An atheist’s most difficult prayer: Help

Help Thanks WowBack in November, I saw a Thanksgiving essay in the NY Times, The Prayer of an Unconventional Family by Anne Lamott and noticed in the footnote that she had a new book  out titled Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.

I bought the Kindle version of the book when I saw this short review of the book in the Strib by my former Utne Reader colleague, Lynette Lamb:

If you seek a pithy explication of prayer, as understood by one reliably funny Christian, this is your book. But if you’re hoping for fully realized stories about Lamott’s own wrestling with religion, like those found in her previous books on faith, you’ll be disappointed. This is more self-help manual than essay collection.

I was going to blog about it several times since then but every time Northfield bookseller Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read got the book in stock, he’d sell out in a day or two. (On Friday, Jerry got a whole stack of books in.)

I was most interested in Lamott’s chapter, Help, because I’ve found that as an atheist, it’s the toughest of the three prayers. Being grateful (Thanks) and mindful (Wow) are for me, more easily practiced because they don’t activate my mind’s habitual desire to have a being/God involved.

But how do you pray/say/ask for Help without conjuring up an image of someone on the other end who might A) be listening; and B) have some inclination to act on the request? Lamott writes:

Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer. I don’t pray for God to do this or that, or for God’s sake to knock it off, or for specific outcomes. Well, okay, maybe a little.

I’ve blogged about prayer occasionally as I think it helps to distinguish between true and false prayers.  Asking for specific worldly outcomes is a false prayer.  Here’s a good example of one of Lamott’s Help prayers that combines true prayer with what she calls her ‘beggy prayers’:

A lifelong friend, a staunch agnostic, has asked me to pray for her daughter, Angie, who has young children and a diagnosis of aggressive lung cancer, the kind that continues to grow tumors in the midst of chemotherapy. I close my eyes and say in silence, “I hold this family in Your light. I pray for them to get their miracle, and to have stamina, for them to be okay today, for their love and amazing senses of humor to help them come through, although if You have a minute, I’d like to know: What on earth could You be thinking?”

That prayer and my friendship are pretty much all I’ve got to offer. I wish I had a magic wand and could tap Angie on the head with it, and the cancer would be gone and her kids would get to grow up with a mother. Even better, I wish God had a magic wand. I’ve never seen evidence of it.

Lamott correctly identifies the element of surrender as the key to asking for Help in this prayer:

Hi, God. I am just a mess. It is all hopeless. What else is new? I would be sick of me, if I were You, but miraculously You are not. I know I have no control over other people’s lives, and I hate this. Yet I believe that if I accept this and surrender, You will meet me wherever I am. Wow. Can this be true? If so, how is this afternoon— say, two-ish? Thank You in advance for Your company and blessings. You have never once let me down. Amen.


Most good, honest prayers remind me that I am not in charge, that I cannot fix anything, and that I open myself to being helped by something, some force, some friends, some something. These prayers say, “Dear Some Something, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t see where I’m going. I’m getting more lost, more afraid, more clenched. Help.” These prayers acknowledge that I am clueless; but something else isn’t. While I am not going to go limp, I am asking for the willingness to step into truth. It’s like the old riddle: What’s the difference between you and God? God never thinks he’s you.

I first came across this notion of surrender in everyday prayer in a book by Polly Berrien Berends: Coming to Life: Traveling the Spiritual Path in Everyday Life.

The primary thing that has to be given up is knowing what is good for us.

And here’s a related quote by Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and several follow-up books (some of which I like; others I hate):

There are situations where all answers and explanations fail. Life does not make sense anymore. Or someone in distress comes to you for help, and you don’t know what to say. When you fully accept that you don’t know, you give up struggling to find answers with the limited thinking mind, and that is when a greater intelligence can operate through you. And even thought can then benefit from that, since the greater intelligence can flow into it and inspire it. Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.

