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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why won't God heal amputees? (A)


http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/god-toc.htm


Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1 - The line is drawn
Chapter 2 - The mystery of God
Chapter 3 - The Standard Model of God
Chapter 4 - Facing the paradox
Section 1 - Prayer
Chapter 5 - Why Won't God Heal Amputees?
Chapter 6 - Why do you need health insurance?
Chapter 7 - Why can't you move mountains?
Chapter 8 - Why do bad things happen to good people?
Chapter 9 - Who gets to go to the prom?
Chapter 10 - Why do battlefield prayers sound so convincing?
Chapter 11 - Reviewing the evidence about prayer
Section 2 - The Bible
Chapter 12 - Who wrote the Bible?
Chapter 13 - Why does God love slavery?
Chapter 14 - Why does God love animal sacrifice?
Chapter 15 - Why is God so sexist?
Chapter 16 - Why does God massacre millions of children?
Chapter 17 - Reviewing the evidence about the Bible
Section 3 - Jesus
Chapter 18 - Was Jesus the son of God?
Chapter 19 - Why didn't Jesus move a mountain?
Chapter 20 - Why doesn't Jesus appear to each of us?
Chapter 21 - Why do we eat Jesus?
Chapter 22 - Why do so many children live in poverty?
Chapter 23 - Was Jesus' coming prophesized?
Chapter 24 - Why does Jesus need your money?
Chapter 25 - Reviewing the evidence about Jesus
Putting it all together
Chapter 26 - Why did I write this book?
Chapter 27 - When we die, we die
Chapter 28 -Goodness, Morality and the Ten Commandments
Chapter 29 -In God We Trust
Chapter 30 -Love your neighbor as yourself
Chapter 31 -The Meaning of Life
Chapter 32 -The future of the human race
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Chapter 1 - The line is drawn

It would have to be a teacher's worst nightmare.
Imagine that you are a high school English teacher. You are standing at the front of the classroom working through the day's lesson. Perhaps you and your students are studying verb conjugation, or analyzing one of Shakespeare's plays. It is another normal day in the American education system, and you have a lot of material to cover.
Then the sound fills your classroom. Gunshots. And screaming. A gunman has entered the school and is shooting at people as he makes his way down the hallway toward your classroom.
What would you do?
If you were English teacher Neva Rogers at Red Lake high school, you would take immediate action. You would shut off the lights in the classroom. You would close and lock the classroom door. [ref] You would tell your students to crouch in a corner of the classroom to get out of harm's way. Then you would stand in the middle of the room and begin praying to God. According to student witnesses, Ms. Rogers prayed, "God be with us. God help us."
The gunman walks to Neva Rogers' classroom door and finds it locked. He shoots out the glass panel next to the door and it explodes in a shower of tiny crystalline fragments. The gunman reaches in through the hole he has created, unlocks the door and shoves it out of the way to enter the classroom. Dressed completely in black and measuring six feet tall, he is a huge, hulking apparition.
He crosses the threshold of the classroom and looks at Ms. Rogers as she prays. He is armed with a massive 12-gauge shotgun. He raises the gun with both hands so it is pointing straight at Rogers' head.

What should God do?

What do you think God should do in a situation like this? Step back for a moment and look at this from God's perspective. God is sitting on his magnificent throne in heaven. God is all-knowing, so he is certainly watching Red Lake high school as events unfold. He hears Neva Rogers' prayers, and sees the gunman pointing the shotgun at her head. Jesus has promised that God will help, and Jesus is sitting at God's right hand.
Clearly a line has been drawn. On one side of the line is pure evil -- a sixteen-year-old who is obviously insane. On the other side is a deeply devoted, 62-year-old woman of unbending faith in God. This is a showdown between good and evil if there ever was one.
Think of all of the possibilities that an all-powerful God has at his disposal. Perhaps the easiest thing would be to strike the gunman with a freak heart attack, aneurism or stroke right then and there. Hundreds of people die of heart attacks in the United States every day, so if God struck him with a heart attack it would be completely undetectable. Non-believers would chalk it up to coincidence, but God's followers would understand what really happened.
If God has a desire to be a bit more spectacular, there are other possibilities. For example, he could cause an earthquake. He could send an angel to stand between the gunman and the teacher and deflect the bullets. A meteor could crash through the ceiling, or a bolt of lightning, and strike the gunman dead. Or God could cause a police officer to burst into Ms. Rogers' classroom just at this moment and kill the gunman on the spot. There are a million things that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God could do to answer Neva Rogers' prayers.
The gunman looks directly at Neva Rogers with his 12-gauge shotgun pointed at her skull. He pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. There is a click, but the gun does not fire. It seems like a miracle. Surely it is the hand of God.
Unfortunately, the gunman has a backup weapon and he does not even hesitate. He pulls out a pistol. He points the pistol at Ms. Rogers' head as she prays and squeezes the trigger. The pistol performs according to its specifications. He shoots Neva Rogers three times in the head and then once in the face for good measure. She dies instantly, falling into a pool of her own blood on the floor right in front of her stunned students.
According to Time magazine, what the gunman does next is remarkable. He aims his gun at one of Ms. Rogers' students in the corner and asks, "Do you believe in God?" By doing this, the gunman recreates a scene from the shootings at Columbine. At Columbine the student answered, "Yes" to this question and was shot to death. At Red Lake the student answers, "No." The gunman spares that student's life and starts shooting other students. [ref]
A total of ten people died on that day at Red Lake before the gunman took his own life.

The paradox


Key Point

In Mark 11:24 Jesus promises Neva Rogers that, "whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." In John 14:14 Jesus promises, "if you ask anything in my name, I will do it." Yet when Neva prayed for protection from the gunman, Jesus completely ignored her. Jeff Weise shot Neva Rogers in the head four times, and she died in a pool of her own blood.

A situation like this is deeply paradoxical. For any thoughtful person, the questions come in a flood. Why does an all-powerful God completely ignore the prayers and allow ten people to die? Why does God save the student who denies God's existence? Why doesn't God strike the gunman dead at the scene, or help him earlier in life so as to completely derail the situation before it ever happens? How could a loving God allow such perverse, needless and useless suffering when he clearly has the power and authority to prevent it? Why would Jesus make an unambiguous promise to answer prayers in the Bible, and then renege? How can God have answered millions of other prayers all around the globe on that day, while at the same time ignoring this huge tragedy and refusing to answer any prayers there?
It is hard for us, as human beings, to know what to think because Neva Rogers' death is senseless. We have no easy way to penetrate the mysteries of the Lord.
What we do know is that these deeply paradoxical situations happen all the time, and there must be a reason for that...
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Chapter 2 - The Mystery of God

What happened to Neva Rogers? She prayed, but God completely ignored her. If you truly want to understand God, you owe it to yourself to ask a simple question: Why didn't God protect Neva even though she prayed and asked for God's help?
You may have noticed this same pattern in your own life. It is quite common for God to ignore prayers. And that seems odd, because the Bible is clear about how prayer is supposed to work. In Mark 11:24 Jesus promises:

    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells us just how easy prayer can be:
    "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says it again:
    Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Given these verses, and given the fact that Neva Rogers was a faithful believer, doesn't it seem like Neva Rogers' prayers should have worked?We have no way to know what God is thinking, and his actions at times can be quite mysterious.

Steve's Miracle

Even when a prayer does seem to work, it is often shrouded in mystery. For example, in the May, 2004 issue of Guideposts magazine there is a fascinating story about a huge wildfire that swept through San Diego, California. Steve Homel lived in a subdivision engulfed by that fire. Steve prayed and God answered Steve's prayer, so Steve's story offers a glimpse into the way that God works in our world.
Steve saw the fire approaching and it was terrifying -- "an eighty-foot wall of flames rolling down the ridge that overlooks our street." He and his wife evacuated to the home of Steve's grown daughter about 15 miles away. There, as he watched the news on TV, Steve actually saw the flames reaching his neighborhood.
What is the appropriate thing for a person to do in such a situation? As with Neva Rogers, the answer is prayer. Steve, however, decided to take an innovative approach. According to the article: "Suddenly Steve grabbed a piece of paper. 'God bless this house and the firemen who protect it,' he scrawled." Steve then faxed that sheet of paper to the fax machine in his home.
Days later, Steve and his neighbors were allowed to return to their subdivision. What Steve found when he arrived was absolutely amazing. Despite the raging inferno, Steve's house stood completely unscathed. Even the trees in the yard were protected. It was as though there had never been a fire near the neighborhood.
They found Steve's prayer in the tray of his fax machine. The fax machine had received the message, and obviously God did too.
Since Steve prayed and his house survived, believers know what happened. Having heard Steve's prayer, God reached down from heaven into our world and worked a miracle. When God acts on our earth so obviously like this, it is a source of hope, a testimony to God's grace and a shining example of the power of prayer. This story about God's blessings gets written up in magazines and sent to millions of believers: God saved Steve's house!

