Sunday, 2 September 2012

Atheists needed for prayer experiment

If you don't believe in God, why would you sign up to an experiment that commits you to pray? Not just once, but for 2 or 3 minutes every day for 40 days, starting on 17 September and ending on 26 October 2012.

This is an interesting idea. H/T to Red on Apples of Gold for alerting me to it. 

The presenter of Premier Radio's show 'Unbelievable' is inviting atheists to take part in The Atheist Prayer Experiment. This is based on the philosopher Tim Mawson's paper, 'Praying to Stop Being an Atheist' which will be sent to all taking part in the experiment. The idea is to use the 'experimental method' as a way to investigate whether or not a God exists but asking something like 'God if you're out there, reveal yourself to me'.

"We only ask that anyone taking part commits themselves to finding a quiet meditative 'space' and praying there for two to three minutes each day as earnestly as they can for any God that there might be to reveal himself/herself/itself to him or her and that he or she remains as open as possible to ways in which that prayer could be answered."
Participants are asked to record their experiences and reactions. Later in the autumn a radio show will be recorded with Tim Mawson and an atheist philosopher to discuss this experiment and the reactions. As far as I can understand this is not scientific research. Those taking part will be self-selected volunteers. It is more a philosophical experiment. It is is not about proving the existence of God or not. 

Here's what I think will probably happen:


  • It should contribute to an interesting philosophical discussion on the 'Unbelievable' show.
  • Some will feel a benefit from the regular finding of a quiet space each day.
  • Some taking part will be confirmed in their atheism because nothing happens that fits their concept of the God they don't believe in.
  • Some will be disappointed because they hoped for a particular type of revelation/experience that did not happen.
  • Some will imagine a response because they want one and humans are naturally suggestible. Roger Schriner suggests a form of prayer that he thinks could reduce this suggestibility:  “Setting aside my own desires, prejudices, and assumptions, I open myself to all that is real, wishing to know the truth, whatever it may be."
  • Some will have a genuine encounter or re-encounter with God. The prophet Jeremiah has these words: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart". Jeremiah 29: 13 N.I.V.

What do you think will happen?
What do you think about the Atheist Prayer Experiment?

4 comments:

  1. I think one of the interesting things will be to see how many participants they can find in the first place, Nancy. After that, I agree that your scenario of likely outcomes is probably right.

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    1. I don't know how the recruiting is going. Yes it will be interesting to see how many they get. As Tim Mawsom is an Oxford University professor will most be philosophy students?

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  2. It's an idiotic attempt for attention.

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    Replies
    1. Thesauros - no doubt it is a way of getting publicity, either for the radio show or the philosophers involved, but I think the discussion could be interesting. I don't agree that it's 'idiotic' though.

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