Once I park my ego, stop my noisy thinking, surrender, and then ask/pray correctly for help, it comes. Every time. Reliable as gravity.  Even for me, an atheist.  I just have to get better at not waiting so long till I’m suffering.

coldsassytree_cover.gifI’ve blogged about Olive Ann Burns’ novel, Cold Sassy Tree, and the passage that offers an interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said “Ask and ye shall receive.”  (If the authors of the New Testament had quoted Jesus as saying “Ask correctly and ye shall receive,” a lot of trouble over the past couple of millenia could have been avoided.)

At the time, I only provided a screenshot and audio version of the passage but I’ve now got a transcript (courtesy of the OCR feature in Microsoft OneNote).

In the passage, Grandpa (Rucker) is talking to his newlywed, Miss Love. The narrator is the young grandson.

“Something Will Tweedy’s been questionin’. He don’t unnerstand why Jesus said, ‘Ast, and it shall be given.’ He says why would Jesus say sech a thang when it ain’t always so?”

“That’s easy to explain, Rucker. Tell Will that sometimes God has to say no for our own good, or to teach us something, or show His power. Sometimes it’s just not His will to give us a certain thing. Or He wants to test our faith and see if we trust Him no matter what.”

Grandpa laughed. “Love, you sound like ever preacher I ever heard. But Jesus didn’t say God might say no when we say gimme. He said God’s go’n say yes. Anythang we ast for, we go’n git it. Well, hungry folks pray for food, but they shore don’t all git fed. And sick folks beg Him for healin’, but lots of’m die, or maybe live on in bed. Jesus had to mean something diff’rent from what folks think He meant, else to my mind He was a dang fool to go round promisin’ what God wouldn’t do. But Jesus warn’t no fool, Love. So what did He mean?”

Distressed, she sat up and said to Grandpa, “Please, Rucker. Don’t talk sacrilege.”

“Hit ain’t sacrilege. Miss Effie Belle says when she cain’t think what to have for dinner, she asts God and right off He gives her a idea. To my thinkin’, thet’s sacrilege.”

Miss Love really laughed. “There’s not a woman in the world who hasn’t prayed what to cook for dinner, Rucker.”

“Well, God give y’all cookbooks for thet. Anyhow, when I got to ponderin’ on it last night, the word ast commenced to jump at me like sheep comin’ over a fence. Ast. Ast. Ast. But ast for what? For meat and bread? For healin’ miracles? Are we s’posed to ast ‘Lord, give me the answers on the arithmetic test,’ ‘Lord gît me hired over the next feller,’ ‘Lord, give me a son’? Gosh a’mighty, how I used to ast thet’n, Love!” He looked long and tender at her, and kissed her cheek.

“And didn’t God send you Will Tweedy?”

Gosh, I hadn’t thought of that!

“Maybe He did,” said Grandpa. “Then agin maybe He sent me you so I could have another crack at it.” I could see Miss Love blush. and, out in the hall, I blushed. Grandpa didn’t. “But I don’t think He planned Will Tweedy for me. I don’t even think He sent me you. You and Will jest happened in the way of thangs. God ain’t said you won’t git nothin’ good less’n you pray for it. But I’m shore thankful for you, Love.” He touched a finger to her chin and her mouth, then rested his hand on her cheek.

His voice softened as he went on. “Another thang to think on: some folks ain’t said pea-turkey to God in years. They don’t ast Him for nothin’, don’t specially try to be good, and don’t love no body the way Jesus said to — cept their own self. But they go’n git jest bout as much or as little in the way a-earthly goods as the rest of us. They go’n have sorrows and joys, failures and good times. And when they come down sick they go’n gît well or the, one, jest same as the prayin’ folks. So don’t thet tell you something bout prayin? Ain’t the best prayin’ jest bein’ with God and talkin’ a while, like He’s a good friend, stead a-like he runs a store and you’ve come in a-hopin’ to git a bargain?”

Miss Love frowned. “Rucker, you can’t write Holy Scripture. It’s already been written.”