The Mystery in San Diego

Steve's story certainly sounds miraculous. But if we probe into this situation just below the surface, we run into another paradox not unlike Neva Rogers'.
The problem is simple: Every other house on Steve's Street burned to the ground in the fire. According to the article, "The only things standing were a few brick chimneys. The rest had been reduced to ash." The 39 other houses on Steve's street were completely and utterly destroyed.
If God reached down to bless Steve by saving his house, did he not choose to curse Steve's neighbors by letting their homes burn to the ground? Why would a loving, all-powerful God save only one house when it would have been just as easy for him to save all 40?
This is where the "mystery of God" comes in. We have no way to understand why God would protect one house while destroying the other 39. In order to understand why the other 39 houses burned down, we are forced to imagine scenerios that are not particularly appealing:
  • Was God specifically cursing the other 39 homeowners because of sins they committed? This is uncomfortable because we are all sinners, and that means God may turn and curse us at any moment. He might burn our houses to the ground or shoot us in the head tomorrow as punishment for our transgressions. It is hard to reconcile that kind of behavior with the traditional "all-loving" God that many of us believe in.
  • Did the other 39 homeowners not pray properly, or hard enough? What if God was only accepting fax prayers that day? This is uncomfortable because it implies that there may be some sort of "magic incantation" or "secret code" that unlocks God's blessings, and it would appear that 39 out of 40 homeowners don't know the secret.
  • Could this all be part of God's plan? Perhaps the 39 other homeowners were all supposed to learn something from seeing Steve's house survive, or perhaps all of their lives were actually improved by losing everything and having to start over. This feels better, but it is hard to apply this theory in many situations. For example, when the 2005 tsunami killed 200,000 people, how did it make their lives any better? Also, it implies that prayer is meaningless. If God's plan is to burn your house down, your prayers are irrelevant, so why bother?
  • Or maybe it happened because Steve prayed too selfishly. Perhaps God wanted to teach Steve a lesson at the expense of his neighbors.
This "selfish" theory is actually something to consider. Think about it: Steve's prayer was incredibly selfish. What if Steve had changed just one word in his prayer so it had said, "God bless this subdivision and the firemen who protect it"? Would all 40 homes have been saved?
What if Steve had prayed "God bless this nation and the firemen who protect it"? Would every fire in the entire country immediately extinguish itself? If so, could we save billions of dollars per year by closing every fire station in the nation and relying on Steve and his fax machine to take care of us?
Most of us understand that closing every fire station in America would be irresponsible. But why? It brings up an interesting question: If you believe that God answered Steve's prayer, then why don't you believe that God would answer a nationwide prayer from Steve as well? Keep in mind what Jesus said in Mark 11:24:
    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
If Jesus is God, and if God is perfect, why isn't Mark 11:24 true? Was Jesus exagerating? Was he fibbing? If Jesus is perfect, why wouldn't he speak the truth?Why, in other words, is God so mysterious?

The Gumball Machine

Many people respond to that question by saying, "God is under no obligation to answer prayers. God is not a gumball machine granting every wish." Yet, if you interpret the Mark 11:24 (and other similar verses) in a normal way, it does seem that God promises to answer prayers. So what is going on? (The article Understanding the Gumball Machine [BELOW] explores this question in more detail).

God's Ratio

In this case, God ignores 97.5% of the homeowners in Steve's subdivision. The ratio is 97.5% not blessed vs. 2.5% blessed.
When we look at Steve's situation, there is something else that is interesting to notice. What we see is this odd statistic: 39 houses not blessed vs. 1 house blessed. Every family on Steve's street needed help, but God saved only one of the houses. It is a terrible ratio -- a 97.5% failure rate. This ratio is so common that we could call it God's Ratio. God was right there, guiding the path of the fire to save Steve's house. Wasn't he? So why didn't God reach over and save the 39 other homes as well? If Steve had changed one word in his prayer, would God have behaved differently? Should we blame Steve for being so selfish when he prayed? Why couldn't God see that, as a believer, Steve would want to help all his neighbors too?
What is God thinking when he allows things like this to happen to some people but not others, even if both are fervently and faithfully praying? What was God thinking when he let Neva Rogers die? We can say, "It is all part of God's plan," but what sort of plan is that? It can become uncomfortable if you think about it -- what if God's plan is to shoot you in the head tomorrow, or burn your house to the ground? How do we make sense of that?
What if you could resolve the mystery of God? What if you could completely explain this mystery in San Diego, and the mystery at Red Lake, and the many other mysteries that we witness each day?
Before we can probe into the mystery of God completely, we should take one small detour. We need to have a clear understanding of who God is. We need to establish the Standard Model of God.
------------------------------
Understanding the Gumball Machine


It is quite common for people to pray and for God to completely ignore their prayers. For example, Chapter 5 talks about the plight of amputees. No matter how many people pray, no matter how sincere they are, and no matter how deserving the amputee, God neverrestores the lost limbs of amputees through prayer. People believe that God is solving all sorts of other medical problems in response to prayers -- eliminating cancers, curing viruses, reversing the effects of poisons, etc. -- yet God never helps amputees with their lost limbs. Why not?
Examples like these are easily dismissed by many people. "So what?" they say. "God is not a gumball machine. He is under no obligation to answer prayers. What if his answer to the prayer is, 'No' or 'Not Right Now?'" These seem like valid points, until you read the Bible.

What God says about prayer in the Bible

Jesus and the Bible do actually say, in many different places, that God will answer your prayers. The whole notion of the gumball machine is biblically based. Here are ten examples:
In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
    Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:
    For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
In Matthew 21:21:
    I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
The message is reiterated Mark 11:24:
    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells all of us just how easy prayer can be:
    "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says it again:
    Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
James 5:15-16 the Bible says:
    And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Mark 9:23:
    All things are possible to him who believes.
In Luke 1:37:
    For with God nothing will be impossible.
Jesus even promises us in the Bible that people will not suffer from starvation. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus says:
    "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What could be clearer than, "all these things will be given to you"?Unfortunately, 10 million children (never mind adults) die of starvation and similar simple problems around the world every year (see Chapter 5 for details).
And you yourself know that you can pray about all sorts of things and God will completely ignore you. Even though the Bible says, "Nothing will be impossible for you," and "I will do it," it is far more common for prayers to be ignored than for them to be answered.
Look at this article about God. The article discusses common Christian concepts about how God answers prayers in our world today. The article was published in 2006 in a magazine read by millions of people. Compare that article to God's treatment of amputees. The contrast makes no sense, does it?

Understanding God
People have many different ways to explain why these ten verses in the Bible do not work. They will say things like this:
    "You need to understand what Jesus was saying in the context the first century civilization in which he was speaking..."
or:
    "When Jesus talked about 'moving a mountain', he was speaking metaphorically. When someone says, 'it is raining cats and dogs,' no one takes him literally. Jesus was using a figure of speech rather than speaking literally..."
or:
    God is not a thing. He is a being. He has a will. He has desires. He relates to people. He has personality traits. Prayer is a fancy word for talking to God. God, who knows everything, even before we say it, knows the difference between our thoughts and wishes, and when we are actually addressing him. He hears our prayers and responds. His responses are based on his personal decisions. We cannot predict how he will respond to our prayers... [ref]
These three explanations attempt to paint over a problem. Unfortunately, if you think about it, the problem cannot be painted over. The problem is simple, and has two parts:
  1. God is supposed to be an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect being.
  2. The statement, "Nothing will be impossible for you", along with the other Bible verses quoted above, are false. The fact is, lots of things are impossible for you.
If a perfect being is going to make statements about how prayer works in the Bible, then three things are certain:
  1. He would speak clearly
  2. He would say what he means
  3. He would speak the truth
That is what "being perfect" is all about.A perfect, all-knowing God would know that people would be reading the Bible 2,000 years later, and therefore he should not use first-century idioms (he would say what he means).
A perfect, all-knowing God would know that normal people will be reading the Bible and interpreting it in normal ways (he would speak clearly).
A perfect, all-knowing God would know that when you say, "Nothing will be impossible for you", that what it means is, "Nothing will be impossible for you" (he would speak the truth). If God says it, it should be true -- otherwise he is not perfect.
Unfortunately, the fact is that thousands of things are impossible for you no matter how much you pray, and no one (including Jesus) has ever moved a mountain.
How do we explain this?

The Scientific explanation

Here is the factual explanation for the evidence that we see in our world. The fact is, God does not answer any prayers. The entire idea that "God answers prayers" is an illusion created by human imagination.
How do we know that "answered prayers" are illusions? We simply perform scientific experiments. We ask a group of believers to pray for something and then we watch what happens. What we find, whenever we test the efficacy of prayer scientifically, is that prayer has zero effect. It does not matter who prays. It does not matter if we pray to God, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus, Ra or any other human god. It does not matter what they pray about. If we perform scientific, double-blind tests on prayer, and if the prayers involve something concrete and measurable (for example, healing people with cancer), we know that there is zero effect from prayer. This fact is discussed in detail in Section 1 of this web site. Every single "answered prayer" is nothing more than a coincidence. Both scientific experiments and your everyday observations of the world show this to be the case every single time.
This is why God doesn't heal amputees. If God answered prayers as described in the Bible (see the ten verses previously mentioned), we could restore amputated limbs through prayer. What we know is that God never restores amputated limbs. There is no documented case of prayers spontaneously regenerating a lost limb. This is compelling evidence showing that "answered prayers" are an illusion. If the prayers were actually being answered, as God clearly says they will be in the Bible, we would see limbs being restored all the time.
If you look at both the scientific and experiential evidence, you will see that what the Bible says about prayer is not true. It is not that "God is not a gumball machine." It's that "God does not answer any prayers, ever." See Section 1 for details.

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Chapter 3 - The Standard Model of God

Who is this being that billions of people believe in? Who is God? If you consult the dictionary, here is the first definition of God that you will find:
    "A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions." [ref]
Most believers would agree with this definition because they share a remarkably clear and consistent view of God. Yes, there are thousands of minor quibbles about religion. Believers express those quibbles in dozens of denominations -- Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists and such. But at the heart of it all, the belief in God aligns on a set of core ideas that everyone accepts.If you were to make a list of the fundamental beliefs, it would look like this:
  1. People believe that God is the almighty ruler of the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect.
  2. People believe that God is the creator of everything. He created the universe and the earth.
  3. People believe that God is the creator of life and human beings. Many people believe that God created the first man (Adam) and woman (Eve) in his own image, and we are all Adam and Eve's descendents. Others are not that literal, and believe that God played a central role in the creation of the human species and our consciousness.
  4. People believe that God instills in each of us a unique and everlasting soul.
  5. People believe that we have eternal life after death. When we die, people believe that our souls return to God in Heaven for eternity if we have accepted Jesus as our savior.
  6. People believe that God wrote or inspired the Bible. The Bible is God's word. There is a sentence that summarizes the Bible for many people: The Bible is infallible, inspired and inerrant. [ref] Others are not that literal, but do believe that God played a central role in the Bible's creation.
  7. People believe that God sent Jesus to earth as God incarnate. Jesus performed many miracles while he was alive, and after his death Jesus was resurrected, appeared to hundreds of people, and then ascended into heaven, proving that he is God.
  8. People believe that God is a benevolent and loving ruler. God is good and God is love.
  9. People believe that God is a living being who knows and loves each one of us. Each of us can speak to God and have a personal relationship with him. The way that we speak to God is through prayer.
  10. People believe that God has a plan for each of us. We each have a distinct and unique purpose in God's universe. (For details on God's plan, seeChapter 8)

By the numbers

  • Some polls estimate the number of Americans who believe in God as high as 90%.
  • More than 200 million U.S. citizens, and approximately 2 billion people worldwide, count themselves as God's believers. (Another one billion people around the world count themselves as Muslims).
  • According to Time magazine, more than 50% of Americans believe in the Bible's account of creation as described in the book of Genesis.
  • 59% of Americans believe that the Bible's Book of Revelation will come true. [ref]
  • In a recent survey of 1,087 American doctors, 72 percent reported that they believe that miracles can occur today. [ref] The dictionary defines miracle as, "an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God." [ref] In other words, 72 percent of doctors believe that God is reaching down from heaven and interacting with our bodies supernaturally to bring about cures that are otherwise inexplicable.
  • We can call this the Standard Model of God. If you ask any believer about any of these ten core concepts, you will get confirmation. There might be a quibble (for example, some do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, some are not certain that God wrote everything in the Bible, etc.), but billions of people believe in the Standard Model. These core beliefs are solid across the denominations. Approximately two billion human beings believe in these fundamentals.Prayer is extremely important. People believe that we can pray to God (or Jesus) (sometimes even Mary and certain saints) and God hears our prayers. People believe that God reaches down into our world and uses his infinite power and love to answer our prayers. God will intervene to cure diseases. God can save our lives in emergency situations. God will protect us from danger. God can solve a wide range of personal problems and make our lives better through prayer. Hundreds of millions of people pray to God daily, and they believe that God hears their prayers. According to many people, God is answering millions of prayers on earth every day.
    This summary makes one thing clear. When you ask, "Who is God?", the answer is: "God is an utterly amazing being." This is the conventional wisdom, and a large majority of the people in the United States believe it.
    There is something that is remarkably comforting about the thought of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful being watching over us, answering our prayers, protecting us and welcoming us into heaven when we die. He sees us in our struggles and pain on this planet. He lends us his strength and compassion, and helps each of us to find our way. We would all like to believe in, and put our faith in, such an amazing being.
    And yet, you have to wonder. You realize that the standard model of God sharpens the paradox. Given this definition of God, the violent murder of Neva Rogers is uncomfortable. The reason why it can be uncomfortable is because it does not seem to fit with what we believe about God. There is something about the death of Neva Rogers that is not quite right.
    Let me give you another example to bring the paradox into focus...


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    Chapter 4 - Facing the paradox

    As we saw in the previous chapter, it is hard to argue with a being who is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect. And yet, you still have to wonder...
    When something big like September 11, 2001 comes along, you wonder. That is completely natural. If God can see everything that is happening, if he is omnipotent and omniscient, and if he is reaching down and answering billions of prayers on earth each day, then how does something huge and ugly like 9/11 happen?
    Big paradoxes like this appear with some regularity. Any thoughtful person who takes a few moments to ponder our world can see them. For example there is the Holocaust, where more than 10 million people died [ref]. There is the December 2004 tsunami, where 200,000 people died in less than a day. There is the AIDS epidemic, which has killed more than 20 million people in the last 25 years. Why doesn't God help these people? There are many smaller things as well. For example, it is not uncommon to wake up, open the morning newspaper and find a story like this:
      Family, friends mourn girl left in day-care van
      Raleigh News and Observer
      By Anne Saker

      WAKE FOREST - They had driven together lots of times, the old man and the little girl. He picked her up every morning and took her to the brick church where she spent her days. In the afternoon, he came to the door of her classroom in the day-care center, and she slipped her hand into his. Then he took her home.
      It all happened just that way on Monday, for Tim Day and Ranika Clifton, and so it resumed on Tuesday, until about 7:30 a.m., when a tragic forgetfulness seized control.
      Day, 63, a quiet retiree from Maryland, left Ranika, 2, belted into her car seat in a Ford Econoline van at the Corinth United Church of Christ near Wake Forest. Seven hours passed before anyone realized she was missing. When they found her, still in her car seat, she was dead.
    Facing the paradox

    Think about this innocent little girl as she suffered and died in the church van which was sitting under God's sun in a church parking lot. She is strapped in her car seat unable to escape. The temperature in the van rises rapidly. She screams and cries but no one hears her.
    Saving Ranika would have been easy. For example, God could have helped Mr. Day to be less forgetful. God could have caused anyone in the day care center to think about Ranika's absence. God could have brought clouds and rain to keep the van cool. God could have sent an angel to roll down a window in the van. God could have spoken to Ranika's mother and encouraged her to stop by the school for some reason.
    God had a million options, but God did not do any of these things.
    What is going on here? The whole thing with Neva Rogers getting shot in the head did not feel right. Watching Steve Homel's 39 neighbors lose everything they own didn't feel right either. And now this -- little two-year-olds baking to death in church parking lots. It is easy to say, "It must be God's will" or "It is all part of God's plan." But what does that mean? What if God plans to shoot you in the head tomorrow? What if he plans to bake your child to death? What if he plans to burn your home to the ground? What good is it to pray if that is what will be happening anyway?
    As you can see, the paradox of God can be mystifying. When we look at the cases of Ranika, Steve Homel and Neva Rogers, what is actually going on?
    This book contains the answer to that question.
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    Chapter 5 - Why won't God heal amputees?

    Does God answer prayers? According to believers, the answer is certainly yes.
    For example, at any Christian bookstore you can find hundreds of books about the power of prayer. On the Internet you can find thousands of testimonials to the many ways that God works in our lives today. Even large city newspapers and national magazines run stories about answered prayers. God seems to be interacting with our world and answering millions of prayers on planet Earth every day.
    God's power often can be quite dramatic. Take, for example, this story from Marilyn Hickey Ministries:
      Prayer is a communication system we have available to fellowship with our heavenly Father and which activates His promises in our lives. No one can beat this system. It's quick. It's efficient. And it's available to you right now! Prayer reaches our heavenly Father instantly. Years ago my mother's doctors found a tumor in her brain. When I heard the news, I was out of town so I could not lay my hands on her. That night as fear swept over me, the Lord quickened Psalms 107:20 to my spirit: "He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." I sent God's Word long distance to my mother's brain. When she was X-rayed again by her doctors, there was no evidence that any tumor had ever existed! Hallelujah! Our prayers are swifter than any medical technique. Only born again believers who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord can have a relationship with the Father and prayer is the communication method you must use to develop that relationship. [ref]
    Stories like these can be easily found all over the Web.

    How Prayer Works

    For believers, it is obvious why so many prayers are answered. In the Bible, Jesus promises many times that he will answer our prayers. For example, in Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
      Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
    Ask and you will receive. What could be simpler than that?In Matthew 17:20 Jesus reiterates that same message:
      For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
    Since a mustard seed is a tiny inanimate object about the size of a grain of salt, it is easy to imagine that the faith of a mustard seed is fairly small. So, paraphrasing, what Jesus is saying is that if you have the tiniest bit of faith, you can move mountains.Jesus says something similar in Matthew 21:21:
      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
    The message is reiterated Mark 11:24:
      Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
    In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells all of us just how easy prayer can be:
      "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
    In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says it again:
      Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
    Jesus is actually in our midst and God answers our prayers.

    The miracle of Jeanna Giese

    There are so many examples of the power of prayer, but one in particular deserves special consideration because it is so well documented. In December of 2004 a girl named Jeanna Giese survived a bite from a rabid bat through prayer. Hundreds of newspapers (including the Raleigh News and Observer in my home town) ran stories about the miracle of her recovery with headlines such as "Rabies girl in miracle recovery." In Raleigh, the headline was "Web weaves global prayer circle - Petitions circle the world as girl beats rare case of rabies." [Source: by Sharon Roznik, Raleigh News and Observer, December 17, 2004]
    The summary of the story goes like this. Jeanna was in a church service in Wisconsin when a brown bat fell into the aisle. She picked the bat up and carried it outside. No one gave it a second thought.
    A month later it was obvious that something was wrong. Soon Jeanna had a full case of rabies. No human has ever survived this disease without being vaccinated. Up until 2004, full-blown rabies had been 100% fatal.
    According to the article, a global prayer circle helped Jeanna survive. Once she got sick, Jeanna's father called friends and asked them to pray for Jeanna. People around the world heard about her story through the press and by word of mouth. They prayed. They sent emails. They passed the word along. Millions of people heard about Jeanna's plight and they said prayers for her.
    And the prayer circle worked. Through the power of God, Jeanna recovered. Jeanna was the first human to survive rabies without the vaccine.
    Dr. Charles Rupprecht of the CDC in Atlanta called Jeanna's case a miracle. The family and everyone in Jeanna's huge, global prayer circle know that God heard their prayers and answered them.
    This is amazing stuff. The dictionary defines a miracle as "An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God." [ref] So we must ask a fundamental question: Did an all-loving, all-powerful God hear the prayers from Jeanna's worldwide prayer circle and then reach down from heaven to help Jeanna? Did God actually interact with Jeanna's body, making the impossible happen and curing her case of rabies through a divine miracle?
    Or did something else happen?
    We can actually answer this question with a simple experiment....


    A simple experiment

    For this experiment, we need to find a deserving person who has had both of his legs amputated. For example, find a sincere, devout veteran of the Iraqi war, or a person who was involved in a tragic automobile accident.
    Now create a prayer circle like the one created for Jeanna Giese. The job of this prayer circle is simple: pray to God to restore the amputated legs of this deserving person. I do not mean to pray for a team of renowned surgeons to somehow graft the legs of a cadaver onto the soldier, nor for a team of renowned scientists to craft mechanical legs for him. Pray that God spontaneously and miraculously restores the soldier's legs overnight, in the same way that God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey's mother.
    If possible, get millions of people all over the planet to join the prayer circle and pray their most fervent prayers. Get millions of people praying in unison for a single miracle for this one deserving amputee. Then stand back and watch.
    What is going to happen? Jesus clearly says that if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. He does not say it once -- he says it many times in many ways in the Bible.
    And yet, even with millions of people praying, nothing will happen.
    No matter how many people pray. No matter how sincere those people are. No matter how much they believe. No matter how devout and deserving the recipient. Nothing will happen. The legs will not regenerate. Prayer does not restore the severed limbs of amputees. You can electronically search through all the medical journals ever written -- there is no documented case of an amputated leg being restored spontaneously. And we know that God ignores the prayers of amputees through our own observations of the world around us. If God were answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost limbs, we would be seeing amputated legs growing back every day.
    Isn't that odd? The situation becomes even more peculiar when you look at who God is. According to the Standard Model of God:
    • God is all-powerful. Therefore, God can do anything, and regenerating a leg is trivial.
    • God is perfect, and he created the Bible, which is his perfect book. In the Bible, Jesus makes very specific statements about the power of prayer. Since Jesus is God, and God and the Bible are perfect, those statements should be true and accurate.
    • God is all-knowing and all-loving. He certainly knows about the plight of the amputee, and he loves this amputee very much.
    • God is ready and willing to answer your prayers no matter how big or small. All that you have to do is believe. He says it in multiple places in the Bible. Surely, with millions of people in the prayer circle, at least one of them will believe and the prayer will be answered.
    • God has no reason to discriminate against amputees. If he is answering millions of other prayers like Jeanna's every day, God should be answering the prayers of amputees too.
    Nonetheless, the amputated legs are not going to regenerate.What are we seeing here? It is not that God sometimes answers the prayers of amputees, and sometimes does not. Instead, in this situation there is a very clear line. God never answers the prayers of amputees. It would appear, to an unbiased observer, that God is singling out amputees and purposefully ignoring them.

    Understanding amputees

    You can see that the amputee experiment reframes our conversation. No longer are we talking about "religion" or "faith". What we are talking about here is more fundamental.
    At the beginning of the chapter we highlighted a number of promises that Jesus makes about prayer in the Bible. Summarizing, here is what Jesus promised:
    • If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. [Matthew 21:21]
    • If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. [John 14:14]
    • Ask, and it will be given you. [Matthew 7:7]
    • Nothing will be impossible to you. [Matthew 17:20]
    • Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [Mark 11:24]
    The question, therefore, is simple: Are Jesus' statements in the Bible true or false?For example, in John 3:16 Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." People take that at face value: if you believe in Jesus, you will have eternal life. So when Jesus says, "Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours," isn't it the same thing? Can't we take that statement at face value as well?
    By looking at amputees, we can see that something is wrong. Jesus is not telling the truth. God never answers prayers to spontaneously restore lost limbs, despite Jesus' statements in the Bible. Accepting this piece of factual information, rather than denying it, is the first step in understanding something extremely important about how prayer really works.
    Even if you take a liberal rather than literal stance on the Bible, this feels strange, doesn't it? You may not literally believe that "nothing will be impossible for you" nor that "faith can move mountains," but I think we can agree that there is something very odd about the way that God treats amputees. No matter how many people pray. No matter how sincere those people are. No matter how much they believe. No matter how devout and deserving the recipient. Nothing happens when we pray for amputated limbs. God never regenerates lost limbs through prayer, even though Christians believe that God is answering millions of other prayers on earth every day.
    Does God answer prayers? If so, then how do we explain this disconnection between God and amputees? What should we do with the piece of empirical data that amputees represent? We need to somehow explain why God would answer millions of prayers on earth, yet completely ignore prayers for amputated limbs. Let's examine the possible explanations one by one.

    Key Point

    No matter how many people pray, no matter how often they pray, no matter how sincere they are, no matter how much they believe, no matter how deserving the amputee, what we know is that prayers do not inspire God to regenerate amputated legs. This happens despite what Jesus promises us in Matthew 21:21, John 14:14, Mark 11:24, etc.

    Rationalization #1
    Here is an explanation that you might have heard or used before:
      The reason God cures thousands of cancers, infections, etc. each day but never intervenes with amputees is because it is not God's will to do that. It is not part of God's plan.
    This explanation seems a little odd. Amputees really do seem to be getting the short end of God's plan if this is the case. If God answers prayers as promised in the Bible, and if God is performing all of the medical miracles that we read about in inspirational literature, then God should also be restoring amputated limbs. Why would God help cancer victims (e.g. Marilyn Hickey's mother) and people bitten by rabid bats (e.g. Jeanna Giese), but discriminate against amputees like this? (SeeUnderstanding God's Plan for an in-depth look at how "God's Plan" works).Keep in mind what Jesus promised:
    • If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. [Matthew 21:21]
    • If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. [John 14:14]
    • Ask, and it will be given you. [Matthew 7:7]
    • Nothing will be impossible to you. [Matthew 17:20]
    • Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [Mark 11:24]
    There is no indication from Jesus that amputees will be ignored when they pray for medical help. The fact is, all five of these statements are completely false in the case of amputees.The five quotes in the previous paragraph are all simple, straightforward statements. Doesn't "nothing will be impossible for you" mean "nothing will be impossible for you"? Jesus is God, and as an all-knowing being God knows how humans interpret sentences. If Jesus did not mean "nothing will be impossible for you," it seems like Jesus would have said something else. He also would not repeat that sentiment so many times. And Jesus is supposedly answering millions of prayers each day, so prayer-answering seems to be his intent (See this short video for a more in-depth discussion).
    Rationalization #2
    In a similar vein, many believers will say, "God always answers prayers, but sometimes his answer is 'no.' If your prayer does not fit with God's will, then God will say 'no' to you." This feels odd because God's answer to every amputee isalways "no" when it comes to regenerating lost limbs. Jesus says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." He does not say, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it, unless you are praying about an amputated limb, in which case I will always reject your prayer." Jesus also says, "Nothing will be impossible to you," and regenerating a limb should therefore be possible. The fact that God refuses to answer every prayer to regenerate a lost limb seems strange, doesn't it?
    This short video offers a perspective on the "no" response to prayers.
    To understand how strange it seems, compare God's treatment of amputees to the concept of God described in this article.
    Rationalization #3
    Here is another explanation that you might have heard: "God needs to remain hidden -- restoring an amputated limb would be too obvious." We will discuss this idea in more detail in later chapters, but let's touch on it here. Does God need to remain hidden?
    That does not seem to be the case. In general, God seems to have no problem doing things that are obvious. Think about the Bible. Writing the Bible and having billions of copies published all over the world is obvious. So is parting the Red Sea. So is carving the Ten Commandments on stone tables. So is sending your son to earth and having him perform dozens of recorded miracles. And so on. It makes no sense for a God in hiding to incarnate himself, or to do these other obvious things. Why send your son to earth, and then write a book that talks all about his exploits, if you are trying to hide?
    In the same way, any medical miracle that God performs today is obvious. The removal of a cancerous tumor is obvious because it is measurable. One month the tumor is visible to everyone on the X-ray, and the next month it is not. If God eliminated the tumor, then it is openly obvious to everyone who sees the X-ray. There is nothing "hidden" about removing a tumor. So, why not regenerate a leg in an equally open way? If God intervenes with cancer patients to remove cancerous tumors in response to prayers, then why wouldn't God also intervene with amputees to regenerate lost limbs?

    Key Point

    If God intervenes with cancer patients to remove cancerous tumors, then God should also intervene with amputees to regenerate lost limbs.
    Another example is seen in Jeanne's rabies case discussed earlier in the chapter. Tens of millions of people are aware of the Jeanna's rabies miracle. Personally, I read about it in a big article in my morning newspaper. That is pretty obvious. What is hidden about her recovery?
    Why, then, does God ignore the prayers of amputees? (see Chapter 19 for a complete discussion of the "hidden God" theory)
    Rationalization #4
    Some people might say, "Everyone's life serves God in different ways. Perhaps God uses amputees to teach us something. God must have a higher purpose for amputees." That may be the case -- God may be trying to send a message. But, again, it seems odd that he would single out this one group of people to handle the delivery. To quote Marilyn Hickey once again:
      No matter what has happened in your past, no matter what is happening in your present, seek out your heavenly Father in prayer as often as you can. Take my word for it -- He loves you and wants to answer your prayers. [ref]
    You see this logic all the time in inspirational literature and hear it every Sunday at thousands of churches: "God loves you! God hears your prayers and will answer them for you!" See this article for an example. Yet, for some reason, miraclesnever happen when it comes to regenerating lost limbs. It does not seem to make sense that amputees would be cut off from the blessings that Jesus promises in the Bible. And it also does not mesh with all of the prayers that Jesus seems to be answering for other people.Rationalization #5
    Some people ascribe the problems that amputees face to free will. They will say, "Well, if you go into a war zone and get your legs blown off, that is your own free will. God gives us free will. You made a free choice to be a soldier. It is not God's fault, and therefore he has no obligation to repair the damage." This logic is fascinating. What about all the people who are born with missing limbs, or the people who lose limbs to diseases through no fault or choice of their own? How are these people any different from cancer victims, who, supposedly, are constantly being healed by God?
    We know that God ignores all amputees, regardless of the cause of the missing limb. Why doesn't God heal thalidomide babies, who are by definition completely innocent? Or the innocent children who lose their limbs in mine fields? Why would God heal millions of other diseases, but completely ignore any disease that results in a lost or missing limb?
    Rationalization #6
    Some believers say, "God does help amputees - he inspires scientists and engineers to create artificial limbs for them!" This logic is interesting, especially if we look at other examples. Take the case of smallpox. Millions upon millions of people died of smallpox until the vaccine was invented in the twentieth century. If God is the one who inspired the scientists, why did God wait until the twentieth century to do it? Why would God want to be the source of the massive suffering that smallpox caused prior to the twentieth century? And why do we pay the scientists, given that their work is simply God's inspiration? (we will discuss the question of divine inspiration in more detail in Chapter 7)
    Rationalization #7
    Someone might say, "Thou shalt not test the Lord. It says so in the Bible." This is hard to swallow because every prayer is a test. Either God answers the prayer or he does not. There is no difference between praying for an amputee and praying for Jeanna Giese and her rabies.
    Note also that many believers track their prayers with prayer journals. See, for example, prayer-journal.com. Why not pray to God to heal an amputee, and then track the results of the prayer in a prayer journal?
    Rationalization #8
    Some people might say something like, "Jesus never says when he will answer your prayers. Maybe your prayer will be answered in the afterlife." But that seems uncomfortable. Jesus is answering millions of prayers for everyone else in the here and now. Clearly that is what he means with all his verses in the Bible. Why single out amputees for treatment in the afterlife when Marilyn and Jeanna get their prayers answered almost instantaneously?
    Rationalization #9
    Someone might say, "God will answer your prayers, but not immediately. You must be patient." They will point to a situation like that found in Mark 6:47-51:
      And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.
    A person might say, "you see, he came in the fourth watch (generally understood to be 3AM to 6AM), not in the first or second or third. You must be patient and wait for the Lord to answer your prayers." This is just as uncomfortable as the previous explanation. God does not answer the prayers of any amputee to restore lost limbs.Rationalization #10
    A believer might say, "You are taking the Bible literally." But how else are we supposed to take it? Jesus clearly says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." When Jesus says that, what does he mean? Presumably, Jesus means that if you ask for anything, he will do it. What else could he possibly mean?
    Believers often respond with, "Look, Jesus was using poetic embellishment when he said, 'nothing will be impossible for you,' and 'faith can move mountains.'" Which leads to the following question: What prayers does God answer? It is the response to that question that is fascinating. Because the response inevitably is, "God is omnipotent, so God can do anything."
    Which leads us right back to the question, "Why won't God heal amputees?"
    Rationalization #11
    Finally, there is this oft-used chestnut: "There is no way to understand the mysteries of our Lord. People have believed in Jesus for 2,000 years, and there must be a very good reason for it." This feels like a sad point in the conversation. On one side of the conversation is a person who is defending the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe. This person's position should be unassailable. Yet, if God exists, and answers prayers as described in the Bible, there is no explanation for what we see in the world around us. The Bible is silent in this case. God is silent. There is not a good, comfortable explanation for the situation faced by amputees except to say, "We cannot understand the mysteries of the Lord. We have no explanation for why God refuses to answer prayers to regenerate lost limbs."

    Explaining the case of amputees

    Just for a moment, I would ask you to consider the possibility of another explanation. If you believe in God, then this explanation will initially appear to be complete nonsense. However, it is interesting in light of the conversation we will be having in this book.
    One explanation for the evidence that we see before us is this:
      God exists, and God answers prayers, but for some reason God chooses to ignore the prayers of amputees. We don't have a good explanation for why God acts this way, and it does seem to contradict what Jesus teaches about prayer in the Bible, but clearly God has his divine reasons.
    Now let's look at the situation with amputees from another point of view. This explanation is more straightforward:
      God is imaginary.
    Let's look at what happens when we consider this explanation and see how it stacks up.Assume that God is imaginary. The beauty of this explanation is that it fits the facts perfectly. In the case of amputees, it is a valid way to explain the reality that we see in our world. The logic goes like this:
      If God is imaginary, then he does not answer any prayers. Therefore, the prayers of amputees would go unanswered too.
    The thing that is so appealing about this explanation is that there is no hand waving. There are no contradictions. It is completely fair. There is no paradox. This explanation makes complete sense in light of the evidence we see in our world.

