Author Topic: "Prayer for Atheists"  (Read 697 times)

Sandra Craft

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"Prayer for Atheists"
« on: December 19, 2018, 01:00:35 AM »
Prayer for Atheists

Agree in general with this article, since I've never seen any need for a prayer to be directed at anyone, or any One, in specific.  The author uses the example of this Buddhist prayer:

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May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.

Notice that no deity is invoked or petitioned. The prayer takes the form of a wish that all beings will be well. The intention is to promote the development of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in oneself by wishing the same for all beings.

The italics are mine.  The author does point out that it's possible to get the same benefits of prayer in other ways -- meditation, journalling, singing even -- but there is no need for atheists to dismiss praying just because of the religious baggage often attached to it.

There was one quibble I had, a comment I usually see from theists and was a little surprised to read from an atheist:

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For the atheist, such as myself, proper humility can be a difficult virtue to cultivate. Without a God, it is easy to lose proper perspective and a sense of my small place in the world. Worse, lack of humility may become arrogance and produce an inflated sense of control, setting me up for disappointment to which I may react with anger and frustration.

I have never understood how any one can even open their eyes without immediately having a proper perspective and sense of their small place in the world, to say nothing of the freaking universe.  To me, this perspective is inescapable, reinforced everywhere.  I'm just glad knowing that, altho my overall significance is vanishingly small, I do have personal significance to a few others and this is enough.  At least for me, obviously the author and I have a different viewpoint on this.
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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2018, 09:07:33 PM »
Being a never-theist I don't have any residual tendencies which involve speaking to myself as if speaking to a god. I can understand why ex-theists would probably continue to pray though -- it might have a calming effect -- but I just don't really see myself doing it. To me prayer is a pointless exercise, but harmless in general as it doesn't incite any action from any deity. Since it's mostly harmless, what do I care if people do it?  :shrug:

Give no mercy to your fear.



Sandra Craft

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2018, 02:34:08 AM »
Being a never-theist I don't have any residual tendencies which involve speaking to myself as if speaking to a god. I can understand why ex-theists would probably continue to pray though -- it might have a calming effect -- but I just don't really see myself doing it. To me prayer is a pointless exercise, but harmless in general as it doesn't incite any action from any deity. Since it's mostly harmless, what do I care if people do it?  :shrug:

I've known atheists who continued to enjoy praying long after they'd stopped believing in a god, I think it's mostly custom and comfort.  I also see it as a harmless habit since it doesn't need to involve supernatural beliefs.

I'm intrigued by the author mentioning singing as an equally effective way of self-programming, tho he didn't go into it.  Even back when I was trying to be religious I couldn't remember to pray unless someone else brought it up, but singing -- that's a different story.
Sandy

  

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Icarus

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2018, 01:25:13 AM »
Whatever floats your boat is what you are comfortable with .  If atheists feel better for praying..........cool, go for it.   I just doubt that the ones who do that are actually full on atheists. But what the hell do I know? 

I have been reading Louis Blacks book: Me of Little Faith. Black is the Jewish comedian with the potty mouth who is an outspoken heathen in his comedy routines........None the less he describes some really semi/quasi religious experiences he has had,  not even when he was high on snort.

This is one peculiar world.

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2018, 04:31:16 AM »
Believing in a deity is certainly no remedy for arrogance and self-importance, and I've never noticed that theists were particularly good at 'proper humility.'
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2018, 12:56:57 AM »
I am well into a book that my library recently offered.  It is titled: The Bonobo And The Atheist.  The author, Frans DeWaal is a Dutchman who is a primatoligist.   He observes that various animals and particularly Bonobos have an ordered society that displays empathy for one another, is generous about sharing food and other necessities, tends their sick or injured and generally behaves as the ten commandments prescribe.  All the while the Bonobos have never read the bible or had a religion of any sort.  They are good citizens in their society and they are all Atheists.

The thrust of this is that an animal or human does not need God or religion of any sort to behave in a thoroughly civilized, rule bound, and caring way.  Bonobos are not the only animals that display these characteristics.  Elephants and dogs for example are both atheists and caring for their kind.

DeWaal has decisively shot down the claim by hard shell Christians that only fear of God has forced  us  to behave in a manner that is empathetic, compassionate, fair, and helpful to others of our species.

The sub title of the book is; In Search of Humanism Among the Primates.

