Monday, August 05, 2013

Addicted to Prayer (and Atheists who Pray)

I took this photo of a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem.

I pray.

I research prayer and praying.

Hence, I'm interested in T.R. Luhrman's nytimes little piece "Addicted to Prayer." Here are some takeaways and to-dos for me.

  • Check out the discussion "Should Atheists Pray?" Click on "Prayer Is Ubiquitous for a Reason," by Kevin Ladd. Go to amazon and look at Ladd and Spilka's book, which gets excellent reviews: "The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach." Put it on your wish list. 
  • Note atheists who pray, and Luhrman's story of one who invented a "god" and prayed to it and found it beneficial.
  • Luhrman writes: "Is there a downside? Should we all drop to our knees and pray? In general, I have to admit I’m impressed with the evidence." 
  • Follow the rabbit trail to the Washington Post article "Some Nonbelievers Still Find Solace in Prayer." And the story of atheist Sigfried Gold, who out of desperation took up praying. God was in a lot of physical and psychological trouble. We read: "While Gold doesn’t believe there is some supernatural being out there attending to his prayers, he calls his creation “God” and describes himself as having had a “conversion” that can be characterized only as a “miracle.” His life has been mysteriously transformed, he says, by the power of asking." (Could it be that God responded to Gold's prayers?)
  • Gold had a hunger for things transcendent. While there aren't a lot of real atheists out there, those I have met have this hunger. There's a big hole in an atheist's heart, a Pascalian abyss, that can only be filled by the transcendent; aka God. (See, e.g., Ross Douthat's Bad Religion, where he writes: "At the deepest level, every human culture is religious— defined by what its inhabitants believe about some ultimate reality, and what they think that reality demands of them." (p. 2)