If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
Praying for sick people who are aware of it can
make them worse
Nobody thinks that when you pray for something you always
get what you ask for. If God is all good and all powerful he will give you what
is best for you whether you ask or not. He should be bigger than any mistakes
you make or any prayers that you have failed to say. But believers seem to argue
that even if that is true, you get a benefit from asking. It is good to ask even
if you seem to get nothing. That can only happen out of a placebo effect. This
placebo would be dangerous for if you cannot contend with God or opt out of his
plan even if you think you are then you are grovelling. That is not good for you
or good for those who are impressed by your prayers for them.
It is felt that prayer suppresses critical thought. If
somebody's baby is screaming in agony on their deathbed then instead of asking
how God could deserve to be praised with prayer and by trust (petitionary prayer
is praise in the sense that you are telling God you trust him) you just pray.
Some say that we are saying petitionary prayer is just refusing to see that God
or whatever lets this happen to the baby is to be condemned. We are thought to
be saying faith is just refusing to see any faults. They would insist that
praying does not imply you are not struggling with how God can let it happen for
after all you are calling on him to act. But that amounts to trying to suppress
any critical thoughts of God and religion and anything else that endorses
Religion has set up organisations and businesses and sold
books which are all about praying for others who are sick. That is a waste for
you can pray for people and still put in the hard work to help them. But
religion is okay with people simply praying. They pray while those who cry out
for their tears wiped are left to wipe them themselves.
And if a lot of prayers are said for you and you feel no
benefit you or could will blame yourself. Those who pray for you are to take
responsibility for that. But they will not. Even their not taking responsibility
for how you could blame yourself is an insult. Praying people are often
If you take a placebo, the mere fact that you expect it
to make you a lot better or feel better will make you feel healthier in mind and
body. The problem is that this feeling could be misleading. What if you learn
that something other than the placebo helped? Placebos are never guaranteed to
help significantly or for long. When the power declines, you are at risk of
thinking the placebo has turned against you or sickness is taking over. This can
lead to you becoming ill again. It can stop any future placebo you are given
from having an effect because the doubt sowed is something that could be there
for life. A placebo is not to be recommended.
Let us talk about how people praying for you can trigger
your placebo effect into helping you or making you worse (nocebo).
Optimistic patients who pray think prayer helps them. But
are they praying because they are optimistic? They could be. You don’t need
prayer to be optimistic. And optimism has a placebo effect for many. Expecting
the best to happen diminishes pain, anxiety and depression. You can see and test
how optimism helps you. You cannot test prayer for you cannot see what is in the
mind of God. Even if there is a God, maybe you got what you asked for by pure
chance. Optimism has helped people where prayer did not and could not. It is
better to encourage optimism. Religion is a bad thing for it cares about getting
you to pray. If it had a choice, prayer or optimism, it would not recommend
optimism at all.
It is a fact that praying for another person to get well
can make this person worse. Many illnesses do not respond significantly to a
placebo. A placebo cannot make a person dying of terminal cancer get out of bed
and dance for joy for the last ten minutes of life. Encouraging the placebo will
help cause many people to get depressed. It may prolong terrible symptoms and
produce lots of new bad health outcomes.
Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical found that praying for coronary bypass surgery patients who were told they were being prayed for made their health outcomes worse. They had complications after the surgery.
This problem did not happen to the same level when people
were being prayed for and didn’t know. Nor to those who were not prayed for.
The Nocebo effect is suspected to be to blame for that.
Did the patients think they were not getting better or
did they they think they were developing new problems and complications? If so,
they would have probably have felt the prayers were not failing but they were
the ones failing. If they wrongly think they were not helped by medical
attention or getting worse that would actually make them worse. Not everything
feeling of illness is a real illness. Did those harmed by the prayers of others
feel they didn’t deserve any help from God and was praying for them rubbing that
feeling in? If people pray for you and you think God is not helping then you
will blame yourself and that will lead to a belief that you will not get better
which ensures you will not get better and could get worse.
If you start to think it is not God's will to answer the
prayers that will make you sicker.
Feeling that God has a purpose for making you ill and
keeping you ill will make sure you stay ill. So will feeling that suffering in
itself - regardless of the consequences - is a gift from God. The doctrine that
evil is just a lack of good or the wrong use of good comes very close to saying
that suffering is a gift.
Prayers from people who say a baby in throes of agony that nobody can do
anything about are going to trigger a nocebo better than any placebo. That is
simply because it comes across that they do not really care much and are
condoning the evil of extreme suffering. Lots of people are okay with harm and
evil when God does it. And they are more okay with it when it happens to others
not them. Nobody has the right to say God is right to let the baby suffer for
its his good plan when they would not willingly take that baby's place. The
doubt alone about motives will be harmful. Also, the mere fact that people
approve of your suffering, even if they are right to, can send the wrong
People do not respect your "free will". They will pray
for you with or without your consent. That is no way to treat sick people who
need to feel more in control of their situation and to feel supported by others
if they want to try and regain some of that control.
Also, if you feel people are pressuring you to get better
by praying for you you will feel expected to recover. That can lead to
performance anxiety. That is a nocebo.
These things can cause praying for a patient who knows
you are praying for her or him to become ill or get sicker.
If you are aware of how mind and body are so connected
that if you believe you are seriously ill you can become sick. If you believe in
the power of the nocebo imagine how harmful it will get if you also believe in
God! Then you have God's will and the nocebo to worry about.
You can make a self-filling prophecy that does you great
harm. You can make self-fulfilling prophecies about that prophecy too.
The self-help people and doctors urge people to have the
right attitude and lifestyle to stay healthy which makes you feel guilty and
ashamed if you get cancer or anything else that may be blamed on attitude and
lifestyle. You will feel that the nocebo helped you develop the disease and
believing that will lead to fearing it which will lead you to more illness.
It is a scandal how the power of prayer to help the sick
is really a matter for medical professionals and religious people are stepping
in where they should keep out of it. Doctors and medical professionals have a
duty to ensure the patients get help that is help.
People who are in great distress may pray and find some
emotional relief. But that relief cannot last. They have not gone to the root of
their problems. When they pray and you reinforce any good feelings they think
result by praying for them you are not doing them any true favours.