A Challenge to Religious Believers: Just Go Cold Turkey!

By Alan M. Perlman, PhD.

There are dozens of reasons why people engage in prayer and religious ritual, but one of them cannot be that it does them or anyone else any good in the real world.

I don't doubt that prayer works, but not in the ways that the pray-ers think it does. Chanting, toning, meditation -- all of these put people in a relaxed state in which it becomes easier for them to find a solution to their problems. There may be physical benefits as well.

But again, no matter how much you beg God, no matter how assiduously you obey his multitudinous commands, it won't have any effect on the way things turn out. If you don't believe me, try one of these two experiments -- and I put this challenge to every religious believer in the world:

Pick an interval -- any interval of respectable length. A month, six months, a year. And during that interval, simply go cold turkey on all prayer and religious ritual. Just say no.

I am aware that implementing this suggestion could upset a great many people's lives, because prayer and ritual are a source of comfort, for the reasons described above. If you want, they give you something to do every minute of the day. For the orthodox of all faiths, the obsessiveness of religious ritual may be a form of repetition that gives comfort and protection against unpredictability, and, as such, is just as important a source of comfort as psychotherapy, art, lap swimming, or Zoloft.

That's why I propose two alternatives.

Alternative #1: For the prescribed interval, eliminate all prayer/ritual and devote all the time, energy, and resources that you normally invest in these activities...to improving yourself, your relationships, and your environment.

The possibilities are wide open. Take all the time you would have spent praying -- and improve your health and fitness, so that you're not a burden on society. Or improve your marriage or your relationship with your children, through quality time or counseling. Or volunteer for community service. Just don't pray, say a rosary, go to confession, lay tefillin, or any of that stuff.

Those of you who cannot bring yourself to do this...try the second alternative. For the prescribed period of time, ignore your community and environment, your physical and mental health, and your relationships. Take all the time, energy, and resources that you spend on these -- and invest them in prayer and worship.

I think that at the end of the agreed-upon period, we will wind up proving what you knew to be true since the first paragraph of this article: that prayer doesn't do any good in the real world -- and that the way to improve things in the world is to actually do the work that improves them.

We have so little time on this earth. Why do we want to waste it chanting before statues like medieval monks...or bowing before a scroll in a box like Semitic shepherds of the ninth century B.C.E. and talking in a strange language to somebody who isn’t there?

Just think what the world would be like if everyone went cold turkey on religious ritual and dedicated him/herself to improving the world. Don't you think we would have a better world? At least we would stop killing each other over the meaning of ancient texts.

In my fondest dreams, I see Sunnis and Shiites, Catholics and Protestants, putting their holy books in libraries and embracing each other like the brothers and sisters that they are.

This is the essence of a humanistic salvation: to realize that if we are to be saved, it is by ourselves and by each other.

Alan M. Perlman is a secular humanist speaker and author -- most recently, of An Atheist Reads the Torah: Secular Humanistic Perspectives on the Five Books of Moses. For information, go to www.trafford.com/06-0056.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree! Action is always better than words.

I have not prayed in years and my life has improved immensely!
I've taken a more pro-active role in my life and no longer expect a make-believe sky daddy to do things for me.
There was a major study last year on prayer.Those who prayed vs those who did'nt .Those who did'nt pray had a slight increase in mortality and improvement.(because they took control of their situation ).Those who prayed had no increases in health or mortality!

It's time for the human race to grow up and take responsibility for itself!

RSM said...

About four years ago I had a very intense experience where I felt totally hopeless. It occurred to me that I can trust neither God nor humans and that prayer is wrong. I haven't prayed since.

Okay, there are so many different forms of prayer as defined by some people that it is difficult to say that I don't pray. But prayer composed of words spoken with the mind to God--that is what came to me as being wrong.

Sometimes I feel so very good that it almost draws a prayer of praise from me. Then I stop myself and say to myself, "I am loved." Or something similar. It works wonders for self-improvement and problem solution.

Thus, I have concluded that prayer is nothing but a stilling of oneself from the swirling activities of evereyday life, and that this stilling of oneself provides the window of opportunity through which insight and intuition can suggest solutions for those insoluble problems life throws at us.

Anonymous said...

Well said and high time someone said it!

Funny thing is, Christians already know this to be true. It is evident in one of their MANY trite cliches. They say, "Pray as if everything depends on god, but work as if everything depends on you."

Their meaning? PRAYER DOESN'T WORK! So stop waiting on god and do it yourself!

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Liberal Pagan said...

as a nonchristian, i don't spend my time trolling on christian sites so i can try to 'win them over' to nonbelief...it sure would be nice if the christians would return the favor.

The Liberal Pagan said...

and...regarding prayer...the saying i've heard that sums it up for me is...better 2 hands working than 2 lips praying!

pray if you want, on your own time. but when there's a need, get up off your knees and get to work!