    Key Point

    If God is imaginary, then he does not answer any prayers. Therefore, the prayers of amputees would go unanswered too. The thing that is so appealing about this explanation is that there is no hand waving. There are no contradictions. It is completely fair. There is no paradox. This explanation makes sense in light of the evidence we see in our world.
    Interestingly, this explanation also happens to cover the case of Neva Rogers in Chapter 1. And Steve Homel's subdivision in Chapter 2. And Ranika in Chapter 4. If you assume that God is imaginary, then the paradox of God evaporates in all of these cases. Why did Ranika die? Because there was no all-powerful, prayer-answering God to save her. Why did Neva die? Because there was no all-powerful, prayer-answering God to save her. Why did Steve's house remain standing while 39 others burned to the ground? Because there was no all-powerful, prayer-answering God to save any of the houses (and Steve's house was a fluke). Why did 200,000 people die in the tsunami? Because there was no all-powerful, prayer-answering God to save them. And so on. It explains amputees too. The paradox of God vanishes completely.
    In response to this proposal, a thoughtful person might say, "Just because God never answers the prayers of amputees, it does not mean that he does not answer other prayers. I agree with you that it is unfair to amputees, and I agree with you that it contradicts what Jesus teaches in the Bible, but God has his reasons. For some reason, it is not part of God's plan to help amputees by regenerating their lost limbs. There is no way to understand the mysteries of our Lord, but he does have his reasons and they will become clear to us when we die and go to heaven." That is one possible explanation, but words like "unfair" and "contradicts" feel, somehow, uncomfortable. They do not fit with our mental image of an all-loving and perfect God, nor with the words of Jesus in the Bible. Why would God have such a problem with amputees that he completely ignores their prayers to regenerate lost limbs, while at the same time he is answering all of these other prayers millions of times a day? When it comes to amputees, why would Jesus renege on his promises to answer prayers in the Bible?
    You can see that what we have here is a paradox:
    • On the one hand we have an all-knowing, all-loving God who has made very clear and specific statements in his Bible about the power of prayer. We have billions of people who believe that their prayers are being answered. We have thousands of examples of the power of prayer published in inspirational literature. We have prominent doctors at the CDC declaring that God is reaching down onto earth and performing medical miracles. We have major newspapers and magazines reporting on the power of prayer and prayer circles.
    • On the other hand, we have a piece of explicit evidence that does not make any sense if God exists. No matter how many people pray, no matter how sincere they are and no matter how much they believe, God does not answer the prayers of amputees to regenerate their limbs.
    There are two possible explanations for this paradox:
    • Many people believe that God answers millions of prayers every day, using his love and power to bless people all over the globe. They express their belief in articles like this, published in magazines read by millions of people. But they also believe that God ignores the prayers of amputees for a divine reason that is unknowable to human beings. In that case, the situation with amputees is a mystery.
    • Many other people believe the opposite. They believe that God is imaginary, and therefore he cannot answer prayers. In that case, the situation with amputees makes complete sense.
    Who is right?The thing about amputees is that the evidence is rock solid. This solidity is what makes this example so compelling.

    A cascade of problems

    It's not like I am revealing some hidden truth here. The funny thing about amputees is that this evidence is obvious to everyone. We have all seen that God ignores the prayers of amputees. This evidence has been plainly visible for centuries.
    Amputees are not the only ones either. For example:
    • If someone severs their spinal cord in an accident, that person is paralyzed for life. No amount of prayer is going to help.
    • If someone is born with a congenital defect like a cleft palate, God will not repair it through prayer. Surgery is the only option.
    • A genetic disease like Down Syndrome is the same way -- no amount of prayer is going to fix the problem.
    Or what about this. What if we get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:
      Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
    We pray sincerely, knowing that when God answers this completely heartfelt, unselfish, non-materialistic prayer, it will glorify God and help millions of people in remarkable ways. Will anything happen? Of course not. If prayers like this worked, Christians would have prayed every disease on the planet into extinction centuries ago. But if God were to exist, why would he ignore such a worthy prayer? [We will discuss this particular question in much more detail in chapter 6.]It is also easy to find corroborating evidence outside the medical arena. At the global level, we see the evidence every day in many different ways. For example, we all see the millions of children who die every year from the tragic effects of poverty. Unicef puts it this way:
      Every year, more than 10 million children die totally preventable deaths. Some are directly caused by illness – pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles – and others are affected by indirect causes such as conflict and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition, lack of safe water and inadequate sanitation are contributing factors to more than half of these deaths. [ref]
    Jesus is supposed to love all the little children of the world: "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight." So we can ask this straightforward question: If children are precious to Jesus, then why is he killing 10 million of them every year with abject poverty? That's 27,000 dead kids every day -- more than 1,000 dead children each hour. If Jesus answers prayers as he promises in the Bible, then why haven't the prayers of billions of people to end world hunger caused Jesus to solve the problem of global poverty? (We will discuss this situation in more detail in chapter 22.)

    Key Point

    27,000 children die every day for preventable reasons like malnutrition and unsafe drinking water. If Jesus answers prayers as he promises in the Bible, then why haven't the prayers of billions of people to end world hunger caused Jesus to solve the problem of global poverty?
    We all know that holes like these exist. It is easy to find them. The holes suggest that something very odd is going on.

    Ambiguity and coincidence

    The question, "Why won't God heal amputees?" probes into an extremely interesting aspect of prayer and exposes it for observation. This aspect of prayer has to do with ambiguity and coincidence.
    Imagine that you pray for something -- It does not really matter what it is. Let's imagine that you have cancer, you pray to God to cure the cancer, and the cancer actually does go away. The interesting thing to recognize is that there is ambiguity in your cure. God might have miraculously cured the disease, as many people believe. But God might also be imaginary, and the chemotherapy drugs and surgery are the things that cured your cancer. Or your body might have cured the cancer itself. The human body does have a powerful immune system, and this immune system has the ability to eliminate cancer in many cases. When your tumor dissappeared, it might be a coincidence that you happened to pray. Drugs, an immune response or a combination of the two might have been the thing the cured you.
    How can we determine whether it is God or coincidence that worked the cure? One way is to eliminate the ambiguity. In a non-ambiguous situation, there is no potential for coincidence. Because there is no ambiguity, we can actually knowwhether God is answering the prayer or not.
    That is what we are doing when we look at amputees.
    When we pray to God to restore an amputated limb, there is only one way for the limb to regenerate. God must exist and God must answer prayers. What we find is that whenever we create a non-ambiguous situation like this and look at the results of prayer, prayer never works. God never answers prayers if there is no possibility of coincidence. We will approach this issue from several different angles in this book, but Chapters 6 and 7 are particularly important.
    The fact that prayers are never answered when the possibility of coincidence is eliminated meshes with another fact. If we analyse God's responses to prayers using statistical tools, what we find is that there is never any statistical evidence for prayer. In other words, when we statisically compare prayer to coincidence for explaining any situation, they are identical. For example, this article points out:
      One of the most scientifically rigorous studies yet, published earlier this month, found that the prayers of a distant congregation did not reduce the major complications or death rate in patients hospitalized for heart treatments. [ref]
    It also says:
      A review of 17 past studies of ''distant healing," published in 2003 by a British researcher, found no significant effect for prayer or other healing methods.
    No scientific study has ever found any evidence that prayer works.There are two possible conclusions to draw from these statistical studies and the situation with amputees:
    1. God somehow detects every non-ambiguous situation (like amputees) and every situation where a statistical study will be done and he "refuses" to answer prayers in those situations.
    2. God is imaginary and does not answer prayers at all. In every case where it appears that God "answers" a prayer, it truly is nothing more than a coincidence.
    One problem with the first explanation is that it contradicts what Jesus teaches about prayer in the Bible. Jesus says that he answers payers. He never says, "don't pray to me unless the situation you are praying about is ambiguous." Another problem with the first situation is that it is possible to analyse any prayer with statistics, meaning that God cannot answer any prayer.In other words, we reach the same conclusion: God is imaginary.

    Incredibly Interesting

    Whether you are religious or not, you have to admit that what we see here is incredibly interesting. Despite the fact that billions of people around the world believe in God, in this chapter we have seen a credible piece of evidence that indicates that God is imaginary.
    We also have many other pieces of evidence that indicate the same thing. Let's step back and look at several of them.
    First of all, we have this fact: there is no scientific evidence indicating that God exists. We all know that. For example, God has never left behind any physical evidence that shows that he is real. None of Jesus' miracles left behind any physical evidence either. God has never taken over all the TV and radio stations and broadcast a message to mankind. There is the Bible, but as we will see inSection 2 the Bible has problems of its own. And so on. So let's agree that there is no empirical evidence showing that God exists:
    • If we had scientific proof of God's existence, we would talk about the "science of God" rather than "faith in God".
    • If we had scientific proof of God's existence, the study of God would be a scientific endeavor rather than a theological one.
    • If we had scientific proof of God's existence, all religious people would be aligning on the God that had been scientifically proven to exist.
    • Etc.
    Second, we have the fact that there is no statistical evidence that God answers prayers. No non-fradulent scientific study has found any evidence that prayer works. For example, if we have a prayer group pray for certain people in a hospital but not for others, the people who were prayed for don't get better any faster or live any longer. The prayers have zero statistical effect. We will discuss this in much more detail in Chapters 6 and 7.
    Simply think about the world around you. First, if there were conclusive statistical evidence that God answers prayers, that would provide scientific evidence that God exists. Second, we can see that there are not two laws of probability -- one for Chistians who pray and one for everyone else. There is a single law of probability that applies equally to everyone. Prayers have zero effect in any statistical study.


