Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Family's Basketball Tradition

We have religiously watch Suns basketball in my house since I was born. Over that time, we've built up certain traditions regarding these games. When the Suns are about to shoot, you put your hands in the air in order to assist the shot. If you don't, you are subsequently yelled at by a chorus of my grandmother and parents. When the other team is attempting one, you point your hands at the screen, wiggle your fingers, and make hissing noises. This somehow distracts them and makes them more likely to miss.

So, while I was watching the Suns play the Spurs I noticed something. It felt to me as if putting my hands in the air was working, as if it was letting them make more shots. I'd put my hands in the air, they'd make a basket, and then my brain would connect the two activities. The same goes for the other tradition.

But honestly, do you think me raising my hands in the air had anything to do with the Suns scoring? How could it have, I'm all the way in the west valley. And besides, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the skill of the player. Yet, when I put my hands in the air, I feel as if they have a better chance of scoring. I can't prove that this helps, but I sure as hell can believe it.

To come to my point, the same phenomena happens with prayer. When we pray for something, and it "happens" (usually a vague "sign"), we connect the two activities in our mind. It's a psychological phenomena that happens all throughout nature, especially in birds. Even if the two things have nothing to do with eachother, I can still believe that it was the prayer that did it.

A good example is a friend of mine. He had a family member in the hospital with a rare condition, and only a 2.5% chance of living. But, being a God-fearing man, he prayed for her safety. And, by some strange miracle, she managed to come out of surgery and is expected to live. Wow, that prayer sure worked wonders!

This worked no better than raising my hands in the air for a shot does. The Suns made those shots because they were professional athletes. I could have put my hand up my ass and the same effect would have been achieved. Those surgeons and doctors were also professionals. The prayer did not change their skill or experience; it had nothing to do with it at all. Even though he prayed, and the desired outcome was achieved, this doesn't mean that it was the prayer that worked the magic. She had a 2.5% chance of living, and through the sheer skill of her surgeons(actually, it was probably mostly luck) was able to pull through. You know what, even if by some unknown power it was the prayer that saved her, I couldn't prove it. I just have to believe, but belief is just another way of parting from reality.

Prayer doesn't work any better than me flailing my hands in the air or making snake noises does.

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