Anonymous said...

Was there not a recenty study done into the effectiveness of prayer? Yes here it is:


In this study, it was found that people who knew they were being prayed for FARED WORSE!

I always felt, for years that there was soemthing inherently "wrong" about intercessory prayer - it always seemed like I was trying to get a perfect god to change his mind. I was never ever comfortable with it. Plus the ususal cop out - "If the prayer gets answered, then PTL, Glory! Hallelujah! Isnt God good? (hated that expression, why not just say "Allahu Akhbar!")" BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, when there is nothing but deafening silence, when the child dies, the war starts or the disease gets worse, what do we get "Oh it must be His Will" or "His ways are above ours" or cloyingly, "You know, God cries too" (I hope churches that come out with this sort of BS have sick bags hanging from the pew in front...

Prayer is "talking to the sky" Asking Santa. Rubbing the Genies lamp. Childish, Weak, Stupid, Deluded, Infantile. Sucking a thumb while shouldering a blanket.

It doesnt work. It cant. There is no God.

And I have a feeling that a lot of so called Christians are in a state of denial over this. Mark Twain put it brilliantly: "Faith is believing what you know aint so"

Anonymous said...

Nice, cut'n'paste, there Peter. Only thing is, we've all heard it and seen it dozens of time and rejected it as nonsense. Please note that the name of this site of "ex.christian.net," not "gulliblepeopleseekingpreaching."

All you religious spam accomplishes here is that it convinces us we made the best decision of our lives when we left the cult. And for that I thank you.

Anonymous said...

All together now... :)


Seriously. Look around you, folks. Don´t you think that the world would be a little bit different if prayer did anything?

How many mothers have prayed for the life of their child, only to lose it anyway? Neva Rogers, anyone? They blew her brains out WHILE SHE WAS PRAYING TO GOD FOR HER LIFE.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to work a miracle. So they pray their little hearts out, but nothing happens. Elijah taunts them: "Maybe he is on holiday, maybe he is asleep! Pray harder, you might wake him up!"
Needless to say, as soon as Elijah prays, HIS god works a miracle. (Afterwards, the prophets are taken prisoner and Elijah kills all of them. Nice going.)

I used to pray. I don´t now. Nothing has changed, except that I feel a little better about myself.

There is no conscious force that controls the universe that lets babies die and allows wars to go on. We are the only ones that make decisions. To deny this is cowardous. To face it is glorious. The day I did, I felt far happier than I had for years previous to it.

Steven Bently said...

You're doing what those baby raping, murdering, Satan worshipping communist, homosexual Atheists do, you're using logic and practical reasoning and common sense!!!

What a christian is doing is, basing his prayers totally on indoctrinated Faith, by orally partitioning the Lord to take matters into his own hands and weigh the situation in his mind at the request of the prayee and trusting that the Lord God will perhaps intervene and the prayee's request will sway the outcome towards the best interest of those involved and arrive at the best interest and atonement of the Holy Blessed Will of God.....lolololol

The Bible is a piece of trash!!!!

Guess who brought that trash over here to America?

What people do not realize, especially Christians is, they're just mimicking a belief, a belief that was brought over here to America by Christopher Columbus.

Here's an interesting quote from National Geographic January 1992, (Search for Columbus, Page 34)

"Columbus calculated and recalculated the days until the end of the world. Among the Historia rerum endpapers is a chart entitled "An account of the Creation of the world according to the Jews" It recounts the years from the time of Adam "until now, the year of the birth of our Lord of 1482" Columbus determined later that there remained 150 years to bring earth's godless multitudes into Christ's fold.
Columbus was a Christian, he thought that we was on a mission from God, just like all Christians, they think they are on a mission from God and that they have been granted a license to help save the rest of the world from hell, with the exception of themselves. Columbus was often conveniently seen praying and talking raised head to the Heavens.

The very person revered as being a hero and great seaman is actually the one to bring ruin to this land and killed many Indians and stolen their land.

Very interesting read,
National Geographic January 1992, (Search for Columbus, Page 34)

Please do not take my word for it, read it yourself!!! Find a copy of January 1992 National Geographic.

Now look at how many years the Christians have had to perfect their brainwashing cult!!!

Christianity and religions are a serious temporary brain disorder, I've had it myself, until I discovered the truth, that it was all a lie!!!

Anonymous said...

Great aticle. So very true. So much time and money is poured down the toilet in the name of all the various mythical gods that if a small fraction of it was used to truly improve the human condition, who knows how much better off we would be today. Humanism is the most realistic and tenable code of ethics there is.

Anonymous said...

The act of prayer is longful wishing without sight of reality.

