MYTHS & MISCHIEF: You’ve Heard About ‘Pay-To-Play;’ Now What About ‘Pay-To-Pray?’

“Pay-to-play” is a phrase one hears from time to time around Capitol Hill and it’s usually not as a preface to good news or a compliment. Now comes a study of whether and how much are people willing to pay for prayers.

Photo by Milada Vigerova, via Unsplash.

This is no joke. The study was conducted following Hurricane Florence in September 2018, according to Reasons to Believe, which reported that “Linda Thunström, an economist at the University of Wyoming, [who] teamed up with Shiri Noy, an anthropologist-sociologist at Denison University in Ohio.”

The study was designed as “an incentivized experiment on 482 North Carolinians who suffered some kind of hardship as a result of the hurricane. Thunström and Noy preselected the 482 North Carolinians so that they would fall into one of these two groups:

“(1) People who believed in God and identified themselves as Christians, and (2) people who denied or were unsure of God’s existence and identified themselves as either atheists or agnostics. People who held to other religious beliefs were excluded from the experiment.”

The participants were each paid a standard amount for their time, plus $5 to be used in the study process by exchanging some or all of Mr. Lincoln’s bill for:

  • Prayers from a stranger who is a Christian
  • Supportive thoughts from a Christian stranger
  • Thoughts from a stranger who is an atheist
  • Prayers from a priest

And the results? Some might be surprised by the relatively even distribution among the four options, as described by Reasons:

“Of the 482 participants, 105 chose option #1, 103 option #2, 119 option #3, and 109 option #4. On average, those who identified themselves as Christians were willing to pay $7.17 for prayers from a priest and $4.36 for prayers from a Christian stranger.

“Those who identified themselves as atheists or agnostics were indifferent to thoughts from a nonreligious stranger, being willing on average to pay $0.33 for such thoughts, which statistically is indistinguishable from $0.

“On the other hand, they were averse to prayers from a priest and especially averse to prayers from a Christian stranger. Atheists and agnostics on average were willing to pay $3.54 for a Christian stranger not to pray for them and $1.66 for a priest not to pray for them.”

Astronomer Hugh Ross, president and founder of Reasons to Believe, noted that the results suggest something significant about the possible roots of atheism and agnosticism:

“That atheists and agnostics register such negative reactions to prayers from Christians, even to the extent of being willing to pay to prevent such prayers from being exercised, strongly suggests that the reason they identify themselves as atheists or agnostics has little to do with their belief or nonbelief in God’s existence and much more to do with how they feel about Christians.”

That may be true, or maybe such respondents just hate to see what they view as money being wasted. And what about all those folks who apparently think God’s blessing can be bought?

Here’s the link to the study. And don’t miss your chance to tell the rest of us whether you would pay for prayer for yourself!


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Author: Mark Tapscott

Follower of Christ, devoted husband of Claudia, doting father and grandfather, conservative lover of liberty, journalist and First Amendment fanatic, former Hill and Reagan aide, vintage Formula Ford racer, Okie by birth/Texan by blood/proud of both, resident of Maryland. Go here: https://hillfaith.blog/about-hillfaith-2/

4 thoughts on “MYTHS & MISCHIEF: You’ve Heard About ‘Pay-To-Play;’ Now What About ‘Pay-To-Pray?’”

  1. Atheists must be so confused. They don’t believe in a God, yet they will pay a stranger NOT to pray to the thing they say doesn’t exist.

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  2. It seems the atheist defines himself not by way of logic or reason, but by way of opposition to belief in God. To quote the bard of Avon, methinks he doth protest too much.

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  3. I don’t understand why it should be strange to compensate someone for praying for you (assuming that they’re good at it). When Jesus sent forth seventy disciples (or students) in the book of Luke, he tells them to proclaim that the kingdom of God is come nigh and to heal the sick — presumably through prayer. In the same instructions, he tells them when they come to a city and enter into a house, “if the son of peace be there . . . remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Seems like Jesus saw praying and preaching the Gospel as work that’s worthy of compensation.

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