Atheist prayer experiment, week 5: Should you hope there is a god?

We’ve seen so far that Mawson’s recommendation that atheists should pray is along the right lines: so long as you don’t think prayer is too likely to lead to self delusion, and the costs for the added information are smaller than the benefits, it seems a good idea to pray. It also seems that negative results are valuable: if Atheist prays and gets no answer, that is further evidence their atheism is correct. Here’s another question: should Atheist hope there really is a God after all?

Given what we’ve said above, it seems atheist should hope to be made aware of god if he exists. Believing the right thing about God’s existence is likely a good thing ‘either way’, and particularly good if God does exist. Yet whether atheist should hope God exists is slightly different: should atheist think that a world with god is somehow richer or more valuable than one without god – and, if so, is it worth hoping that is what really obtains, even if the evidence speaks against it? Continue reading “Atheist prayer experiment, week 5: Should you hope there is a god?”

Atheist prayer experiment: Week 4 – What if there’s no answer?

Nothing much happened this week. So, instead, lets talk about divine hiddenness:

It is implied by the rationale for doing the ‘prayer experiment’ that although a ‘positive result’ has value (“Oh, God exists after all!”), a negative result where nothing happens also is a worthwhile result, as it acts as confirmation for one’s atheism. How good is the evidence that no God gets in touch after 40 days for there being no god there? Continue reading “Atheist prayer experiment: Week 4 – What if there’s no answer?”

Atheist Prayer Experiment: Week 3 – why pray, anyway?

Personal update: I have been finding praying pretty difficult in the last week or so. It has been hard keep my mind on prayer rather than wandering elsewhere after the initial mental recitation. Similarly, I have generally failed to keep the regimented pattern I would like – not every evening, but scattered throughout the day.

I have noticed nothing. Life continues as before, and nothing in particular has suggested that God is smiling on me or getting in touch – if anything, I’ve been mildly more worldy and stressed than the usual. Time will tell.

My college chaplain has the misfortune of knowing me, and she recommended I give some other ‘ways’ of praying a go: lectio divinia, and turning up to evening prayer. Being kergmatically ‘up for anything’ I have tried the former this week, and will try the latter soon.

To pass the time, let’s talk about the philosophical rationale behind this ‘Atheist Prayer Experiment’.

Praying to stop being an Atheist?

Continue reading “Atheist Prayer Experiment: Week 3 – why pray, anyway?”

Atheist prayer experiment: Week 1 – Introduction

I decided to be one of the seventy-ish atheists/agnostics/non-believers taking part in the atheist prayer experiment. I figured I’d give approximately weekly updates on how things develop over the next 40 days, maybe with some parenthetical remarks. For now, an introduction.

I used to be a Christian until the age of 14, although I wasn’t too hot on theology back then. Then I stopped. I’m not sure I can provide an easy account why: no traumatic life event, no road to damascus moment, and I don’t recognise the accounts offered for backsliding (love of sexual sin, daddy issues, in a strop with god) there either. My best guess was that I thought that belief in god became increasingly isolated from other beliefs and commitments I held, and eventually I came to the conclusion it was an intellectual bridge too far. I’ve been irreligious ever since.

Since then, I’ve gotten most of the way through medical skill, and cultivated (heaven help me) an interest in philosophy: you can find all the meritless scribblings around the blog. The other thing that exercises me is trying to save the world (and all the quixotic altruism that entails): I’m a member of Giving What We Can, and generally help out as community manager. I hope I will manage to follow through on my intend to give large amounts of my income to effective charity. Wish me luck. Continue reading “Atheist prayer experiment: Week 1 – Introduction”