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(395 Posts)
technodad Thu 13-Jun-13 18:58:52

I know this has been discussed as part of other threads before, but the recent news articles discussing the fact that "everyone" is praying for Nelson Mandela has got me thinking about it again.

Why do people pray?

Clearly there are many people across the world who pray, from the rich Monarchy, to the African child dying from Malaria. Some people pray that they will get a parking space close to the supermarket, others that their daddy won't abuse them, and some that they will survive the night. Yet, sadly, children are still abused, and die, whilst fortunate people like me don't have to walk far to the shops.

So, since it is evident that if prayer does work, then it doesn't work in the way people think it should, then why do people do it. Is it:

a) Because people think it does work in a simple "ask and you shall get" sort of way, even though they see poor African children on TV breathing their last breath, which provides overwhelming evidence that it doesn't? (these people can't all be uneducated and stupid, so why think it?)

b) Because the act of praying and belief gives them an inner strength to continue with life despite it's hardships and they genuinely don't believe it will work (this seems a contradiction to me)?

c) Because people don't think about it in a conscious way and the un-thinking habit produces a reduction in stress (like clicking the end of a pen, or biting ones finger nails)?

d) I don't know what else… any other thoughts?

Also, what are people praying for with Mandela? Do they want him to survive for ever (they seem to)? Or are they praying that he will pass peacefully to "heaven" when he does finally pass? Since he is regarded as such a saviour, then surely he is guaranteed a pain free route and pride of place, so why does everyone need bother?

I would be interested in the views of any faith, or those of none equally.


BackOnlyBriefly Sun 16-Jun-13 18:19:04

This bit about who is a christian is getting messy now. I don't think you can quite compare atheism or vegetarianism with religion as they have reasonably well defined definitions. If you see a vegetarian eating meat then you know they are not vegetarian.

There doesn't seem to be a definition of christianity at all now. When this has come up before on here some Christians have claimed that there is a base set of beliefs that qualify. However if they are right then there are far fewer Christians then is claimed. In any case I'm not sure what authority they have for deciding.

Christians try have this both ways in my experience. When it's something positive then Christians will claim several billion fellow believers and say "they can't all be wrong", but when a particular belief is pointed out they tend to say"You can't assume that I believe that. We are not all the same".

In fact the number of people who share your set of beliefs is probably very small and may just include you.

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Jun-13 18:19:05

Sorry Malarky I am using my phone and it makes it quite hard to post. My point about flexible was really don't like the term liberal ad I am not. I am evangelical but I am pro gay marriage, women in leadership.and tryingto work out my faith in a modern world. Ellie implied back thread that people in the church who appear 'harmless' are sort of providing 'cover' for the more radical or fundamental or maybe to use my own word hate-filled members of the church. My point is if we left the church would not collapse but I think IMHO the church would become more fundamental.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 18:20:00

I was assuming by 'flexible' she meant 'non-fundamentalists'.

I think 'flexible' is problematic as a term, because my theology isn't remotely flexible, but I don't interpret the Bible literally and I am quite willing to say that many Christians in the past (and present) have been wrong and done bad things. That doesn't make me 'flexible' in my religion; it means I truly believe this is the right way to be, as a Christian. But my impression is that people see this as 'flexible'. Lots of people seem to think Christians who pretend they are taking the Bible literally are less flexible than Christians who acknowledge it isn't possible to take the entirety of the Bible literally.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 18:23:24

Oops, huge cross post, sorry.

juggling - I like that too.

thistle: 'Malenky - you can only dismiss them as raving bigots if you dismiss anyone who goes by the idea of an absolute Christian truth as raving as well (minus the bigotry). In giving credence to the idea of an absolute truth, you give credence to the idea that the truth might actually be as these bigots believe it to be.'

I don't follow at all. confused I don't dismiss anyone who thinks there is an absolute Christian truth. There is no logical reason why I should. And it doesn't follow at all that absolute truth means these bigots are right. I don't give the slightest credence to them by believing in absolute truth.

If someone tells me it's axiomatic that two plus two is six, I think they are nuts. The fact I believe it's axiomatic that two plus two is four does not give their idea the slightest credence.

If someone tells me that they think it's absolutely true that homosexuality is wrong, it doesn't somehow give credence to their belief if I say I think it's absolutely right.

italian - thanks for clarifying.

