All religion is based upon two principles. The first is catastrophic change is rare. The second is the placebo effect.
The rarity of catastrophic events makes the basic success of religion a near certainty. Pray for a successful hunt or a bountiful harvest and in most cases the results will be roughly average. That seems obvious. Singing a ditty from a TV commercial is just as effective.
In practice a religion may pray for a mild winter and has an even chance of it being milder than average. Without good record keeping any winter short of catastrophic can be sold as mild. A religion must never pray for no winter at all as that will not happen. Thus religions must always bet on the obvious, on the lowest risk outcome.
It works for things like childbirth. It even worked back in the days when it was really dangerous. Pray for an easy childbirth and the results are most likely to be in the broad range of average which are counted as successful prayer. Also the unusually easy births are credited to prayer. Obviously prayer works well over half the time.
People being what they are even a difficult childbirth can be credited as good. "You think you had a hard birthing. Your aunt Sheila had it really bad." Good thing a chicken was sacrificed or novena was made. Notice gestation and novenas last nine months.
The obvious mistake when creating a new religion or god is to only address the exceptions. A successful religion needs only address the few exceptions that go wrong. Of course success has many definitions. A lot of people like being in marginal sects so a marginally successful religion has its place.
If a religion concentrates upon cure illness with prayer then it has the problem of addressing only the exceptions. The primary focus needs be on maintaining good health. Psychoanalysis and Scientology limit their market to those who believe they have or can be convinced they have problems in the first place.
The placebo effect is the wondrous part of religion. It is also not completely understood even today. Simply stated, doing anything will have some desired effect. One important contributor is that doing nothing will have some positive effect.
Very rarely those on their deathbed will wake one day cured of the disease. A miracle! Most always they do not wake up the next day. It was meant to be. As with an experimental medical treatment what do the dying have to lose by praying?
So if one needs a miracle to get Mother Theresa on her way to sainthood all you need are tens of thousands of people praying to her and patience. It is just a matter of time before an unexplainable spontaneous remission passes all the requirements for a miracle.
People being what they are, when they are looking for a positive effect, negative effects tend to be ignored. It is the difference between a miracle and it was meant to be. What people are looking for is why the medical placebo effect can be extended beyond medicine.
During a drought prayer to end it becomes more and more common and fervent. It continues for weeks and even months. At times it continues even for years. The moment the drought ends, which is must eventually do, it is a miracle. It proves the value of prayer.
During war both sides pray for victory. God is always on the side of the winner. Like a glass of water, is this god half empty or half full? On one side the god is a winner. On the other side the people have to start worshiping more devoutly. In both cases the sky pilots benefit.
The problem with drawing conclusions from tests of prayer is that any prayer will do and any god will do. More generally any worship practice will do including the traditional animal sacrifice. The actual style of worship, sacrifice personal or animal or money, prayer, singing, chanting, dancing, rolling, speaking, charms, spells all appear in all religions in some form. No particular style is preferred by believers although dancing has been out of fashion in the west for centuries.
If style is what is done the form is manner is the reason why it is done. Some times it is explicit. Other times it is only that idea in the back of the head for engaging in it.
The five basic forms of worship are as follows.
- cajoling, you wouldn't let this happen to a loyal friend would you?
- supplicating, the child to parent relationship, we are unworthy, helpless before you, can do nothing without you, attempt to shame the god into helping
- bribing, swearing a quid pro quo oath, comforting at the time but annoying when the placebo effect kicks in and the god delivers, also invented after the fact to justify a pet project
- compelling, a roman approach, mafia like, the sacrifice is a favor, the god must return the favor,
- compelled to, a god has promised if we do X he will do Y
Bribing is usually frowned upon by Christians as somehow repugnant, that their god can be bribed. Yet Christianity credits its dominance of the Roman Empire to Constantine successfully bribing their god with a dominance for victory in battle deal.
In all cases the purpose is to gain surrogate supernatural power over reality. They are just approved forms of magic. Do the same to a declared demon or spirit, a god of a competing religion, or by using things from the natural world such as animal parts and herbs and it is easily recognized as magic.
