Atheist Prayer Experiment: Conclusion
Several weeks late, but never mind.
I was another one of those who got no answer, despite my best efforts. If anything, my life was marginally less numinous than usual: nothing resembling spiritual longing, my life was slightly more fraught and disappointing than usual during the ‘prayer experiment’ (although nothing dramatic).
You can probably guess what I’m going to take from this based on my earlier posts: a negative answer is good (further) evidence for Atheism, as I’m pretty confident I behaved in a manner such that God (if he was really there) would get in touch. Yet he hasn’t.
In medical school you are taught to only order tests you plan to act on. Although this principle isn’t watertight (sometimes you will only act on particular results of a test, for example), it is a good heuristic. So my action plan now is to spend less time on philosophy of religion: my evaluation of the merits of various arguments are now pretty stable, so I don’t anticipate further study will be that fruitful in terms of value of information – there might be some killer argument to change my mind, but I don’t hold out much hope for it. In contrast, the concerns around ethics and epistemology (like the ethics of charity, what should be prioritized, how to consider future generations) seem like problems worth more of my time as theism fades into unlikelihood.
I’ll still remain open to divine revelation, of course: it makes no sense to try and close oneself off from potential data. But I’ll mostly have given up looking – if it arrives regardless, well and good, but I have bigger problems than to keep waiting for a (now very delayed) damascene moment. I think Mawson’s analogy would agree with me: if you’re told a man is in a dark room who is worth talking to, yet you shout out 40 or so times and get no reply, you might keep an ear out, but you won’t keep shouting ‘just in case’ he decides to finally respond.
I remain hopeful that some God exists – it would make the world a better place, at least for those who suffer. But hope isn’t expectation, and I do not anticipate this hope will be fulfilled. In the meanwhile, it seems best to live ones life with care to try and make the world a better place, especially for those rendered the worst off. Take care of that, and hope Marcus Aurelius is on the right track:
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.