08/04/2013 10:54 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2013

Praying to an Empty Room

In an op-ed in The New York Times on 4 August, Professor J.M. Luhrmann begins with the following sentence: "As evidence accumulates about the many health benefits of religious practice, prayer is looking better and better."
However, later in the column, Prof. Luhrmann notes that in his research on evangelical Christianity, "there are times when people got so engrossed with prayer that they seemed almost addicted - so compelled to pray that they could not stop."
But who are these "prayer addicts" praying to? No one has ever seen God. He remains an unseizable concept, tangible only in our imagination. His so-called appearances are only affabulations, produced in altered psychological states, such as in the trance of the shaman.
In spite of the testimonials of those who believe they have seen God, have talked with his intermediaries such as the Virgin Mary, the wall remains impenetrable between the world of human beings and what is beyond the grave.
It is part of human nature to seek what is believed to be another world. There is a focus on the quest itself, as otherwise there remains the prospect of living only in the narrow limits of this world. It becomes necessary for many that there be something else beyond oneself and this earthly world; otherwise, in this view, there remains only the despair of nothingness, the despair of a life that leads toward nothing.