This is part 3 in a series of posts on prayer. Please use the links at the top and bottom of each post to navigate through the parts.
but everyone knows prayer works!
Everyone prays when your time comes or when you get into trouble, even atheists — or so the aphorists would have you believe. Belief in the power of prayer is seemingly omnipresent, with daily reinforcement of the concept from other people that believe likewise. You see the reports on the news of the one little boy that walked away from a horrific plane crash (who was saved by God — never mind that everyone else on the plane was *not*). You know the story of the hurricane that tore through a small town and left only the church standing. You’ve heard about the “light at the end of the tunnel” when a dying person’s neurons start misfiring and they gasp out their last coherent words immediately prior to oblivion. The media, populated in equal measure to the society at large with theists, use phrases like “miraculous” or “divine providence” or “act of God” in describing rare events.
In the presence of such widespread and self-reinforcing memes, it’s difficult to imagine how to shake the general populace’s belief that prayer does anything. The only way I can see, as with pretty much every other problem humankind faces, is through judicious use of science. Sound logic will, of course, only get you so far.