God(s), as perfect beings, need nothing. They have no deficits. Praying is pointless because God knows everything and if God is perfectly good and just, then our prayers asking it to help others are pointless: God will help those that deserve it without or without our persuasive attempts. Praying is for ourselves and is essentially a self-help psychology disguised as religious behaviour. Also as God is everywhere it doesn't need us to go to specific places to do specific things: religious buildings are also purely a facet of human relations, not divine requirement. Intelligent humans realized this long ago - Aristodemus and Socrates in the 4th century BCE discuss that the idea of the divine is "too exalted to need worship"1. The reason we do so are social. God can tell us anything we need to know, and if there are things we need to know, a perfectly good-god would tell us directly. Therefore evangelism is pointless, merely a social exercise that feeds the ego of the evangelists. God doesn't need prophets such as Jesus, Muhammad, or magical tricks such as the Resurrection, to tell the world what it wants the world to know. If it is good for us to know something, God would tell everyone instantly and clearly, not via 3rd-party magical tricks and public relations stunts. God, as all-powerful and the facilitator of our personalities and consciousness, does not need the operation of "souls" in order to preserve us after death. All these things can only be believed in by those who don't understand that God(s), if they exist, are perfect beings. If you strip away all the nonsense from god-belief, the result is called deism, which is the belief in God but without religion. Deism is the most sensible form of god-belief. Antisthenes (445BCE-365CE), the founder of the Cynic tradition of classical Greece, taught that we should reject all worship of the gods because as perfect beings they were in need of nothing2. The idea of God is pretty much incompatible with all religious dogma and practice.
When we pray, we are conveying our thoughts to what we think of as God. But, if God is all-knowing then it already knows anything we would want to say. If we pray because we are feeling insecure or frightened... God already knows how we feel. If we pray because we want God to make a friend recover from illness... then God already knows that we want it to help our friend. So what is the point of praying to God for these things? It is certainly not because it needs us to, or because we want it to tell it something that it already knows! Clearly, prayer is not because God has needs!
Given that prayer is irrelevant to an all-knowing or perfectly good god, why do theists do it? The answer is that praying is for ourselves. The standard Christian response to the above arguments is just that... that it is us that psychologically need prayer. But, however, the Christian response is narrow. The function that prayer plays is as the facilitator of introspective reflection. Theist religions call it "prayer", Eastern ones call it "meditation". Psychologically it is introspection and reflection. In all cases it is connected to the internal states of the person involved - it seems dishonest to call it 'prayer' if you admit it is just introspection and psychology. Calling it by a more magical name merely confuses impressionable people. So, even promoting the idea of 'prayer' is functionally abusive.
Prayer or meditation, be it Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Jewish, is all for the self, not for God, as God doesn't need it. But most Christians and others do not admit that it is an essentially selfish act.
In Satanism, my own religion, it is common knowledge that religious symbols are reflections of the self, nothing more. But those who meditate and those who pray delude themselves into thinking it is "God" that wants them to do it, rather than admitting they're doing it for themselves. Self-help works better when it is done honestly, "prayer" should be called "meditation" or "philosophical introspection".
Of all the many courses of action or inaction, God knows which is best. An all-knowing God knows everything. As God is a perfect being, it always does what is best. If you pray for a friend to miraculously recover from an inoperable brain disease, what will happen? If God wants to cure the person, it will. If it doesn't want to (because it is not the best course of action), it won't. Prayers cannot make a difference to what God will do, because prayers don't change what the best course of action for god is. The Bible isn't particularly coherent when it comes to deliberating on this topic but one of the most famous verses on Christian prayer is 1 John 5:14: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us". This agrees with our argument that God only listens to prayers if they happen to agree with what God was going to do anyway. It seems that to pray for God to act is to doubt that God already knows best. Jesus said "Get thee behind me, Satan!" to an apostle who thought he knew better than God's plan (Matt. 16:23): Jesus knew that to think you knew better than God was sinful and Satanic, even if you had good motives.
