Studies show that...
I've had many theists claim to have had their prayers answered. They got that job they were wanting or that raise they'd been wanting and many other things really. Of course, the notion that their imaginary friend gave them a gift is simply nonsense. However, this doesn't mean that prayer has no effect. In point of fact, if you're looking to kill someone, prayer may be very effective in doing just that.
Maybe you're wondering what I'm on about here. After all, it's rather odd to see an atheist telling people that prayer has an effect. The thing is, facts are almost always stranger than fiction and as it turns out, multiple studies have confirmed that prayer can have an effect. But not in the way anyone would have guessed.
A study conducted back in 2006 dealing with intercessory prayer found that there was no difference in post surgical complications or healing times between people who are prayed for and those who are not. This is to be expected, however what was not expected was the anomaly that occurred in one of the three subgroups of this study. Out of the three groups, only one actually knew they were being prayed for while the other two had no idea if they were or weren't being prayed for. The anomaly that was found was that when people know they're being prayed for it can actually be detrimental to the patient and can cause complications and a slower recovery time.
What's the deal here?
Now, all this study really shows is something we've known for quite some time, which is that stress has a physical effect. What many religious people seem to fail to realize is that when you tell someone that you're praying for them it puts excessive stress on them. They worry that their illness may be worse than they imagined. They worry that if the prayers don't work it's a failure on their part and a judgment against their faith. All that stress adds up and causes the body to have a really hard time fixing itself.
While this study doesn't definitively prove that prayer doesn't have any positive effect at all, it makes a strong case that if someone knows you're praying for them it can indeed be detrimental. What people should consider here is that no matter how much you believe in the power of prayer, if you go to visit grandma after her heart surgery and tell her all the time that everyone is praying for her, it could very well kill her. I think that at a time when people are hellbent on putting their prayer rituals on display in public and making a spectacle of themselves, this topic is really very important.
Keep your "personal relationship" to yourself
There is another detrimental aspect to prayer as well. You see, often when prayers are not answered it is a let down for the person praying as well. They question the strength of their faith or their own righteousness. Many are able to quell those feelings by just chocking it up as "god's plan", but for others it can become a burden that wreaks havoc on their self-esteem and self-worth. It's very much like studying for a test and believing that you aced it only to find out later that you failed. Prayer is supposed to alleviate stress by giving it all over to god, but quite often it causes even more stress, because humans are prone to building expectations and when those expectations aren't met it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. This whole problem is only exacerbated by the fact that these religions have already ground the idea that you aren't good enough and never will be into the believer. Religion sets the bar at perfection which is unattainable, and the idea of perfection it offers is so skewed and warped that even if you could attain it you really wouldn't want to.
I'm honestly not telling people to stop praying. If you want to pray then by all means feel free to do so. The thing is, you don't have to put it on display or tell anyone about it. You're better off telling your loved one that you have faith that they'll get better and encourage them to be strong. If you want to pray for them, then keep it between you and your chosen god. Don't kill grandma just because you want to show everyone what a good praying Christian you are.
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