Praying Atheist

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Praying Atheist

#1  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jul 15, 2017 1:17 pm

I consider myself a flaming atheist, a level 7. I'm a recovering addict/alcoholic and am active in AA. Just hit my 90,000 hours sober mark. I seem to pray more than most xtians and frequently refer to 'god's will' in conversations. I have had to do much interpreting on those twelve steps and the overly religious readings of AA supplemental literature.

I am often asked by bleevers what I pray to. I tell them that if you are 'praying to' then it's not prayer, not faith. It is rather belief or dogma. The AA eleventh step is 'praying ONLY for knowledge of god's will and the power to carry it out'. Clearly meaning that praying for remission of a child's cancer is not in the program.

I maybe should've put this in philosophy because it is.

Now I do not know how all of this works. I have suspicions but no certainty. It does seem to me that something about religion is worth keeping around. Minus the belief. It's kind of like motor oil for the human brain. If I have some issue or depression or am anxious about something I have to do, I do a prayer thingy and invariably it helps. I appeal to something I cannot name or define and mentally verbalize my issue. I then clear my mind of the issue. I do a physical movement that amounts to 'letting go' and then I go check netflix recent additions. After a few days I review what happened and always find some poetry, synchronicity, in the events around the issue and note it's resolution. Always good, always learn something.

A couple of things I think are necessary. I have to create in my mind some focal point outside of my mind that is undefinable. For me that is the complexity of the physical. Second, it has to be such that I get some perspective of my self as being very tiny and even non-existent. Third, doing things for others that in no way could benefit my 'self'.

These three pills seem to form a cocktail for sanity and emotional well-being. what the fuck kind of a mammal are we that would make that work?
"Daddy, why did god make YEC's?"
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Re: Praying Atheist

#2  Postby SafeAsMilk » Jul 15, 2017 1:34 pm

Shortcut for an absurdly complex system. Just be glad you found it, many aren't as fortunate.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#3  Postby tuco » Jul 15, 2017 1:43 pm

So you pray or meditate?
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Re: Praying Atheist

#4  Postby Pebble » Jul 15, 2017 6:08 pm

SpeedOfSound wrote:I
A couple of things I think are necessary. I have to create in my mind some focal point outside of my mind that is undefinable. For me that is the complexity of the physical. Second, it has to be such that I get some perspective of my self as being very tiny and even non-existent. Third, doing things for others that in no way could benefit my 'self'.


Sounds like ritualistic thought and behavior, a form of stress relief. I find intense exercise stops me gnawing at a problem and then a nights sleep often leads to a calmer analysis of the issues the following day. Each to their own I suppose.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#5  Postby John Platko » Jul 15, 2017 7:32 pm

Perhaps someday the mind will be understood well enough for a nuts and bolts explanation of why and how this works but today we must settle for less than completely satisfying explanations. The best one I know of is Jung's theory of active imagination, which this video gives and overview of:



I've noticed Tulpa communities forming on the web where people are engaging in what seems to me to be active imagination, mostly in a way that doesn't resemble traditional religion. Although it seems like a religious practice to me.

A family member recently got himself in some trouble that had an alcohol component to it and he's now going to AA meetings so I reviewed the 12 steps. It seems like good stuff to me.
I like to imagine ...
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Re: Praying Atheist

#6  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jul 15, 2017 8:42 pm

tuco wrote:So you pray or meditate?

I'm a little put off by most of the thinking around meditation. I do something like it when in the forest. Oddly I have a form of meditation based on imagination and molecular biology that I like. :)

My sons meditate. One of them came up with some interesting insights on the working of his mind that did not fire off all my bullshit detectors in pop-neuroscience. That got me interested in what he is doing. Naturally the little fuckers use the iPhone to meditate. :roll:
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Re: Praying Atheist

#7  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jul 15, 2017 8:54 pm

Pebble wrote:
SpeedOfSound wrote:I
A couple of things I think are necessary. I have to create in my mind some focal point outside of my mind that is undefinable. For me that is the complexity of the physical. Second, it has to be such that I get some perspective of my self as being very tiny and even non-existent. Third, doing things for others that in no way could benefit my 'self'.


Sounds like ritualistic thought and behavior, a form of stress relief. I find intense exercise stops me gnawing at a problem and then a nights sleep often leads to a calmer analysis of the issues the following day. Each to their own I suppose.

I figured out that weight-lifting cures depression almost instantly.

