A Non-Believer’s Day of Prayer

Unity, a New Thought spiritual movement, celebrates its annual “World Day of Prayer” today, Thursday, Sept. 12. The theme for this year’s observation is “Infinite presence, unlimited potential.” 

Unfortunately, like 2018, this year has been a bad year for prayer. The billions of “thoughts and prayers” issued forth seem to have had little effect. It’s like there is nothing hearing those prayers, or as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “God is dead.” Many sages and mystics validate Nietzsche’s statement by teaching that there is no God on earth. 

The questionable value of prayer is not helped by the bizarre behavior of the religious. The 9/11 attacks, amoral Roman Catholic priests, the “prosperity gospel” and a money-loving, Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christian president who locks desperately poor people in cages are just a few examples of the failures of religion and the religious to improve mankind. 

Likewise, the conceptual gods of religion are a dubious lot to worship through prayer. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins wrote “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  

Perhaps the best way to observe the day of prayer is to give up belief in the gods of religion. The good thing about giving up belief in such gods is that there is then a chance that one may find a real and tangible God — the very beingness, oneness and miraculous-ness of life, love and consciousness itself.

Thus, the unity theme of  “Infinite presence, unlimited potential” is a good fit for a secular approach to prayer. In this way, prayer now becomes a contemplation of the infinite presence and unlimited potential of the miraculous, because life in this universe, on the unlikely planet earth, is indeed prolific and miraculous. 

Albert Einstein said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” In the latter view, the secular non-believer and the mystical believer are identical. The mystical believer lives in the infinite presence and miracles of Divine Consciousness, while the secular non-believer lives in the material miracles of the anthropic principle and nature, on the unlikely planet earth.

MIT physicist Gerald Schroeder, in his essay “The Unlikely Planet Earth,” describes the miracle of living on this planet: “Our solar system has a very special configuration. The right-sized star, located between spiral arms, in a region of few stars, with an exceptionally high abundance of heavy elements needed to form the basis of rocky planets and life, having inner planets. One of these has just the correct mass and gravity to hold an oxygen-rich atmosphere and is in the zone where the star’s radiant energy can keep water in its liquid phase year round, with giant outer planets sweeping up potentially life-threatening meteors and comets. 

“The earth and sun certainly drew a royal flush and then some when the cards of life were being dealt. But there’s more. The likelihood of finding anywhere in the entire universe a stellar system with a planet able to support complex intelligent life is one chance in 1018. The estimated number of stars in the entire visible universe is in the order of 1022. This indicates that in the entire universe there may be approximately 104,or 10,000, earthlike planets circling a sun-like star. These 10,000 potentially earthlike planets would be distributed among the 1011, or 100,000,000,000, galaxies in the entire visible universe. That comes out to be one earthlike planet for each 10,000,000 galaxies. The probability that any one galaxy would have more than one life-bearing stellar system is slim indeed.

“Of course, this estimate relates only to the possibility of finding conditions that would nurture life once it started. We learn nothing here concerning the properties required for the inception of life. Since we have no knowledge as to how life started on earth, and started remarkably rapidly, there are no data on which to base an estimation that might indicate the likelihood of life originating on any one of those rare life-friendly planets. Considering the uniqueness of our home in space, chances are that we are alone in our galaxy and possibly alone in the universe.”

Add to this the overwhelming odds of one in 400 trillion of being born, and the non-believer is wise to pay homage to Lady Luck on the day of prayer.