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Atheist Prayers

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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gregory
Died May 2009 R.I.P
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Atheist Prayers

#1 Post by gregory » October 18th, 2008, 11:26 am

Some of you may have already seen a book I spotted in a book stall recently. As far as I can remember its called Atheist Spirituality.

The writer definately does not believe in a supernatural god. Of course when one reads books in book shops it isn't the same as reading at home so I hope I did get the gist right.

As well as exploring the subject of Atheist Spirituality the author - sorry I did not take enough note of his name - also explores the concept of atheist prayers. These of course would be prayers but not to a non-existent god.

I think the human does have an emotion with a following action which could be called prayer - its possibly akin to hoping for something.

I think we did at one time invent a Humanist grace and of course we do have Humanist ceremonies. I think a Humanist prayer would be silent and very personal but maybe one could be composed.
There'll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#2 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » October 18th, 2008, 1:28 pm

Would it be The Book of Atheist Spirituality by the wonderfully named André Comte-Sponville? Or The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, as it's titled in the United States. There's an review of it, "An Unbeliever's Prayer", that's worth reading.

Frankly, I can't see the point of calling something an "atheist prayer". We have plenty of other words to describe activities that might possibly be considered akin to prayer. Certainly hoping, as you say, gregory. And we're none of us immune from wishing. But wishing and hoping (isn't that a Dusty Springfield song?) and yearning and hankering and longing and craving are different from praying. The word pray comes from the Latin precari, meaning to entreat. There must be an object of that entreaty. It doesn't have to be a god, or any object of worship, but surely it has to be someone or something capable of hearing the entreaty and acting on it. The universe surely won't do. Yes, I admit that occasionally I say things to myself, often out loud, that sound like entreaties to some unspecified object [---][/---] things along the lines of "Please, don't let it rain today," or "Please, let the train be five minutes late as usual." But these aren't real prayers. They're not really entreaties to anyone or anything [---][/---] not to a god, nor to the universe, nor to some weather system, nor to the driver of the 08:25 to Waterloo. They're just figures of speech. Habitual tropes expressing hope. Just as "Thank God you're here" is an expression or relief and not a prayer of thanks, even if it's said by a theist.

Then again, I suppose the object of entreaty can be oneself. One can entreat oneself to do something, to mend one's ways, to be a better person. I'm all for that. I do it all the time (though sadly I'm often deaf to my own entreaties). But to talk about praying to oneself is perhaps to give the misleading implication that one is indulging in self-worship, and why risk that when we've got other, less ambiguous ways of expressing such practices? Using a bit of will-power, giving oneself a good talking to, urging oneself, pushing oneself, digging deep into oneself, asking oneself tough questions, trying to improve oneself [---][/---] all these are more easily understood, surely.

Finally, perhaps Comte-Sponville was thinking more along the lines of prayer as meditation or contemplation. It's true, of course, that meditation doesn't have to be religious, or even spiritual. I have tried to meditate in the past, and, although I've never really succeeded, I know others who have benefited from it, and I can see the value of it. But then, since we have the words meditation and contemplation, we don't need to cause confusion by calling such an activity prayer.

Maybe I've missed something out. But if I have, I doubt it would be anything that couldn't comfortably be expressed in another, more comprehensible way. Perhaps the rationale for using the term "atheist prayer" is to make atheists seem just like decent church-going people, doing the things that those decent church-going people do but in less conventional ways. If so, it's dishonest, and it won't work anyway.

Emma

DougS
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#3 Post by DougS » October 18th, 2008, 2:41 pm

The response from Emma says it all far better than I could.
gregory wrote: I think we did at one time invent a Humanist grace and of course we do have Humanist ceremonies. I think a Humanist prayer would be silent and very personal but maybe one could be composed.
Would the idea be that we list all the things that we'd really like and silently pray for them to happen?

"Please keep all my loved ones safe for ever. Please let me meet the right person, fall in love and live happily ever after. Please let me get a big pay rise etc etc"

I don't think that would work for me. I prefer to say my prayers out loud and communally. I was never a believer but I never minded reciting the Lord's Prayer in school assembly. There was something comforting in reciting the familiar if incomprehensible lines in the company of a thousand other people. As an adult, I have been known to read a poem aloud and feel calmed by the rhythmic sound. I can see how a "prayer" - or love and best wishes expressed in a poetic way and said aloud and in unison - might work at at a wedding and naming ceremony. But I can't see the point or purpose in an atheist prayer as the word prayer is commonly understood.

Gottard
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#4 Post by Gottard » October 18th, 2008, 5:07 pm

Humanist Prayers?! :sad2:
Please do not forget that prayers (litanies) are some of the tools used by religions to hypnotize their devotees and keep them within.
I would rather suggest "thoughts". Songs are the most appropriate alternative: imagine, etc.
Elio
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

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SkiCarver
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#5 Post by SkiCarver » October 18th, 2008, 11:14 pm

Please bring me beer.
Atheist by choice, dyslexic by the grace of dog.

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jaywhat
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#6 Post by jaywhat » October 19th, 2008, 7:14 am

I copied this from BHA article on 'grace' - there are others.
Following an enquiry in the BHA newsletter, readers suggested the following for humanists to use when invited to say grace.

From Nicolas Walter
Let us think thrice while we are gathering here for this meal.
First, let us think of the people we are with today, and make the most of the pleasure of sharing food and drink together.
Then, let us think of the people who made the food and drink and brought it to us, who serve us and wait on us, and who clear up and clean up after us.
Finally, let us think of all the people all over the world, members with us in the human family, who will not have a meal today.

