Why do people gather together to pray?
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10-06-2012, 10:01 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Here's a relevant comic, I think. Nicely reflects on the concept of "groupthink"
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Welcome to science. You're gonna like it here - Phil Plait

Have you ever tried taking a comfort blanket away from a small child? - DLJ
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10-06-2012, 11:52 AM (This post was last modified: 10-06-2012 12:19 PM by kim.)
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(10-06-2012 02:51 AM)Leela Wrote:  psychological answer: You feel less ridiculous when you do it in a group.

That's very much it, I think. You'll do things in a group you wouldn't do on your own. Especially a stupid thing, and when you do the stupid thing, your individuality becomes ever more secondary ...even to you. In a group, you don't have the horrendous burden of being you.

Being an individual is the most difficult thing you'll ever do… for some, it just becomes too much and they give up. It's very easy to give up individuality because it's such a fight to continually maintain it; there's nothing mapped out on how you're supposed to be. Life seems to be a process of continually thinking up shit to provide material to just be - and that is a lot of work for some. It's easier to just join a club and let someone else think shit up for you.

It's a constant balancing act and even a fight: be social or be alone. We compromise by letting a little bit of the mob into our lives, and that's great - it is how we socialize. For some the Mob, might be nothing more than a part of individuality or just a tool to express it… like Flash Mob. Ask Kingschosen how it feels to be a black sheep Christee. And of course, TTA forum members are… whatever the hell we are, we're here... square pegging every round hole on the planet. But in a group, you don't have to be just you… you are a Ballroom Dancer! ...you are a Baptist! ...you are a Nazi! …you are a Librarian! …you are an Atheist! … you are a Girl Scout! It's all so glamorous.

****
I used to work in a research library and I've seen librarians become an insane, freaky, and rowdy bunch, even banned from a hotel(in another state) once. As frightening as pool nudity might get, I've also seen them argue and debate; a far more savage undertaking, I assure you... I've witnessed a librarian passionately debate as if fighting for life itself. Point is; no one sees librarians roaming the streets with pistols and pitchforks, because they spend their days thinking their asses off about how to hold their own in the world.

As a group, they are somewhat innocuous but individually, some librarians may very well be the bravest of the brave. I've seen two or three individual librarians refuse to ban particular books, because whatever mass hysteria of the day coincided with an election year. I've also seen a couple of different librarians in separate instances, defy Homeland Security and refuse to provide lists of books checked out by certain individuals.

******
A group might be only as powerful as it's weakest individual... but that is a distraction. An individual will think for the self in order to just be and in so doing, comes to understand that if there is any power, it lies within the individual alone. When you fight for brain space in the world, you become smart enough to see a naked emperor. You are not afraid to bite a hand feeding you sugar covered shit. And chances are you probably won't be goose stepping in the street, unless you're sporting a pink feather boa and the guy next to you is wearing a giant purple foam cowboy hat.

The individual knows: there is no groupbut someone always wants you to think there is.

Theists think "Atheism" is a religion. Really? They continually try to get you and everyone to think it is. It always helps to break apart individuality into useful pieces... those pieces can help build the group Us, so we can fight Them.

To rebrand a (perceived)group, depletes the power of each individual of that (perceived)group, making it easier for the Us group to fight the Them group. One may not win any battles, but that doesn't mean the war is lost. And all the while, the individual knows: there is no war, there is no Us, there is no Them. Always, there is only the individual. Yes, united we may stand, but divided...as individuals, we just might become a power greater than the united... which someone else controls.

Oop... coffee time! Drinking Beverage

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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10-06-2012, 01:41 PM (This post was last modified: 10-06-2012 09:43 PM by Atothetheist.)
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(10-06-2012 03:24 AM)pppgggr Wrote:  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.
I don't agree with you. Communal Prayer is not the catalyst for their religion. I can be a believer, who got converted by a friend whole told me ( if I didn't know what I know now). Whether or not you are a practicing person of the religion, and by your own standards, decides if you pray by yourself or if you pray in a group.

Prayer, in itself, is therapy. Pure and simple.

Christianity and other religions have established a way humans can feel like they have accomplished something by praying for world peace, car keys, (etc) when they did nothing to accomplish that.
It also "allows" communication time with "God." and people feel comfort in knowing that you have God to talk to through your tough times.

Group Prayer is Group Therapy. Group Prayer is very good to believers, who want to have people pray, communally on an issue close to their heart. It can increase their morale.

I doubt that we would have more atheists purely out of the nonexistence of group prayer, but I can never be certain of it.

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10-06-2012, 07:27 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
It just struck me. It's kinda funny that someone is asking why the religious get together on a website where Atheists get together.

Such is the power of community I suppose.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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10-06-2012, 09:04 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(10-06-2012 08:47 AM)Superluminal Wrote:  I would also argue that even the most coldly logical are influenced by their basic human needs more than they would care to admit.

I would say so, even the most coldly logical can shed a tear as well.
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10-06-2012, 09:16 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(10-06-2012 07:27 PM)Ghost Wrote:  It just struck me. It's kinda funny that someone is asking why the religious get together on a website where Atheists get together.