The act of prayer is most often used as a symbolic jesture to impress others that may be near by and might get the impression that a Holy and Saintly person is communicating with the Creator-being (god) by special pleading.

The act of prayer serves no other purpose except to deceive and try to persuade another person that they have a line of communication with an invisible enitity.

xrayman said...

I think one of the most defining moments in American history that proved prayer doesn't work was the fairly recent coal mine tragedy. The townsfolk gathered in the church near the mine and prayed around the clock. The nation watched on every 24hr news channel and prayed along with them. When it was thought that the miners all survived everyone praised God and Jesus, but when it was found out to be a terrible miscommunication and all the miners but one were dead, did they blame God? Fuck no they blamed humans for the deaths. God only gets credit for the good stuff.

Great post, very original. Although I was never very religious per say, I used to sometimes say hundreds of little prayers a day. It was an obsesive compulsive thing. I stopped earlier this year, and can you all believe things are pretty much the same?

Anonymous said...


Good point about the West Virginia mine tragedy. There was an intersting, fascinating news item I heard shortly afterwards. A tearful woman who had lost a relative said" Makes you wonder if there IS a Lord after all"

I wish that clip could be replayed again and again.

Not to dwell on that poor womans grief but to show what utter BS praying is.

(And of course there was a mine accident in Canada a short while afterwards - all the miners got out safely. No praying, no candles no BS - just effective (probably costly) mine safety procedures and equipment. i.e the appliance of science!

xrayman said...

Last year outside of my little town in Michigan six kids died in a house explosion. The parents were out visiting relatives when the tragedy occured. They did an interview with the father in our local paper one year later. He stated that he lost his faith in God only for a very brief moment, and now fully trusts in him. You know I must say I am somewhat jealous of someone who is that delousional in their thinking and can find comfort in an imaginary figure during such a tragedy. This guy was praising God after all he lost. WTF.

Anonymous said...

Stanley, it's true that white Europeans brought the Bible to what later became known as the United States. But why hate them for it? Jews wrote it, and you don't hate them, do you?

If you really do want to lay the blame for all of the damage that Abrahamic religions have done in this world at the feet of any ethnic group, it must be Jews. Christianity and Islam are only based on something that Jews started.

RSM said...

Hey Prue, what's your problem? I can think of only one kind of person who would say what you did--white anti-semetic Christian. Can't take responsibility for what YOU did. Maybe if you pray hard enough God will forgive you for Jesus' sake amen. But first you gotta take responsibility.

Now about that mine I read about above where everybody was so busy praying. Sure rescue equipment is expensive. How many man/woman hours were wasted praying while those people were dying down under? What does it add up to in monetary figures? Now don't tell me this was all done on your own time, you righteous Christians. You own time, if you have a family, is your sleep time. If you took time off from sleep to pray then you can count on it--your work suffered the next day.

Anonymous said...

I stopped praying and reading the Bible about a year ago. Since then, my brother has bought me a car, and I landed a job on the same day I turned in my resume. Did I pray for a free car? No. Did I pray for a great career? No. The car was my brother's decision, and the job was a result of me offering my skills to the organization. I'm learning to take responsibility for what happens in my life and how I respond. Religious people need to do the same.

xrayman said...

Have you ever listened to the Tom Leykis radio show? If you haven't he's this total male chauvanist, who happens to be an atheist. In part of his show he does a bit called ask the atheist. It is really great radio. Christinas call in and he always just cuts every one of their arguments off at the knees. He is great at refuting religion. Anyway one point he always makes is the point that he has been an atheist his entire life, and has never said a prayer, yet he makes a seven figure income and has beautiful women at his beck and call(despite the fact that he is an overweight average looking joe). His point is that good things come to us through hard work and a little luck once in a while, not prayer.

Anonymous said...

If prayer works then why were 10 girls shot at an Amish school, while the shooter's wife was at a prayer meeting praying for the safety of students and teachers?

If god saw this man walk into a school and knew his intent - which was more heinous than to just kill the girls - and he was hearing the prayers of a group women who worship him within a few miles of the school praying that all schools, teachers, and students be safe THEN WHY DID HE NOT DO SOMEHTHING?

Sorry this is redundant, but as someone still on the fence about god this really bothers me.

I think maybe this is the proof I need and one of the clinchers for me not to believe.

Last week a boy walked into a shool here in SW MO with an assault rifle. Fired one shot in the ceiling and then pointed the gun at the principle and pulled the trigger - the gun did not fire.

People here saying "oh Thank You God for jamming that gun!"

BS! Luckily the boy did not really know how to operate the gun and did not properly load the magazine into the gun and so it did not advance the next cartridge and did not fire.

As has been stated Yes prayer can work - but only on the person praying - it is just a form of meditation.


who can't remember his password!

Pageviews this week: