The Complaint Department Is Closed #9

Proof  number 9: Understand Ambiguity

The argument of “proof #9” is convoluted and, as a result, somewhat difficult to lay out. The basic idea seems to be this: Some prayed for events actually occur, and these events may or may not be caused by divine intervention. We have been unable to detect any statistically significant effect of prayer by means of scientific studies. Now, either God answers some prayers, or every single apparently answered prayer is nothing more than a coincidence. Since prayed for events that could not have come about naturally never in fact come about, God never answers any prayers, and every answered prayer is mere coincidence.

None of these prayers [which could not come about naturally] will ever be answered. We know that with certainty. If they were answered, we would see people flying thought the air like Superman on the evening news. We would see amputated limbs regenerating all the time. Every Christian charity would be fully funded and there would not be 10 million children starving to death every year. [ref]

These unambiguous prayers are how we know, for sure, that God/Jesus are not actually answering prayers. The scientific evidence is correct. “Answered prayers” are nothing more than simple coincidences every single time. The whole idea of “God answering prayers” is a complete illusion because God is imaginary.

GII attempts to argue that prayers are never answered, since we never see answered prayers that violate the laws of nature. This argument succeeds only if there is no plausible explanation for why God would not answer such prayers (while still answering more mundane requests). But, as there is a plausible explanation for why God would not answer prayers that could not happen naturally, this argument fails.

If God frequently intervened in the natural world to answer prayers that went against the natural order, he might make the world unpredictable. It is not clear what an unpredictable world would be like. We don’t know what we are asking for, really, when we ask God to make the world unpredictable, since we only have experience with a predictable world. This gives us reason to be dubious about the atheist’s cavalier demand that God answer prayers that contravene the natural order.

While we cannot say exactly what an unpredictable world would be like, we have some reason to think that if the world was unpredictable, the world would not be a good place for people to develop morally admirable character traits. If people could, say, fly like Superman at a whim, there would be little motivation for most people to develop traits like self-discipline or honesty. After all, all of one’s goals would just be a prayer away.

Above, I said that the argument succeeds “only if there is no plausible explanation for why God would not answer such prayers,” not necessarily that it succeeds in the absence of such an explanation. Note that even with a compelling rebuttal to the explanation I have given, the argument does not prove that God never answers prayers. After all, God may simply have chosen not to answer prayers that would be impossible under the laws of nature, for a reason that is not presently known to us. So, it seems that the conclusion of this argument simply does not follow from the premises.


William Occam is a contributor to Truth in Religion & Politics. Please visit Occam’s Blog for more articles by William.

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