Prayer: Panacea of the Gaps

TheHonestAtheistApril 26, 2020

In light of all the panic and chaos of the world, the below topic seems quite appropriate. I must mention, though, I had thought of this topic prior to any news of the pandemic or coronavirus. It is quite the fluke that both should coincide.

Quick Recap of God of the Gaps

Hopefully my reader is familiar with the "God of the gaps" fallacy. If not–here is a quick summary:

God has often been used to explain mystery. The term "God of the gaps" is a derision, coined by theologians, to discredit Christians who would cite God as the explanation for unknown causes of malady or natural phenomena, when the correct viewpoint–given by these theologians–was to accept that God was the author and credit for all phenomenon. Rather than describing God as the "ever receding pocket of unknowns," God should be described as the ever present omnipotent overseer of everything within the universe.

Unfortunately for the theologians, some secular philosophers were quick to catch on to this descriptive fallacy and reckoned that most religious belief was exactly this: belief in the "receding pocket of unknowns" as caused by God or spiritual means.

Panacean Prayer

My epiphany is that the medical sphere, prayer is the same exact "go to" remedy in the case of unexplainable maladies. Who hasn't read of the sheltering parent who decided to anoint their child with anointing oil and pray over their fever rather than going to a medical professional, and the child dies as a result? Everyone reasonable can agree this is extreme stupidity and mishandling of the parent's authority!

However, Christian and religious alike use prayer as a similar means of authority in their lives: that somehow prayer is the solution in the case of illness or disease they do not understand. If a Christian's child breaks his leg from a bike accident, they don't rush to the church to pray over it; they rush to the hospital and get it set properly. Sure they may pray over it, but they don't believe the prayer acting alone has the power to sort out the broken bone.

Flip ahead to a patient sick with cancer. They'll call in a priest or pastor to pray over them, because the doctor's have pronounced the cancer as terminal. Medicine and surgery won't fix this cancer. The patient feels helpless and turns to the only final thing they can think of: prayer.

Why this approach? Why do religious people see prayer as the "last resort" or "supplemental action"? If God really is omnipotent and intervening, prayer should work on its own: prayer apart from medicine. If prayer is only the approach on the off chance the doctor doesn't know what to do, what use is prayer when medicine does find an answer?

It is for this reason I call prayer a panacea: a cure all when there is no alternative (or even if there is). We humans are so fragile and wanting to be in control that we'll turn to the irrational to find comfort: prayer. Take a chill pill.

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