Thursday, May 6, 2010

Preyed Upon By Prayer

The strong reaction over at The Daily Kos to my previous post (‘An Atheist Who Prays’), made me question whether or not I gave a clear enough picture of why I think I pray, what I think my prayer means, and whether or not I think prayer is a thing worth advocating.

Two Kossacks named Aravir and RandomActsOfReason got into a fairly long running argument about my intentions in the comment section, and I thought I might use some of their own language to clear things up a bit.

I think Aravir summed up part of my thesis nicely with this comment:

"Folks, it makes no sense, I don't even believe in a higher power, but praying seems to do something for me. Go figure."

And with the addition of this comment from Random, the summary is complete:

“we often engage in rituals out of habit, culture or upbringing, without conscious thought or rational reflection. I suggested it is possible that the need to continue to engage in traditional religious prayer might suggest a lingering doubt about doubt.”

Random also asks:

"why are you praying"? Why not do something else that evidence shows produces the desired effect? And, moreover, why are you praying using specifically religious terms - praying to "Dear Lord", etc.?"

I think I’m praying mainly because I was deeply religious at one point in my life, and prayer is kind of a behavioral atavism. I do have a doubt about doubt. I’m not a person to say ‘there is no god’, but I am someone to say that I don’t believe in God (at least in any of the notions of gods I’ve ever heard articulated).I am open to the idea of a god existing, but I’m pretty sure that my mode of contact with whatever that being might be is wholly man contrived, and something I do only because of who I’ve been in the past. I don’t expect the practice to remain with me. It’s a reflexive way to react to joy.

Random finishes up with this assertion:

“Testifying is a form of implicitly suggesting that a particular experience should be tried by others. Otherwise, there is no reason to share it in the form of a diary on a site whose mission and culture involves persuading people about their beliefs about various things.“

I don’t endorse prayer, implicitly or otherwise. I’m simply noting my experience. This is a deeply religious society, and sharing personal experiences—I have found—can be helpful to others in similar situations. My relationship with prayer and god has been a neurotic one. There’s no reason I should expect all of that to go away just because I stopped believing.

I am very glad to be free of religion, even if the voodoo has been so bred into me that I have my occasional 2 am ‘what if’ sessions.

Wholesale, I am good without god, and way better off without religion. That I still pray is a Pavlovian quirk, a body-memory reaction to joy. I don’t recommend prayer. I’m very much a ‘one hand working is worth far more than two hands praying kind of guy’. But do what you need to do. We’re weird animals, us humans, and we require a certain amount of behavioral latitude.


Lodo Grdzak said...

I pray all the time, by which I mean I engage in a...form of meditative contemplation imbibed with a bit of hope. Oftentimes it amounts to little more than making a list of the tasks I want to perform the following day. To me that's just as much a prayer as anything else. What are my goals? I try to envision and clarify them in my mind and on paper. That helps me turn them into reality. And for bigger things outside my control? I remind myself that larger forces are at work and anything's possible.

Spencer Troxell said...

I've become fond of this one:

"Absolute unmixed attention is prayer"-Simon Weil.

Willie Y said...

If it makes you feel better, do it. It is my philosphy on masterbation and many things

Spencer Troxell said...

Just not too much, Willie. You'll pull it off.

Willie Y said...

Spencer, speaking of religion, did you read this news story.

Spencer Troxell said...

Jeez, Willie. What a downer. I guess all this talk is pointless now.

back to the masturbatorium...