Questions and answer session / Where do we get our morals from?

First, I hope you don’t mind but I will have to move this to a post as otherwise it becomes too long. You bring some really good points and I need to give further clarifications to my previous comments.


They key word there is ‘If’; IF Jesus was sent by God. This is based on two assumptions:

1. That a real historical Jesus actually existed. I have already given reasons for doubting the historicity of Jesus, which you have not adequately refuted;

2. Assuming 1, that Jesus was ’sent by God’, and wasn’t just an ordinary mortal with a messiah complex who mistakenly *believed* he was the Son of God, or merely a con-man and fake guru, like some latter-day cult leader, who simply *claimed* he was the Son of God because he thought this would impress his followers. Those are two pretty big assumptions. If even the second – lesser – one is wrong, then your claim that we can know can know who God is, and what his plan is, is unsupported.

Answer: On the issue of historicity of Jesus I did answer a number of queries to a number of enquirers so I can’t remember which one you demanded but I can quickly point you to some links on this blog if you like to re examine this issue. I think it conclusively shows that the majority of scholars today do hold to the historicity of Jesus.


You will find enough information on those two posts regarding what Christians and others who are only interested in History believe but there are a few more on this blog.

On the issue of presupposition: you are right; we are starting with the presupposition but hey that is the nature of the investigative work whatever you try to prove with some certainty. Whether you believe or not you will start with assumptions.

In fact, you formulated your reply in a very similar way to CS Lewis who proposes that Christ is either:

  1. Son of God
  2. Lunatic who was mistaken
  3. Liar who’s only objective is to benefit from his lies, an evil man

He then goes on to look at all 3 options finally concluding that the only truly viable option has to be option 1. He came to this conclusion because Jesus himself was not benefiting from his teaching, he made perfect sense and his teaching was logical. The issue of a liar is not possible as he was making claims in locations where the people in close proximity had readily available information that could easily prove whether he was a liar or not. As you can see, this is not a new idea to Christianity but is one that has been analysed and examined before. By the way, a lunatic, a naïve person or a mistaken person is not an option for if he was normal enough to make sense of his teaching he would also be normal enough to know that what he was teaching was not only highly controversial but taught in a very volatile environment during Roman occupation. Making the claims he did would not have been very wise unless they had meaning and purpose to them.

Defend the word Previously [On the issue of being minuscule of no importance, I would argue that this is not how God would view his creation, and further more we have all the faculties that ants don’t have, we use more than simple instincts. These are God given tools to process all necessary information.]


Once again, these statements are contingent on the Existent and Knowable God Hypothesis (EKGH). You must first be certain that God exists, and that you know what he thinks, in order to assert that God does not regard us as being miniscule and of no importance. And you simply cannot be *certain* of these things. *Believe* is not *certainty* – it is only *belief*.

Answer: Yes I agree, you will find number of posts on this blog dealing with that issue.

Now I do accept that you may want me to give you an example where I will point to the sky and you see the hand of God writing down “Defend the word is right.  I’m here and I love you and  this is why I sent Jesus to die for you”. However, I would argue that even with that kind of argument people would find an excuse, with some kind of logical explanation as to why still they would not believe. For example, perhaps this was done by using mirrors, lasers, hypnosis etc?


Metasapien previous comments: [[Following on from my last comment about meditation and our ‘inner God’, I would suggest it was not the Biblical God that answered your prayers, but your inner God. Your inner wisdom gave you the emotional strength and resourcefulness you required in your time of need.]

Defend the word Previously This is hard to prove either way; it is after all based on our faith whichever way you choose to interpret it. There is a problem with self help methodology and one main issue is that it is leaving many people very frustrated. For example you may change your exterior, you may appear more confident but those facades are easily destroyed, if you put man under pressure soon they will reveal the real man underneath.]


Of course, one could say exactly the same about the supposed benefits of faith. I could rewrite your remakes as follows: There is a problem with RELIGIOUS methodology and one main issue is that it is leaving many people very frustrated. For example you may change your exterior, you may appear more confident (or MORAL or PIOUS) but those facades are easily destroyed, if you put man under pressure soon they will reveal the real man underneath.

That second version rings very true for me; I often see the carefully-constructed facade of mild-mannered reasonableness that some religious people try to maintain crack wide open when they are robustly challenged about their basic beliefs, to reveal a neurotic defensiveness and a capacity for vicious, spiteful nastiness that is quite shockingly at odds with the popular perception of – at least ‘moderate’ – Christians.

Answer: Your answer does not disprove my proposition; it only gives another option to consider. You are absolutely correct in that we all get provoked but this is not looking at my reply as I intended it to be looked at. I was being generous by giving you 50 / 50 options, plus giving you a bonus concerning the fact that I have big reservations about self help psychology.

Defend the word Previously: [On the issue of studies of failed prayers from the videos that I watched in particular “Why God does not heal amputees”. We are back at the point of treating God as some kind of Cosmic Vending Machine, after all if we should be humble not pretending to know his mind as per your first comment should this not be the case with healings?]


A clever evasion that is quite typical of the way certain Christians try to avoid giving a direct answer to a direct question ) True, if we do not know the mind of God, then we cannot expect him to always answer our prayers, because he may have his own mysterious reasons for not doing so. But you yourself have just claimed that we CAN know the mind of God, because his nature and his plans were revealed to us through Jesus Christ. So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. If we cannot know the mind of God, then all the religions we have built up around him are potentially pointless and futile, because they are all repdicated on our belief that we know what he wants for us. The same goes for the act of praying. If we CAN know the mind of God, then the arguments set out – very clearly, simply and logically – in “Why won’t God heal amputees” ask some very awkward questions about our belief in the power of prayer. And, as those arguments conclude, the simplest explanation for certain prayers never being answer (such as ones asking for the regrowing of an amputated limb) are that God simply doesn’t exst – so NONE of our prayers are ever answered, not even the simple, easy ones, and the belief that they are is simply delusion and wishful thinking on the part of the believer.

