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Does Prayer Help Disaster Victims? Here’s One Way to Measure It

Dec 4, 2018

By Cass R. Sunstein

After a tragedy, it is common for people to send “thoughts and prayers.” Skeptics argue that it’s much better to do something more tangible – to send money, to volunteer, or to press for reforms that will reduce future tragedies.

In the context of gun control, the idea of thoughts and prayers has become a parody of ineffectual and even pathetic responses to horrific events. Some people decry thoughts and prayers as doing nothing – except to make bystanders feel better about themselves.

But for those who think and pray, what are the actual effects of thoughts and prayers?

Here’s one speculation: Because thoughts and especially prayers focus people on human suffering, they spur concrete action. They’re not pathetic at all.

Here’s another speculation: Thoughts and prayers turn out to be a substitute for concrete action. They give people a sense that they have done something significant when they actually haven’t — and therefore make them unlikely to do anything else.

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One comment on “Does Prayer Help Disaster Victims? Here’s One Way to Measure It”

  • A wise man once said: “Praying – talking to yourself and thinking it will make a difference”.

    Similarly, a medical study showed thinking about god lights up particular parts of the brain. Which happen to be exactly the same parts of the brain that light up when you think about yourself. Report abuse

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