“Well, I shore can question what it means.” With a heavy groan, trying to shift a little to get comfortable, he put his arm across her stomach again. “And hit fIne’ly come to me in the night, what Jesus must a-meant by ast. You want to be like them folks with rock brains, or you want to hear it?”

She smiled. “I want to hear it.”

I put in my journal all the above. Also the answer that had come to Grandpa.

“When Jesus said ast and ye shall receive, I don’t think He meant us to pray ‘Lord, spare my child,’ or ‘Make it rain for the crops,’ or ‘Don’t let my bizness fail.’ I don’t even think Jesus meant us to ask for—”

“—for a house or a piano?” She put her hand on his open palm. He laughed, and lifted her hand and kissed it.

“Naw and not even for a husband or any other sech favor. The Lord’s Prayer does say, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ but thet’s the only dang Jesus ast for in the whole prayer thet you can tetch. They ain’t nothin’ in the Lord’s Prayer says ‘Make me well.’ I’m tempted to pray thet right now, hurtin’ like I am. But I don’t think Jesus meant us to think we can git healed jest by beggin’ for it.” Grandpa laughed kind of rueful. “God made us so we want to stay alive. He put healin’ power in our bodies. We don’t have to beg Him to save us. All we got to do is accept bein sick, do what Doc says, and trust thet God wants us to git well if’n we can.”

Miss Love broke in. “In the Bible, Jesus only healed the people who asked Him to — and believed He could. If Jesus could heal, can’t God? If we pray and have faith?”

“Well’m, faith ain’t no magic wand or money-back gar’ntee, either one. Hit’s jest a way a-livin’. Hit means you don’t worry th’ew the days. Hit means you go’n be holdin’ on to God in good times or bad times, and you accept whatever happens. Hit means you respect life like it is — like God made it — even when it ain’t what you’d order from the wholesale house. Faith don’t mean the Lord is go’n make lions lay down with lambs just cause you ast him to, or make fire not burn. Some folks, when they pray to git well and don’t even git better, they say God let’m down. But I say thet warn’t even what Jesus was a-talkin’ bout.

When Jesus said ast and you’ll git it, He was givin’ a gar’ntee a-spiritual healin’, not body healin’. He was sayin’ thet if’n you git beat down — die, or scairt folks won’t like you — why, all you got to do is put yore hand in God’s and He’ll lift you up. I know it for a fact, Love. I can pray, ‘Lord, hep me not be scairt,’ and I don’t know how, but it’s like a eraser wipes the fears away. And I found out a long time ago, when I look on what I got to stand as a dang hardship or a burden, it seems too heavy to carry. But when I look on the same dang thang as a challenge, why, standin’ it or acceptin’ it is like you done entered a contest. Hit even gits excitin’, waitin’ to see how everthang’s go’n turn out.”

Grandpa stopped to move a little and his face twisted with pain. But he went on. “Jesus meant for us to ast God to hep us stand the pain, not beg Him to take the pain away. We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage, and to be gracious when thangs ain’t goin’ our way, and we’ll git what we ast for. They ain’t no gar’ntee thet we ain’t go’n have no troubles and ain’t go’n die. But shore as frogs croak and cows bellow, God’ll forgive us if’n we ast Him to.”


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    Griff, thanks for the thoughts; I enjoyed them a lot.

    December 24, 2012
  2. William Siemers said:

    I enjoyed your thoughts as well. Thanks. Merry Christmas.

    December 25, 2012
  3. john george said:

    Yep! Mercy and forgiveness are God’s way. And it is also written in 1st. John 5:14

    This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

    Kind of makes you want to stay friends with Him, as your text says.

    “…faith ain’t no magic wand or money-back gar’ntee, either one. Hit’s jest a way a-livin’.”

    December 25, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    John, yes indeed, and if faith is a (correct) way of living, then it seems that prayer is a (correct) way of reflecting and conversing internally. As Grandpa Rucker said:

    So don’t thet tell you something bout prayin? Ain’t the best prayin’ jest bein’ with God and talkin’ a while, like He’s a good friend, stead a-like he runs a store and you’ve come in a-hopin’ to git a bargain?”