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Jun-13 18:26:02

thistle I am genuinely appalled at any violence to anyone. The Bible says very very little about gay people. I think people can use it to justify violence against gay people and that is utterly wrong. I can't be any clearer.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 18:27:20

Jesus spends a large amount of the NT rubbishing the Old Testament. It is pretty clear, IMO, that we are not entitled to keep on acting like sheep and pointing to outdated bigotries in the Bible as support for gay-bashing or anything else.

Thanks Malenky thanks

I think I'll have to go back and read more of the start of the thread, as I'd be interested to see the range of responses to the OP ...

BackOnlyBriefly Sun 16-Jun-13 18:31:36

*Italiangreyhound, you are right in my case that I think "'flexible' Christians are providing cover for the radical fundamentals" and your point about what would happen if you and others like you went away is a perfectly valid one. I'm glad you realise it's not that we want to string up people like you.

However, I think you are what about what would happen. The power of religion is in the millions of respectable and kind people who support it. If it were just Abu Qatada, the Pope and a few priests and Imans it wouldn't look so attractive. It's the kindly old uncles/aunties who have been christian/muslim for a lifetime that sell it.

BackOnlyBriefly Sun 16-Jun-13 18:33:02

oops! missing word there. "I think you are wrong about what would happen"

sunshine401 Sun 16-Jun-13 18:33:16

People should not be bothered about other's beliefs. Certainly should not insult them for it either. Praying means a lot of different things to a lot of different people so the op can not really be answered in depth as everyone has a different reason.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 18:33:42

But you're convinced that there is an inescapable link between the 'kindly old uncles' and the fundamentalists, that religion is a monolithic thing.

I'm fairly sure it's not.

Thistledew Sun 16-Jun-13 18:38:34

Malenky- your view that the correct interpretation of the bible is that homosexuality is perfectly fine, is no more or less valid than someone else's interpretation that the bible says it is an abhorrence.

Other people have just as valid claim to say that their interpretation of the bible is that 2+2=4 as you do.

And if you think the comments in the bible about homosexuality are too vague, what about the prohibition on menstruating women entering temples? That is pretty clear. What if the absolute truth is that this is actually prohibited?

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 18:40:23

Back, yes there is definitely a definition for Christianity. I spoke about it in my post of 17.43pm.

EllieArroway Sun 16-Jun-13 18:46:29

ellie, forgive me, but that's the wrong way around. It's a relatively modern idea, to take the Bible literally. For most of Christian history it wasn't even thought of. Medieval people didn't, as you must know! And neither did the early Church. It is really only post-Reformation that people even began to think about it

No, I'm sorry, but I really don't agree. But then it depends on exactly what/who we're talking about. Allegory became a big thing - usually trying to explain the discrepancies between the OT & NT. So, you have a point that no one (or few people) were trying to take the completely lunatic bits seriously - but they were trying to weave them into a narrative.

It's also a mistake to assume that, because they regarded something as "allegorical", this didn't necessarily mean they didn't think it happened at all - just that some other meaning could be extracted from it. And they found these from all over the place - other forms of literature/nature and so on. You only have to look at their art to see that.

But, given that for most of it's history (in England, at least) the average person did not have personal access to the Bible for obvious reasons, they generally had no option but to believe what they were told. That they believed in a literal hell & the other things mentioned isn't really in doubt.

Also - Christianity (as with all religions) has historically been used as a system of control. This means that there have been rather a lot of people putting their own slant on things to suit their own brand of theology - so the question becomes not whether people believed the Bible was literally true (how could they make that judgement when they hadn't read it personally?) but whether they took what they were told literally. And they did.

Thistledew Sun 16-Jun-13 18:48:33

Yams - your definition:

"To be a Christian, you have to sorry to God for the things you have done wrong, and believe that Jesus was raised from the dead."

It doesn't define anything. What is god? Is it an entity in a recognisable male human form? Or genderless? Is god the trinity, or just part of the trinity?

Was Jesus a mortal human, or was he a divine being? Was god actually Jesus? If Jesus was god in mortal form, or if he was part of the divine, how could he be raised from the dead, as he couldn't actually die?

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Jun-13 18:58:02

Must go and make dinner. I have enjoyed debate.

Thistledew Sun 16-Jun-13 19:01:25

Let me put my argument about the more benign forms of Christianity lending support for the bigoted forms a different way.

