Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The urge to pray seems instinctive in most humans. As an attempt to communicate with a being higher and more powerful than oneself, prayer generally devolves into requests for help and favors intermingled with flattering thanks designed to wheedle future gifts  -- as a small child would beg a parent.  That is certainly the way I was exposed to it in the United States.

I've written before about the evident uselessness of such begging prayers as far as their bringing special help from the Divine is concerned.  I certainly cannot say that some kind of godly intervention never occurs as a result of a cry for help, but observation shows that most prayer requests are not granted. The pleasing results of those which seem to be granted may be explained more by chance, or by a focus of the individual's visualization and desire and belief, than to action by a deity.

Nevertheless, I have a persistent inclination to pray, to find some means of communication with the higher power or powers I sense exist and have helped and guided me.  As I struggled one night with the question of how to pray, it came to me that prayer should consist of a receptive state rather than talk aimed at a beneficent deity.  In other words, prayer should consist of listening rather than speaking.

Relax, eyes closed, with a listening and watchfully waiting attitude. Signal in some way that a prayer has begun. What follows is like meditation, in which one discourages the inner word-stream and tries to make the mind clear, perhaps using attention to one's breathing to drive mundane thoughts away. Concentrate on the dark screen before your eyes, watching expectantly for something to appear and be alert to anything resembling inspiration or thoughts coming from a higher source.

You are tuned to receive.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taking Dictation from God

One of Protestant Christianity's basic tenets -- at least among the more fundamentalist sects -- is that the Bible is the "word of God" and therefore all true, the ultimate authority on everything.

I ask myself increasingly what is the authority for that assertion. Having been dunked in the Southern Baptist church as a child, I was shown pictures of ancient men sitting at tables with pens in their hands while beams of light entered their heads from above. These were the Bible writers, obedient secretaries receiving dictation directly from God . . . of which every syllable was true. But I do not recall ever being told who said that the Bible was the infallible "Word of God", nor do I recall anything in the Bible itself which asserted that it was all written by God.

Considering how filled with contradictions and inconsistencies the Bible is, it seems that the Roman Catholic Church was very wise in not encouraging its believers to read it.  By unleashing hordes of the generally unintelligent to read and interpret the Old and New Testaments for themselves, Protestantism deserved what it got -- a multitude of sects claiming to give the correct interpretation of a collection of writings which can only be considered, if not schizophrenic, fragmented with inconsistencies and outright contradictions.

Years ago I thought that by now the Christian churches would have dried up for the most part, but based on what I hear around me, and on what we read, the traditionalist churches remain a powerful force in the United States, not only ideologically but also politically. And the main pillar of their existence is that the Bible is all true.

This makes me feel about as comfortable as I would if one of those wild-eyed street preachers who scream at imaginary crowds on corners had been elected Governor on a platform of education reform.