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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

A friend of mine just wrote a blog post about the theological roadblock that Auschwitz and the holocaust in general posed to the Jewish victims. It pretty much forced people to throw out their concept of a loving, involved, personal God. Yet many continued to pray, despite their loss of faith. (http://bdkeller.wordpress.com/)

He ended the post with this question, which he and I have discussed before:
“God is dead. To whom do we pray?”

Even though I'm not sure about the whole God thing, I'm still a big fan of prayer. I've been praying my whole life, and I know the psychological benefits I get from it. It calms me down, helps me focus, and makes me feel in touch with something bigger than myself. That last aspect, apart from being great in and of itself, also lends me a lot of mental fortitude that I do not otherwise have access to. Personally, it doesn't bother me that much that I don't know who I'm praying to. I'm praying to who or whatever I've always been praying to, and I trust that the emotional (or spiritual?) benefits will continue regardless of my intellectual, theological conclusions.

The problem is that not everyone is comfortable praying to a question mark. This is probably a good thing, really, because if everyone was as comfortable with ambiguity as I am then civilization would probably still be in the stage of thinking that fire is somehow related to lightning and/or certain types of rock, but not about to pin down the exact source let along manipulate it. So, for the people who keep the world moving forwards, here are my two theories about what I pray to.

1. “The big something-or-other in the sky.”
This is my name for the all-mysterious, likely ineffable, and therefore all-convenient consciousness/force/presence that I believe may have inspired all theology. I have no particular reason to believe that this God-thing listens to me, cares about me, or is aware of me individually. I have no formal theories about this God-thing, I just think that it likely as not exists, and I pray to it.

2. Myself.
I guess this is the more scientific answer. With prayer, I get in touch with parts of myself that are otherwise dormant. Thinking about a higher/larger power causes me to feel in touch with it, and to feel that things are under control which makes me calmer which helps me focus. Also, praying about a problem directs my concentration towards that problem and helps me come up with a solution more quickly. Praying for the mental fortitude to get through tomorrow somehow focuses me so that I can get through tomorrow on the steam that I didn't realize I had.

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