    December 25, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Phil and William, you’re welcome.

    What I didn’t write about was the struggle I’d been having recently that prompted me to pray for help. I used to have a blog in which I often wrote about problems in my life as they were occurring. But as often as not, it was a bad idea because I was then treating my blog as a journal. Publishing journal-like entries for an audience negated the benefits of journaling. And worse yet, writing publicly about existing relationships strained those relationships.

    So while I might publish more of these reflective-type blog posts here on LoGro, I’ll be guarded, much like Anne Lamott in her Help Thanks Wow book.

    December 25, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    A relevant essay in yesterday’s NY Times: A Prayer at Christmas by Ann Hood.

    I dipped my fingers in the holy water, and walked slowly up the long center aisle to the altar. Around me, people snapped pictures of the manger with their phones. A woman holding a baby in a Santa suit rushed past me. When I got to the front pew, I lowered the kneeler, and I knelt. I bowed my head and I prayed.

    In the years since I’d done this simple act in church, I have prayed at home and in hospital waiting rooms. I have prayed for my daughter to live, for the bad news to not be true, for strength in the face of adversity. I have prayed with more desperation than a person should feel. I have prayed in vain.

    This prayer, though, was different. It was a prayer from my girlhood, a prayer for peace and comfort and guidance. It was a prayer of gratitude. It was a prayer that needed to be done in church, in a place where candles flicker and statues of saints look down from on high; where sometimes, out of nowhere, the spiritually confused can still come inside and kneel and feel their words might rise up and be heard.

    December 25, 2012
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    And today, NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd invites a priest, Father Kevin O’Neil, to make sense of the murders in Newtown CT and Webster NY in a piece titled, Why, God? This is about a different kind of prayer. He writes:

    Implicit here is the question of how we look to God to act and to enter our lives. For whatever reason, certainly foreign to most of us, God has chosen to enter the world today through others, through us. We have stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, but far more often the God of unconditional love comes to us in human form, just as God did over 2,000 years ago.

    December 25, 2012
  8. azna amira said:

    I saw this prayer–it’s only 10 words that cover it all–in a video about the Shift of the Ages, wherein we’re supposed to move from this mess we’ve made to a return to oneness:

    I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

    There it: atonement, gratitude, and love for all-that-is (no notions of “self” or “God” required).

    December 26, 2012
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Griff … I have no doubt of your utmost sincerity on this issue, but there is something I do not understand: You have consistently identified yourself as an “atheist”, as have I … and having that POV, I do not ever consider ‘praying’ to a God I do not believe exists in the Biblical presentation, and as an answerer of prayers.

    So … if you do not believe in the existence of “God” , how can you “pray” to that entity?

    Please understand that I , in any way, do not mean to be critical, cynical, etc… just don’t understand …

    December 26, 2012
  10. Barb Kuhlman said:

    Hi, Griff.
    Thanks so much for this post. I had forgotten about that passage in Cold Sassy Tree. I think many, many people struggle with the meaning of prayer and the nature of God. And often I think the answers are found in places like these two works you have cited.

    Whenever I see you or others refer to yourselves as atheists, I often wonder if you have read the works of Bishop Jon Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop who has been called an atheist by some, who identifies himself as a believer in a non-theistic God. I’ve found his books very helpful, as well as the writings of Marcus Borg and other liberal theologions.

    December 26, 2012
  11. john george said:

    Griff- That is exactly what I have found. To me, praying is not some religious exercise. It is a conversation I can have with God, either internally or out loud. One aspect of prayer that is often not discussed is the part where we just listen. I like the way Grandpa Rucker states it.
    One of my good friend,s who is a pastor, has often said that the most spiritual prayer is, “Help!” We humans want to be able to take credit for what we accomplish. I am most often struck be what God seems to accomplish through me, since it is most often something of which I have NO natural capabilities.

