Just hit your knees

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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:
"People find praying helps and have had answers."

The just hit your knees argument is that one may come to know god by worshipping him. That is, if a person lives by the teachings of a specific religion, then the benefits of doing so will manifest and the person may know that the religion is therefore true. The expression "just hit your knees" refers to kneeling and praying to God.

"People find praying helps and have had answers. This week you can find out if someone does listen and care. [1]"
"[...] you might find yourself saying, 'Prove to me that the Bible is true.' If so, my reply is this: 'Prove it for yourself!' [...] 'It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.'[Psalm 118:8 Bible-icon.png] Millions of people have tested this statement and found it to be true! You have an opportunity to do the same.[2]"

Based on Moroni 10:4:

"You can know that Mormonism is true [by] praying with a sincere heart and with real intent. [3]"

The argument also is used by Scientologists:

"one discovers for oneself that the principles of Scientology are true by applying its principles and observing or experiencing the results. [4]"

In essence, this argument is an appeal to empiricism. The theist is asking the non-believer to engage in an experiment. Try X. If X results in a pleasant outcome, this means that it is a true principle to live by, and therefore this religion is a good one to follow.

A related argument is based on God answering intercessory prayers.


Fallacy of the argument

The fallacy that accompanies this argument is not in the actual theory of the argument, but in practice. When the experiment is carried out, the standard procedure for scientific experiments is not followed. In a scientific experiment, the hypothesis of the experiment must be falsifiable. That is, there must be a null hypothesis.

With this particular experiment, the test hypothesis should be "This religion is true" and the null hypothesis should be "This religion is false". When the experiment is performed, if the desired result is not obtained, a theist may often counter with a reason why the experiment went bad. For example, the experimenter did not have enough faith or did not perform the action to a sufficient standard in order for it to be valid. However, the conclusion in the case of a failed experiment should be that the null hypothesis may actually be the truth.

More generally, the fallacy being committed here is that the conclusion has been reached before the experiment has begun. In religions which promote prayer to a deity or deities, it is often said that every prayer is answered, but that sometimes the answer is "no" or "not yet", and that sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. The fallacy is that any possible outcome is interpreted as a positive result for proving the test hypothesis. There is no conceivable outcome which would imply the null hypothesis--that the religion is not true.

Scientific studies of prayer

This argument claims that one may come to know God by prayer. They separately claim that petitional prayers are answered (Matthew 7:7-8 Bible-icon.png). However, analysis of many medical studies have found "no scientifically discernable effect" between prayer and health outcomes. [5] If prayers are not answered but believers think they are, they may be mistaken about being able to know God by prayer too.

Prayer as a path to truth

There is no evidence that prayer leads to any special foreknowledge or prophesy that was later verified as true. Also, many religions claim that prayer can authenticate their claims, so it is also a broken compass argument.

There is plenty of evidence that prayer results in self-deception, in which a person convinces themselves that a particular religion is true.

"Self-deception has essentially two components. First, a person forms a belief in violation of his usual standards of evidence and judgment—what philosophers call epistemic norms. Second, a desire with content related to the content of the belief causes the deviation from the healthy belief formation process. Because vilification, fear, and desire bring about the religious credence—while that credence is at odds with usual standards of judgment—the process by which religious beliefs come about is one of self-deception. [6]"
"Everything we know of the psychology of religion shows that religiosity is a self-deception, founded on the satisfaction of emotional and spiritual needs of individuals within faith communities [7]"

When prayer fails

Of course, prayer or seeking God does not automatically result in a relationship with God, contrary to what this argument claims. When this fails, apologists blame the non-believer for not truly seeking God.

"An atheist might say, "I can't find God anywhere!" But an atheist cannot find God for the same reason that a theif cannot find a policeman. He is not truly interested in finding Him. Once the atheist is an agnostic there is a basis for communication.[8]"
"He imagines himself to be sincere and earnest in seeking God, when in truth he may not be. There is a large literature on the incredible human capacity for rationalization and self-deception that is relevant here.[9]"

The apologist is claiming knowledge of the non-believers mental state that they can't possibly know (similar to the claim that you just want to sin). Since God is apparently hidden from humans, we an make the argument from nonbelief.


  1. Try praying, advice booklet, published by There Is Hope [1]
  2. John Blanchard, Why believe the Bible?, 2004
  3. Comment by Courtney on How can I know Mormonism is true?
  4. [2]
  5. K. Masters, G. Spielmans, J. Goodson "Are there demonstrable effects of distant intercessory prayer? A meta-analytic review." Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2006 Aug;32(1):21-6. [3]
  6. [4]
  7. [5]
  8. Dan DeHaan, The God You Can Know, 2001
  9. [6]

External links

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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