By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/16/2021
Posted: 6/28/2006
Topics/Keywords: #Spirituality #ReligiousPolitics #Metaphysics #Prayer Page Views: 4427
Why are Christians upset that science has proven the power of prayer?

In 1999, the prestigious journal Archives of Internal Medicine published the results of a double-blind study in which it was shown that coronary patients who had been prayed for—even though they didn't know it—were more likely to recover than those who were not.

It's no surprise that this study was immediately challenged by the scientific community. The surprise, to me, was the challenge from non-scientific, religious groups—as well as non-scientific, atheist groups!

Hindu prayers also work.

Now, you would think that folks like the Southern Baptists would embrace proof that prayers are effective. However, the study (and others that followed) found that prayer works even when Jesus is not the one being prayed to. Prayers are equally effective when directed to Mary, Buddha, the Earth Goddess, one's Higher Self, or (in one small and, in my opinion, under-funded, study) Brad Pitt.

In other words, prayer seems to work but it doesn't require belief in any particular deity, or any deity at all—and that was something the Christian extremists found so unacceptable that they immediately began to muddy the waters with their usual supply of pseudo-scientific "experts" who stated, untruthfully but emotionally, that the original study had been "flawed."

(Now, it may have been—genuine experts are even still studying the matter, with follow-up studies and new experiments. But that's not the same as simply announcing a study has been flawed, without providing the details of what that flaw was, or how it negates the study's results.)

Usually, in a case like this, we can rely on the atheist/rationalist camp to keep the fundamentalist camp honest. However, that was not the case with this study. The fact that one could pray effectively to oneself wasn't enough to mollify the atheists, who don't like to admit there is anything they can't explain. And so, they joined forces with the fundamentalists, writing poorly-researched articles in The Skeptical Inquirer that criticized in ways that indicated the authors had never even read the original study.

Is prayer effective or not? I believe it is, but that's not my point. What I care about, is that when evidence comes along that challenges our existing beliefs, that we truly take the opportunity to "study the study," rather than buy into unscientific challenges that come along simply because their claims make us less uncomfortable.

Divinely created or not, this world is far too complex for easy answers and snide put-downs to explain. We'll never understand it if we ignore legitimate evidence that it may not function in quite the way we want to believe it does.

And, if we can't understand the world in which we live, how can we ever hope to understand ourselves?