Sandra Craft

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2018, 09:59:33 AM »
Frans de Waal is one of my favorite scientist/authors -- perhaps the favorite now that Chet Raymo has stopped writing.
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Mr. IXTUS

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2019, 08:43:35 PM »
My thoughts on the prayer would be this: the prayer is worded like a supplication, and a supplication is addressed to a person of some sort.  However, neither a Buddhist or an Atheist believe in a personal God who exists to listen.  So this could be a prayer to no one, or to oneself.  Praying to no one makes no sense.  If praying to oneself, then this prayer seems to be an attempt to exert one's own will into or onto reality.  By what power?  A Buddhist at least believes in a supernatural reality, and that this reality is illusory (and therefore somewhat malleable) so perhaps it is reasonable for a Buddhist to pray to himself.  But an Atheist believes in nothing supernatural, so what reason is there for an Atheist to pray at all, in any direction, if it's really just a wish in a material world?

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2019, 09:37:57 PM »
Welcome, Mr. IXTUS. While I generally agree with you about the lack of rational basis for atheist prayer, atheists are human and therefore by no means entirely rational. Some of us arrived at atheism because of rational evaluation of theistic claims, but that certainly isn't the only type of atheist.  :)

Buddhism isn't a monolithic entity; there are some rather theistic strains of Buddhism. For instance Tibetan Buddhism is teeming with deities to whom one might pray. 

 
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Sandra Craft

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2019, 11:36:02 PM »
My thoughts on the prayer would be this: the prayer is worded like a supplication, and a supplication is addressed to a person of some sort.  However, neither a Buddhist or an Atheist believe in a personal God who exists to listen.  So this could be a prayer to no one, or to oneself. 

The article makes it clear it's to oneself.

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Praying to no one makes no sense.  If praying to oneself, then this prayer seems to be an attempt to exert one's own will into or onto reality.   

Or perhaps to adjust oneself to reality, to bring oneself more into harmony with it.  The Native prayer used in the article was a good example of that. 

Quote
By what power?

Any power being used is clearly one's own, as limited as we accept it to be.  We're not helpless, you know -- limited, but not helpless.

Quote
A Buddhist at least believes in a supernatural reality, and that this reality is illusory (and therefore somewhat malleable) so perhaps it is reasonable for a Buddhist to pray to himself. 

Not all Buddhists believe in a supernatural reality, and there are practicing Buddhists who are also atheists.  From what I've read there's some doubt the Buddha himself believed in the supernatural, at least not as it's understood in Western terms.

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But an Atheist believes in nothing supernatural, so what reason is there for an Atheist to pray at all, in any direction, if it's really just a wish in a material world?

Really, did you read the article?  It covers that.  Also, when one doesn't believe in the supernatural, much less supernatural rewards and punishments, the natural world and all that happens in it becomes all that more important. 

Altho I've never felt any inclination to pray myself, not even back in childhood when I was actually trying to be religious, I can see where praying would be useful as one way of programming the mind to help one reach goals, whether it was a specific thing that needed doing or a mental state to be achieved. 

It seems to me very like the visualizations many athletes use in an attempt to enhance their performance in competition.  I can see where some atheists, I'm assuming mostly those who were religious once, would be comfortable using a form of prayer to do that, just as others might use meditation, singing or writing to achieve the same ends.
Sandy

  

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2019, 08:47:52 AM »
"Praying to no one makes no sense"

Then why do you do it?
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
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Mr. IXTUS

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2019, 10:24:13 PM »
"Really, did you read the article?  It covers that."

I was about to say yes (thinking you meant your post) when I saw the link you pasted above the quote you provided.  So no, sorry I didn't read the article.  My thoughts were only on the quote itself, so disregard if indeed they are repetitive.  Other than that it seems like you thought I meant to attack you.  That was not the intent.

Sandra Craft

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2019, 01:08:29 AM »
"Really, did you read the article?  It covers that."

I was about to say yes (thinking you meant your post) when I saw the link you pasted above the quote you provided.  So no, sorry I didn't read the article.  My thoughts were only on the quote itself, so disregard if indeed they are repetitive.  Other than that it seems like you thought I meant to attack you.  That was not the intent.

Then you thought wrong and that was a really odd leap to make.  If I thought you were attacking anything, I'd have assumed it was the article. 
Sandy

  

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Re: "Prayer for Atheists"
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2019, 07:28:06 AM »
"Praying to no one makes no sense"

Then why do you do it?

I asked you a question. I would appreciate a reply.
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett
Remember, your inability to grasp science is not a valid argument against it.