Answer: I appreciate that maybe I should have clarified this further. First of all, through the Bible we know what God wants us to know about him and his plan but we do not exist within the pages of the Bible and neither are we part of that time anymore. However, we find even in the Bible itself that there are times when miracles are not part of God’s plan for us and even more importantly, now that we have a catalogue of answers readily available and many examples of God’s care for us through his healing in the past, we don’t need any further proofs. To seek healing today and in particular to insist that they should be demanded from God is to forget that we are eternal creatures. Focusing on the temporary but forgetting the everlasting is contrary to the teaching of Christ. Therefore in the eyes of Christians, these are not necessary and atheists to make such demands could only do that from the perspective of Jesus not on the outside. There is no prerequisite in the Bible to say you can only believe in God if he heals you.

Defend the word previously: [But I should also not forget to mention that there were studies done in America; these are statistical studies, grant you these are not millions of people, but one took 400 people and second were slightly higher. I can probably find more details for you if you want specifics, they monitored heart patients, and monitored affects of their recovery they split them in two groups observation conclusion was that more people who were prayed for survived and interestingly enough for those who were deeply religious and preyed for themselves seemed to do better than all, in fact study concluded that none of them died during the period of that study.]


Sorry, but you are flat wrong. As recent research published in scientific and medical journals has conclusively demonstrated, there is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that prayer as any effect in the recovery and survival rates of patients. By this I mean that properly conducted, double-blind trials showed no statistical correlation between recovery and survival rates and whether or not specific patients were being prayed for. And this necessarily rules out patients who were deeply religious and prayed for themselves, because it is well-known that a ‘psychological placebo effect’ exists, whereby patients who believe they will recover (either beecause they have faith in God, and that he will answer their prayers, or simply have faith in their doctor and his treatments), and who have a positive and optimistic emotional outlook, tend to do better than patients who succumb to despair, and who have a negative and pessimistic outlook.

My Answer: Are you not too quick to make such claims? After all, if you don’t have all the necessary data, can you make such a claim? Sorry to point this out but that is a premature statement. I have included the research data from 1997 in America that I came across. I would love to see your data to compare notes.

Note that both groups were unaware of the ongoing study. This would discount any placebo to the knowledge of the study being conducted in the first place. Though on the note of the people praying who were religious, I see your point but equally note that no GP would ever recommend to anyone that they should take the placebo effect of prayer over medication. What I mean by that is a.) As a Christian I endorse and support medicine and b) we have no proof that this was an effect of placebo rather than God healing. Otherwise we should not stop at that, we could say the same about medicine i.e. it was not medicine it was your faith in medicine that cured you.

Note that I do accept the positive thinking effect on our recovery, but when you are limiting your view to just that option you are not being fully statistically inclusive. In other words there are other options that you didn’t consider. Note my openness and friendly prompting to you does not mean that I’m in two minds about this. I firmly believe in the power of prayer.

Doctors Have Faith in Faith

A survey conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians shows that ninety-nine percent of doctors believe a relationship exists between faith and physical healing. Recently, more than one thousand health-care professionals met at Harvard Medical School to examine the connection between spirituality and healing. Doctors’ faith in faith was bolstered by a California study of the effect of prayer on recovery from heart problems. About two hundred heart patients were assigned to Christians who prayed for them, while an equal number, a control group, received no known prayers. Neither group knew about the prayers, yet those who received prayer developed half the complications that were experienced by those in the control group.

A similar study by the Dartmouth Medical School examined the effect of prayer on healing when the patients prayed for themselves. The death rate six months after bypass surgery was

  • 9 percent for the general population
  • but 5 percent for those who prayed for their own healing.
  • And none of the deeply religious patients died during the period of the study.

The Associated Press, quoted in “Religion in the News,” Signs of the Times, March 1997,


[[One final suggestion concerning the power of prayer. I think you might find these websites very interesting – and challenging. They start from the premise that God exists, and that prayer works, and then obtain contradictions derived from these premises, which in turn suggest that either prayers are pointless, or God does not exist. There are text sections and also video presentations on both sites: and I would be interested to know your responses to them.]

Defend the word previously: Thanks for these I did see number of them on Youtube before, I would however argue that some basic logical mistakes have been made in number of them.

1. He assumes that Christians cannot think for themselves critically? Why do we have such a verity of denominations if this is the case?]


No, if you listen to the preamble to the videos, the presenter is actually very flattering towards the Christian viewer, attributing to them an intelligent, logical and rational mind, and then challenging them to apply those attributes to thinking openly and honestly about the arguments presented.

My Answer: I am very well aware of demagogy which can be used often on the people that you disagree with.  One will be pleasant in order to gain their trust i.e. “one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” And I’m well aware of good oratory techniques which is why I try and avoid them. My reasoning is either through the Bible or logic.

Defend the word previously [2. We could not make God heal anyone, this is his choice and in fact Jesus said as much when he was taunted to preformed miracles and give them some kind of sign. So the logic is squired and twisted, it is like this “humans have eyes” and “Cats have eyes” Cats can see really well in the dark therefore humans can see in the dark. It just does not follow, does he ever wonder why it that people will watch his videos yet still decide not to become atheists?]


You really seem to be trying very hard to NOT understand what the videos were getting at. Well, as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water…

My answer: Whilst this is a possibility it is not a probability in my view.

Defend the word previously [This brings as back to that feeling of superiority. He probably thinks he has something that Christians don’t. I use to think that I was smarter than most people, but that can be very lonely place, Jesus whom I consider to be the most amazing and intelligent person ever to have walked this earth, spent time bothering to explain intricate inter-relational issues. He made God accessible through intellectual reasoning and faith, “you believe because you see” is what he said to Thomas.]


Magicians and stage illusionists such as Derren Brown use that same ’seeing is believing’ line to very entertaining and baffling effect, of course. The problem is that our senses can deceive us, and things are not always as they appear. This is the lesson of science.

My reply: You are confusing science with magic and they are completely separate, though I understand your logic. However, note that I’m actually saying that faith based on seeing is not faith at all. Faith kicks in once you have enough evidence that is reasonable.

