once a theory has been proposed it is tested in a way to try to disprove it. If it cannot be disproved, then it works. Does God work?
In an earlier post i took some religious claims and how science has refuted them. In a way I am simply continuing that post. However, I want to look at something different: human nature. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we pray? Why do we have these rituals? The answer is easy, yet complex. The easy answer is conditioning. Conditioning is an extremely powerful tool that has been used ever since human beings have existed. There are many psychological studies done on conditioning. I will use an example to explain further. Imagine a baby sitting in a square. Babies are predisposed by nature (like all human beings) to examine their surroundings. If, every time they move to a corner of the square they are given food, they will move toward a corner, rather than a side of the square when they are hungry. So, the baby concludes that the will not get food at. The sides of the square. However, as a parent you can choose to give the baby food when it moves to a side rather than a corner, so the babies conclusion is false. The easy way to explain this is a hot stove (I'm sure that you know where I'm going with this). You feel pain when you touch it and learn not to. This can be applied to groups quite easily and worked more effectively on ancient people. Lets look at prayer. What does prayer do? I always say that prayer is a form of mental masturbation (not to be confused with physical masturbation). Prayer feels great to the person doing it, but does nothing to the person you're thinking of. So why do we pray? There are actually more answers than simply conditioning (although conditioning is a large part of it). If, every time you pray you stubbed your toe, at some point you would associate prayer with stubbing your toe, and you would not do it. Inversely, if every time you pray, you find a dollar on the ground you would pray more and associate prayer with getting money. However, the primary flaw of this kind of reasoning is that correlation does not equal causation. Just like with the baby in the square they found a correlation with corners and food and to them going into a corner causes food to come, but that is incorrect. Just like prayer being the cause of finding a dollar or stubbing your toe is incorrect. Obviously, in the real world, you would not get those results EVERY TIME you pray, but more likely less than half the time. It does not make prayer any less effective to the human mind if it doesn't "work" every time. In fact, it only really has to work once you someone to equate correlation and causation.
I did say there are more reasons that people pray, and they can actually add to the conditioning process FOR prayer being effective and lead people to find conditioning against prayer less effective. One example is nurture. If you are brought up to believe that prayer is true and actually does something, you will be harder to condition out of that frame of mind. Lets take the above example of stubbing your toe when you pray. If you stub your toe 9 or of 10 times you pray, BUT find 10 dollars 1 or of 10 times (and were conditioned by nurture to believe in prayer) then prayer would have worked in your mind. This principle is seen when someone goes to see a psychic. First let me say, there are no real psychics. They use a technique called cold reading. They make vague general statements that apply to almost every human being on the planet (Ex. You are introverted for the most part, but sometimes feel the need to be extroverted -- well duh!). If you do go to get a psychic reading i highly suggest you record the whole thing. Listen to it and count the times that the psychic gets something wrong. I guarantee it will outweigh the times they get something right. So how do they stay in business? When someone goes to a psychic they will often times only remember the things that the psychic gets RIGHT. We will often forget the things they get wrong and focus on what they got right. Why do we do this? We do this for an intrinsic reason, that is we want to believe, we want some greater meaning in our lives. This idea is something that really drives religion. A grater meaning, a greater cause. Convince someone they are more important than they are, and that person will really like you. The same thing with God. If a belief in God makes you feel as though your like means more, or that there is more out there it will fill you with a sense of wonder and awe and will be more inclined to believe it.
There is an overarching problem here. That is all the wonder and awe in the world won't make a falsehood any more real. If feeling good could cure cancer, bring world peace, and feed everyone in the world then we wouldn't have any more wars after the 70's. The facts are that prayer does nothing more than make you feel like you are contributing to a solution to some problem and take up your time. Similar religious rituals are the same way. None of them do anything other than make you feel good, and that does not make it correct. The facts may not fit into the way you see the world, but they are what is true and nothing will change that.

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Comment by Dale Headley on March 31, 2013 at 3:10pm

A lotta words, here, including a misspelling of the word "masturbation."

I think I can provide a simpler answer: people pray to a magic man in the sky because they are profoundly fearful of death and the cruel vicissitudes of life.  You can conjure up all the weasily, philosophical rationales you want: it all boils down to the desperate but futile attempt to find an escape clause to avoid your inevitable fate: a return to the muck from which you oozed.  