    Key Point

    There are not two laws of probability -- one for people who pray and one for everyone else. There is a single law of probability that applies equally to everyone. Prayers have zero effect in any statistical study.
    Third, we have quite a bit of daily evidence that also suggests that God is imaginary. For example, there is the paradox of Neva Rogers from Chapter 1. In this case Neva prays openly to God and then gets shot in the head four times. There is the paradox of Steve Homel's house, where Steve prays and his house is saved. Unfortunately, the 39 other houses on his street are cursed and burn to the ground. That 97.5% failure rate for prayer makes it feel like the survival of Steve's house is pure coincidence rather than a miracle. We see paradoxes like that constantly, and they all point to the fact that God is imaginary.
    Fourth, we have the fact that all of the gods of the past truly were imaginary. We all know with certainty that the Egyptian gods, the Roman gods and the Aztec gods were completely fictitious. Otherwise we would not have started to worship Jesus. We would be worshiping Ra or Zeus rather than Jesus if Ra or Zeus were real.
    Now we can start adding pieces of new evidence showing us that God does not exist. For example, we have the case of amputees as described in this chapter. If God is real, it is apparent that there is something very odd about amputees. God is supposedly answering millions of prayers on earth every day, but he completely ignores amputated limbs and refuses to restore them. That makes no sense according to the Standard Model of God and Jesus' statements in the Bible. God's treatment of amputees is inexplicable if God exists, but makes a lot of sense if God is imaginary.
    We have all of this evidence to show that God is imaginary. If we were in a court of law looking at this question, the judge would quickly rule that God is imaginary. There is no concrete evidence that God is real and lots of evidence that he is imaginary.
    If you are a thoughtful, curious person, the case of amputees really makes you wonder: Is God real or is he imaginary? Let's try looking at another example and see if it sheds any light on this situation...
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 6 - Why do you need health insurance?

    As discussed in Chapter 5, amputees are fascinating. The thing that makes the situation with amputees so interesting is the fact that God treats amputees in such a consistent way. God never answers the prayers of amputees to restore their lost limbs. It is not like God occasionally regenerates a leg. God never regenerates legs spontaneously, even though he clearly has promised to do so in the Bible and has the omnipotent ability to do so according to the Standard Model of God.
    Consistency is key. When we see that God consistently ignores the prayers of amputees, it is an important piece of data.

    The meaning of amputees

    In this chapter, I would like to suggest two conclusions that we can draw from the way that God treats amputees. These two suggestions may seem completely ridiculous when you first hear them. What I would ask, however, is that you give me one moment to explain.
    Here is what God's treatment of amputees suggests:

    • First, the evidence with amputees suggests that God does not answer any medical prayers at all. It is not just that God ignores amputees. It is that God ignores every medical prayer. Amputees suggest that all medical miracles are an illusion.
    • Second, the evidence suggests that you already know this. While you do not admit it to yourself consciously, at the subconscious level you already know that God does not answer any medical prayers. Furthermore, you are acting on that knowledge every day.
    As I said, I realize that this seems ridiculous. So let me lay out the whole argument for you with one simple question. The question is this:
      If God answers medical prayers, then why do you need health insurance?
    Simply think it through. If what Jesus says about prayer in the Bible is true, and if all the stories about medical miracles in inspirational literature are true, and if the cure of Jeanna Giese is true, and if your belief in God and the power of prayer is true, and if God has a plan for you, then why do you ever need to visit a doctor or go to the hospital? Why don't you simply pray for a cure whenever you get sick? In fact, why not pray preemptively every day -- "Dear God, I have faith that you will protect me from all illnesses today, Amen" -- and go through your life completely healthy?The reason I ask this is because the statement that Jesus makes in Mark 11:24 is so simple:
      Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
    So is what he says in John 14:14:
      If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
    There is this statement in Psalms chapter 41:
      1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
      the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
      2 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life;
      he will bless him in the land
      and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
      3 The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed
      and restore him from his bed of illness.
    In Mark 16, Jesus talks about the laying on of hands:
      16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
    But even more remarkable is James 5:15, where the Bible says:
      And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.
    These are powerful verses. Keep in mind, according to the Standard Model of God, that these are the words of an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God. And James 5:15 is completely unambiguous. If these words are true and perfect, it seems like a faithful person should have no need for health insurance.A conversation about God
    What reason would a perfect God have for making false statements in the Bible? Yet, by owning health insurance, you demonstrate to yourself that something in these verses is amiss. You may find yourself in conversations like this:
      Norm: Does God answer your prayers?Chris: Yes, of course. I have a strong personal relationship with God. I pray to him many times each day. Jesus hears my prayers and, through his grace and the grace of the Holy Spirit, my prayers are answered. I am blessed every day by God.
      Norm: So if you prayed to Jesus for something, would he answer your prayer?
      Chris: Yes. Of course. Jesus promises in the Bible that he answers prayers. We see prayers being answered constantly.
      Norm: Why pay for health insurance if you can pray and God will cure you? Why do people need doctors, prescriptions and hospitals?
      Chris: Sometimes it is not God's will to answer prayers.
      Norm: But in John 14:14, Jesus says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." James 5:15 says, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well." Why would God ignore your prayers?
      Chris: God is not some Santa in the sky. He does not answer prayers like that.
      Norm: Didn't you just say that God answers prayers? In the Bible, doesn't Jesus promise to answer prayers?
      Chris: God does answer prayers. I can show you millions of examples of God answering prayers. I have 20 books on my shelf at home filled with answered prayers.
      Norm: Then why do you need health insurance?
      Chris: Because, sometimes, it is not God's will to answer a prayer.
      Norm: Why do you say that? "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well" is completely unambiguous. But when you pray for a cure, in a lot of cases nothing happens. Doesn't that mean that Jesus is lying?
      Chris: No. Jesus is perfect so Jesus cannot lie. When God does not answer a prayer, it is not part of his plan.
      Norm: So you go to the doctor anyway?
      Chris: Yes. Of course I do.
      Norm: Aren't you defying God's will? Aren't you ruining God's plan?
      Chris: No. God does not intend for me to be sick.
      Norm: Then why doesn't God answer your prayers and cure you himself?
      Chris: There is no way that we can understand the mysteries of our Lord.
    I imagine that you can see the problem in this conversation. The problem is that we cannot trust God with something important like health care. God is completely random when he is "answering" prayers. That is why people need health insurance.


    Praying for a cure

    When people are sick, they often pray to God for a cure. This is especially true in the case of profound, life-threatening illnesses and chronic diseases. We've all heard the stories of amazing cures and medical miracles that have come through prayer. For example, here is a story from a housewife in Santa Monica:
      "I went to the doctor, and he told me that I had cancer of the uterus. One solution, according to my doctor, was a radical hysterectomy. But he wanted to try chemotherapy first, just in case. For me, my only goal in life was to have children, and I could not let the doctor make me sterile with a hysterectomy. That very day I got down on my knees and I prayed to God for a miracle. I read every passage of the Bible that had anything to do with healing, and I wrote them all down on index cards that I carried with me everywhere. I recited the verses, and I prayed whenever I had a spare minute -- Whether I was waiting at a stop light or for my husband to come home for dinner, I was praying and reciting those verses. And you know what? The good Lord cured me. I started on chemotherapy. At the very next visit, my doctor noticed a change. At my next visit he said, 'Let's postpone the surgery and see what happens.' A year later he could no longer detect the tumor, and he declared me cured. I knew in my heart -- it was the power of those scripture verses. God answered my prayers and cured me."
    If you subscribe to Guideposts magazine you can read a new story like this just about every month. Even big city newspapers and national magazines report on these stories now. The story of Jeanna Giese in the previous chapter is a perfect example of the process.There are two questions that we should ask based on this story:
    1. Why did our housewife from Santa Monica need chemotherapy if God was going to cure her anyway? God is all-powerful, so his cure should be instant and free of side-effects.
    2. On the flip side, if "God's plan" were for her to have a hysterectomy, what point is there in her praying? God's plan comes from an all-powerful being and it is going to run its course no matter what we do. What good is it to pray in such a situation? (we will discuss God's plan in much more detail inChapter 8)
    If you think about these two questions and how they interact with each other, you will realize something important. If God exists, and if God answers prayers, and if God has a plan for each of us, then there is no point in ever visiting a doctor. Owning health insurance is a complete waste of money. The reason is easy to see: Either God will or will not answer any prayer for healing. If he does answer the prayer, there is no need for a doctor. If he does not, then God's plan is for you to be sick. Since God is omnipotent, no amount of doctoring will change the outcome of God's plan. Seeing a doctor is a waste of time.Understanding Jesus
    If you are a believer and if you have your Bible nearby, we can look at your health care policy from another angle. Turn to Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus says:
      Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.[If you would like to read a theological analysis of Jesus' statement, turn to this page.]
    Jesus' statement is utterly clear: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." Yet health insurance is a physical manifestation of worry. You buy health insurance because you are worried about your health tomorrow.The question to ask yourself, therefore, is simple: If you are a believer, why you need health insurance? Or, for that matter, car insurance, life insurance or home owner's insurance? Why are you worrying about your health in the future when: A) Jesus has told you specifically not to worry (Matthew 6:34), and B) Jesus has promised to cure any illness that arises (James 5:15)? In addition, why are you worrying about money, which is what health insurance is all about, when in Matthew 6:19 Jesus specifically says:
      Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
    In Matthew 19:21 Jesus goes even further, telling you to sell everything and give the money to the poor. Obviously he intended for you to give up your health insurance policy and give its monthly payment to the poor as well.And then there is Poverbs 3:5-8:
      Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
    Why do you own a health insurance policy when you are supposed to be putting your trust in the Lord, who will bring health to your body?Everything the Bible says is very clear. Why are you ignoring everything that it tells you to do?
    Here is a possibility for you to consider. Is it possible that you are completely ignoring the Bible because, in your heart, you know that God is imaginary? What other reason is there for you, as a believer, to ignore him so profoundly by owning health insurance?

