Agnostic Prayer

There is no reason why someone who is in doubt about the existence of God should not pray for help and guidance in this topic as in other matters. Some find something comic in the idea of an agnostic praying to a God whose existence he doubts. It is surely no more unreasonable than the act of a man adrift in the ocean, trapped in a cave, or stranded on a mountainside, who cries for help though he may never be heard or fires a signal which may never be seen.

  • Sir Anthony Kenny

Thoughts? Does it make sense for an agnostic to pray?

Absolutely it makes sense. I am a Christian today because I began to pray as an agnostic.

Agnostics say they don’t know if there is a God or not. In their minds, if there is a God possibly, then why not seek Him, just to see if He is out there? God loves agnostics!

I think it depends what your mean by agnostic. An agnostic atheist is someone who believes that it is impossible to know if a God or gods exist or not. For such a person, prayer would not make sense.

For an agnostic who is undecided on the God question, then prayer could make sense, if there are psychological benefits. For example if the prayer is comforting or consoling them.

Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out that it is impossible to sit on the fence, echoing the words of Jesus:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

This question reminds me of something I read many, many years ago. It was a prayer titled “The Agnostic’s Prayer” and it went like this"

“O God (if there is a God), save my soul (if I have one).”

I’m not agnostic but there are days when my faith is weak and prayers feel meaningless but I pray anyway. Then eventually that connection comes back and I’m strong as a Christian once again. I feel phony sometimes when I pray but I do it anyway. Agnostics should pray and if they keep praying they probably will cease to be agnostic.:slight_smile:

It depends what one means be “impossible to know.” I am in agreement if they have decided that there is literally no way to know. If they are making the claim that all extant demonstrations fail, though, (ie. they don’t hold that faith-based experience is impossible) then it seems like they might still pray. (That seems to be the position of Kenny, who does not believe that any arguments for God’s existence succeed.)

I would agree, although it seems like Kenny is also getting at something else through the analogies of shouting on the mountainside. It seems like the agnostic might pray with a legitimate hope (and doubt) of being heard, at least on his take. (Psychological benefits may accompany as well.)

[quote=Sir Anthony Kenny]There is no reason why someone who is in doubt about the existence of God should not pray for help and guidance in this topic as in other matters.

If he is asking for any reason (as in motivation) to present to an agnostic atheist to avoid prayer then I would agree in general because there are few reasons of which I know to advise an agnostic not to pray.

Though I can think of some reasons why a person with such a disposition might not want to do so (such as keeping their words and actions as an authentic representation of their stance) or if one was willing to do so I can see why she might not want to do it publically (such as not wanting her position to be misrepresented).

Whether or not the person has a motivation to pray to an unknown god/God is another question. In the scenarios present the people are in a desperate state wanting help. People in these states tend to be more malleable and open to various types of conversions or convincing (both religious and non-religious). I suspect that the more emotionally troubled that one is the more effective that attempts to get the person to pray will be. I also suspect that a person that feels that their life is going pretty well might not be as responsive to attempts to convince her to pray.

Agnostic theists may already have her own motivations for praying without being prompted to do so.

You beat me to it.

Eugen. Weber, the historian had this one, when he was lecturing about the age of enlightened despots.

“Oh God, if there is a God. Save my soul if I have one”.

I thought the prayer went:

"To Whom It May Concern:

[insert petition]

Thank you. If prayer is undeliverable, please disregard."

I agree.

I’ve always disliked the saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Desperate situations sometime cause desperate actions, and do not necessarily mean that a person is not a “sincere” atheist.

Put it to you this way: I understand the principles of aviation. But if I fall of a cliff, darned if I ain’t gonna try flapping my arms all the way down.

This is a confused person and not an agnostic.

Our fate is at our hands, read minds.

I agree. I think I sincerely held my atheism. I find it doubtful that many atheists are closet theists.

Anthony Kenny is a confused person? Seems hard to believe. He’s an incredibly rigorous philosopher who has engaged with the possibility of theism more than any other agnostic I know of. I disagree with his conclusions, but I think it’s a stretch to say he’s confused.

That may depend on the environment. The people I know that fall within the non-religious spectrum tend to avoid religious discussions or plainly stating their disposition openly. There are negative consequences anticipated from doing so. When among other people that they know to either be non religious or friendly to non-religious than they don’t mind sharing their disposition if it is relevant to the conversation.

Pardon my mistakes. Sent from my mobile device.

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