Defend the word previously [But he also praised those who would put their trust in him, based on the “enough evidence” in other words. It is good to seek and ask, but there comes a point where God says what about our relationship?]


In other words, what your religion says is ‘Stop thinking and just believe; too much thinking will make you doubt your faith, and we can’t have that…’ In other words, it is the age-old anti-intellectualism and the distrust of honest and open intellectual inquiry that religions have always fostered in order to protect their turf. Unthinking, uncritical credulity is a heavy price to pay for comforting beliefs. Personally, I value intellectual integrity more than piety.

My Answer: No that is not what I said, that is your misunderstanding. I understand that you may have come across some Christians who may have given you such an answer but that never came from me. On the contrary, you will find many solid reasons on my blog why you should both believe in God and Christianity. I do use the word believe as I said before everything we know is based on faith that our understanding of the presented information is correct. This is not philosophy; it’s just a fact of life. You believe that you interprete all the available data and their implications correctly whilst I look at the same evidence and I may come to a completely different conclusion. The question that we need to ask is did we use logic or is our reasoning based on wishful thinking? This is often what atheists would say. However, I strongly argue this from the opposite side.  In other words, no matter how many arguments I would give, atheists will always try to find some kind of plausible solution but when this is multiplied over many arguments you know that the debater only looks for excuses and not the truth. In other words, if there is more than one explanation, the choices that we make will show our starting position is always defended regardless of all the possibilities that may exist.

Defend the word previously [3. I like how the narrator in the video equates, Mormons with Muslims and then with Christians. Just because you find miracles in all of them you should not conclude that they are all irrational and you live in the bubble of delusion.]


Oh, I see – so Christian miracles are ‘real’, but Muslim and Mormon miracles are fake, eh? And I have no doubt sure that Muslims and Mormons would regard the miracles of other faiths with the same suspicion. So who is right? The simplest answer, of course, is NO ONE; there are no such things as miracles.

My reply: Lets just look at some of the information that determines my view point.

  1. Christianity is older than Islam by about 600 years and it has more than 1700 years on the Mormons. Both show teaching that is not open to criticism due to the closed nature of “evidence”, unlike Christianity which is why you can attack Christianity but with others you just have different opinions.
  2. Both have many things that have been blatantly “borrowed” from the Bible.
  3. Basic Christianity (Original biblical teaching – note that I’m not talking about the Catholic view of damnation if you don’t believe) continues to use reason as its foundation, and continues to put these out in the open to be either credited or discredited.

Defend the word previously [That is jumping a gun, first atheists would conclude that you could not know God, then when you say but God revelled himself through Christ they want to deny that too.]


Well, that is entirely logical; if God does not exist, as atheists maintain, then he cannot be ‘known’, and nor can he be revealed through anyone, can he? You see how simple everything becomes when you start with the premise that God does not exist? All those other questions about whether he can be known, and whether someone revealed him, just evaporate – they are meaningless )

My reply: I should have clarified so sorry.

  1. My point is that if Christ did exist and did teach in the history of human kind then it is possible that he could have revealed God’s plan for us. This possibility could not be discounted as a possibility regardless of how sceptical you may be.
  2. Atheists see this as a treat then try to deny that Jesus even existed. When you tackle this and give good reasons why Jesus should be considered as an historical character then they turn and say but was he deluded or mistaken or an evil genius?

Defend the word previously [You offer them evidence that even those who are non Christian accept that he was a Historical character, ]


Erm, I don’t. See my earlier posts.

My reply: see other links I have included on the issue of the historicity of Jesus. Please check the above answer.

Defend the word previously [but people tend to choose minority fringe ‘scholars’ on the far left as their authoritative source. As I keep on saying to people ‘you can’t simply pick and choose’, we have to stay objective about this.]


But that is precisely what Christian do! They pick and choose whom to read, whom to listen to, whom to believe, and filter everything and everyone else out. Pot. Kettle. Black )

My reply: the fact that you and I converse so readily shows that this is not true for all Christians, does it not? There are plenty of theologians and apologists who are very eager to talk to atheists.

Defend the word previously [I can see now why you may think that all Christians suffer from self delusion, but note that the fact that this is aired to the general Christian population serves to show that either there are smart Christians who will understand his reasoning but find solution to his problem, as I believe I have.]


Then perhaps they are not quite as ’smart’ as they think they are ) Or simply not as courageous in questioning their own beliefs as they should be.

My reply: First you give a “perhaps” answer which is not an answer and secondly I will repeat my previous answer: the fact that you and I converse so readily shows that this is not true for all Christians, does it not? There are plenty of theologians and apologists who are very eager to talk to atheists.

Defend the word previously [Or are none of us (Christians) are capable of understanding his argument, in which case he is wasting his time which is logical contradiction.]


Well, he has to start somewhere, doesn’t he? You can’t fault him for trying, even if his efforts might ultimately be futile where most Christians are concerned.

My reply: You can’t have clever Christians as you say that he starts with complementing intelligent Christians and intelligent Christians who are not able to understand him at the same time. That is a contradiction in terms of logic.

Defend the word previously [Common saying amongst atheists and Christians as I just commented to someone else is that “Nobody can make you believe, this is what you do to yourself” now as I keep on saying that our faith is inseparably linked to our reasoning, so whichever way you go you still need to base these on presuppositions which you choose to be true.]


Faith is inseparably linked to reasoning, yes – but to FAULTY reasoning, which is actually more dangerous than a complete absence of reasoning. Because faulty reasoning can still fool people into thinking they have thought things through rather than just accepted them, and give them a false sense of confidence in their beliefs.

My reply: The same can be said about atheism especially when you consider how limited and twisted the knowledge and understanding of Christianity is amongst atheists.

Defend the word previously [Just because people are confident in their faith, whether they be Mormons, Christians or Atheists this does not make us right ]


Ooh, what’s that – a tentative admission of the possible fallibility of your faith? Well I never. 🙂

My reply: Of course, if you can provide me with evidence that there is no God I will be the first one to publish it here on this blog.