Such is the power of community I suppose.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Yeah, except there's a lot more bitching, insulting, and name-calling here.

Fuck your mother. Oh, and peace and love and empathy,

Supernova

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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10-06-2012, 10:11 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?




Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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10-06-2012, 10:51 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(10-06-2012 01:41 PM)Atothetheist Wrote:  
(10-06-2012 03:24 AM)pppgggr Wrote:  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.
I don't agree with you. Communal Prayer is not the catalyst for their religion. I can be a believer, who got converted by a friend whole told me ( if I didn't know what I know now). Whether or not you are a practicing person of the religion, and by your own standards, decides if you pray by yourself or if you pray in a group.

Prayer, in itself, is therapy. Pure and simple.

Christianity and other religions have established a way humans can feel like they have accomplished something by praying for world peace, car keys, (etc) when they did nothing to accomplish that.
It also "allows" communication time with "God." and people feel comfort in knowing that you have God to talk to through your tough times.

Group Prayer is Group Therapy. Group Prayer is very good to believers, who want to have people pray, communally on an issue close to their heart. It can increase their morale.

I doubt that we would have more atheists purely out of the nonexistence of group prayer, but I can never be certain of it.
Well said. The comments that alluded to some diabolically created reason to indoctrinate people were bugging me. There isn't some conspiratorial cabal out there coming up with ideas on how to create a World Religion with rituals and tradition. Communal prayer and worship do not create the religious mindset. Rather, praying together, singing together, worshiping and listening to a sermon together reinforce the religious. It's because someone is religious that they choose to participate in a prayer group or Bible Study, not necessarily the other way around. It is then that the activity transforms into a surrogate group therapy and people are able to share their fears and rejoice over their achievements. There isn't anything sinister in the activity in and of itself. However, the effects on the psyche of the group and the individuals there are indeed insidious as to cementing the person in a worldview that is not easily changed.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
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11-06-2012, 01:47 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Why do people gather together to pray?

For their own safety? If prayer wasn't communal, they'd have to be indoctrinated one to one with their cult leader...

Tongue

"While religions tell us next to nothing useful or true about the universe, they do tell us an enormous amount - perhaps an embarrassing amount - about ourselves, about what we value, fear and lust after." Iain M Banks
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11-06-2012, 02:52 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Two different questions seem to be on the table here. One is the general question of why religious communities form in the first place and what they’re good for. I found the discussion about that enlightening. Thanks, everyone.

The other question, which I had in mind in the OP, is narrower: why do people get together to pray? Why should prayer—to which I would now add ceremony and ritual—be a communal activity? That’s not quite the same thing. For example, we non-believers (well, most of us, anyway) have gotten together here to form a community, as like-minded people have been doing for millennia. So we have that in common with the religious folks. But we haven’t come together to pray or perform rituals (unless you count the ritual of informing the newbies of our baby-eating ways).

Seems to me it has a lot to do with the nature of group psychology. People can do things or experience things in a group that they’re much less likely to do or experience when they’re alone. Groups can help promote altered states of consciousness, in particular ones that can lead to religious experiences. And such experiences can’t be discounted. You can dispute the origin or meaning of an experience (“God wasn’t talking to you, bud—it’s what we call a hallucination”), but you can’t tell people they didn’t see or hear or feel something when they did.

I’m thinking of things like altar calls in some Christian churches, where people with tears streaming down their cheeks come up to accept Jesus; faith healing services where people collapse like rag dolls, “slain in the spirit” (I think that’s what it’s called—see the Benny Hinn gif in KC’s sig); speaking in tongues; handling snakes in some Pentecostal churches; reenacting the Crucifixion with real nails in the Philippines; piercing the flesh during Hindu festivals in India; self-flagellation in Shiite Islam to mourn a 7th-century martyr. All of that happens in a group context and involves trance-like phenomena. The emotion and altered state of consciousness is reinforced by music and chanting and oratory, but it’s the presence of the group that exerts the most powerful force.

The same holds true, I think, for less “exotic” experiences. When people say they feel the presence of God in a place of worship or the experience of the holy, how much of that is due to group consensus and validation? When everyone around you is feeling something, or appears to be, you’re more likely to feel it yourself. It’s the power of suggestion.

Speaking of suggestion, there are interesting connections between religion and hypnosis. In both, the experience is enhanced in a group. It’s well known that stage hypnotists can get their volunteers to experience things and act in ways that are much harder to bring about without the social pressure exerted by the group.

The group also validates behavior that in other contexts would just seem silly. I remember a Jewish ritual I participated in as a kid, during the holiday of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). You bring the “Four Species” (including a palm branch and a fruit called a citron) to the synagogue and at a certain dramatic point in the service you wave them around in four directions. Looking back on it, it seems like something out of Monty Python, but as Leela said, things are less ridiculous when you do them in a group. At the time, the ritual seemed not only natural (everyone else was doing it) but holy: I recall feeling a sense of mystery and awe.

I’m no expert on prayer, but part of its purpose is surely an attempt to connect to something outside oneself and have an experience of being close to God. It seems that for many people, the group enhances that kind of experience.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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