Paging Dr God

Question from Sumira:
I am a non believer. One topic that baffles me is when believers seek medical treatment. They spend so much time praying and thanking gods for good health or recovery. Why do they really even seek medical treatment then? Isn’t that admitting that praying isn’t enough?

I know some of these types believe that god works through doctors or prayers result in medical advances. I still don’t understand though. I know this is just one small inconsistency within the larger inexplicable delusion, but please help me. What are these people really thinking and how do you respond?

Answer by SmartLX:
Seriously ill people who don’t get medical attention are much more likely to die than those who do, and no amount of prayer changes that. Remember this anytime you’re baffled and it’ll help you, because the reasoning behind all this stems from it.

Because prayer by itself doesn’t apparently work, it becomes a liability for any religious group that says it does. Those groups who stick to their guns and leave everything to God, like the Followers of Christ or the Church of the First Born, are regularly in the news when the children of their followers die preventable deaths. Mainstream churches can’t afford that kind of ongoing embarrassment if they want to keep their millions of nominal followers. (See the recent decline in Catholicism as a direct result of the child abuse scandals.)

Thus, ideas emerge such as that God works through doctors or medical science, or that He leaves medicine up to us as a test, or that Satan somehow nullifies God’s influence…anything to establish theologically that despite God’s presence, it’s still necessary to properly tend the sick. These ideas might start from either the pulpit or the pews, and they might be official doctrines or just unspoken assumptions by the congregation.

These compromising concepts are useful to religious adherents whether or not they actually believe in them. They save the devout from having to confront the inefficacy of prayer, and give them legitimate reasons to take control of the care of their loved ones. Those who belong to a religion but also rely on medicine are able to reconcile the two to their more religious acquaintances.

Admitting that prayer isn’t all-powerful isn’t the same as admitting that God isn’t all-powerful. All a religion needs in order to ignore the poor results of prayer-based healing is a reason, any reason, why God doesn’t put all of His power into every prayer. Thus potential evidence for the absence of God is reduced to a simple absence of evidence for God, and faith does the rest.