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Question for us materialist/atheists about atheist prayer

  1. Jul 2, 2003 #1
    Question for us materialist/atheists about "atheist prayer"

    An interesting thought I had the other day. I can't say I go for it, but thought it would be interesting to discuss. Also, I'm sure there must be someone before me who has talked about something like this but I'm not aware.

    Anyway, this came to me during a dream, believe it or not. I was dreaming about some guy talking about this. He had written a book and apparently, he had started some trend among nonbelievers.

    His book was titled, "Atheist prayer". Of course the first question is, who the hell are you praying to? Well the concept is like this...

    It's called "prayer" because it has a similar form and function. The difference is that, the atheist doesn't believe he's actually communicating with anyone. But, as a mental activity, you sit quietly and "speak" in your mind, as though speaking to another (not yourself). While doing this, you consider what it is exactly you hope to have happen, you talk about what you don't want, and you talk about the things you are grateful for. You also talk about what you've done that you've regretted, and how you plan to make changes concerning those things in the future.

    Many atheists have noted the beneficial effects of meditation. But this is a little different I think. Instead of clearing you mind, you're actually doing more of an organization of it. You're setting priorities, making personal commitments, considering your faults, and generally nourishing your sense of humility as you perform a tangible act that recognizes your place in a larger whole. The fact that you're not actually talking to anyone doesn't seem to me to really change the benefits of the activity. It's sort of a combination of the calming of some types of meditation, with the benefits of psychological counseling with an imaginary questioner.

    What do you think? Is it simply catering to a religiously dominated world - selling out? Or, is it a way of reminding ourselves and others of humility while getting some spiritual benefits without accepting a supernatural worldview? Or, is it just silly?

    Of course, anyone may reply to this, but I'm mainly hoping to hear the take of nonreligious materialists. If you're not one, please note that in your response.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2003 #2


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    Wouldn't this be perhaps comparable to Zen Buddhist meditation?
  4. Jul 2, 2003 #3
    I often "think aloud". Does that qualify? For me sometimes it helps me to voice what I'm thinking when something's troubling me. No, I don't get a response (not yet anyhow;) But as an athiest, I find it helps to to just say "this sucks" out loud as apposed to saying "god why hath thou forsaketh me?"
  5. Jul 2, 2003 #4
    that reminds me of Piter the mentat's mantra: It is by will alone i set my mind in motion.... (and so on) and the fear mantra: i mustn;t fear, for fear is the mind killer. it is the little death that brings total obliteration, i shall face my fear, and let it pass over me and through me, and then only i shall remain... (or something to that effect)
  6. Jul 2, 2003 #5


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    Re: Question for us materialist/atheists about "atheist prayer"

    Hmm... I'm not sure about that having anything to do
    specificly with being an atheist, but I think that's
    a good advice in general.

    Live long and prosper.
  7. Jul 2, 2003 #6
    Thanks for the responses...

    I'm not sure. I know something of Buddhism in general but not Zen meditation specifically. Can you tell me some about that, particularly as it pertains to what I outlined above? Sounds interesting.

    That sounds pretty similar I suppose in function. What I'm talking about would not really be outloud (or wouldn't have to be at least). Also, I think there's a bit more inner-reflective element in mine, as you sit there and sort of think. I suppose, outwardly, it would look like meditation. But that's just one idea.

    I suppose mantra's and affirmations might play a similar roll or purpose. In what I'm talking about, I guess it would be a little less structured and more personalized to particular situations. But there's no reason why such mantras couldn't be a helpful component I suppose.

    You're probably right. I guess it doesn't specifically have to do with being atheist, as anyone could do this - but it would be useful to the atheist looking for something like this, who may lack the other alternatives because of his/her beliefs (or lack thereof).
  8. Jul 2, 2003 #7


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    Actually, I think that may be more usefull to the believers.
    All those saying they believe in God/gods/other B.S. often
    act pretty strange - according to their own beliefs. If these
    people took their time to connect their beliefs with their
    actions and lives then the world would be a much better place for
    most of them and others - now that's usefull. :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  9. Jul 2, 2003 #8
    egad, guys! get over it! i said it reminded me of some mantras!
  10. Jul 2, 2003 #9
    atheist's prayer.

    Thank you, self,
    for hearing things

    thank you self
    for seeing things

    Thank you self
    for eating when you're hungry

    Thank you self
    for going without.

    Thank you self
    for avoiding broken glass when I'm barefoot

    Thank you self
    for knowing how to walk on broken glass

    Thank you self
    for satisfying your needs

    Thank you self
    for your restraint.

    Thank you self
    for learning things.

    Thank you self
    for being in the right place at the right time.

    Thank you self
    for punching out people who break your heart.

    Thank you self
    for all your thanks.

    ah me.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2003
  11. Jul 2, 2003 #10
    I see religion as a means of reflection. In actuality when we pray, we're looking inward for the answers. Theology and atheism are 2 different approaches, but the goal is indeed one and the same: the search for truth and understanding. So I supposed that when one finds the answers to the truths he seeks, weather it comes from yourself, or from a percieved god, the result is the same.

    So in a way, we're all praying.
  12. Jul 2, 2003 #11


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    i often do this myself, and have realized that it is comparable to what others consider prayer...this sense of self nourishment is different for everyoe - whether they can see it in this perspective, or need to believe in "god"...i don't believe there is any "wrong" way to tap into this wisdom, so long as one strives toward it consistently...
  13. Jul 2, 2003 #12
    There are a variety of Atheist prayers.