Yes. It is a ritual. I use hand motions to 'let go' for instance. My suspicion is that 'thinking' is an exaptation of movement. In fact I think we think with our pre-motor cortex more so than any other part of the brain. So engaging the body is going to change how you think and perhaps bring it back to a more focused kind of thought. (I learn programming now as a motor skill rather than an intellectual endeavor)

Another factor to praying for me is to lay the thoughts down after I clearly have them. Then I kind of open up to the universe and just let the clues happen. I'm reminded of Dirk Gently.

Consider. When you can't remember some name right off you often find that being distracted allows the name to 'pop up' out of the blue. Current research indicates that when you stop trying with your mind that more of your mind actually lights up. In particular if you are laboring at thought the right side of your brain gets hot spots. The left side it has recently been found is more diffusely interconnected. Relaxing lets that side engage.

So I think all of this religious crap, and it is so crappy, is a result of not quite understanding the brain of the mammal. When something pops up out of the blue as I mentioned above it is no surprise that a person who believes in some supernatural theme gets confirmation. My AA literature is filled with this shit. The chapter to the agnostic asks that you open your mind and try it out basically without thinking too much. The point made is that it works. The bullshit point made is that it works cuz of some deity.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#8  Postby Steve » Jul 16, 2017 2:51 am

Been away for a few years. Good post to say hi in. I approve of what SS says here, in spades.

My thinking is thinking has been turned into thinking about thinking, and that is where it stumbles. Thinking is just a tool like an opposable thumb. I need to step up my meditation game. I have a wee mantram these days that goes "more loving, more caring."

Here is an interesting video.



SpeedOfSound wrote:
I am often asked by bleevers what I pray to. I tell them that if you are 'praying to' then it's not prayer, not faith. It is rather belief or dogma.

Yes. We only think we are separate. Don't get me wrong - that thought is necessary and useful. But don't believe it. Better, don't even think about it. Loving and caring works better on the basis of being separate, but I think the results come about because we aren't. It is just as much a gift to accept love as it is to give it.

I care for my 97 year old father in law who voted for Trump and wants me to read anti-Muslim propaganda. I just tell him it is called bigotry and ask him whats on his shopping list today - we go shopping every Wednesday. I love him dearly. He can think what he wants, vote how he likes. The kicker is how sweet he is to everyone. He has no idea how many Muslims are tending to his every need. I mention it once in a while - I am not going to argue about it. Better to just let the loving and caring do it's thing. It's his life.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny
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Re: Praying Atheist

#9  Postby Paul1 » Jul 16, 2017 5:10 am

I guess you could think of praying as a point outside your mind, and when you verbalise your issues at that point, you are psychologically shelving those thoughts into that point to store and focus, so it can be processed within a relaxed frame of mind.

A technique I use is to imagine a clear container in your mind (anything will do that you can put a lid on). You then take the bothering thought and put it into that container, and then imagine a room and storing that container temporarily. Proceed with a relaxation technique, sitting or laying down, then bring back out that container in your mind, but observe the thought inside the container as if you were looking at someone else's container. You can then re-shelve the thought or reopen the container depending on how you feel about it after relaxed observation of it.
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#10  Postby VazScep » Jul 16, 2017 7:18 am

I quite like Alan Moore, the former comic book writer. He said that on turning 40 he decided to get into magic, rather than have a midlife crisis. By "magic", I mean the 19th century occult stuff. He's very much anti-religion, and has said that, as an occultist, you have to understand that everything that happens in a ritual is just in your own head, but that doesn't mean you can't roll with it.

There's another occult type I like called Colin Low, a guy who I got into because of his intense love of Lovecraft. But he's mostly about Kaballah and his version of it which he practices in an occult form. Check this for his account of performing a magical ritual, with some introductory remarks about his take on mysticism as the manipulation of consciousness. Based on his other writings, I assume he's an atheist, though with some contempt for the New Atheist types. He's also a computer scientist, I believe, and has an idea I quite like about human's getting into stress by constantly trying to subdivide reality, or something, which he calls "the gnostic fractal."

Anyway, Moore's got a book coming out called The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic that I plan to get when it comes out.

I don't really have any excuse to try any of this myself. Colin Low has been into Kaballah since he was a kid, and I believe he had a teacher, as is supposed to be the case in mystic tradition.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#11  Postby Steve » Jul 16, 2017 2:16 pm

I remember looking into kaballah and magic years ago. It was way too much intellectual overhead for me. Also I read Ken Wilber - different substrate, same thing. I lived at Esalen for almost 2 years which frankly blew my brain up because this stuff was everywhere in every flavor - the baskin robbins of this stuff. The wacky thing is it is all bullshit yet it all works. Took me decades to scrape the crap off, but I went as an atheist and that was a kind of teflon coating but I couldn't deny I saw and experienced real change in people.

