Let me just give you the gist. Some people call themselves atheists. And they still pray.
“Four years later, Gold is trim, far happier in his relationships and free of a lifelong ennui. He credits a rigorous prayer routine — morning, night and before each meal — to a very vivid goddess he created with a name, a detailed appearance and a key feature for an atheist: She doesn’t exist.
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.”
Mystery? Miracles? Gods? What the hell, you might be thinking (I am)? I mean, this guy prays AND he prays to yet another (pretend) god(dess) for help. This whole thing doesn’t make sense. Mr. Gold claims his life has been “transformed….by the power of asking,” but who or what is he asking if he doesn’t believe in the reality of his goddess?
Gold’s ideal object of worship–because all atheists have ideal gods and goddesses– “…is embodied by a female image he began drawing decades ago, a 15-foot-tall goddess…” Do you think his goddess looks anything like Jennifer Aniston? If so, perhaps he’s confusing praying with having a fantasy. (I’m already suspicious.)
Isn’t Mr. Gold doing exactly what believers have been doing for thousands of years: creating his own personal god? Because, not having a picture, not even one drawing of this legend named god, means that everyone has a unique image in their imaginations of what he/she/it looks like. Naturally, your personal genie lives to serve you and grant your wishes: just ask.
Wait a damn second. Is this how Siri was born from Steve Job’s Buddhist mind?
Now. I’m not trying to poke fun at the vestiges of anyone’s faith. Truly, I’m not. I just don’t understand. This whole thing sounds like one big hangover. You know, after you’ve had too much religion, you’re stuck with the effects long after you’ve stopped partaking.
In some ways I can relate, so get ready to throw stones. I still say goddamnit and god bless you and OH MY GOD! But that’s more of a language thing–you keep using the same words and saying them in the same way that you were brought up with. Hence, I say “wooder” while some of you say “water.” I say “soda” while some of my Texas friends say “Coke.”
This isn’t that kind of habit. This is how Mr. Gold is comforting himself, this is how (he thinks) his goals are accomplished, his desires are filled (again, the Aniston fantasy?). He’s hanging on to the “power of prayer” because he believes it works. For those of us less comfortable with usurping religion’s rituals, we might meditate for a sense of peace or just to focus our minds or to calm ourselves. And this is a dilemma we’re all faced with when we lose our religion: how do we comfort ourselves and those we love when we were used to leaning on god, on seeing heaven as one big carrot .
I suspect Mr. Gold–and those like him–are not really atheists.
The thing is, you and I know that our religious hymen is now broken, and it cannot be fixed. So there’s no chance we’ll ever find God again, not even in a foxhole. For Mr. Gold this is not the case: he says he is “….open to someday changing his mind about the existence of God,” which suggests to me that he has not gone all the way. He’s still clinging to his virginal hope that he’s wrong. God might not be man-made character like Mickey Mouse or the Grim Reaper. Christ might have been spawned from an all-powerful, all-knowing deity in the sky (or wherever his address is). There might be things like virgin births and miracles and magic.
“It’s only been recently that people who are atheists said, ‘One can do spirituality in an atheist context,’ ” Melton said.
Pffft. Isn’t this just stripping religion naked, removing all of its accessories and then having your way with what is left? You want to keep “spirituality”? Fine. It’s now yours. When you’re no longer a card-carrying member of a church, you’re free to do whatever the hell you want, believe whatever the hell you want. But that doesn’t make you an atheist. Atheists don’t believe in prayer, miracles, superstition, fate and goddesses that aren’t real who still grant your requests. (I know, you and I call him Santa.)
I do understand that there are times when we must shower in a prayer–when we are in mixed company: at Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, at a wedding or at a banquet. And we should be respectful of others while they pray. We can even offer our own “blessing,” if we must, showing our gratitude to those around us and for the time we have together. But holding onto prayer and a god-figure as a ritual and as a solution seems to redefine atheism. And if atheists pray to some imaginary goddess, then how are they different from Christians who pray to an imaginary god?
What do we call ourselves now? Non-praying atheists? Atheists without imaginary friends? Orthodox atheists? Wait, what?