    December 26, 2012
  12. john george said:

    Azna- That is an interesting prayer. I am just wondering to “whom” it is offered? If there is no notion of “self” or” God,” then why be sorry in the first place, or seek forgiveness, or offer thanks or love? I guess I am a little puzzled by uttering a string of words to no one.

    December 26, 2012
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad you asked, Kiffi.

    My atheism is based on my belief that there’s not a supreme being as presented in the Bible who has the ability to intervene in our physical universe.

    But I’ve experienced something beyond my thinking, conscious brain that feels like a source of greater intelligence. Maybe it’s an energy field, maybe it’s a different part of my brain, maybe it’s God. It really doesn’t seem to matter because it reliably brings some awareness, understanding or appreciation that leads to a different perspective and/or a behavior change that results in greater happiness and peace of mind.

    But accessing this requires techniques and discipline that pretty much looks like prayer without the supreme being.

    When Grandpa Ruckert says:

    I can pray, ‘Lord, hep me not be scairt,’ and I don’t know how, but it’s like a eraser wipes the fears away.

    I do something very close to that, eg, “I need help in understanding why I’m scared. What mistaken ideas am I entertaining? Is my ego getting in the way? I’ve tried to figure it out and I’m stuck. I need help. I’m listening.”

    Some might call that a meditation or a psychological exercise. But ‘prayer’ seems to fit, too.

    Does that help?

    December 26, 2012
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    You’re welcome, Barb.

    I am familiar with John Shelby Spong. I’ve heard him on MPR several times and have one of his books, A New Christianity for a New World.

    I like what he’s trying to, ie, show how there can be a Christianity that’s non-theistic. Is his a Christianity that you subscribe to?

    December 26, 2012
  15. azna amira said:

    To “no one”? Is the consciousness that created the universe–of which you and everyone and everything else are a part–no one? Are you–a creative part of that consciousness–no one? We were designed as co-creators of this world, and have sometimes missed the mark in so doing. So, in gratitude for the opportunity to wipe the slate ad make different decisions, we go forth on the vibratory frequency of love that holds in unity All That Is and go forth to create better outcomes. I think that’s the “help” Ms. Lamott was looking for.

    December 27, 2012
  16. Bright Spencer said:

    I like to see this sort of discourse, but in the end or in the beginning, for me, the words can inspire when there are few, but for me, the words get in the way of the place we can go where we know everything we need to know. It’s a place where we can decide our own best course of action or inaction, whwere we can see all the reasons and the outcomes and other’s points of view. That place is God’s gift to us and when we sit and listen queitly after stating our intent, or not, we will hear what we need to hear, imho.

    December 27, 2012
  17. john george said:

    Azna- Sorry, but your philosophy seems to be a half truth about Father God, the Creator of the universe. I think Romans 1:21 is applicable here:

    For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    This “consciouness” you refer to is evident in Eastern mystic religions. It does not provide atonment for sin. Only the blood of Jesus is capable of that. That atonement restores our relationship with the Father.

    December 27, 2012
  18. kiffi summa said:

    Once again , John, you have told someone with a spirituality that does not align precisely with yours, that you find theirs to be ‘lesser’ … I wonder that Griff does not ask you to refrain from that sort of evaluation of another person’s belief.

    December 27, 2012
  19. azna amira said:

    Perhaps the “holy trinity” for the emerging age should be the unity of the left brain, the right brain, and the heart.

    Our society’s inability to function in any but left-brain mode is extremely limiting, and has led us to our current crisis.

    Perhaps if people like Mr. George had access to the right lobe, they might be able to understand that consciousness isn’t “Eastern” or “Western.” These are artificial, dualistic, man-made constructions that have no meaning.

    If he could open his heart, he would be able to accept the gift of a non-religious prayer that affirms the unity of us all without feeling compelled to take a dump on it.