From Myron Morris
Good food, good meat,
Sit down, let’s eat.

From Ralph Ison
We thank those who produced it,
And those who transported it.
We thank those who prepared it,
And those who serve it.
Let us now sit down and enjoy it.

”Now good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both.”
Shakespeare, Macbeth , III, 4

Good company, good wine, good welcome can make good people.”
Shakespeare, Henry VII

From David Read
For what we are about to receive, let us be thankful and ever mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves.

From Alan Stuart
With what we are about to receive, may we be ever mindful of the needs of others.

From Brian Farrington
Bon appetit!

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jaywhat
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#7 Post by jaywhat » October 19th, 2008, 8:57 am

And here is another, but I do not know where I got it from - and still looking.

Grace
As we are gathered here to eat this noble repast,
Let us remember those who are forced to fast.
Let us spare a thought before we break our bread
For those starving souls in Africa who will end up dead.

The hungry of Asia, South America too,
Even in wealthy countries, there are quite a few.
So let us be humble when we enjoy this meal
Remember this world we live in is really not ideal.

When we sit at table and we are fully fed,
We will not be hungry when we retire to bed.
Let us enjoy our meal and let us rejoice,
For we are the lucky ones, we have a choice.

para handy
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#8 Post by para handy » October 19th, 2008, 12:58 pm

Rub a dub-dub
Thanks for the grub.


Graces are one thing, meditation another, blessings yet another. I can see the point of atheists doing all of them but prayers in the sense of asking for something, I don't get at all.

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snaggletooth
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#9 Post by snaggletooth » October 20th, 2008, 10:07 am

I like "Eat well, Shit hard"!
I've been told it's a Catalonian phrase but I'm not sure, definately beats the usual "thank the lord" rubbish though! :laughter:

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jaywhat
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#10 Post by jaywhat » October 20th, 2008, 10:41 am

As a kid on holiday at an East Coast Butlin's - or was it Pontin's? - we used to all sing in the refectory before the meals. That must have been around 1950. I can still see several hundred people all joining in to -

Always eat when you are hungry.
Always drink when you are dry -y -y -y.
Always close your eyes when sleeping.
Don't stop breathing or you'll die -ie -ie -ie -ie.

I could sing the tune now but cannot say what it is.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#11 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » October 20th, 2008, 8:15 pm

Cwm Rhondda, perhaps?

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Alan H
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#12 Post by Alan H » October 20th, 2008, 10:48 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Cwm Rhondda, perhaps?
That's an old Beach Boys number (is there any other kind?), isn't it? :shrug:
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

lukanator
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#13 Post by lukanator » October 21st, 2008, 11:17 am

They can be a great people; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. They who say that we should love our fellow-citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, with which benevolence and justice would perish forever. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Hold life sacred, and treat it with reverence. Life is beautiful. May the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full. Live long, and prosper.

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Lifelinking
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#14 Post by Lifelinking » October 21st, 2008, 6:31 pm

They can be a great people; they wish to be.

Superman returns.....

Live long, and prosper.

to Vulcan!

:laughter:
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

Felicia
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#15 Post by Felicia » October 21st, 2008, 9:11 pm

My great grandfather once (so it is said) expressed gratitude for an ornate farinacious tea prepared by his future mother in law by saying vaguely, "Sufficient unto the day......" and then stopping, remembering what comes next.

My favourite wish/hope/ entreaty is the buddhist 'May I not be dull, rigid and confused'.

lukanator
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#16 Post by lukanator » October 23rd, 2008, 10:40 pm

Lifelinking wrote:They can be a great people; they wish to be.

Superman returns.....

Live long, and prosper.

to Vulcan!

:laughter:
(golf clap)

Fia
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#17 Post by Fia » October 23rd, 2008, 10:51 pm

Felicia wrote:My favourite wish/hope/ entreaty is the buddhist 'May I not be dull, rigid and confused'.
I have a soft spot for some buddhist quotes. I guess if I had an entreaty of some kind it would be: "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." :)

Nick
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#18 Post by Nick » October 26th, 2008, 10:56 am

Changing the approach somewhat, but fitting within the title thread, I'd like to ponder....

Last night, on Stephen Fry's American tour programme, he went down a coal-mine in (I think) Kentucky. Once they emerged at the coal face, the miners took off their hard hats and prayed for 10 seconds. I know the prayers will not be answered, but a brief check, to remind oneself of the task for the day, the reason one is doing it, and to remind oneself of the dangers, well, that seems like a good thing to me. Is there a place for some sort of atheist prayer here?

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Alan H
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#19 Post by Alan H » October 26th, 2008, 11:36 am

I missed that bit (but did I see it on a trailer?). However, I agree that spending a few seconds or minutes focussing on the job in hand is always a good idea. I have used this many times at work [---][/---] not as any kind of a prayer, but at the start and/or end of meetings to focus people on what's important.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Lifelinking
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Re: Atheist Prayers

#20 Post by Lifelinking » October 26th, 2008, 12:35 pm

They can be a great people; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. They who say that we should love our fellow-citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, with which benevolence and justice would perish forever. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Hold life sacred, and treat it with reverence. Life is beautiful. May the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full. Live long, and prosper.
Sorry Lukanator if this was meant seriously. Seeing it start and finish with what appear to be quotes from film / TV I thought you were 'aving a laugh. :)





L
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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