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Feb 05 2012

Can prayer get any more useless?

Yes, yes it can. Instead of invoking magic to achieve material ends, it can invoke magic to inspire more magical thinking. Here’s a charming technique called “theophostic prayer”.

The TPM Basic Training Seminar Manual defines TPM as, " Intentional and focused prayer with the desired outcome of an authentic encounter with the presence of Christ, resulting in mind renewal and subsequent transformed life."

Theo (GOD) Phostic (light) is a ministry of prayer that is Christ centered and God reliant for its direction and outcome. Simply stated, it is encouraging a person to discover and expose what he/she believes is falsehood; and then encouraging him/her to have an encounter with Jesus Christ through prayer, thus allowing the Lord to reveal His truth to the wounded person’s heart and mind. It is not about advice giving, diagnosing problems, or sharing opinions or insight. It is about allowing a person to have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the midst of the person’s emotional pain.

So it does nothing at all then?

Oh, wait. It does something for someone. There’s this little line of icons on the page.

Somebody profits — you’ll shell out $300 buckeroos to learn how to imagine Jesus harder.

Isn’t there something about Jesus and moneychangers in the temple in that Bible thingie? Maybe it’s only in the atheist bible that Christians don’t read.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    So it does nothing at all then?

    It’s a way of being realistic about prayer (expect nothing tangible), while denying that the realistic expectations of nothing are in fact realistic.

    Tells us something useful about theosophy, at least.

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    Merit of the Badgers

    Just thought I’d point out that your RSS feed seemingly hasn’t updated since early yesterday

  3. 3
    daveau

    So now you’re selling copies of the atheist bible? I was wondering where I could get one.

  4. 4
    Gregory Greenwood

    Somebody profits — you’ll shell out $300 buckeroos to learn how to imagine Jesus harder.

    This reminds me of a certain movie. All the title needs is a little modification…

    “Prayhard 2; Pray Harder”

    I know, I know – it’s an awful pun, but I just wasn’t strong enough to resist.

  5. 5
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    it is encouraging a person to discover and expose what he/she believes is falsehood;

    Cool. And if he or she discovers that all of the lies of gods and Jesus and being saved is actually a falsehood, then what?

    and then encouraging him/her to have an encounter with Jesus Christ through prayer,

    So the way to counter a falsehood is with a huge ass lie?

    thus allowing the Lord to reveal His truth to the wounded person’s heart and mind.

    Which will, magically, be either what the person praying wanted all along, or what the minister/rabbi/priest/witch doctor wants.

    For $300 bucks?

    Screw it. I’d rather send in my mortgage, thank you.

  6. 6
    feralboy12

    Mind renewal? Mind renewal?

    I don’t want a new mind, thank you. The old one is still quite serviceable. Also, it’s where I keep my memories and stuff.

    Mind renewal. Fuck.

  7. 7
    a3kr0n

    And at the very bottom of the page they tell you what to do in a real emergency:

    In an emergency or life threatening situation
    Call 911 or the Butte County Crisis Line
    (530) 891-2810

  8. 8
    Dick the Damned

    I think this is a case of extorting money from people with a relatively mild mental disorder, & as such, it’s utterly despicable.

  9. 9
    cag

    Dick #8 – In place of despicable one can also use predictable, typical, expected, christian and so on.

  10. 10
    Ichthyic

    The TPM Basic Training Seminar Manual defines TPM as, ” Intentional and focused prayer with the desired outcome of an authentic encounter with the presence of Christ, resulting in mind renewal and subsequent transformed life.”

    TPMBTSM = (IFP -> AE(PC) -> MR + TL)

    that about right?

  11. 11
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    WUT?

  12. 12
    chrisbonds

    a3kron: You beat me to it! I also noticed the “Who to call” link at the bottom. Prayer is the belt, but 911 is the suspenders!

  13. 13
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Theo (GOD) Phostic (phosphorus, from all natural bat guano)

  14. 14
    raven

    Can prayer get any more useless?

    Why yes it can. There is no limit on the Dark Side.

    Faith healing kills and quite often. Some of those are children.

    It could be worse. They could be charging $3,000 to pretend to talk to the imaginary Sky Fairy.

    Or your aging Aunt could send her life savings to Harold Camping to put up billboards proclaiming the imminent end of the world, something that happened to more than a few people.

    In a worse case scenario, your imprecatory witchcraft like prayer to have Obama murdered could actually work. I believe the FBI would want a word or two with you in that case.

  15. 15
    Ichthyic

    Faith healing kills and quite often.

    well, that goes into “worse than useless”, instead of just “more useless” territory.

    frankly, I don’t see how adding the word “more” in front of useless even makes sense to begin with.

    it’s like saying:

    more zero.