    And perhaps if he were not so exclusively left-brained, he would not–in knee-jerk fashion–make a straw man out of what he THINKS someone else believes, then boost his ego by knocking it down. (All this with no clue whatever that there might be a bigger picture, encompassing more than the two sterile extremes dictated by his own restricted thinking and imagination.

    December 28, 2012
  20. Barb Kuhlman said:

    That’s not an easy question to answer, especially in a discussion thread such as this. Let me just say that I believe there are other ways of understanding God and the life of Jesus than the conservative, fundamentalist views often pushed on this and other websites. And I really hate to see people “throw the baby out with the bath water” when traditional religious platitudes don’t hold up when we are faced with the harsh realities of life.

    December 28, 2012
  21. john george said:

    Azna- I have a 4-year degree in art, which I thought required right-brain consciousness. I also have an analytical side. Perhaps we have both sides to bring some balance to our lives, so your comment about having a connection between right & left brains and our heart rings true with me. Of course, from a historical perspective, there has been a “God consciousness” long before there was any ieda that a person’s brain was divided into right and left sides. Those concepts are barely a century old. The God consciousness predates that by quite a long period.

    I had hoped to come to some understanding of where you are coming from by engageing in some dialogue. I just wanted you to know up front where I am coming from, and I did not mean any condemnation of you in doing so. It appears I did not do a good job of that, so please forgive me.

    On the face value of your terms, it appears you embrace the New Age philosophy. I believe there is an inborn hunger for something “higher” than us upon whom/what we can place a hope in the future. Your quest has led you to your beliefs. My quest has led me to mine, and I have experienced, and continue to experience, a relationship with the Biblical God. This is available to all people who believe. If I do not at least introduce you to this possibility, then I feel I would have done you a disservice.

    December 29, 2012
  22. azna amira said:

    Mr. George–
    I offered you a prayer of encouragement, and you seem unable to accept it, so I will not respond further. I don’t feel inclined to “dialogue” with someone who insists on putting me in some little box by labeling my beliefs. (Those who are “analytical” often conflate categorization with cognition).

    However, I believe bloggers should at least attempt to be accurate in their use of cyberspace, so in point of fact:
    1. Degrees neither confer nor certify right or left brain consciousness.
    2. This concept is not “barely a century old,” but was outlined in great detail in records that are thousands of years old; and “modern” science is just now catching up.

    BTW, what on earth is “New Age philosophy”? I’ve never seen that adequately described or defined anywhere, but if complete strangers are going to label me with it, I should probably check it out.

    I believe all humans are hardwired for what we refer to, as a short-hand, as “God.” Like you, we all “ex-perience” the creator on our own path and in our own time until we learn to “ins-perience” that which is too infinitely vast to be contained in a word–or even a book.

    I wish you well in your quest.

    December 30, 2012
  23. azna amira said:

    Mr. George–
    I offered you a prayer of encouragement, and you seem unable to accept it, so I will not respond further. I don’t feel inclined to “dialogue” with someone who insists on putting me in some little box by labeling my beliefs. (Those who are “analytical” often conflate categorization with cognition).

    However, I believe bloggers should at least attempt to be accurate in their use of cyberspace, so in point of fact:
    1. Degrees neither confer nor certify right or left brain consciousness.
    2. This concept is not “barely a century old,” but was outlined in great detail in records that are thousands of years old; and “modern” science is just now catching up.

    BTW, what on earth is “New Age philosophy”? I’ve never seen that adequately described or defined anywhere, but if complete strangers are going to label me with it, I should probably check it out.

    I believe all humans are hardwired for what we refer to, as a short-hand, as “God.” Like you, we all “ex-perience” the creator on our own path and in our own time until we learn to “ins-perience” that which is too infinitely vast to be contained in a word–or even a book.

    I wish you well in your quest.

    December 30, 2012
  24. kiffi summa said:

    John: I do sincerely believe you have the best of intentions, and that you do have a genuine desire for “dialogue”…
    But may I just say this: somehow, you always manage to give the impression that you are offering a perspective that is above all others, and a solace that is unattainable unless one’s beliefs parallel your own.