If you accept that your own views as to how people should lead their lives and how society should be organised are just that - your own personal views that do not have any higher force or divine truth behind them, then saying "I think gays are abhorrent" can be tackled with logic, with reason. They can be shown up to be nonsensical, and easily dismissed as such.

If you say that "my views are backed up by a higher force and a divine truth", then as has been shown in this thread, when they are challenged by logic and reason, when they are taken apart and analysed, then if they fall apart and don't make any sense, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because god is not really fathomable by human beings, but that's ok because he has our best interests at heart so we can accept what he says even if we don't really understand it.

The answer to "why do you think gays are abhorrent?" become "just because". And if everyone who is a Christian maintains the ideal that "just because" is a good enough reason for thinking and acting in a certain way, and that it should carry weight above mere mortal reasoning, analysis and logic, then it becomes very difficult to challenge any religious view that we find problematic.

Thistledew Sun 16-Jun-13 19:15:00

I would just like to add, that I would have no problem what so ever with people believing what they liked in the privacy of their own homes, or even joining together with other people to express those views in ceremonies that are openly and freely held.

I reserve the right to think that they are a little bit bonkers, but as long as those views helped you to be a better, kinder and happier person, I would see no reason not to even be good friends with someone who holds those beliefs

What I do have a huge problem with is that religious views are allowed to dominate our society, even for people who do not hold those views. That they are given significant weight in creating the laws of our land, that heads of the religions are given a say in the way the country is run, for no reason other than that, that our children have these views thrust upon them without question when they attend school, that it is allowed to affect the availability of local school places, that it governs the way people can or cannot get married, to name but a few problems.

EllieArroway Sun 16-Jun-13 19:42:54

To add to what Thistle has said - I also think the idea of "faith" being an automatic virtue should be challenged - and it never really is in our society. Faith might give everyone on this thread "hope", but it also flies planes into buildings, lies to Africans about condoms and mutilates the genitals of little girls.

And no, I don't blame every Christian & Muslim for this. I blame the concept of "faith".

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 19:44:08

Jesus and God are who are in the bible. I realise that that is not a good enough answer for you.
I believe what is written on the bible.
again, I know you will not be happy with that answer.

I dont think anyone on this thread has said gays are abhorent, or anything like it, have they?

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 19:47:43

It is people being taught wrongly about what is in the bible, it is peoples' inherent sin, it is the devil messing things up and whatever else I put in the post at roughtly 11am this morning, it is those people who have added or taken away words from the bible.

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 19:48:29

19.44 post to Thistle
19.47 post to Ellie

technodad Sun 16-Jun-13 19:52:45

I agree with you Thistledew.

I still have a massive issue with Italian's answer earlier (sorry for disappearing for a while, I had to sacrifice a goat in the garden to make the rains come).

Italian - You stick by your view that god made the world and he made it perfect, but you can't give any explanation for how it went wrong, other than some vague comments about angels and an idea that maybe god knew we were going to mess it up).

Sadly, this is typical confirmation bias. Rather than looking at the evidence and coming up with a theory that fits, you start with the conclusion that you want, and then try to shoe horn some guesses and pseudo facts to justify your conclusion. Perhaps this is why sometimes Christians feel that atheists patronise them?!

If the result of this is only that you and your family have a personal belief, then no harm done. but when children across the country are taught this stuff as fact by a part church funded schooling system, or when laws are based upon these beliefs, it becomes very problematic and demands strong challenge.

Christians are fed up with what they call 'aggressive atheism', but aggressively cling to their privileges within society. I am willing to bet, that once the state and church is separated, you will find that there is no more anger from atheists, as they will have nothing to be angry about (in the UK). It won't stop us being angry about African babies dying of aids because of the popes banning of condoms though I suppose, but we atheists do tend to over react to trivial things like the needless death of hundreds of thousands of people - silly us!

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Jun-13 20:12:37

Techno I have given a lot of time today to answer your questions and because I can't afford much more time to provide all the info you would like you are rather dismissive of me. Thank you for that. It makes me feel less guilty about not getting back to you. I have a cat litter tray to clean out and I was putting it off but I must not do so any longer. The cat needs me, I feel you do not. I will get back to this thread when I have more time maybe. I am sorry my 8 year old intellect is not much help to you, maybe someone else will be of use.

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Jun-13 20:14:10

And please do not lump us all together I don't want to see any Africa babies dying or condomes not being used, that has nothing to do with the church and state in this country.

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