By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

MrRepzion - Faith & Prayer

Deconversions are rarely an overall pleasant experience. Even if the final admission that you've lost your faith is liberating or exciting, there is generally a lot of struggle and pain that comes along with it. Our minds tend to try to hold on to our beliefs and ideas as long as possible, and when a new idea comes along that contradicts an old and long-held belief, your mind can become a literal battlefield, and no matter the victor you are likely to suffer emotional scarring.


Such is the case with the recent example of MrRepzion on Youtube, who recently deconverted from Christianity to deism. As of this writing, he has made two videos on the subject, and if anything is clear it is that this has been a tumultuous experience for him. I feel for him, my own deconversion was just as painful. Like him, I prayed many a prayer with no response. My prayer was such that I would challenge anyone to find fault in it from a Christian perspective: I read the Bible and simply prayed for understanding and guidance. If my prayers were answered, then I was guided away from Christianity, for the more I read and prayed the less convinced of Christianity I became.


This isn't about me, however. This is about MrRepzion. I had numerous reasons to no longer hold Christianity as valid, and while MrRepzion appears to have a few, the lack of efficacy of prayer appears to be the cornerstone of his non-theism. This is quite evident in his first video, and is further expounded upon in his follow up. While I believe he is on the right track, if I am being honest I would have to conclude that his arguments against Christianity from issues with prayer miss the mark slightly.


Please don't think me insensitive for criticizing someone who is obviously going through a rough time, especially when they have moved closer to my own camp. I do this because my critique is something that I feel he is bound to hear at some point, and to avoid a painful mental tug-of-war with wounds so fresh, I would prefer if he was actually prepared for them. Recall, I said his issues miss the mark slightly, not that they were entirely unjustified. It is quite possible that he has no need of my assistance, that he in fact is already well aware of the devil's advocate style arguments I'm about to present, and could have even better responses to them than I do. In case he doesn't though, I would like to go over what I expect he's going to hear at some point.

Up until now, I have been addressing my audience as a whole, but from here on in I will addressing MrRepzion himself. Hiya MrRepzion, HonestDiscussioner here.


I understand your frustration with prayer, and identify with the feeling of talking and/or pleading to an entity that gives no indication that they are listening. Likely, they aren't there and aren't listening, but that's beside the point. From the perspective of Christians, they will generally find this unconvincing. You've already experienced some of their less eloquent (and incoherent) reasons on your first video, such as the accusation that you're simply being selfish and demanding metaphorical treats.


However the more accomplished apologist won't assault your ego in this manner. They know they aren't as familiar with your experiences as you are, and they certainly aren't as familiar with how you perceive your overall experiences. Blanket assumptions won't convince you, and they know it.


What they are likely to do, however, is to try to reframe your experiences to make it look as though God is working in your life no matter what those experiences may be. They won't accuse you outright of being selfish, but they'll lead you to that conclusion so that it seems you came up with it on their own, all while they gently smile understandingly and without judgment, knowing that you'll be able to make yourself feel guilty enough on your own, if they are successful.


This will generally be centered around the premise that God and\or Jesus has a plan for you. Yes, you prayed for help on your tests, or your you prayed for someone else's benefit, for simple healing. Whatever it was, it doesn't really matter, it could be a prayer that innocent baby seals not get bludgeoned to death with a rusty nail board, the apologist could argue that it is all part of God's plan.


See, what you should obviously conclude from you not passing your math or geology test, is that God has a different plan for you. He's telling you that your current path is not the right one, and you're trying to get him to change your path to what you not, not what "He, the almighty and source of all that is good" wants.


This is where you are lead to feel guilty over wanting anything at all; that in all things you must put your faith in God and just trust that things will turn out okay. It's the only way they ever will in fact. Prayer isn't meant for you to appeal to God for intervention, but merely as a way for HIM to tell YOU what to do, though I doubt it would be put that way. Technically, this idea isn't wholly inconsistent as a theology, no less consistent than most modern popular theology anyway. As I said earlier, I'm playing devil's advocate here, to the end of giving you a heads up on what I expect will be coming your way at some point. Again, I fully acknowledge that this may be unnecessary on my part. You may be able to poke 101 holes in the proposition I laid out for you just now. If that's the case, then I apologize for wasting your time, but otherwise I hope you will indulge me in breaking down what I just said.


What is the long-term prescription for your current issues, from this modified prayer perspective? Well, to fix your situation, of course your should continue to pray until an answer comes forth. Now if the Christian God doesn't exist, what you are doing when you pray is searching your unconscious mind for answers. This can indeed be an excellent tool for problem solving complex matters, as is evidenced by people who do just that outside the context of prayer (usually it is called "meditation"). Eventually, you will come up with something, a course of action of some sort. You are to try that out. If it succeeds, great! It works, God told you want to do and you did it. Now if it fails, well you just didn't understand what God told you, so get back to the drawing board and continue praying until you get another idea. Rinse, repeat until something works, and then thank God for allowing you to finally understand him. It's all part of the plan.


Hopefully by now, the problems with this should be evident. It's a classic example of only accepting positive results for your claim and dismissing negative ones. When things go well, God did it. When things don't, it's your fault for not doing what God wants. It thrives on making the proposition of God and prayer as unfalsifiable as possible, and shouldering as much of the burden as possible while giving any and all credit to God. This is something actively taught in churches around the world, and if you are anything like me, you will be sickened by that prospect.


Fortunately, the prospect isn't entirely falsifiable. Try as they may to avoid it, even this can be subjected to the scientific method. Now perhaps your "lack of faith" is strong and you have no need to test the proposition; you find it insufficient on its own. If so, great. Otherwise, I would suggest that you attempt this version of prayer. Pray to Jesus Christ for guidance as to what to do, for the entire month of August. Then, in September, do exactly the same as you did before, but pray to something else. Pray to Vishnu, or Buddha, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Heck, pray to an inanimate object you know has no special properties, all while saying you have no desire to know what Jesus wants for you. Do this over a couple months, switch the entity that you pray to. Then, view your results. If Christianity is true, or at least if this proposition of how prayer works is true, you should expect that the month of August was crucial towards your actions, and nothing that you came up with in the other months was entirely helpful (in fact, it should set you back).

This is, admittedly, asking a lot. However you don't really need to actually go through with this. If an apologist actually makes this argument, simply ask them what they think of your little experiment, if they'd be confident the results would work in their favor, or if in fact there would not be much of a difference in your life between the various months. Some may argue for the former, but I find it a much more likely prospect that they'd take issue with the overall endeavor, that to do anything other than simply accept what they are saying is a terribly ungodly thing to do, that questioning it is itself wrong.


Then, you will know they truly have nothing to offer you.

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