Why do people gather together to pray?
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09-06-2012, 11:06 PM
Why do people gather together to pray?
Why is there such a thing as communal prayer? It certainly seems to be universal: Christians have their churches, Jews their synagogues, Muslims their mosques, Hindus their temples . . . People get together to talk to God. But why? It doesn't follow logically. If you believe in a deity and want to praise or petition him/her/it, why not just do it by yourself, communing with your imaginary friend the godhead alone in your room? Why make a public spectacle of it?

There's a NT passage where Jesus says people should pray in isolation, Matthew 6:5-6.

Quote:5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)

But Christians don't seem to have taken these words to heart. In Christianity as in all religions (as far as I know), public prayer is a major activity.

I was going to try to offer some explanations, but I wasn't satisfied with what I came up with. So instead, I'll just throw the question out there: What is it about communal prayer that makes it so universal in religion?

Thoughts?

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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09-06-2012, 11:19 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
There is also the passage that explains 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them'. Matthew 18:20. I hear this one a lot.

My uneducated thoughts and personal conclusions on this are that since the beginning of social evolution, our ancestors have always gathered. This would make sense for every society we have on earth. Like minded people gather for all kinds of like minded things, and it feels good. I would equate it to a social structure. If imaginary friend God is real, then the explanation of only single prayer would make perfect sense, but it's hard to get indoctrinated that way Wink I can picture long ago our ancestors would be gathered around fires and the shaman of the tribe starting all the hoopla and from there it spun into the different sects of religious organization we have today.

What were your thoughts on it?
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10-06-2012, 12:10 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Short answer: Group Therapy.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
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10-06-2012, 12:38 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Confused Well, if everyone prayed to their own one true God, it wouldn't be the same, one true God. Several billion one true Gods would just confuse the one true God marketing strategy. And there is no way to control several billion one true Gods... no matter how true any one of them might be.

Independence is an ugly thing; it smacks of freedom and we can't have that. Oh a little, sure but if people are too free... they might start thinking, and then what would we sell them? Angel

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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10-06-2012, 02:27 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Chemical context and pattern reinforcement. Buncha social animals get off on doing shit together, so ya get 'em to pray together, that reinforces the idea that there's something to pray to, and when the sheep is separated from the herd, it remembers that feeling of togetherness and wants to do it again.

Why do atheist not know this, that is the question. Your atheism is weak. Back to reorientation for you. Evil_monster

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10-06-2012, 02:51 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
psychological answer: You feel less ridiculous when you do it in a group.

esotherical answer: The message reaches the god faster/easier/more clear/whatever when you do it with other people because the energies/prayermagic/whatever are bundled and kinda bigger....

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10-06-2012, 03:24 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
It's done for the sake of indoctrination. When you're praying by yourself with no outside influence, you know very little about the actual teachings of the God you are worshiping and will generally worship your supposed "God" incorrectly. Without communal prayer, religious people wouldn't even know the tiny bit about their religion that they currently do. We'd probably also have a good deal more Atheists.
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10-06-2012, 06:52 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Because the purpose of religion is to bind people together.

Before civilisation, ie, 5 000+ years ago, humans were universally animists. Animism is practiced differently than polytheistic and monotheistic religions. The true glue that bound bands together was kin selection.

Dunbar discovered that humans can have meaningful relationships with a maximum of 150 others, the ideal being 75; roughly the size of the average band. Once we became sedentary and began intensive agriculture, a practice that allowed us to arbitrarily increase our food supply, our populations exploded past 150. First we developed cheiftancies and then full blown civilisations. Kin selection and interpersonal relationships are inadequate for uniting populations beyond the Dunbar number, so something else is required.

Hierarchy was the organisational strategy that was adopted (replacing egalitarianism) and religion was the glue. It allowed civilisations to give it's members a reason to consider themselves the same. It also developed in a time before mass communications. Coming together to worship allowed centralised messages to be disseminated, to keep people on the same page, to reinforce the artificial bond created between them, that sort of thing.

Religion still persists, but nationalism became a more important force a few hundred years ago. Today, economic affiliation is becoming dominant. The difference now is that mass communications allows us to forgo the need to be in the same geographical location, but there is no appreciable difference between a Sunday sermon and a State of the Union Address (my fellow Americans) or a Throne Speech, or a corporate video (welcome to the Subway family).

That's the mechanical aspect. The other possibility is that God exists and wants us to worship him communally and that the resulting bond is a product of that desire. I have no reason to believe that personally, but it's a possibility.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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10-06-2012, 08:43 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Because the purpose of religion is to identify outsiders and people who won't follow the authority structure so that they can be cast out. When you pray together you identify yourself as a believer. If you were to waver there would be an immediate externally-identifiable effect of that wavering. It's like taking communion. If you are wavering in your belief you'll be easy to identify, so you keep telling yourself that its all really true. Everyone in the pews is doing the same thing - convincing themselves that it's all true so that they can continue as members of their community.

Religions are set up to make sure that you can't grow gradually away from them. You usually have to make some kind of hard and fast decision that will cost you something to exercise. The greater the cost to leave, the more that a little deviation is self-censored by the believer. The more the believer acts to reduce their dissonance. The more the permission to think freely is withdrawn from the believer. Someone who prays alone and doesn't attend regular services can believe any old thing. Religions want to make sure they don't step out of line.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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10-06-2012, 08:47 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Humans have a complex blend of needs.
Gathering together to pray is a fulfillment of some of those needs for some people.

This is why I always say that if atheism is really going to become more dominant in society then we need to
provide other outlets to fulfill people's needs in our culture, so they don't use religion to fulfill them anymore.

You can try and ignore this fact but these needs are part of what we are. Evolution produced us, so there really isn't anyone to blame.
Although some people are able to produce a world view based mostly(but definitely not completely) on logic and separate from their psychological needs, that isn't
true for many. I would also argue that even the most coldly logical are influenced by their basic human needs more than they would care to admit.
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