Defend the word previously [If neither side has all the information then no side can claim to possibly use reason above anyone else.]


Wrong – an utterly fallacious argument that misrepresents the true nature of reason and knowledge; it is fashionable to claim that ‘all knowledge is relative’ and ‘there is more than one truth’ in certain fraudulent academic disciplines such as post modern philosophy, but the people who practice these disciplines are intellectual charlatans, of questionable rationality, who wouldn’t know an absolutely, unambiguously true statement (such as 1+1=2) if it bit them on the nose. It *is* possible to assert, with complete justification, that some beliefs, and some people, are more reasonable than others.

My reply: I need to apologise again as I think I need to clarify myself here. If no sufficient evidence is provided and only limited information is available the we cannot possibly have a solution to our problem. Again, I am being very generous here by giving you 50 / 50 chances that if the information needed is not available then either side should be more cautious in their claims. However, I agree 100% with you that we can find an absolute truth on many issues where sufficient data is provided. However, you will note as a mathematician that there are some problems that are just not workable as only very limited data may be available.

Defend the word previously [What I think is good and commendable is that people should allow others to challenge their beliefs, but this has to go both ways. I hope I didn’t make this too Christian for you and that it stands under the scrutiny of reason even if you may disagree with my conclusions.]


Well, how about I throw down a challenge to you, defendtheword? I have been attacking your beliefs for several posts now, and you have been defending them. How about we turn the tables at this point? You try attacking my atheist worldview, and I will try defending it. That might be interesting. 🙂

My reply: Thanks that would be great. Note I was not trying to impose this on you; I was only commenting on it. You will find many claims on this blog that challenge the Atheists’ world view. If you like, I will put a new post outlining why I am not an atheist and then you can give me your comments on that new post. Does that sound like a good idea?

Optional question: I will write more about this in a separate post, But if you want something to think about in the meantime how about this?

I assume that you are a moral and upright citizen of this country so I come to you for some advice.

I have read a book by Dr Dawkins about the selfish gene which has concluded that we co-operate for the mutual benefits of each other’s needs. This is the source of our morality and law according to some atheists. Now I see that despite the fact that you are an atheist, you are extremely caring and concerned for the good of others and very friendly towards your fellow men. However, I’m not as nice as you are, so here I come to ask you the following.

If I don’t believe that there is a moral law or if I don’t believe that your standard of mutual benefiting, even though I may think that it is of a high standards, then I may not feel obliged to obey them or that I don’t need to adhere to the same rules as you do as I don’t need the benefits of others. I have no conscience like you and right and wrong is different in my book. I love to live alone and / or all my friends have the same opinion as me. We believe that it is OK to oppress others to make them do what we want them to do. In fact if I want to kill (say I have links with the Mafia) why should I not do that, in order to benefit from someone else’s misery? Don’t give me any “rubbish” about mutual benefits as I don’t believe in that stuff. I believe in domination of the strong and the ruling over the weak masses. I believe this is how we evolved and this is good for stupid ignorant masses as this will eliminate the weak and keep only those who are the same as me ie strong and clever. So based on the information I give you why should I change my mind bearing in mind that I’m in control of the masses. The rest of the world’s population totally depends on me and is at my mercy so you can’t simply just make me not do bad things. Say I control American, Russian and Chinese rulers and the rest of Western Europe and all nukes are in my possessions.

Is there a moral code I should abide by? Should I destroy or should I spare the weak? And would this not be immoral if I show mercy as this will only make our human race weaker due to genetic pollution when you mix the weak with the strong? Should I not use drugs to control others, make good use of oppression, exploitation and so on if all that there is, is just us?

Note that I believe and stand for the complete opposite moral values and I do not doubt your honesty, kindness or goodness but if I was evil in your eyes and most people’s eyes, what would make me evil? And vice versa, what would make me good? Why should people consider me noble?

Kind regards

Defend the word


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7 Responses to Questions and answer session / Where do we get our morals from?

  1. metasapien says:

    Thank you for your reply, defendtheword.

    Rather than address all your responses in a single post, I think it will be a more tractable editorial task, for both of us, if I respond to each point individually. I apologise if this makes the thread a little fragmented.

    Let me first address the question of the (claimed) power of intercessory prayer (i.e. prayer intended to heal patients).

    [Are you not too quick to make such claims? After all, if you don’t have all the necessary data, can you make such a claim? Sorry to point this out but that is a premature statement. I have included the research data from 1997 in America that I came across. I would love to see your data to compare notes.]

    Well, who is to decide what constitutes ‘all the necessary data’ – you? How convenient! It is very easy to claim superior knowledge to one’s opponents by suggesting that one has access to data that they do not. But (a) *you* have not provided any links to *your* data, so that I might check it for myself (while demanding that *I* provide links to *my* data, of course…), and (b) how do you know that I do not have access to even more data than you? Perhaps it is you who are being ‘premature’?

    Anyway, here is some of my data. I can provide more if you wish:

    There is one study which actually seemed to suggest that intercessory prayer actually *harmed* patients’ recovery, rather than aided it:

    [“[P]atients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications [59% rather than 52%]. … They … said they had no explanation for the higher complication rate in patients who knew they were being prayed for, in comparison to patients who only knew it was possible prayers were being said for them.

    The work, which followed about 1,800 patients at six medical centers, was financed by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research into science and religion. It will appear in the American Heart Journal.”

    The Templeton Foundation exists solely to find scientific support for religious beliefs. Thus far, their efforts have been a complete failure.]


    The results of the actual study cited above, which is the largest and most recent of its kind, were published in the American Heart Journal. This is the abstract:


    Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.


    Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality.


    In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.


    Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.]

    Source: (I suspect a subscription is required to access the actual paper)

    Similar findings have been published in British medical journals, as reported in the New Scientist:

    [PRAYING for patients undergoing heart surgery does not help to save them, according to a study of heart patients.

    Mitchell Krucoff of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues divided into four groups 700 people scheduled to have procedures such as the insertion of a catheter into their heart. Established Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist congregations prayed for the patients in the first group. The second listened to soothing music, imagined “peaceful, beautiful” places and received a series of 45-second-long “healing touches” from medical staff. The third group got prayer as well as music, imagery and touch therapy, and the fourth nothing.