  16. 16
    Ichthyic

    you know, I take that back. More useless works, but it only works RELATIVE to something else.

    more useless than…

    but as a statement on its own, it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

  17. 17
    Zeno

    Prayer wheels were invented ages ago. Isn’t that as sophisticated an approach as prayer will ever need?

  18. 18
    autumn

    Zeno, I hear they’re working on prayer sharks with frikkin’ prayer lasers on their foreheads.

  19. 19
    fishsci

    Actually, that is a brill idea for a cynicist. Screw the sad suckers who have lined themselves up out of their cash. This is, after all, no different than some megachurch pastor screaming for donations – same principle applies:
    Give Money, Receive Fake Good Feeling.
    Only without the cost for an actual megachurch and the hideous shiny suit that goes with it.

  20. 20
    Arbourist

    Forget shiny prayer methods on the interwebs! I prayed so hard I just peed a little. I think jebus has to respect that sort of effort. :)

  21. 21
    radgeek

    There’s a nice little box on the contact page where yawl can tell them what you think of their woo. Better still they let you leave pictures – you’re welcome.

  22. 22
    Zeno

    Ooooooooooooh! Prayer lasers! (Set your prayer lasers to “stun”!)

  23. 23
    Heliantus

    For some reason, reading the first paragraph reminded me of a Star Trek TNG epidode. Let’s see.

    At the monastery of Boreth, you will go into “Intentional and focused prayer with the desired outcome of an authentic encounter with the presence of Kahless the Unforgettable, resulting in mind renewal and subsequent transformed life.”

    Yeap, perfect fit. Have they started cloning Jesus yet?

  24. 24
    nemothederv

    I think the last time I heard from a Theosophist was when Fred Alan Wolf was in that What the Bleep movie.
    He’s the “independant physicist” who claimed he could build a time machine with a computer, a cat in a box and happy thoughts.
    It’s nice to know these guys haven’t lost their colorful edge.

  25. 25
    robro

    Can we pay for imaginary renewal from the imaginary savior with imaginary credit cards? I didn’t think so.

    And how much praying do you get for $300? At a fairly high rate of $100/hour, you’re talking 3 hours of praying. That’s a lot of praying. Do they use a tape loop? With god/jesus so busy, I would be surprised if you can get a quarter hour. Now you’re talking lawyer rates.

    I particularly like the “Basic Training Seminar Manual”. Makes it seem so modern and technical. Is there an eBook version? I guess we could take off $50 for the manual, although that’s a fairly high-priced after-market manual. David Pogue’s missing manuals are a lot cheaper.

    In fact, perhaps Pogue should look into this. He’s got the pencil head preacher look down cold, so he could do a Prayer: The Missing Manual and undersell them significantly. He and O’Reilly Media could make a killing.

  26. 26
    glenmorangie10

    Someone help me out. Apart from all the crazy, one word, one suffix really, is gnawing at my brain. “Phostic”? Why would “phostic” mean “light”. Am I wrong to assume they just decided “theophotic” didn’t sound cuddly enough and so they invented an etymological origin for a softer sound?

  27. 27
    chigau (違う)

    pastorwinthrop

    I think prayer helps exorcize satanic ideas from one’s minds…like that of evolutionism.

    “think”
    bwahahaha
    Good one!

  28. 28
    sqlrob

    Actually, that is a brill idea for a cynicist. Screw the sad suckers who have lined themselves up out of their cash. This is, after all, no different than some megachurch pastor screaming for donations

    There’s one big flaw to that plan. I have ethics.

  29. 29
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Three hundred dollars?

    Bah!

    They are getting off cheap. Think of how much money people pay to imagine that their mind is clear.

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    Somebody profits — you’ll shell out $300 buckeroos to learn how to imagine Jesus harder.

    Coincidentally, my spambox is full of people asking me to imagine myself harder—apparently there are some drugs to help with that.

  31. 31
    Inaji

    pastorwinthrop:

    I think prayer helps exorcize satanic ideas from one’s minds…like that of evolutionism.

    Exorcizing, eh? Is that some new fad combining exorcism and exercise? Cue Tubular Bells and Stretch, 1, 2, 3, Get Out Satan! and Spin Your Head Around!

  32. 32
    chigau (違う)

    Caine
    OMG
    Tubular Bells!!!!!
    I’d go scrape the dust off the turntable but there’s a cat on my lap.
    youtube, here I come.
    (rats must be easier, can you just pick them up and go?)

  33. 33
    Inaji

    Chigau:

    (rats must be easier, can you just pick them up and go?)

    Yep, they ride on your shoulder.

  34. 34
    Pierce R. Butler

    Isn’t there something about Jesus and moneychangers in the temple in that Bible thingie?

