I can understand how a person can become an atheist — after all, in my book Divine Evolution, I described how I came to believe in God, after at least a decade of materialistic, apathetic agnosticism created by my advanced education.
Like many atheists have done, I came to believe that much of what I learned in school conflicted with the “Young Earth Creationism” worldview to which I was indoctrinated at an early age, and so I discarded my previously held religious beliefs in favor of nothing.
Strangely enough however, at any point during this period I now call my apathetic agnosticism, if you’d asked me if I believed in ghosts, my answer would have quickly been something along the lines of, “Absolutely. My friend’s family owns a house that I’m sure is haunted, and I’ve been there many times. I have personally experienced ghosts.”
Personal experience can have a very powerful impact on someone’s worldview, I can attest.
At the same time, I would have equivocated on the same question asked about God and given a much different answer because of my lack of personal experience with God at that time.
In retrospect, it now occurs to me that my acceptance of the “reality” of a supernatural ghost and simultaneous rejection of a supernatural God seems a bit silly. To be brutally honest though, I really wasn’t putting a whole lot of thought into existential questions at that point in my life. Quite frankly, furthering my professional career and raising a family were much higher priorities for me.
Rarely if ever did I go to church during that extended period of my life when I leaned toward atheism. I only prayed when I wanted something, but because I didn’t really believe in God, I was never very surprised when my prayers went unanswered. I was surprised the night I prayed for something completely different than a material wish, and immediately realized that my prayer had been answered.
I’m not absolutely certain of very many things, but I’m quite sure about this — if I hadn’t had a personal experience with God and had become an atheist, I sure as hell wouldn’t have any reason to pray or ever go to church. I really can’t fathom this relatively new atheist phenomenon known as the “Sunday assembly” — think of it as going to a church with people doesn’t worship any God.
Perhaps more accurately, think of it as a short concert with lectures by guest speakers. However you want to describe it, why on earth would anyone want to go to a church without God?
Since I’m being honest, I don’t go to church nearly as often as I should. I admit that I prefer watching a good sermon in my pajamas. I don’t have to rush to shower and get dressed up for a sixty minute service. Therefore, I fail to grasp the appeal of the atheist’s version of Sunday worship services. But I also don’t understand the point of the oxymoronic concept known as an atheist minister.
Yes, they really do exist.
In fact, several months ago I wrote to a rather well-known atheist minister named Gretta Vosper after listening to one of her “sermons” online. I wanted to ask her one simple question: to whom does an atheist pray?
She recently responded to my query, saying that I should borrow her book titled Amen: What Prayer Means in a World Beyond Belief, from our local library. Then she kindly offered to answer any questions I might have after I’ve read it.
I hope to take her up on that offer after I’ve had a chance to read her book. Unfortunately, even the Kindle version of her book is rather expensive (almost twelve dollars) so I will be looking to borrow the library copy as she suggested. The print copy of my book is only $12.83 on Amazon. I’d have to sell about a half dozen copies of my books to earn enough money to buy one of her e-books.
Of course I’m always happy to give her (or any other atheist with even a shred of interest) a free electronic copy upon request. Until I’ve had the opportunity to read Ms. Vosper’s book, I’m pretty sure that in the meantime, I can logically deduce to whom an atheist might pray, if not a supernatural God.
Atheists could pray to themselves. Or they could pray to the universe. The most obvious answer, of course, would be “nothing.”
None of those options will ever answer a prayer.
Therefore, an “atheist’s prayer” could perhaps more simply and accurately be called “meditation” with no hope of providing a benefit.
After all, prayer is a form of action in which a person seeks to communicate with a supernatural deity, any concept of which is naturally rejected by atheism.
Undirected prayer is nothing but a waste of time, the babbling of meaningless words without purpose — just as “fasting” without prayer is nothing but an extreme diet.
So these questions remain unanswered: to whom are atheists praying? What could possibly be the point of attending these Sunday assemblies that emulate church in everything except worship?
Have these atheists who attend them subconsciously realized that they are missing out on something vitally important to their happiness and mental wellbeing?