    A hidden God
    What may be running through your mind right now is the following: "You do not understand God at all. God must remain hidden. If he answered our medical prayers, it would destroy faith. That is why we need doctors." As discussed in the last chapter, this argument has several problems:
    • First, as discussed in the previous chapter, there is no evidence that God wants to remain hidden. God parted the Red Sea. God carved his commandments into stone tablets with his own finger. God incarnated himself in the form of Jesus, who then performed millions of miracles on earth to prove that he is God (see Chapter 19 for a complete discussion).
    • Second, if God answers any prayer, it would destroy faith. In the case of our Santa Monica housewife, she has had her faith destroyed. Therefore, under the "hidden God" theory, God can not answer any prayers without blowing his cover.
    • Third, any medical miracle that God performs today is obvious because we have so much advanced technology. The removal of a cancerous tumor, for example, is obvious because it is measurable. One month the tumor is visible to everyone on the X-ray, and the next month it is not. If God eliminated the tumor, then it is openly obvious to everyone who sees the X-ray. There is nothing "hidden" about removing a tumor.
    • Another example is seen in Jeanne's rabies case. Tens of millions of people are aware of the Jeanna's rabies miracle. Personally, I read about it in a big article in my morning newspaper. That is pretty obvious. What is hidden about her recovery? God has unmasked himself to tens of millions of people.
    Another common explanation that you might hear is, "God is not a gumball machine. He is under no obligation to answer prayers. God helps those who help themselves. Therefore, when you get sick you go to a doctor. That is what God demands that we do." See Understanding the gumball machine for details on this line of reasoning.What if, instead of assuming that God is trying to hide or that God is refusing to be a gumball machine, we assume that God is imaginary?

    Understanding reality
    Let's simply look at an example. Imagine that the rate of remission for some particularly nasty type of cancer is 5%. That means that if 20 people get this type of cancer, it is almost always fatal. Only one in 20 of the people who get the disease will survive. Knowing this, you can see the reality:
    • 20 people contract the disease
    • All of them have read James 5:15, so all of them pray.
    • 19 of them die
    • The one who lives proclaims, "I prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered my prayers! My disease is cured! It is a miracle! I KNEW God would answer my prayers!"
    • You never hear about the 19 who died. No one ever writes about that in a magazine. "Person prays, then dies" is not a great headline. And since they are dead, you will never hear from any of the people who had a deadly experience with prayer.
    • Therefore, if you don't look at all the facts around the "answered prayer," and you only hear about the one out of twenty prayers that succeed, it appears that prayer is successful.
    The fact is, people who pray die from this disease at exactly the same rate as people who do not.We can see the reality of this situation simply by opening our eyes. But we do have to open our eyes -- We have to look at both the successes AND the failures of prayer to see the reality of our world. When we take a scientific approach and we do look at both sides, we see what is really happening.
    When a prayer is answered, what is happening? It is nothing but a coincidence. We know this without a doubt in two different ways:
    • If we look at disease remission rates for praying people vs. non-praying people, and we control for all variables like income, known risk factors, etc., disease remission rates for the two groups are identical. People who pray for a cure gain no advantage from prayer.
    • We can take 200 sick people. With 100 of them we create a prayer circle and we pray for them. With the other 100 we do not. Then we look at what happens to those two groups of people. We find that both groups have the same outcome. The prayed-for group does not recuperate faster or live longer.
    You can pick any disease. If you analyze both the successes AND the failures of prayer, you will find the same thing. It does not matter how many people pray, how often they pray, how sincere they are or how devout and worthy the patient is. It simply is a fact that, statistically, God ignores all medical prayers. Plenty of scientific studies confirm it, as shown in this article:
      In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.
    See also this page.Yes, there are people who do pray and live, and their stories sound convincing. But the only reason that they sound convincing is because the millions of people who pray and die never get to tell their stories.

    Revisiting Jeanna
    What about the miracle of Jeanna Giese discussed in Chapter 5? Didn't God interact with her body and miraculously cure her rabies because of her gigantic prayer circle? How did that work? It worked because, if Jeanna had died, the story of her prayer circle never would have appeared in the paper. People do assemble gigantic prayer circles that fail. It happens all the time. But you never hear about them, so it appears that prayer circles always work.
    How can we know, for sure, that Jeanna's prayer circle was a coincidence? Let's assume that it was Jeanna's prayer circle that did cure her. Millions of people prayed, God heard the prayer and God actually did cure Jeanna. In that case, the prayer circle missed an incredible opportunity. What the prayer circle prayed was this:
      Dear God, Please cure Jeanna, Amen.
    What they could have prayed is this:
      Dear God, Please eliminate the disease of rabies worldwide, Amen.
    This second prayer would have cured Jeanna, and it would have also helped countless other people and animals around the world. It would have ensured that no one, ever again, would be afflicted with rabies.Even if you believe in God, I think we can agree that the second prayer would not work. We know that with certainty. It is obvious from the evidence that we see all around us. If the second prayer ever worked, then people would have prayed every disease into extinction centuries ago.
    Why doesn't the second prayer work? If God actually did answer Jeanna's prayer, why would he not answer the broader prayer as well? I believe that we all know the answer to that question, even if many of us are not willing to admit it consciously. The second prayer does not work because the first one did not work either. The simple fact is that God does not answer medical prayers and Jeanna's cure was a coincidence. The statistics prove it every time.

    The evidence all around us
    If prayer worked as promised by Mark 11:24 and James 5:15, people would not need doctors. We could get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:
      Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
    Instead, what we see in our world is this:
    • As a nation, the people of America are spending approximately two trillion dollars on health care every year. None of that money would need to be spent if God truly answered prayers as he promises in James 5:15.
    • Pharmaceutical companies are making hundreds of billions of dollars selling thousands of drugs and medications to handle medical problems. If God truly answered prayers, we would not need any of those drugs.
    • In every city there are huge hospitals filled with patients. If God truly answered prayers, we would not need any of these hospitals.
    • If you look at both the successes AND the failures of prayer, statistical studies show no benefit from prayer.
    • And everyone you know has health insurance, including you.
    In other words, what your common sense tells you, and what statistical analysis of disease and prayer tells you, and what the overwhelming evidence in the world all around us tells you, and what your own personal health insurance policy tells you, is that God does not answer medical prayers.If prayer did work, then both your hospital and your insurance company would have a Department of Prayer, and they would have employees praying feverishly day and night. Hospitals and insurance companies want to save lives and save money just as badly as you do. If prayer worked, corporations would be using it every day without hesitation.
    The response to all of this evidence often is, "You are wrong! God can't answer my prayers. If he did, it would take away my free will to believe in him! God must remain hidden." This is the same thing as saying, "God does not answer prayers." If God cannot answer your prayers because it would take away your free will, then God cannot answer any prayers.
    You can elicit this response quite easily, as seen in the following conversation:
      Chris: Pray to God and he will answer your prayers!Norm: OK, let's pray together for God to do something concrete right now.
      Chris: Oh, now, we can't do that! That would take away our faith in God. God cannot prove that he exists.
      Norm: That means God can answer none of your prayers. Any prayer he answers will prove his existence.
      Chris: That is not true. God answers millions of prayers every day!
      Norm: Then let's pray for him to answer a prayer right now.
      Chris: No, No, we cannot do that.
    How can it be that God is answering millions of prayers, yet it is impossible for God to answer a prayer? It is because all of those "answered prayers" are simply coincidences. Let's look at another example and you will see what I mean...
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