Thoughts on Prayer -- Philosophy and Religion
Updated: 5 days ago
(For more on religion, here is some of the work I've done on the subject):
(2023 Note: Revamped significantly)
There are those who will tell you that one of the most important things in life, if not the most important thing of all, is prayer, and that without prayer, you will not be redeemed in the afterlife, assuming, of course, there are one or more afterlives.
I myself may be an atheist, but in this article I will try not to let it bias my thinking, and as I wrote in the poem "Human in Religion," I can definitely understand the psychological motives behind seeking religion as one's supplier of answers to the questions of existence. Perhaps, if I wasn't an atheist, I would be religious too due to my need for meaning and self-actualization.
Anyways, I find it hard to understand why exactly prayer is needed if existence has been already determined from the start (Determinism), and if whatever deity one believes in is capable of hearing their thoughts.
If everything was already planned, it means that regardless of what you will do, you will get everything you were fated for, whether you'll pray or not. Perhaps praying will please your deity, or even compliment their ego, but in the end, the end result will stay the same. That is, at least, how I understand it.
On the other hand, you have all these customs and rituals and singing that are "required" by your ancestry to perform in order to please said deity/s, which is too, hard to understand, because why would a benevolent deity want to be complimented and glorified so much as if it were a North Korean dictator?
Apologies if I disturb some by this comparison, but it really feels like it -- all the praises and songs, it really feels like being a slave to an entity, even if they choose to become slave by love, or fear, or both. North Koreans, by the way, also praise their dictators as gods, hence why that state can be considered a Necrocracy, AKA, where the dead rule, but I digress.
It is reasonable to believe that someone who wishes to be free and independent will not seek out orthodox religions, because of how limiting they can be.
Orthodox religions often have strict rules and regulations that members are expected to follow. These rules can range from what to eat and drink, to how to dress, to how to behave in public. For some people, these rules can feel stifling and restrictive. They may feel like they are not free to live their own lives, but are instead being controlled by a set of rules that they did not create.
In addition, orthodox religions often have a focus on sin and guilt. Members are taught that they are inherently sinful and that they need to repent in order to be forgiven. This can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy. Some people may feel like they can never be good enough, no matter how hard they try.
I far prefer more pluralistic religions. Some of which can be found in the Far East. Religions such as Shintoism, which requires no specific faith, and Hinduism, which is naturally pluralistic. I assume Buddhism can also be regarded as pluralistic. The more diverse and accepting a religion is, the more it would recognize the fact that humans are very different beings, with individuality, and wants and needs of their own.
For these reasons, it is understandable why someone who wishes to be free and independent might choose not to seek out orthodox religions (AKA, Christianity, Islam, etc.). There are many other ways to find meaning and purpose in life, without having to adhere to a set of rules that one does not agree with.
I also do not deem it proper to be religious just to please others. What value is there in pretentious practice of faith? In one that isn't made wholeheartedly?
Nonetheless, honest religious faith, alongside with prayer, have contributions of their own to humanity. Both societal and individual. I'm sure we cannot disagree on that one, correct? Some people, for example, may prefer these restrictions, as they may give them a sense of order and harmony. And when it comes to sin and guilt, religious followers may feel obliged to redeem themselves and be better moral beings.
I'm not writing this article to make people renounce their faith. I don't hate religion or religious people, but I want to talk about how limiting religion can be for those who put it at a lower priority in their lives, if at all.
In my homeland, there is no separation between religion and state. This means that the government and religion are intertwined. As a result, there are many restrictions on what people can and cannot do, based on religious beliefs. For example, public transportation is not available on Saturdays, and some grocery stores will not sell certain foods on certain holidays.
I understand that religion is important to many people, but I believe that it should not be forced on others. People should be free to choose whether or not they want to participate in religious activities. I hope that one day, my homeland will have a separation between religion and state, so that everyone can live their lives according to their own, safe beliefs.
If religious communities can self-regulate their own traditions and restrictions, then I don't see why the rest of the population deserves to be restricted in accordance, as well. It is not like a central authority needs to regulate, in said communities, what is already regulated by themselves. Other than some people's thirst for political power, expanding this regulation seem redundant.
I don't believe that people should be forced to comply with an ideology or religion they don't believe in. The identity of a state is often different from the identity of its population, which is why many societies are heterogeneous rather than homogeneous.
And still, if there is one true deity who has infinite grace and love for all of existence, why would one need to fear it? And why would it be determined enough to cause misery across the land for not praying to his name, and reciting his teachings enough? I don't want to be an oppressed minion; I want to be the master of my own life, and decide where it will be going. The fact I can't control everything, does not cancel my right to choose. Within religion, and outside of it. That includes whether to pray at all.
What kind of life do I and many others want? A life where each person can decide their own fate, their own activities, and their own relationships. A life that is democratic not only in the occasional election, but in every aspect of society. A life where there is no need to be pitied or beg for forgiveness; where we are not threatened with eternal damnation or promised uncertain salvation; where women are not seen as inferior to men, and where neither men nor women have to be married to live a happy, productive life.
Some of my Indian readers may sympathize? India's pluralism amazes me.
I am not afraid to voice my thoughts in a world that is largely democratic, and I do not think it is a sin to think differently. Murder and other vile acts (which I will not mention) are crimes, but why is it so bad to be a philosopher or thinker? After all, they are simply people who are open to different ideas.
That didn't stop people from hating Solomon Maimon, a Jewish philosopher from a few centuries ago, from being hated by his religious community, and be refused becoming a Christian. From what I managed to gather, he was even stoned during his funeral. Disrespected for doing his job.
Because of these reasons, even if I were not an atheist, I would probably not pray. I do not see the need to be subordinate to a diety's mercy. And I don't see a need to communicate with one, either. Therefore, prayer can be seen as representing someone's submission to concepts which some may deem as too unjust.
I dreamt once of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom. It was the only time in my life I felt true love. I think... it is more than sufficent.
The word "Amen" comes from Hebrew, and it is an order or command to believe. It comes from the word "Emunah," which means faith or belief. Since I do not believe, nor do I want to tell others what to believe, I will probably not say "Amen" again. I am restricting myself from saying it because I do not think it is moral to tell people what to think when they can make their own decisions. Should I ever be religious, I will avoid that word.
I cannot relate to the religious way of thinking and way of life. You may call me a monk for living in solitude and not really speaking most of my days, but at least I have the freedom of choice, which exists less in a more ritual-oriented lifestyle. For the freedom of the philosopher comes from being second to no master, even if they're religious. For the philosopher is second to no one, merely in thought alone.
The choice to follow any religion is yours, as well as agree and disagree with my articles. I'm not here to convert anyone. And the choice to include me in your prayers is yours alone. Present or future. But I refuse to be seen as a divine figure, and desire no worship.
I am apparently a descendant of a dynasty of genius Rabbis from Vilnius, Lithuania. One of them, Rabbi Abraham of Vilnius, was a philosopher and a friend of Moshe Montefiore. My blood of master intellects, does not change my mortal status (Rabbi means "my master" in Hebrew).
I'm discussing long term here. Not necessarily for you, but for generations to come. I'm merely establishing my legacy.
Extra: Life can indeed be moral and meaningful without religious faith, even if it gives these traits to those of many. This article explains this arguement further.