    The researchers found that prayer made no difference at all: the patients were no more or less likely to die, develop major heart problems or be re-admitted into hospital within six months of their surgery (The Lancet, vol 366, p 178). However, the two groups of patients who received music, imagery and touch therapy were slightly less likely to die after six months.]

    One famous study appeared to show that intercessory prayer worked, but was later shown to use flawed experimental methods and statistical techniques:

    Regarding why some people still choose to believe in the power of intercessory prayer, the skeptic’s dictionary states this:

    [The belief in the healing power of prayer seems to be based on little more than communal reinforcement(1) and selective thinking (2): people ignore all the times that events don’t coincide with their prayerful desires and they call attention to the times that events fall in line with the intentions of their prayers (confirmation bias)(3).]




    Entry on prayer in the skeptic’s dictionary:

  2. Let me first start by saying that I think what is important to note is that the latest study in 2006 has involved many different religions. Past studies, some 10 to 15 separate studies in America, were conducted with using only Protestant believers as their prayer intercessors.
    Those studies give significantly different results. Also your study that you gave me from 2006 did not let the patients choose who would pray for them or indeed if they wanted prayer in the first place. They were just told about the prayers.

    So for both of these issues a.) they have imposed prayer and b.) no separation of the religion in the study was made (putting Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism under one umbrella). This could have contributed to more pressure being added rather than helping the patients.

    I also think this study is invalidated by the fact that it may actually use the Placebo effect and Atheists will often tell you this is a possibility, as per your own sources.

    I have included a long list so that you can read them here, but I have also included links so you don’t think I made them up.

    How good of you to not trust me. 🙂


    Defend the word

    Scientific Research of Prayer: Can the Power of Prayer Be Proven?
    By Debra Williams, D.D.
    1999 PLIM Retreat, (c) 1999 PLIM REPORT, Vol. 8 #4


    Throughout time, the power of prayer has been questioned by science. The analytical mind of the scientist calls for proof of the existence of a higher being. These scientists, both the faithful and nonbelievers alike, have produced studies into the affects of prayer on our physical as well as spiritual well being. Although most of us, who possess the belief that prayer can and does work, do not require physical, quantitative proof of the power of prayer, it is interesting to read the results of these studies.

    Was a scientific study of prayer and its effect on heart patients done?

    One of the most quoted scientific studies of prayer was done between August of 1982 and May of 1983. 393 patients in the San Francisco General Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit participated in a double blind study to assess the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer. Patients were randomly selected by computer to either receive or not receive intercessory prayer. All participants in the study, including patients, doctors, and the conductor of the study himself remained blind throughout the study, To guard against biasing the study, the patients were not contacted again after it was decided which group would be prayed for, and which group would not.

    It was assumed that although the patients in the control group would not be prayed for by the participants in the study, that others-family members, friends etc., would likely pray for the health of at least some of the members of the control group. There was no control over this factor. Meanwhile all of the members of the group that received prayer would be prayed for by not only those associated with the study, but by others as well.
    The results of the study are not surprising to those of us who believe in the power of prayer.

    The patients who had received prayer as a part of the study were healthier than those who had not. The prayed for group had less need of having CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) performed and less need for the use of mechanical ventilators. They had a diminished necessity for diuretics and antibiotics, less occurrences of pulmonary edema, and fewer deaths. Taking all factors into consideration, these results can only be attributed to the power of prayer.
    Did prayer lower blood pressure?

    The August 31, 1998 issue of Jet Magazine questioned whether prayer could lower blood pressure in high blood pressure sufferers, Again the obvious conclusion was reached. The magazine reported of a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. This study had over 4,000 participants over the age of 65. The study found that those who pray and attend religious services on a weekly basis, especially those between the ages of 65 and 74, had lower blood pressure than their counterparts who did not pray or attend religious services. They found that the more religious the person, particularly those who prayed or studied the Bible weekly, the lower the blood pressure. According to the study these people were forty percent less likely to have high diastolic pressure or diastolic hypertension than these were who did not attend religious services, pray, or study the Bible.

    Dr. David B. Larson, president of the National Institute for Health Care Research in Rockville, MD, who co-authored the study, also says that prayer can lower high blood pressure. “The at-risk population of people with illnesses, such as the elderly seem to be helped if they have faith and religious commitment.” Dr. Larson states: “Faith brings a calming state which helps decrease nervousness and anxiety with coping with day to day stress.”

    How does prayer effect people who lack health care?
    In the Essence Magazine May 1997 issue, Allison Abner writes that African-Americans have historically turned to faith in times of illness and other crises. She cited Luisah Teish who states: “Because of limited access to quality health care and our distrust of the medical establishment we have occasionally relied on spiritual healing through such practices as prayer and the laying on of hands, Most of us, at some time have used prayer chanting or proverbs as ways to guide, direct, and heal ourselves.” “Now,” states Allison, “Our beliefs are being backed by medical research,” Science is setting out to prove what most of the faithful already know–prayer does work.
    Has a prayer study been done on the life of twins?
    The December 1998 issue of Mc Call’s Magazine raised the question: How does prayer heal? The article notes a study done at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, which studied 1,902 twins. They found that those who were committed to their spiritual lives tended to have less severe depression and a lower risk of addiction to cigarettes or alcohol. The healthful lifestyles of the spiritually rich and faithful clearly contribute to their well being, They tend not to smoke or drink or not do either excessively. Their marriages are more stable and their spiritual communities form a network that can catch and support people when they are ill.

    What effect does prayer and religion have on life?
    To delve into religious attitudes and their impact on health, Koenig and his co-researcher, Kenneth Paragament, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, studied 577 hospital patients age 55 and older. One 98-year-old woman with pneumonia and congestive heart failure looked upon her illness as God’s plan for her. She prayed often for the health and well being of her family and friends. These attitudes were associated with a serene response to stress and low levels of depression. All signs of well being that nurture joy in living might even extend one’s life.