Comment by Real Life James Bond on March 31, 2013 at 3:17pm
Ahh, bloody autocorrect. Thanks for the catch! To be clear, I'm arguing that prayer is altogether useless, from your comment it seems you think I may be arguing otherwise. Yes, it does come down to fear, but the concept of hell isn't as old as prayer. The over arching issue is conditioning. People had random good things happen after they pray, or they just feel good after they do it so they conclude it must do something because it makes them feel good. People in a position of authority (even assumed authority like spiritual authority) tell people that prayer is great an it'll make you feel good, some people are predisposed to believe such and what happens is they take part in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Comment by Ray R. on April 1, 2013 at 12:37pm
Some would argue that speaking to an imaginary , magic man who lives in the sky , is in itself a mental health problem .
Comment by Jorita on April 1, 2013 at 2:27pm

I have found that in some cases prayer causes more dispair to the person that suffers from depression. If their prayers is not answered they become more negative because in a already negative state, they start questioning whether they are not worthy enough, or not religious enough, or are they to sinfull ect for god to answer their prayers. I do believe that Cognitive behavioural Therapy to be much more productive and therapeutic than prayer with a much better result. By enbabling the person to objectively through logic and reason find what is causing the emotion, how to deal with the emotion, find answers and a solution to the problem and teaching them how to turn their negative thought or circumstances into a positive, this might take from a few days to a few months but their will be reults through teaching a person to controle his mind and not have his mind controle him. Prayer does not remove the pain from losing a lost one, or fix your unemployment , relationship problems or bipolar or any of the problems that could cause depression it can make it worse as in most cases the person praying is waiting for some miracle  to happen and fix this promblem , while the situation is getting worse. For instance a person suffering from Bipolar can pray all he wants when in depression but only through therapy and medication is he going to get better, so in choosing prayer as the fix for his/her dispair the situation worsens.

Comment by Jorita on April 1, 2013 at 4:39pm

I do understand that for some people it can realease more endorphins to give the feeling of overall wellbeing the placebo affect of prayer. What I am saying is that also from reading psychology papers and talking to people their are people who become more depressed because of thier prayers not being answered. If the person suffering from depression, ( using an example) suffers from bipolar, the symptoms and chemical imbalance will effect, selfimage and selfesteem. In severe depression you find that people already question their selfworth, when prayer is not answered and the person starts questioning if they do not have enough faith,or is not worthy of gods mercy, they are not praying hard enough ect. This inturn does not have a positive spin off and does not release the endorphins that one wants to see released, but effects the person in a more negative manner and can worsen the state of depression. I do have to agree that some people do find comfort in prayer, the reality is that it does not always change the core of the problem that caused the symptom. It will give a  sens of wellbeing for a period of time,just as medication gives relief to a lot of the symptoms of depression , but not always cure the cause. And in that sens therapy is the better solution, whether in combination with prayer or medication. People are emotional beings and whether guilt is included or excluded from religion it is an true and real emotion, and taking into account that when suffering from depression a persons perseption , of the self or the natural thought patern is not logical neither their respons to the long term thoughts that is in the mind. So prayer can be positive for some or create a more negative effect depending on the persons perseption of their own self.

Comment by Jorita on April 1, 2013 at 5:08pm

I love how the human mind works, thought patern long term and short term , and automatic respons because of long term conditioning is so interesting. Amasing how the input effects the output, just like a computer and how the automated respons relies on the programming of the mind.

Comment by _Robert_ on April 1, 2013 at 7:21pm

Well, I doubt a binary computer will ever actually have emotions, wants, self-awareness, etc. Behave as though it does...sure..but that's about it. I have been designing embedded computers for 25 years, and not a single one of them shows any gratitude at all.

Comment by Strega on April 1, 2013 at 8:05pm

Comment by Real Life James Bond on April 1, 2013 at 8:45pm
@archaeopteryx, I actually had the pigeons in mind when writing this post.

I know I left out a few reasons, but I wanted to give an overarching historical look at why people pray today and how any ritual can get started.
Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on April 2, 2013 at 2:31am
I think praying gives one depression - when they realize it isn't working, it doesn't matter how much they pray, nothing changes. I know how I felt as a child, and I prayed for something, just didn't eventuate. I asked the priest about it, and he said, 'I just wasn't praying hard enough'. So, what, god is deaf, or just sitting on his hands, or ignoring me. Why??? Couldn't answer that one :)


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