CNN published an article about a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discussed the perceived values of “thoughts and prayers” after the occurrence of a disaster. The study, entitled, “The value of thoughts and prayers,” focused on 400 North Carolina residents after the deadly storm known as Hurricane Florence in 2018.
The study asked religious and non-religious people affected by the hurricane and involved the assigning of monetary value to ‘thoughts and prayers’ from religious officials and ‘Christian strangers.” The study participants received compensation for participating in the study.
Despite the intentions of the ‘Christian strangers’ and ‘religious officials,’ atheist and agnostic participants assigned higher values to avoiding prayers from religious people and leaders. In stark contrast, religious people assigned higher values to receiving prayers from strangers. In the words of the study’s authors, “We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.”
In other words, non-religious people in the study did not view Christian prayers in a positive light.
Questions arose about why CNN ran an article on the study. For example, the cable news network’s headline read as, “Not everybody wants thoughts and prayers after a disaster, according to a study of hurricane survivors,” which some could interpret as critical of religious people’s intentions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) mocked the network and said, “Please pray for CNN” in a tweet.
Although the article itself did not have an explicit bias, the phrasing of the article’s headline called into question of the implicit media bias at CNN against prayers from religious people.