    While positive feelings toward a higher power seemed to foster well being, negative thoughts about a deity had the opposite effect. For example, a woman in her late 50’s with lung cancer left her church in her 20’s, became involved with drugs, and now feels her illness must be a sign of divine disapproval. She got poorer scores on tests that measured quality of life and psychological health than the 98-year-old woman.

    What do atheists think about prayer?
    Noted atheist Dan Barker, a spokesperson for the Freedom from Religion Foundation says the findings of the above research are no big surprise. Prayer and religious beliefs can have a placebo effect, just like a sugar pill. Barker, who was once a Christian Fundamentalist preacher before developing serious doubts about his religion, states that one of the strongest factors in recovery from an illness is a sense of connectedness with a community and people who care about you. Even if we mumble our prayers only when we are ill or if there is no God to hear them, the new research indicated that religious thoughts could help to heal.

    Dr. Larry Dossey writes about the placebo effect mentioned earlier by Dan Barker and physicians who have looked at the tremendous amount of scientific studies on prayer. As Dr. Dossey states: “That is difficult to do considering that bacteria, fungi, and germinating seeds are not generally considered to be susceptible to suggestion.”

    Does prayer effect plant seeds?

    In a study on germinating seeds done by Dr. Franklin Loehr, a Presbyterian minister and scientist, the objective was to see in a controlled experiment what effect prayer had over living and seemingly non-living matter. In one experiment they took three pans of various types of seeds. One was the control pan. One pan received positive prayer, and the other received negative prayer. Time after time, the results indicated that prayer helped speed germination and produced more vigorous plants. Prayers of negation actually halted germination in some plants and suppressed growth in others.

    In another experiment two bottles of spring water were purchased. One container was used as a control, receiving no prayer; a group prayed for the second. The water was then used on pans of corn seeds layered in cotton, with one pan receiving the prayer water and the other receiving the control water. The pan receiving the prayer water sprouted a day earlier than seeds in the other pan. The prayer seeds had a higher germination and growth rate. The experiment was repeated with the same result each time.

    What effect does prayer have on microorganisms?
    Dr. Dossey, in his book, Be Careful What You Pray For, looks closely at experiments with microorganisms. He states, “Skeptics who do not believe in the effects of distant intentions say that any observed result must be due to the expectation of the subject- or the power of belief and thought.” Dossey argues that if bacteria respond to outside intentions by growing more slowly when prayed over, than control groups not receiving prayer, then one cannot dismiss this result by attributing it to negative suggestion.

    Bacteria presumably do not think positively or negatively. Another major advantage of microorganisms in studies of distant mental intentions has to do with the control group. If the effects of intercessory prayer, for example, are being assessed in a group of humans who have a particular illness, it is difficult to establish a pure control group that does not receive prayer. The reason is that sick human beings generally pray for themselves; or outsiders pray for them, thus contaminating the control group, which by definition should not receive the treatment being evaluated.

    In studies involving microbes, this notorious “Problem of Extraneous Prayer” is totally overcome because one can be reasonably certain that the bacteria, fungi, or yeast in a control group will not pray for themselves. And that their fellow microbes will not pray for them.
    If the study involved negative intentions instead of positives, the advantages remain the same. The thoughts of microorganisms do not influence its outcome.
    Jean Barry, a physician-researcher in Bordeaux, France, chooses to work with a destructive fungus, Rhizoctonia Solani. He asked 10 people to try to inhibit its growth merely through their intentions at a distance of 1.5 meter.
    The experiment involved control Petri dishes with fungi that were not influenced in addition to those that were. The laboratory conditions were carefully controlled regarding the genetic purity of the fungi and the composition of the culture medium, the relative humidity, and the conditions of temperature and lighting.
    The control petri dishes and the influenced dishes were treated identically, except for the negative intentions directed toward the latter. A person who was blind to the details of the experiment handled various manipulations. The influences simply took their stations at the 1.5 meters and were free to act as they saw fit for their own concentration. For 15 minutes each subject was assigned five experimental and five control dishes. Of the ten subjects three to six subjects worked during a session, and there were nine sessions.
    Measurement of the fungi colony on the Petri dish was obtained by outlining the boundary of the colony on a sheet of thin paper. Again, someone who did not know the aim of the experiment or the identity of the Petri dishes did this. The outlines were then cut out and weighed under condition of constant temperature and humidity. When the growth in 195 experimental dishes was compared to their corresponding controls, it was significantly retarded in 151 dishes. The possibility that these results could be explained by chance was less than one in a thousand.

    Dr. Daniel I. Benor, who has evaluated all the known experiments in the field of distant healing in his landmark work healing research, calls this study “Highly significant.”
    Does physical distance effect prayer?
    The researchers William H. Tedder and Melissa L. Monty from the University of Tennessee replicated the experiment. The goal of this study was to inhibit the growth of the fungus from the distance of one to fifteen miles. Two groups participated. Group one was made up of Tedder and six others who knew him and frequently interacted with him over a year and a half. Group 2 consisted of 8 volunteers who either did not know Tedder or did not interact with him frequently.
    When the growth differential between the experimental and control dishes were compared, group one was highly successful. The likelihood of explaining their results by chance were less than 3 in 100,000. Group two was less successful. Their likelihood of a chance explanation was 6 in 100. Why was group one more successful? The researchers theorized that because of their established rapport with Tedder they might have had greater expectation and more motivation of a positive outcome than group two had.

    In a post-experiment questionnaire, the group one subjects indeed responded more positively to questions about how they perceived their ability to inhibit the fungal cultures at a distance. Note: This is a clear example of faith in prayer verses doubt.
    The fact that prayer is non local, that it functions at a distance, and that spatial separation does not diminish the affect means that it does not have to be intrusive. There is cross-cultural evidence that prayer does work. The factors that seem to affect the outcome of these studies are qualifies of consciousness, like caring, compassion, empathy, and love. When you take these qualities away the outcome of the study is changed. In, fact according to Dr. Dossey, if you flip these “empathetic, warm feelings” to the negative, frequently the subject is affected. In experiments a bacterium died and plants withered when subjected to the negative influence.

