A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)
My favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.
I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.
As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa. Continue reading
During an anti-clutter purge I came across a card that has been missing presumed lost for the best part of three decades. This ‘Picture Meditation’ is entitled ‘The Pathway and is No.8 in a series published by Mirfield Publications, House of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire.
The Mirfield Monastery and its fund-raising publications are still going strong and a Google search reveals that this card is still available for purchase online at a modest price of £0.50. I can’t recall where I bought it but I probably found it in a cathedral bookshop.
As an atheist this is not something I would normally spend money on but I found the text attractive because it accurately describes the state of self-doubt I often feel when contemplating change in my life. Once you exclude the entreaties to God (addressed as ‘Lord’) it is remarkably secular and plain-spoken. Here is the full text with [—-] in place of ‘Lord’ to exclude the Christian slant:
[—-], I seem to have somehow lost my way. I keep trying to follow the old familiar ways that I have known for so many years, and now they no longer lead me anywhere. Most of the time I find myself back where I started. I want to move out from where I am, and I just seem to be going round in circles. Continue reading
THE LITTLE BOOK OF ATHEIST SPIRITUALITY by André Comte-Sponville (Penguin Books, 2007 – translated by Nancy Huston)
I chanced upon this slim volume at the excellent Judd Books in Bloomsbury (a highly recommended source for bargain books if you are ever in this part of London).
I hadn’t heard of the book previously but it proved to be an inspired and inspiring purchase. It makes the case for atheism in a concise and intelligent manner whilst maintaining a tolerance for those who believe in God or some other supreme being.
André Comte-Sponville addresses this question from an overtly philosophical perspective so it is cogently reasoned with numerous quotes about faith and belief from heavyweight thinkers like Nietzsche, Kant, Spinoza and Wittgenstein.
These are not just chosen to make the writer look smart (although he plainly is!) but to illustrate that the big questions – ‘Can We Do Without Religion? ; ‘Does God Exist? – are far from new and can be answered in numerous ways.
These questions are the titles of two of the three chapters in the Frenchman’s guide for the perplexed, the third seeks to respond to the query: Can There Be An Atheist Spirituality?
Needless to say, his answers to these three points are, respectively, YES, NO and YES. Continue reading