    Alcoholics Annonymous urges their atheist members to pray to their "higher power." If nothing else, this can be recognized as those aspects of our personalities we might not feel in control of, such as our anger or depression. By praying to it, theoretically, it is possible to tentatively begin to first acknowledge and recognize how you feel and eventually own those feelings.

    Prayer does not necessarilly involve asking for things either. A sitcom I saw the other day had an interesting comment on this. A woman was in a church crying and praying to God when a native american friend of her's asked what she was doing. She told him and he said, "So you are having a conversation with the Great Spirit and you are doing all the talking?"

    As always, the questions we have can be more important than any specific answers. That is, if they are sincere and don't demand answers to begin with. Likewise, a little flirtation with romance and role playing never hurt anybody. If done in the right spirit it can illuminate a great deal about ourselves and aspects of life we might never consider otherwise.

    This is related to those religions I admire the most like the Gnostics and Quakers. They turn the act of worship itself into an experiential exercise pointedly aimed at personal growth as much as anything else.
  14. Jul 3, 2003 #13
    All you described was talking outloud to yourself. You described nothing special. It's talking outloud. Everyone does it.

    It's not prayer and it's absurd to call it that.
  15. Jul 7, 2003 #14

    Not if the 'prayer' has any 'attentional focus' or semantic content.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2003
  16. Jul 7, 2003 #15
    If there were no God, would atheist and theist prayer differ much less than if there were?
  17. Jul 7, 2003 #16
    How does atheist prayer differ from conventional prayer in appearance? You talk to God, we talk to our inner selves.
    The significance is found only in the response you get.

    In other words, if you don't feel silly when you don't hear an answer, then why should we ?
  18. Jul 8, 2003 #17
    I understand Izzle's objection to my use of the word "prayer". I imagine there were several reasons behind it...

    1) I doubt there would be many dictionaries that would jive with my use of it in this context.

    2) Being something deeply important and personal to religious folk, it would make sense that seeing the word used in another way (by an atheist no less) would be disturbing or even offensive.

    All in all, I have to admit that I'm using it here for lack of a better word. For instance, I could use the word "affirmations", but it wouldn't convey the same sense of importance and reverence that I mean for such a practice to be. I could also use the word "meditation", but I've already pointed out the important differences. And, again, meditation seems to present more of a feeling of healthy activity (like "excercise") than spiritual humility. So, since there's no other word that gives the same sort of connotation, I chose to use "prayer" modified by "atheist".

    But Zantra does make some excellent points as to how such a thing would still qualify as prayer as well.
  19. Jul 9, 2003 #18
    Re: Question for us materialist/atheists about "atheist prayer"

    Panpsychist here.

    What you are describing I would call a "working meditation" ...where one calls upon oneself to use their thoughts, rather than suspend them. This sort of "housekeeping" is precisely what would be useful if "intention" were a "force" that effects results. By eliminating extraneous "vectors"(math ref., not pathology), we might be better able to get to where we're going faster...as the Universe points the way and creates openings. (Oops.)

    As to "humility" ...if that's one of the things we're shooting for, then I suppose it would be an "intention" we would "keep alive" by way of our ACTIONS. But, meditation per se -- even that which leads to a realization of our interconnectedness or our relative "size"-- does not necessarilly lead to humility ...nor does it have to.

    And to what "spiritual benefits" do you refer? I, myself, have not conceded that the "spiritual realm" exists, contenting myself with discussions about "consciousness" , which, at least, has revealed itself. Aren't you, as a registered materialist, further removed from the possibility than I?

    As to "accepting a supernatural worldview" why not accept the proposition that anything that actually HAPPENS in the Universe is NATURAL to the UNIVERSE? Thus, nothing can be classified as "supernatural".

    This way, none of us should be considered "silly" if we are asking this question in earnest: "What the heck is going on?" ...even when it looks like our answers are.
  20. Jul 9, 2003 #19
    Re: atheist's prayer.

  21. Jul 10, 2003 #20
    Re: Re: atheist's prayer.

    And why is the concept of self so difficult to grasp? (as comical as it sounds on paper;). We've all "talked to ourselves at some point, weather it's inner dialogue, or just flat out talking stuff out to ourselves,aka thinking aloud. All we're doing is reasoning out situations or things in our lives that are taking up our mind's attention. Some of us visualize it through god, other's refer to it as merely "reflection" or wrestling with inner demons", or whichever terminology best fits. The only difference is that when something is troubling a religious person, they say "why god?" and when it's put to a non-religious person they may say "what actions of my own brought me to this point?"

    Personally I think an "atheist prayer" is unecessary. We are just seeking another format in which to present life's problems to ourselves and find meaning in them. A frequent theme on these boards has been that the answers we all need are right inside of ourselves, and I have to agree. If you're an atheist, you know that it's through your own actions that you've come to this point. That the situation, or problem was causeed either directly or indirectly by things that we did. Cause and Effect. What we're really saying is "I got myself into this, now how do I get myself out?" And there is a solution to every problem.

    Use the ole nugget people. You don't have to pray to yourself, just know thyself." To thine own self be true." The very concept of this post goes against core atheistic beliefs. Though we may try and twist it to suit our needs, it's still what it is: a prayer. Don't "pray" for the answer, seek the answer out. For it is in there, waiting to be discovered not by divine intervention, but by virtue our our own reasoning. Don't "wait for the answer", know the answer. And when you finally discover the truth, you'll see that all the answers you pray for, have been sitting there by the door waiting for you to scoop them up and read them.

    I shoulda been a monk:wink:
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