Monday, 5 January 2015

The Bottle of Milk Delusion - Why Prayers Always Work.

I don't claim original authorship of the argument here, but I think it's worth a little elaboration. I'm assuming, by the way, that an Islamic argument to prove Allah always answers prayer would be very similar if not identical. Indeed, there doesn't appear to be any other possibility for what could happen as a result of prayer.

No doubt some Christians will argue that there are more ways that their god answers prayers, such as the five here, where there are three yesses (somethining else happens; something happens and them something else happens; the thing happens) or the four here ("I can't hear you!" although how that differs from "No", and how the faithful tell the difference is beyond me). I wish they would make their mind up. Perhaps they are talking about different gods.

But in any case, all of these can be arbitrarily ascribed to a bottle of milk too, or any other object, animate or inanimate, animal vegetable or mineral or any combination of those for that matter.

Now, I daresay every Christian and Moslem will see the good sense of all this when ascribed to their particular god as its response to their particular prayers, so what's wrong with the logic when we ascribe it to a bottle of milk, when the outcome is identical and indistinguishable?

But more to the point, maybe, if theist can't point to a fault in the 'proof' of the effectiveness of prayer to a bottle of milk, how can we tell if their prayers to their particular god are effective and not the mere arbitrary, retrospective assignation of cause to effect?

In other words, why do prayers to an invisible god validate that god's power and existence when prayers to a bottle of milk don't validate the bottle of milk's powers? We know it exists, by the way, because we can take it out of the fridge and look at it, unlike gods.

What we're seeing of course is confirmation bias. Theists need to ascribe cause of random events and even non-random ones, to their god to 'confirm' to themselves that their sacred conclusion was correct all along. At the same time, many of them will decry material evidence as inferior to faith whilst desperately clinging to any material 'evidence' they can convince themselves supports them.

The delusional power of religion is such that religious people even pride themselves on their ability to fool themselves with this sort of 'proof' and gather together in self-referencing mutual support groups to keep reinforcing their prejudice and shutting out doubts.

I'll bet there will be very few Christians or Muslims who read this and who realise they can't tell the difference in outcome between praying to their god and praying to a bottle of milk, who will change their minds about the effectiveness of praying to their god and the uselessness of praying to a bottle of milk. It obviously takes more than stark-staringly obvious logic to shake the firm convictions of a willingly self-deluded theist.

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  1. These three answers are not regarded as 'proof' that prayer works. They are an attempt to reconcile unanswered prayer. That is the pin to the balloon of this article.

    1. No Richard.

      The fact that one of the three scenarios deals with the prayed for thing happening refutes your argument.

      If you can think of other possible outcomes, rather than a mere subset of one of these three, then please feel free to list them here.

      Please also explain why they couldn't equally be ascribed to a bottle of milk if that were the object prayed to.

  2. The common mistake that people make is talking about God 'answering' prayer. In the gospel of Matthew it is clearly stated by Jesus, "Ask and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened to you." That sounds like a commitment from God, doesn't it? No weasling about with the 'answering' bit. Just a straight promise. Now we just have to wonder when will God keep his promise.

  3. Perhaps it is a question of faith. Atheists and anti theists have none so if we pray of course it will not be answered. Though it would be a proof so we must assume god wants to remain unproven that he may see we have faith. Relevant and logical if we could
    1. Understand why mere belief matters, it is not in itself "good" to believe, people do believe and still do terrible things. Faith is not the guarantor of goodness
    2. If belief in anything was actually a choice, no one, in anything, fundamentally believes by choice. You do not choose to believe your parents are in fact your parents,you don't weigh up the options and choose one, you just do, even if for example you are told your wife who regularly cheats, has done so again, and you choose to believe her, inside you know if you REALLY believe and are just lying to yourself, so belief is not something you weigh up, it is something based on past experience and current circumstance

    So, if prayer is ever answered because of faith then it is then a question how much faith theists have, Jesus claimed faith as a grain of mustard seed is enough to throw a mountain into the sea, now the point will be made this was allegorical, if it was then why say it, for it simply asserts in any interpretation, there is no thing impossible if the belief is that strong (which is pretty weak) so for example the pope should be able to heal cancer even one tumor at a time. He does not.

    Ergo since it is directly claimed what can be done and it is never achieved, either NO ONE no matter protestations to the contrary, has faith even as little as a grain of mustard seed.
    Or, prayer is totally ineffective always.

    1. Same argument applies to a bottle of milk of course. Just substitute 'a bottle of milk' for 'God' and 'Jesus' in the above and the 'logic' still works.

  4. I have posted a response to this piece in my blog called "The MilkBottle God" which can be found here:

    1. I read your argument and adding a third player does not narrow it down to only God did it. Your argument only adds more possible ways a request could have been granted and makes it even less likely that a god could have done it.

    2. You COULD have posted your response here but you chose instead to parasitise this blog to try to drive traffic to your own. Any further parasitism will be removed. Thanks.


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