Well all need hope, this is common sense. Hope can come from many things. For some, hope comes from prayer and it is easy to see why if we follow the logic of those who use prayer:
God exists and cares for his creation -> God can hear me if I pray-> Therefore, if I pray God may help me.
There are other reasons for praying such as gratitude and worship but the most hope comes from the kind of prayer that believes God can and does help worshipers. Of course this logic makes a lot of assumptions:
- God exists: A pretty big assumption. This is a belief that defies logic.
- God cares: Even if God does exist given the suffering in the world it is hard to believe that God cares much for us.
- If I pray God may help me: A belief only supported by anecdotal evidence that both the teller and receiver accept at face value.
There is no evidence that prayer works at all. The scientific community has looked at the subject and all reached the same conclusion:
American Heart Journal: ‘Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.’
Harvard: Prayer Not Effective In Reducing Complications Following Heart Surgery
Mayo Clinic: ‘As delivered in this study, intercessory prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit.’
What these studies proved is not just that prayer is ineffective but should never be a replacement for professional medical care. Providing people with false hopes is always dangerous.
So where is the hope?
In you, that’s where. It sounds cliche but all the power of hope comes from within you. It comes from a fundamental belief that you can make it through whatever challenges may come your way (optimism) and if you don’t a little acceptance that you are only human goes a long way. There are many worldly sources of hope that deserve appreciation such as:
Art: Painting, sculpture, music and culture. A visit to a natural/cultural museum always restores my faith in humanity. A faith, I might add, that was just reinforced with tangible evidence.
Friends and family: This is also common sense. Religious fundamentalist often say that unbelievers can’t have real family love. The truth is we often value it much more because of the simple realization that they are all we’ve got. Seriously, who can’t look at their child’s smile and not have all the hope they need?
Life Itself: Nature in all its glory is an amazing thing. A single leaf on a tree has thousands, possibly millions of cells (themselves sophisticated and incredible). It is capable of changing sunlight and water into energy for the tree it is attached to. there are hundreds and maybe thousands of these on a single tree. As long as we are alive we are able take deep breaths of clean air, enjoy great foods, great fun and great company. Life is is full of wonder, hope and amazement if you want it to be. For those that it is not we can take hope is trying to help them restore theirs.
Wherever your hope comes from it is just fundamentally more powerful and proactive to take it from within life itself. By doing this we begin to better appreciate and respect our life and the life of other people. Imagine if fundamentalists worshiped life as much as they do God how much better off we all would be.