    These studies have shown conclusive evidence of the power of prayer. Time after time the outcomes of these tests have shown the reality of the force of a higher being and our ability to communicate with Him.
    We have also learned from viewing the results of these studies that the expectations we have while praying factor into the outcome of our prayers. Though the faithful will always believe that there need not be any physical evidence of the power and effects of prayer, science has come a long way toward showing just that-prayer is real, and it works.

    I have also found this:

    You can read it by scrolling don’t have to pay or register. It does however say Buddhists and Hindus which obviously I am not.

    Then I found this:
    Probing the Power of Prayer
    Surprising results follow a study on praying for others.

    WebMD Feature
    When Aretha Franklin crooned the words “I’ll say a little prayer for you” in the hit 1960s song she probably didn’t imagine that the soulful pledge would become the stuff of serious science. But increasingly, scientists are studying the power of prayer, and in particular its role in healing people who are sick.
    Most research in the field looks at how people who are sick are affected by their own spiritual beliefs and practices. In general, these studies have suggested that people who are religious seem to heal faster or cope with illness more effectively than do the nondevout.
    But a few scientists have taken a further step: They’re trying to find out if you can help strangers by praying for them without their knowledge.

    A recent, controversial study of cardiac patients conducted at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, concludes that this type of prayer — known as intercessory prayer — may indeed make a difference. “Prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care,” says cardiac researcher William Harris, Ph.D., who headed the St. Luke’s study. The study was published in the October 25, 1999 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Harris and team examined the health outcomes of nearly 1,000 newly admitted heart patients at St. Luke’s. The patients, who all had serious cardiac conditions, were randomly assigned to two groups. Half received daily prayer for four weeks from five volunteers who believed in God and in the healing power of prayer. The other half received no prayer in conjunction with the study.
    The volunteers were all Christians. The participants were not told they were in a study. The people praying were given only the first names of their patients and never visited the hospital. They were instructed to pray for the patients daily “for a speedy recovery with no complications.”

    Measuring Marvels
    Using a lengthy list of events that could happen to cardiac patients — such as chest pains, pneumonia, infection, and death — Harris concluded that the group receiving prayers fared 11% better than the group that didn’t, a number considered statistically significant.
    Harris originally embarked on his study to see if he could replicate a similar 1988 study of intercessory prayer conducted at San Francisco General Hospital. That study — one of the only published studies of its kind — also found that prayer benefited patients, but by a different measure: The patients were able to go home from the hospital sooner.

    In Harris’ study, the length of the hospital stay and the time spent in the cardiac unit were no different for the two groups.
    Still, Harris says, his study bolsters the evidence that prayer works. “To me it almost argues for another intelligence, to have to redirect this very vague information.”

    At the very least, he says, his results validate the need for more research. “It strengthens the field. The more studies done in independent, different places, the closer you are to the truth,” he says.

    And then I found this:


    People Who Are Prayed for Fare Better

    By Jeanie Davis
    Nov. 6, 2001 — Here’s more evidence that — in medicine, as in all of life — prayer seems to work in mysterious ways.

    In one recent study, women at an in vitro fertilization clinic had higher pregnancy rates when total strangers were praying for them. Another study finds that people undergoing risky cardiovascular surgery have fewer complications when they are the focus of prayer groups.
    The fertilization study — conducted at a hospital in Seoul, Korea — found a doubling of the pregnancy rate among women who were prayed for, says Rogerio A. Lobo, MD, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University School of Medicine in New York City. His study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

    “It’s a highly-significant finding,” Lobo tells WebMD. “I’m first to say we don’t know what this means.”

    The randomized study involved 199 women who were undergoing in vitro fertility treatments at a hospital in Seoul, Korea, during 1998 and 1999. All women were selected for the study based on their similar age and fertility factors, Lobo tells WebMD.

    Half the women were randomly assigned to have one of several Christian prayer groups in the U.S., Canada, and Australia pray for them. A photograph of each patient was given to “her” prayer group. While one set of prayer groups prayed directly for the women, a second set of prayer groups prayed for the first set, and a third group prayed for both groups.

    Neither the women nor their medical caregivers knew about the study — or that anyone was praying for them.

    “We were very careful to control this as rigorously as we could,” Lobo tells WebMD. “We deliberately set it up in an unbiased way.” That meant not informing patients they were being prayed for, so it would not influence the women’s outcome. Whether the patients were praying for themselves — or if others were praying for them — “we don’t know,” he says.

    The women in the “prayed for” group became pregnant twice as often as the other women, he says.

    “We were not expecting to find a positive result,” says Lobo. Researchers have re-analyzed the data several times, to detect any discrepancies — but have been unable to find any, he says.

    Lobo admits there may be some “biological variable” that they have not discovered, which could account for the high success rate among the prayed-for women. He and his colleagues are already planning a follow-up study also involving in vitro fertilization.

    The second study involves 150 patients — all having serious heart problems, all scheduled for a procedure called angioplasty, in which doctors thread a catheter up into a clogged heart artery, open it up, and insert a little device called a stent to prop it open.

    Patients who were prayed for during their procedure had far fewer complications, reports lead author Mitchell W. Krucoff, MD, director of the Ischemia Monitoring Laboratory at Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham, NC.

    His study appears in the current issue of the American Heart Journal.

    Krucoff enrolled 150 patients who were going to have the stent procedure, and then randomly assigned them to receive one of five complementary therapies: guided imagery, stress relaxation, healing touch, or intercessory ‘off site’ prayer — which meant they were prayed for by others, or to no complementary therapy.

    All the complementary therapies — except off-site prayer — were performed at the patient’s bedside at least one hour before the cardiac procedures.

    Seven prayer groups of varying denominations around the world — Buddhists, Catholics, Moravians, Jews, fundamentalist Christians, Baptists, and the Unity School of Christianity — prayed for specific patients during their procedures.

