Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh highlights a couple of recent studies (748 patients and 1,800 patients) that suggest that not only is prayer for the sick of no measurable therapeutic benefit, it often measurably hurts, i.e., makes people worse off.
God comes up empty-handed in the largest, longest study of the effect
of intercessory prayer. In a study of 1,800 heart bypass surgery
patients, the American Heart Journal finds that remote orisons not only don’t make any difference, they actually make things worse.
My own experience with religion in youth leads me to a particular understanding. In my observation, the more religious people appeared outwardly, the worse they did at just about everything — especially financially. Often, their lives could be clearly seen as on a long, steady downward trend. Those same people, once they begin to turn away from religion as a day-to-day affair seemed to do better at manging their lives and prospering as human beings (by my standards, of course).
Now, granting that such study data is objective, how do you square it with your beliefs? It seems to me that you’ve basically got to conclude that either your God is a completely evil sonofabitch, or there just isn’t any God as you imagine to be and prayer substitutes as a far less effective placebo, or a harmful one, compared to a person’s own will to survive and get through a crisis. The placebo effect is an objectively verified phenomena, though disputed as to the actual source of improvement.
Oh, well. I guess it’s just more empirically verifiable fact getting in the way of "certainty" about what real events took place thousands and thousands of years ago because a few books, equally thousands of years old, says so.
You know, of human being behaved similarly about anything else, they’d be immediately declared insane.