Friday, September 16, 2005

Why Do Farmers Pray For Rain?

What people pray for reveals a lot about how they believe god works, and the realms in which they believe god operates.

Farmers pray for rain, obviously, because they want their crops to grow, so they can harvest and sell the crops and prosper. In other words, they want to prosper.

So, why not pray for money to appear on the kitchen table? Or the bank statement to reflect a miraculous deposit? Because they understand, intuitively and consciously, how money appears on kitchen tables and in bank accounts. So, let's back up the causal chain and ask why they don't pray for a harvest of crops to appear in their barns, baled or husked or whatever-one-does-to-crops-ed and ready for market? Because they understand how crops appear in barns. Well, then why don't they pray for crops to grow, even in the absence of rain?

Because it's never happened in their experience, or even in their lore. So they back up to the process that's cognitively impenetrable to them: Rain. They (and I, for that matter) possess understanding neither of the precise process that yields rain nor the empirical data necessary to predict the occurrence of that process.

But our ignorance about the process does not make divine intervention in it any less a miracle than the appearance of cash on the kitchen table. So, again, why pray for one miracle -- rain -- rather than another -- money -- that's more to the point, and more immediate in its impact?

It's essentially an unwitting acknowledgment of the "god of the gaps" argument. In this instance, though, god is not seen in an existing scientific gap, god is sought in the first place where a causal gap occurs -- the farmer's scientific and empirical knowledge of rain. In theory, were a farmer -- or I, for that matter -- to understand climatology in all its detail and complexity, we would understand why the divine manipulation of molecules to form -- in violation of prevailing, applicable laws of physics -- rain would require just as great a miracle as the divine manipulation of molecules to form -- in violation of prevailing, applicable laws of physics -- cash on the kitchen table.

Farmers pray for rain, rather than cash, because they're protecting god from the inherent absurdity of miracles.

2 comments:

ceej said...

I think there's an additional reason farmers pray for rain, not money: eventually, it'll rain, and they can believe it's because they prayed. What would they do when no money showed up on the table?

Anonymous said...

I think that's the whole point of the original post. "Farmers pray for rain, rather than cash, because they're protecting god from the inherent absurdity of miracles." That protection ultimately protects THEM from the absurdity of GOD.

I bet a lot of OTHER people pray for money though. They just phase it in a more PC way. They pray for "prosperity" or for a "raise" or "better job." It's not different than a farmer praying for rain. Rain translates into crops which translates into cash, just like a raise or better job. Prosperity is subjective.

That's my problem with these people deluded by the common understanding of how faith and prayer works. They always leave an out. They operate under a safety net of vagueness and wiggle room.

As our knowledge (proveable, repeatable, solid knowledge) advances, it leaves less and less room for these hypocritical deluded lazy people who would rather pray for improvement in their lives than get out and make it happen. Their version of how the world works becomes less believable and they become more desperate to salvage their faith from the harshness of reality.

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