Guardian angels: why not?
More on this pastor and his religious beliefs about a Christian theocracy here. What I fail to understand is that if god just take orders like this, then how come you can’t just pray us into a theocracy?
Most Americans believe that they’re followed around by guardian angels who have helped them out at least once. I wonder how many more believe that guardian angels follow them around but haven’t yet had a chance to do anything spectacular. This survey also didn’t count the number of people who think that god or Jesus or the Virgin Mary is a guardian angel of sorts, who responds to prayers from prayers for public office (such as above) to prayers for health for prayers for that free throw or a green light.
One of the common criticisms of The God Delusion is that Dawkins focused most of his examination of religion on how most people actually experience religion, instead of on the less popular forms that are somewhat more compliant with the demands of reality. It’s somewhat fair to say that most people’s more childish-seeming religious beliefs aren’t proof that there is a god, and that some people who believe in god do in fact believe in a god that’s basically indifferent to their prayers for themselves, though apparently he still requires worship. Or, on the next level of concessions to reality, that god is indifferent, prayer and worship are pointless, and instead it’s just about this vague notion of being “spiritual”, a word that doesn’t seem to have much in the way of meaning. After all, we have to eliminate love, appreciation of beauty, feelings of being at peace with the world, uplifting good moods and sundry other things from the category “spiritual” because hardline atheists like myself have those feelings. I don’t know what’s left after that.
Anyway, it’s also fair to consider Dawkins’ point, which is that people who do believe in guardian angels or the power of prayer make more sense than those who believe in an indifferent god. God-the-wish-granter has something to recommend him. A god who doesn’t answer prayers is not worth your time worshiping him. But we acknowledge that people who believe in god but don’t believe that you can pray for green lights or have guardian angels save you from bad situations are more sophisticated, because—and this is where I almost feel bad pointing this out, but it has to be said—they’re closer to “atheist” on the scale of religious belief. Praying to win the lottery is a bad idea, because there’s no evidence that it will work. That most people who won the lottery probably prayed over it is only evidence that most people pray over everything—which means that most people who pray to win the lottery don’t. How irreligious you are depends on how willing you are to take the evidence-based view of the world past the social discomfort of denying religion.
But I do find it interesting that people who believe in god but aren’t as invested in magical thinking as others feel more sophisticated to the degree that they demand that Dawkins or other anti-religion writers grapple with them instead of the people who pray for winning lottery tickets. I fail to see why, if atheists are in the wrong, the sliding scale of religiosity seems to go from guardian angels to atheism, and people on that are more “guardian angels” than the speaker are less sophisticated and therefore deserving of less attention from the critics of religion. I suppose part of it is that believing that god does you favors when you pray or that guardian angels save you is essentially a terrible thing to think, because basically you believe the universe loves you more than people whose guardian angels and/or god didn’t give them money or save them from car accidents. But assertions that god listens to prayers or even exists but that he doesn’t give you a hand is also a terrible thing to think. After all, what a tyrant. Why couldn’t he give you a guardian angel if he’s so powerful?