    Each prayer group was assigned names, ages, and illnesses of specific patients they were to pray for. None of the patients, family members, or staff knew who was being prayed for. None of the patient-prayer group matchings were based on denomination.

    “This was a very rigorously controlled study, just as we would look at any therapeutic — a new cardiovascular drug, a new stent — and see the results in terms of patients’ outcomes,” Krucoff tells WebMD. The goal was to determine which therapies warranted further study in a bigger trial.

    Those in the “prayed for” group had fewer complications than any of the patients, including those receiving other complementary therapies, he says. “Although it’s not statistical proof, it’s not certainty, it is suggestive — to the point that we’ve already begun a phase II trial.”

    He has already enrolled more than 300 people in a phase II study.

    Why did prayer produce the best outcome? “There are no satisfactory mechanistic explanations,” he says. That’s why studies that measure patients’ outcomes are best for this kind of study, he says. Even if you don’t understand why it’s happening, at least you have something to measure — how the patient did.”

    Both studies are “well-controlled,” preliminary trials “providing more evidence that there’s something to it all,” says Blair Justice, PhD, professor of psychology and psychobiologist (mind-body medicine) at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

    Justice, who has followed prayer research for several decades, reviewed the reports for WebMD.

    “Research into prayer has been going on a lot longer than is reflected in mainstream journals,” Justice tells WebMD. “Since the 1980s, there have been several well-controlled prospective studies, good evidence that this wasn’t some product of a good imagination.”

    Some of the studies conducted in Europe involved nonhuman organisms — enzyme cells, bacteria, plants, animals — which could not be affected by other complicating factors, including faith. Groups were assigned to pray for their growth; then the prayers were reversed, and people were praying against growth. Each time, the plants responded according to the focus of the prayers.

    “There seems to be something to it,” he says.

    While current technology does not allow researchers to understand the mechanism behind prayer — what makes it work — it’s much like gravity and other natural phenomena that were considered mysterious forces by earlier cultures, Justice tells WebMD.

    “Keppler was accused of being insane when he said tides were due to the tug of lunar gravity, even Galileo considered it to be ravings of a lunatic — until Marconi proved the theory,” he says.

    “It’s just like anything else, you don’t have to believe in it for prayer to have an effect,” says Justice.

    © 2001 WebMD Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Then I found this that kind of deals with your data in 2006


    The Therapeutic Power of Prayer
    I have been a doctor for two decades. Medicine has become for me a ritual and a belief. It is common for me to prescribe medications and not think about how they work scientifically.

    After a lifetime of prayer, scripture reading and meditation, spirituality has become a science for me. I use logic and reason to justify my belief in the soul and God.

    I am not alone. Seventy-six percent of all physicians believe in God.
    To me, medicine and spirituality are not like two divorced parents; rather they are like two unmet lovers. Seeking their union drives me to study the effectiveness of prayer, the workings of the soul and the path to God, using scientific tools.
    I was a co-investigator on the largest study on the therapeutic effect of intercessory prayer — an 1,800-patient, six-center, $2 million study led by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, now at Harvard Medical School’s affiliate Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Our findings, published in 2006 in the American Heart Journal, surprised me. They showed that being prayed for not only did not improve outcomes, but it seemed to have a negative effect when patients knew they were the subject of prayers from afar.

    How could this be? How could knowledge or awareness of intercessory prayer lead to an 8 percent increase in complications after bypass surgery? Nobody knows, but we can speculate.
    Imagine you are undergoing surgery in the morning and a study coordinator hands you a white envelope with a letter that reads, “You have been randomized to the group that will be prayed for.”

    You may experience anxiety due to fear: “Am I so sick that they needed to bring in a prayer team in addition to the surgical team?” Or you may experience performance anxiety: “I am being prayed for, so I must do better.”
    In a heart patient, anxiety can result in a complication known as atrial fibrillation/flutter, a heart arrthymia possibly caused by a catecholamine surge. That was one of the complications that increased in our prayer study group.

    I worry that our study design may have been flawed. Putting prayer in such a regimented protocol may have altered patient perception and diminished the effectiveness of prayer. Perhaps if we redesigned the study and put prayer in its proper context, lessening a patient’s anxiety and raising a patient’s relaxation, we could decrease the complication rate by 8 percent. Only the next study will tell.

    Spirituality is a vast and unexplored field, but I believe that prayer and meditation are tangible practices we can scientifically measure. Intercessory prayer is just one area of scientific inquiry and it may not be effective. However, personal prayer and meditation have shown some clinical promise in randomized trials. We need to explore them further.

    We need to harness the power of prayer and meditation as an adjunct therapy to medical care. I am convinced that, ultimately, it will make doctors like me better and more holistic healers.

    Manoj Jain is an infectious disease physician in Memphis and a medical director of Medicare’s quality improvement organization in Tennessee.

  3. Austin Allen says:

    I just wanted to tell you how encouraging it is to see individuals such as yourself defending the validity of the Holy Bible. Increasingly, I feel that Christians are being persecuted in America. This is something I’m going to be writing about, as my blog is brand new. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, its good to know who is reading and what are their opinions. I see from your blog that you are a critical thinker; I just wish that we have more man like you amongst Christians. Discernment is a quality that should be encouraged, and I would recommend that you use that gift to challenge others.

    Thanks again

    Defend the word

  5. misunderstoodranter says:

    “I worry that our study design may have been flawed. Putting prayer in such a regimented protocol may have altered patient perception and diminished the effectiveness of prayer. Perhaps if we redesigned the study and put prayer in its proper context, lessening a patient’s anxiety and raising a patient’s relaxation, we could decrease the complication rate by 8 percent. Only the next study will tell.”

    I worry too – and this is one of the reasons Christian’s scare me – because their blind faith prevents them from thinking this through – I could have told them their methodology is flawed from the outset – when you test anything scientifically to see if it is better than a placebo, the first rule is you don’t tell the patients or the doctors anything at all about the treatment (in this case prayer) – because just telling the patient or the doctor this fact can change the result – this is basic medical science, 1st year of medical school stuff.

  6. I think that the author of the above comments probably agrees with you mate.

    Defend the word

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