    After the years during which you and I have been disagreeing on various issues, I have come to believe that you are truly sincere, but you somehow cannot ‘share’ the pulpit.
    I suppose that comes from your deep conviction that your belief is the best, highest, most correct … whatever … but you have never been able to accept that by professing its singular correctness, you seem to disrespect the beliefs of others.

    I hope that explains why it is difficult to have a discussion/dialogue that does not offend … and I’m sure that offense goes in both directions … but I am trying to be most reasonable.

    Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

    Peace in the New Year …

    December 30, 2012
  25. john george said:

    Kiffi- Yes, I understand what you are saying, and thanks for taking the time to say it. My desire is to be steadfast in my convictions but gentle in expressing them without being wishy-washy. I also know that I sometimes do a better job of this than other times. I think you strive to do the same thing. I have walked in this “way,” as the Bible calls it in Acts, for over 40 years. I have not only found that there is much more depth to understanding God than what I presently have, but the more I understand Him, the more the Scriptures prove to be true. For me to say that another “way” is as true as the “way” I have found would be a prevarication on my part. If someone wants to follow anther way, that is their prerogative. The commandment to me in Matt. 28 is to make disciples. The best way I know of doing this is to teach and to live what I teach. In that process, there has to be a time at which diametrically opposed tenets must be discussed and a decision made as to which tenet to follow. Since I have not found an untruth in the Scriptures, I will continue to use them as the standard by which to make these types of decisions. If someone wants to follow a different teaching, then I do have the freedom to point that out and discuss it with them as they have the freedom to disagree with me. My desire is not to be offended if someone disagrees with me. I’m sorry if I come across dogmatic, but there are things in our universe that are absolute. And, there is demonstrable evidence to support them. If that makes them appear “… best, highest, most correct … whatever …,” then I am sorry, but I feel no need to compromise or apologize for stating them.
    And, peace to you in the New Year.

    December 30, 2012
  26. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    My favorite prayer is the hesychast prayer: My second favorite is the Madden prayer: “THERE’S NO WAY HE CAN MISS THIS FIELD GOAL!” For different reasons, of course.

    December 31, 2012
  27. As an aside to what Anza said, I have found that Religions that believe theirs is the “only” way automatically believe that all other beliefs are wrong and/or lesser. Most adherents to these religions that I have met don’t have any trouble telling me that.

    January 3, 2013
  28. john george said:

    As I was re-reading this discussion (?), I was reminded of this old Pete Seeger song. Hope this link works, and I hope you enjoy the poignant truth behind it.

    January 6, 2013
  29. Greg Burnett said:

    As a fellow atheist, I see no value in talking to yourself unless you are aware that you are doing so simply to attempt to help yourself, not to ask for assistance from the universe or gods or whatever. To ask for help is a good thing, but you don’t have to ask yourself (I assume you are willing to help yourself) and you should ask real, existing, human beings, who are usually very willing to help.

    Isn’t that much simpler than all the above?

    January 7, 2013
  30. Greg Burnett said:

    Your belief is incorrect. You may be “hardwired”, but many of us can enjoy life and form lasting relationships without the help of gods, leprechauns, fairies, crystals, or anything else someone dreamed up. The real world is far richer and more satisfying than the best of delusions.

    But hey, if it makes you happy, go nuts. Just stay away from my children!

    January 7, 2013
  31. David Henson said:

    I often see people comparing “an idea’ or some authors book to “a religion” and it seems worth pointing out this is like comparing a homemade salt shaker to Mortons’ Salt company … two very different things. One has tremendous structure and is fully operational in meeting peoples needs on a massive scale. “Rightness” can be show and proved out in practical as well as celestial ways.

    January 7, 2013
  32. Well, isn’t it usually the case that anyone who believes a thing to be true implicitly believes claims that contradict it to be false?

    January 7, 2013
  33. john george said:

    Well said, Peter!

    January 10, 2013

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