The bottom line is pretty simple - there isn't anyone alive who couldn't do a little better if they tried. All you need is to make the next step in the right direction. It is no different than science, but where science is all about what we observe this stuff is about the observer. It is intensely personal and no one else can do it but you. The trick is to not think it is science such that you can fix someone else. That is to deny they even exist. It is solipsism. Let them figure it out - that is their job and that is where the love kicks in. The mind can't handle it, and isn't meant to. This stuff is way beyond the mind, which I find a relief. But it is dangerous as people treat their woo like it is real. Poor old Ken Ham is having such a hard time, as are the folks that support him, as are the folks that oppose him, all in their own way at their own hand. What could I do to help any of them? Especially with my hands full of my own bullshit. More loving, more caring and see what comes of that.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny
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Re: Praying Atheist

#12  Postby Matthew Shute » Jul 16, 2017 10:50 pm

I don't know... when people start talking to me about gnostic fractals and occult kaballah, I get the uneasy impression that someone is a couple of steps from selling me beachfront real estate in the docklands of Amn. Perhaps I'm just not cut out to be a mage, though. The easydamus website has me down as a chaotic neutral monk. I'm a monk with little faith. For me to get invested in magical rituals based on someone else's formulas, I'd expect a fair bit out of them, things that're unrealistic outside of D&D (or similar) settings. Essentially I'd want a technology, a way to influence external reality in predictable ways. Yet to seek that from magical thinking is superstition itself. Imagine what an unreliable and fickle mistress the butterfly effect would be, for example. Blowing gently on a leaf, and -- by some convoluted and unpredictable chain of events set in motion by that action -- having the leader of ISIS dislodged from a balcony by a gust of wind, would be one thing. Specifying in advance that this was the result I had in mind, and then having this play out as imagined, would be quite another. In the latter case, there'd be no way to test whether my shenanigans with the leaf had been crucial to making this happen, anyway. (Heh heh, breathing as chaos magic: you can't take a single breath without messing around with the works in ways you can't account for, or predict the consequences of, but you could say the same for holding your breath and, henceforth, eschewing breathing altogether!) SoS makes the point that AA advise against praying for a cure to someone's cancer. There's some wisdom. They want to avoid overselling prayer as a technology. SoS has taken AA's prescription and made a discipline that has the utility to recovering addicts/alcoholics, but without the downside of belief in bullshit without evidence.
:thumbup:

Yes, faith is another wildly oversold technology. You can find people who say that faith moves mountains. Something like that is in Matthew 17. I've never seen it demonstrated that faith moves anything other than the faithful themselves, sometimes to act in very dubious ways indeed. They have to do any additional moving, all by themselves.

Here's a fictional depiction of Faith, once more, failing to move a Mountain.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Game of Thrones spoiler for Season 6


(Wrong thread but, yes, the new Game of Thrones is mere hours away now!)
"Change will preserve us. It is the lifeblood of the Isles. It will move mountains! It will mount movements!" - Sheogorath
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Re: Praying Atheist

#13  Postby VazScep » Jul 17, 2017 11:48 am

I can't say I take him very seriously. As far as I know, he got some of his early internet notoriety for writing The Necronomicon Anti-FAQ, which is great fun, and in that old spirit of folk putting circular index cards in library catalogues for the Necronomicon. I've read his essays mostly in this spirit. I'm not sure where the boundary is between table-top roleplay, LARPing, Low's style of mysticism and genuine attempts at occultism, and the idea that one's sense of the boundary can be fuzzy might be appreciated by those in these Tulpa communities and might be what caused those Christian fundies to go spare over their kids playing D&D. I have to admit, I've had a fascination with old Slenderman for a while, who became a tulpa not long after his first appearance on the SomethingAwful forums.

What I do like is that what Low is doing requires a bit more thought than common fantasy creation, since he's trying to synthesise a bunch of stuff with his Kabbalistic background, such as his use of the Tree of Life. I appreciate similar feats of effort from table-top RPG creators. Lindy Beige and his youtube friends have some fun videos where they try to put some of their historical knowledge of the middle ages to figure out an accurate but above all fun set of game rules for their own RPGs. I've been thinking for ages about how to do something similar, trying to base a weird magic system on formal logic in an attempt to gamify the subject.

Low goes off the rails a bit on that story about his cat. I read that thinking "err...wut? You don't really believe that you can cure cats with magic rituals, right?" But the rest just looks to be describing one way of doing meditation, and might be of interest if that's your thing.
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Re: Praying Atheist

#14  Postby Fallible » Jul 17, 2017 12:21 pm

SpeedOfSound wrote:I consider myself a flaming atheist, a level 7. I'm a recovering addict/alcoholic and am active in AA. Just hit my 90,000 hours sober mark. I seem to pray more than most xtians and frequently refer to 'god's will' in conversations. I have had to do much interpreting on those twelve steps and the overly religious readings of AA supplemental literature.

