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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 27, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 39
How much would you pay someone to pray for you? How about NOT to pray for you?
Section One
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How much would you pay someone to pray for you? How about NOT to pray for you?

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A study published in the September issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that both believers and nonbelievers readily put a monetary value on thoughts and prayers.

Researchers selected a sample of 436 residents of North Carolina after the state was devastated by Hurricane Florence last year.

They then divided the group into Christians, agnostics, and atheists. No other religious or spiritual groups were considered in the study.

About a third of the group were directly affected by Hurricane Florence, while the rest were asked to base their responses on some other hardship they had experienced.

Each participant was given $5 'in support of their hardship,' and then asked how much of that - if anything - they'd be willing to pay for the thoughts and prayers of strangers. For the purposes of the study, the strangers were recruited online.

When a participant stipulated a price, one of the strangers received a note outlining the participant's struggles and asking them to either pray for them or keep them in their thoughts.

Researchers discovered that Christian believers had a very clear hierarchy of value when it came to prayers.

Prayers from a priest were worth an average of $7.17 to Christians in need. Prayers from less exalted Christians were valued at $4.36, while mere thoughts from another Christian were cheaper still at $3.27.

On the other hand, atheists and agnostics were so averse to 'thoughts and prayers' that they said they would pay someone not to pray for them.

They also had a clear value hierarchy. On average, they were willing to pay a priest $1.66 not to pray for them, and more than twice that, $3.54, to ensure that a run-of-the-mill Christian did not pray for them.

'It may reflect the political climate we are in,' lead researcher Linda Thunström told The Guardian newspaper. 'Some of these people might feel they hear the phrase 'thoughts and prayers' all the time, and perhaps it provokes something in them.'

'Thoughts and prayers weren't just meaningless for atheists. They were literally worth avoiding,' Hemant Mehta explained at The Friendly Atheist website.

'It's the difference between listening to a song you've never heard before and having to sit through the most annoying song in the world. You can deal with the former, but you just might pay money to avoid the latter.'

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