In an earlier post, I listed a very rough outline of some reasons for people who doubt their Christian faith to discard it. The first reason I listed was that the religion’s predictions aren’t reliable. An obvious example would be predictions about the end of the world, but there are other sorts of beliefs and predictions that apply.
Prayer is a really good example.
Growing up in the church, I was told that prayer works in different ways. There’s the soft sell, where prayer just does stuff and people are left to figure out what that means. Mostly, I got the hard sell; prayer does actual things for people when they ask a deity to intervene on their behalf. In both views, prayer actually will do something to affect the natural world. Neither view actually works.
Science hasn’t confirmed if or even how prayer works. Studies of intercessory prayer generally have shown prayer has no meaningful effect. If prayer was as powerful as biblical claims suggest, it shouldn’t be hard to find support. Like starting a car or using a magnetic compass, prayer ought to be more obvious in its efficacy.
This is probably why the softer sell of prayer exists. In that view, prayer is part of a process of circular reasoning. Prayer exists to build trust in a deity, and trust in the deity will grow. Any changes that result are subtle, and people have to look for them in a light most favorable to deities existing. Skepticism and testing this deity automatically voids the process. To paraphrase, to find out if prayer works, one must already believe it has worked.
The important thing to note here is reliability.
To rely on something involves trust and confidence. This is a personal assessment. Nobody can trust something for you. Trusting others goes a long way – it’s how churches can spread the faith efficiently – but at some point people have to face their own facts. The big question I’m asking is whether or not Christian teachings about reality can be fully trusted.
The level of trust I’m getting at is the same level of trust you might have in your daily life. Dropping a ball means it will go down and not up. People test this all the time. Small children might test this with food. Cats sometimes test this with open containers of liquid. The results are always the same; things fall down and not up. And the child will laugh as he or she watches an adult clean up the resulting mess.
Prayer doesn’t have that same level of success, and it isn’t the only belief that suffers from this. Some people believe the Christian deity punishes nations. Natural disasters come from the devil or are the result of humanity’s sinful nature, but they can be stopped by the Christian deity. Demon possession is real, just like spiritual warfare.
The common theme.
Nobody I knew growing up ever had to worry about Hades tempting them to cross the river Styx, or Loki causing divine strife between nations. Even when we studied mythologies in school, nobody ever had to qualify the information with “we have to respect that some people really believe a cow licked reality into existence.” Like mythological beliefs of earlier ages, these current beliefs exist only within religious superstition.
Putting it differently, it’s very hard to prove that a divine agent inflicted plagues on the U.S.; not getting vaccinated is a more likely culprit. Look at a map, and you’ll find all sorts of preventable illnesses striking Christian populations. Does this mean they’re getting judged for worshiping the wrong deity?
Imagination and superstition lead people nowhere. One guess is exactly as good as anyone else’s. It takes facts and study to determine what’s really going on. Religious speculation kept people afraid of lightning; scientific inquiry led to the development of the lightning rod. I can think of no finer example of making my point.
No matter what those of faith might say, this isn’t a big deal.
If I was railing against Egyptian mythology, not too many people would care. There are a lot of people out there who fervently believe that there’s a deity waiting to punish people for an eternity if they don’t love him back. Under that kind of pressure, it’s understandable that they’d react viscerally to being told what they believe doesn’t affect the real world.
And it’s also hard to accept this when one first doubts the faith. I had my own struggles with it. I felt like I’d been betrayed, lied to, and that I’d wasted my life believing that lie. Shame is a big part of the faith (I’ll write more about that later), and so it will rear its ugly head here too. The important thing if you’re having doubts is to give yourself some time. Nothing except your outlook has changed. If the sun shining on your face gave you comfort before, it will do so afterwards. You just won’t have to thank an invisible overseer for the experience.
6 thoughts on “Reasons to Leave Christianity: Unreliable Predictions”
Excellent post, SB! You covered a lot of territory and made some excellent points.
I did have to snicker at this, however: …”we have to respect that some people really believe a cow licked reality into existence” 🙂
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Norse mythology can be quite silly. And some people are returning to it. 😦
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“Science hasn’t confirmed if or even how prayer works.” Of course not. It can’t be proven or disproved by science as prayer does not inhabit the realm of empiricism.
“To paraphrase, to find out if prayer works, one must already believe it has worked.” No , we Calvinists do not pray for things but for guidance and for fortitude in dealing with that nature of this world. We pray for Light to walk in righteousness. We may pray for the health and recovery of others and strength through dreadful times but accept God’s will in that all things are his plan and not a matter of negotiation. Christianity has a spiritual dimension not of the dimension of empiricism.
“Skepticism and testing this deity automatically voids the process.” Any person of faith who thinks he gets to test the ways of Creator is a jackass.
“beliefs exist only within religious superstition.” Christians are not pagans and do not believe in superstition but I will concede that in ancient times Christians even to just beyond the Middle Ages lived in a world magnetized by superstition. Science has debunked superstition and mature Christian thought has no place for such either.
“Religious speculation kept people afraid of lightning; scientific inquiry led to the development of the lightning rod. I can think of no finer example of making my point.” No this world is indeed the realm of scientific advancement and understanding and truth and we embrace the efficacy of scientific study. This is indeed a world of science and there is no conflict as Jesus says His kingdom is not of this world. The notion that the earth is 6,000 years old is plain silly for example.
Fear of punishment ? Certainly religion has spoken of a wrathful God and such is exhibited throughout the Bible and some Christians may live in fear of God’s wrath. That is very primitive thinking and the anthropomorphism of God to display human emotions are of Old Testament times as part of the mythology of all ancient cultures. You have to “keep the gods happy “and placate them and Old Testament Hebrews did that. The Egyptians had a very well defined concept of judgment in death. . But a Christian should not be driven by fear but by the joy of living in Christian testimony to do no harm and the desire to be of service to others. Living in Christian charity is simply the right thing to do having embraced Jesus and we perform out of love not fear. That is the nature of the New Covenant. Love not fear is the dynamic.
Really? Love is the dynamic? If that’s the case, what happens to people who don’t love Jesus back? Do they go to Heaven, or do they get to hang out in a lake of fire for eternity?
And I’m not even going to get into your dismissal of the entire Old Testament, despite it being necessary to be true in order to justify the so-called love Jesus allegedly has for humanity.
This is an excellent post. Thank you
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