If God is all-knowing then it doesn't need anyone to pray because it already knows what we're going to say and what we're thinking. If God is perfectly good and just, then any praying we do for others is pointless as it will not change the facts of whether it is right for a particular person to be benefited or left. If it is right, God will do it with or without prayers: if it is not right, God won't do it. What use is there for prayer? It should be admitted that prayer is self-reflective meditation - self help - and we should probably even stop the pretence of calling it 'prayer' for god.
Large portions of this text on prayer have been taken from my existing page on the subject. View it in full here:
God is present everywhere, omnipresent. This must be true if God is either omniscient or omnipotent; both grant God instantaneous access to every possible location. As such, God does not need us to be in particular places. Anywhere where we are, God is. Anything we say, God hears and anything we do, God sees. Therefore gathering in particular places such as Churches, Synagogues, Temples and buildings is not something God needs us to do. If God doesn't need to do it, why do we do it?
We do it for social reasons; gathering amongst others with similar beliefs is a cultish behaviour that strengthens group belief. We do it for ourselves. All groups do it, scientists, philosophers, experts, football fans and students. Sharing with others on mutual topics is worthwhile human behaviour. But it is not essentially religious behaviour nor is it something that God needs us to do. We do it for ourselves, whether we do it under the banner of knowledge, science, entertainment or religion. Even when the ultimate cause is charitable or good we are doing it in order to strengthen ourselves and consolidate our psychological identity.
This text is taken from "God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic" by Vexen Crabtree (2012).
If God is good in nature and its message is true, and the message of god is important for us, then it holds to reason that a good god would want human beings to know that message. God in its omnipotence can immediately impart the correct knowledge directly into our consciousness. I am sure it also has the know-how to do it in a non-harmful way given that it designed our brains down to the functioning of millions of neuronal connections and neurotransmitters, etc. Put another way: It must be true that we all already know the most-important things that God wants us to know. Whatever various religions, prophets, seekers, mystics and holy spokespeople say is not exactly what God wants us to know. There is no reason for a good god, which wants the truth to be known, to convey important messages to individual human beings, in specific human languages, and allow us to spread the message using our own imperfect communication methods. As soon as people start translating it, explaining it to each other and writing it down then the message becomes reliant upon cultural understanding. It will dilute, get misunderstood, and it is sure that different communities will come to interpret the message differently, leading to schism and confusion, and as history has shown, to violence and bloodshed. Therefore, God's important messages are universal, imparted directly into all of our hearts and minds, and are therefore not made subject to human communications errors. If goodness comes from god, then given their historical mistakes, their culture-specific language, moral shortcomings and the social strife that results from their existence, holy books cannot possibly be from God. The whole idea of cultivating the True Religion via the orally-transmitted stories of itinerant and illiterate preachers such as Jesus and Mohammad, in (often obscure) human languages, is nonsensical.
If God wants someone to know the facts about a particular religion, then it would automatically make that person know. What God wants, it can do, because God is all-powerful. If God is also perfectly good, then if it is right for someone to know something then God will let them know it. If it is right to know something, then, a good God is compelled to let people know it directly.
Evangelism therefore is pointless. It is senseless for religious adherents to go around telling people about their religious views if they believe in an all-powerful or perfectly good God. An all-powerful good god will want (and can!) give anyone any knowledge it is good for them to have. It is not the job of religious adherents to run around trying to pretend to know what God wants people to know!
The reasons for evangelism are probably more selfish than theological; to do with (1) personal ego, (2) public image and (3) Earthly influence. They think that if they evangelize they will (4) get themselves into heaven and (5) increase their own sense of self-worth (deluded psychology).
But it is obvious that evangelists are going against God's will, if God has a will. If God wanted someone to know something, and it was right for them to know it, God would tell that person directly. There is no point in doing it any other way. The only reason people need to tell each other things about religion is if it is things that God doesn't think it is best for them to know. This absurd state of affairs means that evangelists are least godly, trusting least in the abilities of God to tell people what they need to know!
