I am not an especially religious person. My friends from synagogue might be surprised to hear this, since I am adept in many Matters Ritual and I make it my business to be knowledgeable. (Often, I will tell people that knowing a lot about my religion allows me to be cognizant of which of its innumerable rules and regulations I might be violating at any given time.)

I am a skeptic. Nevertheless, I pray.

A friend taught me a beautiful analogy for prayer, one that works even for us skeptics. He compared praying to standing in front of a room with a one-way mirror, speaking to the occupant within. We don’t know who or what is in the room, or whether the occupant of the room is there always or only sometimes. We don’t know whether this mysterious occupant listens to us or takes action based upon what we say or do. About these matters, we can only guess - and have faith. But regardless of who or what is in the hidden room, when we pray we see our own reflection in the one-way mirror.

It’s a wonderful analogy, and it is reinforced further by the fact that, in Hebrew, the verb “to pray“ is a reflexive verb: one for which both the subject and object are the same.

Thus do I justify my prayers, despite my being skeptical about the existence of a deity.

Our liturgy is beautiful... not just because of its language and poetry, but because so much of it forces the mind to focus on important things. The miracles that attend us daily - evening, morning, and afternoon. The wondrous way our bodies are constructed, permitting us not only to eat and breathe, but to have rich intellectual lives and to look beyond the human, mortal world. The beauty that surrounds us. Our liturgy teaches us the fine art of appreciation.

As I said above, I am a skeptic. Nevertheless, there are plenty of words with which I can express thanks for all of the blessings I have had for over 65 years.

And as far as the words that I will use to express my fear, frustration, discomfort, and just plain pissed-offedness at my current situation are concerned, I’m perfectly capable of making those up on my own.


  1. In a conversation between Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast and Zen abbot Robert Aitken-roshi, the topic of gratitude came up. Brother David wondered how Aitken-roshi could be thankful for anything if he didn't believe in a God to thank. Aitken responded that one can feel gratitude without necessarily being thankful to anyone in particular. I think that's about right.

    When it comes to gratitude or appreciation, much depends on outlook, I think. If you see the world—whether it comes from God or not—as constantly teaching you, and if you view those teachings as gifts endlessly showered upon you, then there's always much to be thankful for. Doesn't matter if the teacher is a conscious Being or an unconscious Ground of Being (if I'm not mistaken, the powerful tetragrammaton YHWH actually embraces and transcends both concepts); it's enough to know that, for a short while, the universe has been congenial to my existence. For something so unfathomably vast to grant me the chance to live and breathe and strive and contemplate within that numinous realm, even for a few years, is nothing short of miraculous.

    The cosmic joke is that human existence, as we live it, is often so mundane that we routinely forget the miracle. And lest we forget: in every breath, a lesson. In every moment, both the ending of all and the beginning of all.*

    Of course... a concentrated mind cannot forget. A concentrated mind quickly becomes a master of the fine art of appreciation. May you share your awareness far and wide—"blessed, to be a blessing," as our pastor used to say.



    *OK, I admit it: I stole that concept from the Hindus. Sue me.

    1. "The cosmic joke is that human existence, as we live it, is often so mundane that we routinely forget the miracle. And lest we forget: in every breath, a lesson. In every moment, both the ending of all and the beginning of all."

      I couldn't have said it better myself.

      I keep reading and re-reading this comment, and I find new insights every time.

  2. I, too am a skeptic. Always have been. Fortunately (or Unfortunately as I'm sure some people believe) my parents did not push church on me. They let me make up my own mind. After seeing SO much hypocrisy in the faithful church-goers, I decided I'd believe it when I saw it. Still feel that way. But I do love that analogy about prayer.

  3. Whether or not you believe in Him, He believes in you ������

  4. I was raised Southern Baptist. However... from about a he age of SEVEN, in my heart, I knew it to be bullshit. Something invented to manage and control the masses. As far as “organized” religion is concerned, I still see it as bullshit. Because I wanted my 4 daughters to choose for themselves, I made them go to church.
    Now, at the age of 64, I haven’t changed my mind about the “organized” part, but I have embraced a somewhat Buddhist view of humanism. I claim to be atheist, and for the most part that fits me. But I keep an open mind, and I am begrudgingly allowing for a deep sense of the spiritual to float up.
    Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, it’s all right.

  5. Your beautiful writings give proof of the strong man that still resides within your "shop". Sending prayers and love!


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