– By : Syed Ehtisham
he Templeton Foundation arranged for Christians to pray for 1800 heart patients and tracked the results. It conducted a double-blind study to see if patients who were prayed for, did better.
In actual fact, the group, which knew that it was being prayed for, did the worst. (It was ridiculed, what do you say Lord. You cannot cure me because I am in the control group). This study spent $ 2.5 million and was published in American Heart Journal in April 2006.
It is touted as the largest scientific examination of prayer’s effect on hospital patients.
According to CNN, “The patients . . . were split into three groups of about 600 each: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who were not prayed for but were told it was a possibility.” Arrangements were made for three different Christian groups to pray “Starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks”.
But the study was flawed. CNN reports that, “The volunteers prayed for “A successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications” for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.” 1
And that’s the problem. With only the first letter of the last name, how was God supposed to know for whom each prayer was intended?
Christians and Muslims believe that God already knows everything; after all He can see into the hearts of the people who were praying. But in this case, those people themselves did not know whom they were praying for. Still, God knows everything, we are told. Certainly He knows who’s having heart surgery, and at any rate He could always sneak a peek at the Templeton Heart Study records if He had any questions.
But God is omniscient. He already knows who needs His assistance and who does not. And He already knows whether He intends to give His assistance or not.
Prayer is predicated on the opposite. By its very existence it assumes that God does not know. Prayer takes for granted that God can be talked — literally prayed – into helping when otherwise He wouldn’t have.
Within the context of Christian beliefs about God — that God is omni-benevolent and omniscient — prayer is irrational. In fact, prayer is nothing but a magical attempt to control events through the use of powerful words. I can tell the powers that rule the world what I want them to do — and they will do it! That’s the rationale of prayer.
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It follows that the very concept of prayer is inconsistent with the Christian and Muslim belief that God knows all and God knows the best. Consequently it should have no place in their worldview.
Prayer is in fact, nothing but a throwback to the age of magic, an incoherent superstitious rite that Christians and Muslims themselves ought to reject.
Futility of Prayer
Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, “Every Sunday in every church in Britain the entire congregation prayed for the royal family. Should they not be healthier and fitter than ordinary people for whom only friends and relatives pray” He found no statistical difference. 2
Conviction can be evil. The Oxford theologian, Richard Swinburne justified holocaust in a TV discussion, that it gave Jews wonderful opportunity to be…noble.
The influence of religion is so pervasive that courts are constituted to uphold law and dispense justice, bend over backward to accord privileges to religious institutions. Even in an avowedly secular country like the USA, the Supreme Court gave an exemption to a church in New Mexico to let its members use hallucinogenic drugs because the members felt that the drugs improved their understanding of religion. 4
Ordinary mortals are, however, sent to jail for long terms for possession of an ounce of marijuana. The Supreme Court did not pay any heed to the established efficacy of marijuana in reducing the pain and nausea of patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. 5
In 2006, Christian groups sued the universities for enforcing anti-discrimination laws against homosexuals. On April 10, 2006, LA Times published the news. 6
Officially secular, religion has become Free Enterprise with fierce competition for donations.
Religious fanaticism is rampant in the US. George Bush Sr said, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens”. 7 David Mills in Atheist Universe describes how he was threatened by the police, to whom he had gone for protection before demonstrating against the faith healer, who advised the diabetes and cancer patients to throw away Insulin and chemotherapy.
Religion gets away with murder based on interpretation of religious texts or the sayings of long gone sages. If one objects to the privilege, it is an infringement on religious liberty or worse blasphemy. Murder of Governor of the Punjab, Pakistan, Salman Taseer by a gunshot from his own official security guard on Jan 4, 2011, because he had called for judicial process in the case of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, was endorsed not just by the fanatic mullahs but religious minded lawyers and politicians as well. 8
Theological opinions cannot be proved or disproved according to any rhyme, reason or logic, but offering a different opinion especially in Muslim countries is hazardous.
Roman Catholics list 5120 saints with areas of expertise like abdominal pain, broken bones, anorexia, and bomb technology. 9
Gore Vidal. “From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as Old Testament, have evolved Judaism, Christianity and Islam.They are literally patriarchal…hence the loathing for females”.
The oldest, Judaism, is obsessed with sexual restrictions.
In the first century A.D, Jesus offered an egalitarian version of Judaism. It remained so and its leaders suffered horrible torture for its principles. But the moment it was accepted by Emperor Constantine as state religion, its followers perpetrated the same reign of terror, its pioneers had been subjected to, on those who did not accept the faith.
In the seventh century A.D, Mohammed the prophet of Islam preached equality, justice and peace. Not quite abolishing slavery, he ordained the same treatment of slaves as for other members of the household. He offered near equal status to women, bestowed property rights, albeit half of that of men, the right to choose their spouse, the right to divorce with due process, (not as easy as for men-one two three and you are free) and the right to work. He restricted the number of simultaneous wives to four, as long as the husband treated them equally in every way (Every way only means food, shelter and clothing but does not cover love, affection and sexual congress). 10
But only twelve years after he passed on, once Muslims started capturing foreign territory and brought women back from the campaigns, the dictum of ‘Women under your right hand’ took hold. Class discrimination was practiced even among the captive women. A princess was bestowed on one of the grandsons of the prophet on the grounds that only a prince deserved a princess.11
Thirty years after him, all notion of an egalitarian and representative state was given up. The founder of the Umayyad dynasty, breaking his pledged word, established a hereditary monarchy, though it was still called Caliphate.
That dynasty lasted one hundred eighteen years.
The progeny of Abbas, a cousin of the prophet dislodged the Umayyad in the name of the family of the prophet and went on to hound the family to the extent that the last male Imam, who was nine at the time, hid in a cave and was never seen again. He is called the Imam Ghaib (the hidden Imam) by the Shia sect of the Muslims.
Syed Ahtisham has Published two books ,:”A Medical Doctor Examines Life on Three Continents,” and ,”God, Government and Globalization”