God Could Tell Everyone Everything
Taking it further, God could tell everyone everything. Everyone would know all the facts. However God doesn't do this, which has been a source of doubt as to the very existence of a good god:
“If we knew the truth, our existential crises, mental angst and warring world religions would have no grounds to vex. If god revealed itself to everyone, in no unclear terms, there could be no disagreement. But god does not do this. God remains hidden - and if god is the source of any of our world religions, it seems that it is intentionally giving conflicting messages. Saying one set of things to one group of people; appearing as a multitude of gods to others, and appearing not at all to many. These appear to be the tactics not of a god that wants us to understand and unite, but of one that actively encourages division, war, conflict, confusion and stress.”
In Christianity, God performs miracles and stunts (including re-animating dead bodies like some morbid puppeteer) in order to convince certain people of certain things. As we have discussed, to say that God requires the use of magic tricks is to undermine the all-powerful nature of God. If God wanted us to know things, it would tell us directly and efficiently, not via indirect tricks.
Our skepticism includes episodes from burning bushes (Moses), illiterate authors (Muhammad) and dying-resurrecting gods (paganism, Christianity). Take the crucifixion, for example:
“The crucifixion makes no sense. The crucifixion did not empower God as God is omnipotent. It did not aid its understanding of Humanity, as God is omniscient. God did not need to become Human to experience Human suffering: God already knew. God is able to judge us perfectly, because God is perfect, just and all-knowing. The crucifixion of Jesus did not improve God's judgement of us, as God's judgement was perfect both before and after the crucifixion. The crucifixion did not aid us, as "knowing Jesus" was not the point of the crucifixion unless God has arbitrarily condemned everyone to hell who happened to live before the founding of Christianity. That those who lived before the time of Jesus' crucifixion are also judged fairly by (perfect) God means that there was no actual point to it all except as a needless public relations exercise. The entire escapade seems to be an irrational story copied from pre-Christian myths.”
Prophets are people who come conveying some new message from God. They have a limited range of influence, take a long time to convince people and are a pretty inefficient method of communication. If God wanted groups of people to know things, God would tell those people those things directly or just put the knowledge straight into their brains.
Prophets are therefore people who believe that people should know things that God itself doesn't want them to know. If God wanted them to know, God would have told them already as god is all-powerful. If it is right for them to know, then God would make them know instantly. It wouldn't need to beat around the bush, and go get some random person to go around and tell other people for it. God is all-powerful and doesn't need the help of anyone. Prophets are people who believe they know better than God: they believe that although an all-powerful, perfectly good god hasn't imparted a particular idea to someone, that they themselves should do it instead.
Souls are unnecessary3. Consciousness can come from flesh. God's memory is infinitely perfect and it knows our personality and memories better than we do. God can simply revive and restore our consciousness without the need for souls. To claim God needs souls is to deny God's omnipotency. The biological and chemical make-up of our brains and consciousness is known perfectly to God, its own memory is sufficient, God simply contains all of us. It can recreate us, including our personality and memories, as they were at any point in our life, all without the need for wobbly souls. The belief in an all-powerful God is logically incompatible with the belief in necessary souls.
To talk of "souls" is merely to talk of individuals, and to pray for someone's "soul" is an attempt to tell God what to do! God knows who deserves what and why, God doesn't need our prayers, our petty thoughts about what God should do to this-or-that soul is irrelevant and what's more would be patronizing! Souls play no part in Gods scheme, nor can they play any part in our wishes.
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. [Book Review]
Drachmann, Anders Björn. (1860-1935) Professor of Classical Philology in the University of Copenhagen.
(1922) Atheism in Pagan Antiquity. Translated by Ingeborg Andersen. Gutenberg Project ebook. Originally published in Danish in 1919, Kjoebenhavns Universitets Festskrift.