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Atheists set out to taste and see

21 September 2012


FIFTY atheists are taking part in an experiment in which they spend two to three minutes each day praying.

The Atheist Prayer Experiment, organised by the Premier Christian Radio programme Unbelievable?, started on Monday. Until 26 October, the atheists taking part will ask "God to reveal himself to them", Premier says.

The experiment was inspired by an academic paper, "Praying to Stop Being an Atheist", by Dr Tim Mawson, a fellow and tutor in philosophy at St Peter's College, Oxford, in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion in 2010. The abstract to the paper states that atheists "are under a prima facie obligation to pray to God that He stop them being atheists".

Justin Brierley, the presenter of Unbelievable?, said that the paper "suggests that prayers should be kept as open as possible. . . Atheists taking part might try 'God, if you are out there, reveal yourself to me.'"

Dr Mawson said: "This experiment is not aiming at definitively proving whether God exists or not, but each participant will at least, by the end of it, have a little more evidence, one way or another, on the question."

James Norriss, a participant, wrote on his blog on Monday, after the first day of prayer, that his "technique. . . just involves sitting quietly, somewhere without too many distractions, closing my eyes for what feels like about the right length of time, and verbalising in my head a general request to any entity capable of detecting the message, that they make themselves a part of my life in some way."

Another participant, Oliver Humpage, wrote on his blog: "Although I go into this experiment with the best of intentions, I do hope God doesn't answer my prayers: if there's . . . a creator, that's rather boring. I much prefer my version of the world."


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