    These guys aren’t changing any money in any way except for ownership.

    Whether the Internet (& perhaps package delivery services) can be considered a temple seems debatable at best, but no doubt Wired has already covered that.

    I would rejoice to see TPM* merch, artfully positioned among banana peels and coffee grounds, with a nail driven through it.

    *Who wants to tell Josh?

  35. 35
    Pierce R. Butler

    Isn’t there something about Jesus and moneychangers in the temple in that Bible thingie?

    Getting back to the thingie: Jesus’s sole purpose in his one-man currency exchange riot was to warn us about George Soros.

    Further exegesis available to select donors; all major credit cards and Praypal™ accepted.

  36. 36
    sunsangnim

    Shouldn’t the quote be in comic sans?

  37. 37
    crowepps

    Every scam artist and confidence trickster in the country has now caught on that no matter how old the con, no matter how blatant the lies, no matter how outrageous the rip-off, if the spiel includes Jesus and the ‘faith leader’ pays whatever taxes a sharp accountant can’t get her/him out of, every D.A. in the country won’t even bother trying to get a conviction.

    When you hear people complain that the country’s gone to the dogs, remind them that an amazing number of us still have too high a moral standard to call ourselves ‘Reverend’ and rip off our fellow citizens so we can live like kings.

  38. 38
    DLC

    Theo (god) Conjob (Robbery)

    Yes, Pray oh sinners, that we may Prey.

  39. 39
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    I have often heard lottery tickets referred to as the ‘poor man’s tax.’ Maybe the snake oil magic prayer salesmen are just the credulity and gullibility tax. The government should just start abolishing the tax exempt status on religious prosti institutions and use the C&G tax monies for useful purposes, like health care and science and education funding. It’s certainly better than letting unctuous creeps like Mr. Theo Phostic take advantage of the mouth breathing set and enjoying the easy cash flow.

  40. 40
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    Oh, I almost forgot to address PZ’s question, “Can prayer get any more useless?”. I always like to see some factual evidence before answering. Maybe we can set up an experiment where we have a couple thousand volunteers and they get split up into four groups. One group will try praying for an outcome, the second group will pray for an outcome after pissing away 300 simoleons, the third will wish on stars and the last group will wish on birthday candles.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and hypothesize that the result of all groups end up being about the same as random chance. If it turns out that prayer does worse than candle and star wishing, and the group with the empty pockets does even worse than that, then yes, I would say that prayer can get more useless.

  41. 41
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    @glenmorangie10 #26
    Well, phosphorus is from the greek word that means pretty much ‘light bearer’ because the greek for light is ‘phos’ apparently.

    It’s still woo, but that’s where it comes from.

    I’m currently a bit disappointed in my neighbour who was proudly telling me about the new sungazing thing she had taken up. *sigh*

  42. 42
    call me mark

    I’m willing to bet that “theophostic prayer” is actually some kind of auto-hypnosis, disguised as “guided visualisation” or some such. They’ll get their victims to persuade themselves that they actually did have “an encounter with Jesus Christ”.

    The depressing thing is that this would probably work on a fair number of people.

  43. 43
    ericpaulsen

    As long as they enter their closet and close the door when they pray I could care less. Just no more Tebowing!

  44. 44
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Somebody profits — you’ll shell out $300 buckeroos to learn how to imagine Jesus harder.

    Well, fuck. I used to think that those silly paper Jesus prayer rugs* were the height of absurdity, but at least I got a bunch of those for free.

    *If you stare into Jesus’s face long and hard enough OMG! HE OPENS HIS EYES!!

  45. 45
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Religions have always been used to transfer power and assets, e.g. food donations, to the deities’ mouthpieces.

  46. 46
    cyberCMDR

    More proof that Einstein was right when he said, “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

  47. 47
    TimKO,,.,,

    Jeebus wasn’t mad that there was a commerce section at the synagogue – that was a Jewish tradition. He was just mad that it was Jewish Passover and they were clogging it up for the Passover pilgrims. He says nothing negative about money in any of the four “Cleansing of the Temple” stories, he just complains that the economic system needs to embrace socialism (by sanctioning the rich merchants for the benefit of the poor – the dove-sellers being the only merchants he finds distasteful because of their source). He places an embargo but if the other parts of the gospels are accurate, nobody knew who he was and they simply ignored him and went about their business; though this is a yet another internal inconsistency in this regard.

    The point of the story is 3-fold:
    +Don’t clog the path during a Jewish high holiday
    +Socialism helps the poor
    +Dove sellers shouldn’t grab doves from the temple sacrifice and resell them cuz it ain’t cool to dis the poor that way
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple

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