I am often asked by bleevers what I pray to. I tell them that if you are 'praying to' then it's not prayer, not faith. It is rather belief or dogma. The AA eleventh step is 'praying ONLY for knowledge of god's will and the power to carry it out'. Clearly meaning that praying for remission of a child's cancer is not in the program.

I maybe should've put this in philosophy because it is.

Now I do not know how all of this works. I have suspicions but no certainty. It does seem to me that something about religion is worth keeping around. Minus the belief. It's kind of like motor oil for the human brain. If I have some issue or depression or am anxious about something I have to do, I do a prayer thingy and invariably it helps. I appeal to something I cannot name or define and mentally verbalize my issue. I then clear my mind of the issue. I do a physical movement that amounts to 'letting go' and then I go check netflix recent additions. After a few days I review what happened and always find some poetry, synchronicity, in the events around the issue and note it's resolution. Always good, always learn something.

A couple of things I think are necessary. I have to create in my mind some focal point outside of my mind that is undefinable. For me that is the complexity of the physical. Second, it has to be such that I get some perspective of my self as being very tiny and even non-existent. Third, doing things for others that in no way could benefit my 'self'.

These three pills seem to form a cocktail for sanity and emotional well-being. what the fuck kind of a mammal are we that would make that work?



Everything you do for others benefits your 'self'. It can't be any other way.
John Grant wrote:They say 'let go, let go, let go, you must learn to let go'.
If I hear that fucking phrase again, this baby's gonna blow
Into a million itsy bitsy tiny pieces, don't you know,
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Re: Praying Atheist

#15  Postby Steve » Jul 17, 2017 2:20 pm

Fallible wrote:

Everything you do for others benefits your 'self'. It can't be any other way.


Falling on a grenade?
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny
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Re: Praying Atheist

#16  Postby Fallible » Jul 17, 2017 3:27 pm

Yep. People often think that a selfless fatal act has no benefit to the individual, because duh, they die...but the reason people perform them is because they think it's the 'right' thing to do. When we do the right thing even if there appears to be no gain, the simple fact that it's right and we're going to do it makes us feel good and therefore benefits the 'self'.
John Grant wrote:They say 'let go, let go, let go, you must learn to let go'.
If I hear that fucking phrase again, this baby's gonna blow
Into a million itsy bitsy tiny pieces, don't you know,
Just like my favourite scene in Scanners .
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Re: Praying Atheist

#17  Postby Steve » Jul 17, 2017 7:45 pm

Fallible wrote:Yep. People often think that a selfless fatal act has no benefit to the individual, because duh, they die...but the reason people perform them is because they think it's the 'right' thing to do. When we do the right thing even if there appears to be no gain, the simple fact that it's right and we're going to do it makes us feel good and therefore benefits the 'self'.

I see this as evidence we are not separate from each other. Not everyone will do it, so it isn't proof. But the world is better imhop when we look after each other, so that is the world I choose for me. Never done it, though, and not keen on testing it either. In my meditation practice we have 8 principles one of which is "Put others first". I regularly say I do this for purely selfish reasons. :angel: It is a tough one to live up to.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny
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Re: Praying Atheist

#18  Postby Pebble » Jul 17, 2017 9:07 pm

Fallible wrote:Yep. People often think that a selfless fatal act has no benefit to the individual, because duh, they die...but the reason people perform them is because they think it's the 'right' thing to do. When we do the right thing even if there appears to be no gain, the simple fact that it's right and we're going to do it makes us feel good and therefore benefits the 'self'.


A cloud with a silver lining is still a cloud!
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Re: Praying Atheist

#19  Postby Fallible » Jul 17, 2017 9:14 pm

Indeed.
John Grant wrote:They say 'let go, let go, let go, you must learn to let go'.
If I hear that fucking phrase again, this baby's gonna blow
Into a million itsy bitsy tiny pieces, don't you know,
Just like my favourite scene in Scanners .
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Re: Praying Atheist

#20  Postby VazScep » Jul 17, 2017 9:18 pm

There's a guy I interacted with on another forum who is a card-carrying Randian who insists that all morality reduces to rational self-interest, but it seems rational self-interest is still subject to the whim of "do X, otherwise you'll feel bad, and in your rational self-interest, you should not aim to feel bad."

When you've adopted a position that makes an otherwise useful term useless, I think you should rethink your analysis. But I might be misreading Fallible's intention: maybe it's just "be nice because you'll feel good about it", which I can't really criticise.
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