What can an atheist say to a friend who is grieving the death of a loved one? Believers have a standard repertoire: “He’s with God now.” “I’ll pray for you.” “She’s in heaven now.”
Greta Christina recently raised this same issue. She and her readers compiled a list of approaches for people who don’t believe in God. Her extensive list includes the following:
1. “I’m so sorry.”
2. “I remember when… /My life is so much better because of…”
3. “What can I do to help?”
Do not be deceived that the science of prayer underutilizes the modern tools of charts and graphs and pursues the metrics of metaphysics in less than thorough regard for the contemporary demand for logical breakdown of the very physics of divine petition. One need only look here to begin to glimpse the dedication to the Popular Mechanics model of spiritual presentation.
In many ways, this reminds me of The Third Eye, with its fake Tibetan flowcharts and associational metaphysics. At the turn of the 20th Century there were many groups organized around the notion that spirituality was merely a forgotten science and that if the methodology of enlightenment could be found (in tradition Victorian faith-in-science manner) then we could all stop buzzing about churches and indulging fuzzyheaded scattershot traditional religions as a means of elevating ourselves to higher planes. The Victorians loved diagrams. Rather like patent applications, really, and that wedded them to invention and progress. So it only made sense to tackle this whole question of the afterlife and souls and such by the same sort of techniques—if one could reduce a question to a blueprint, as it were, one could get quickly to the center of the matter.
Now we have the phsyiology of proper prayer. If nothing else, this could be good for one’s posture—except for the constant bending forward, which could exacerbate a stooped shoulder aspect and aggravate osteoporosis…
Well, I suppose there are drawbacks to everything. Enlightenment at the cost of a straight spine. Better, I suppose, than a renewed interest in self flagellation and scourging.
Now here’s a memorable and thoughtful prayer (this link includes the written transcript). It was delivered by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson as part of the pre-inauguration activities. As you might recall, Robinson is seen by many as a counter-weight to Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. According to Crooks and Liars, [...]
I wrote about complacency once before. I focused on the complacency of most Americans in the face of the energy crisis that is clearly upon us. We have no assurance that gasoline won’t double or triple in price over the next five or 10 years, throwing our economy into a massive depression. With stakes like [...]
I read quite a few textbook quotes from this report and I must agree: they are shockingly inaccurate. This book repeatedly pushes the conservative line, even when the facts don’t support it–just like the Bush Administration. The existence of this high school textbook is yet more evidence that we are living in a post-fact era. [...]
In a tragic story from my own state of Wisconsin, an 11-year-old girl died last week because her parents trusted God to heal her. The parents apparently didn’t realize that their child had diabetes, so they never sought medical help. Instead, they prayed. Though not reported in the StarTribune article, local radio reported that the [...]
While doing the research for my previous post, A Slaughterhouse of One’s Own: A community confronts Santeria, I came across several explanations of exactly how animal sacrifice works in this religion, physically and metaphorically speaking. The animal is bound and its throat is cut. The carotid artery is sliced with a ceremonial knife and the [...]