Magic is using unapproved methods to the same ends as the recognized religion. Magic is open to anyone not just priests in the hierarchy. It has the same chance at a placebo effect success as any other religion.
Of course the established religions are against magic. Of course psychotherapists were against Dianetics which is why Dianetics became Scientology, a protected religion. Psychotherapists were legally able to claim they were practicing medicine with licenses and Dianetics was practicing medicine without a license. Scientology takes advantage of not needing a license to practice religion in most countries.
In case I have not been clear enough, psychotherapy and Scientology are both scams and in my opinion practitioners of both should be in prison. Both sell the con that one can talk one's self to mental health. Those involved in the motivational speaker scam steer clear of any health claims for the simple reason that making health claims is a crime.
Fact is psychotherapy has never cured anyone yet medical doctors make that claim. The difference is they have licenses and malpractice is judged by their fellow con artists. They have success stories for the same reasons religions have successes which I have outlined above.
What has to amaze is people who can claim to have found the one real and only god hidden from the rest of the world and from everyone before it revealed itself and at the same time declare it wants exactly the same thing as any other god with modest stylistic variations. The christian god wants a symbolic human blood sacrifice instead of a real animal blood sacrifice.
What use does a god have with sacrifice of any kind? The Romans might have had a bit of an excuse in that they did not expect much of their gods and in fact would not understand why we would use anthropomorphic to refer to their gods. Their gods were like the gods of Eden of Eden of Genesis. They differed only from humans by being immortal. [Eat of the tree of life and become like us (become as gods) and live forever]
What use does a god have with sex? There is no obvious use for a celestial penis save as an alternate name for Orion's dagger. Yahweh is obviously correctly referred to as an it unless there is a goddess.
What every atheist throughout the ages has noticed is the placebo effect is in force. The ancients used terms like arbitrary, capricious and fickle to describe the gods for the lack of a predictable connection between worship and results. The Christians declared themselves to have the true god, true meaning faithful, trustworthy, and reliable. Yet they had to fall back on mysterious ways, mysterious plans, and you are unworthy to deal with the placebo effect failures.
In the west at least the Christians didn't play nice and join into the local god system. Possibly this is a hang over from the Judean 'refuse to assimilate and complain about being considered outsiders' mentality. In the beginning this did not matter as it was an "end of the world is nigh" cult expecting to see the return of Jesus. After that didn't happen the hierarchy was a welter of conflicting invention to save itself from a well deserved oblivion and take attention away from that end of the world stuff.
The placebo effect is as functional for those who invent gods as for those who invent scams like homeopathic medicine. Success requires promoting the product and waiting for the placebo effect to generate testimonials. Given the way people are many will invent them just for the attention.
This is a practical reason for established religions to keep control new religions and in the old days new gods. Although new they cannot fail if they realize the two basic facts and deal with them properly. They will duplicate the results of the establishment religions. See Scientology for details. See psychoanalysis for a more mentally masturbatory example of pious fraud.
Upstart religions are attacked if they intrude upon the established terrority of ensuring the normal things continues to occur. The sun continues to rise in the east territory.
In dealing with death the Muslim "God's Will" approach intrudes upon prayer to put off death. It cuts ministers, priests and rabbis out of the picture entirely. As Islam has no equivalent of priests or ministers it is a threat to the Christian establishment. As Islam's Imams are like rabbis it is a threat to Judaism but coexistence has always been easy. Theocratic modern Israel is a separate case due to it's Joshua complex.
Even dealing with death is trading on the same thing recurring. Death is put off every day until death. As little as a three day warning gives two days for prayer to succeed against one day of failure. So Islam is a threat as it successfully deals with the normal. The extra two days are just God's will.
Because of the placebo effect Islam deals with the abnormal as well as any other method. No matter how you look at it it is a threat to the established god business in the West.
Jews stole the land. The owners want it back. That is all anyone needs to know about Israel. That is all there is to know about Israel.