Monday, April 02, 2007

Let Us Pray: To Whom It May Concern...

No, this is not a late April Fool’s gag. This is an actual “prayer” from the Non-Theistic Liturgy Resources Working Group at St. Stephen’s College at the University of Alberta. St. Stephen’s as associated with the United Church of Canada, an organization which makes The Episcopal Church look (almost) orthodox.

My Creator (soul's Source, spirit's Destination, Ground of Our Being, etc.)
in whom/which is heaven, or within which we can find heaven (as co-creators)
we revere/respect you
We will work to see your divine intent become a reality where we live.
We will work to see that everyone has the food they need to live and have health and energy to contribute to the welfare of Earth and its life systems.
We sense that we are forgiven for our admitted shortcomings to the extent that we art able to forgive others their failures.
We recognize the presence of evil in our world and strive to avoid being a part of it as well as pointing it out whenever we are aware of it.
We work for these changes in our lives and in the lives of others in the spirit of Jesus who cared for all those who were unjustly treated or oppressed.
May we make these things so.

Note that at no time does this indicate a petition to an external force to intervene and do the work which only we can do.

Well, I’m glad they threw in that last sentence, lest I get the idea that there might be an actual god - let alone The God – associated with all this. I am curious, however. The prayer claims to recognize the presence of evil in the world. That’s nice, but how? Or better, perhaps, sez who?

People who abandon the traditional notion of God, yet persist in advocating good behavior, are really living on the inherited capital of the theistic worldview they are getting rid of. If there is no God, if there is nothing eternal, then there is no reason for me to be “good” other than expedience. In the absence of anything permanent, the logical course of action is to seek to maximize my enjoyment. This may place some limits on my actions to avoid wrecking my health, but the only restrictions on how I treat you depend on our relative power. If I can get away with improving my lot by impoverishing yours, why not?

This goes way beyond Pascal’s wager or the simple notion that “if there is no God, then all things are permitted.” It means that a non-theistic universe logically calls for an entirely different response than a theistic universe. What is right in one is merely dumb in the second. A real God implies a real standard; no God implies no universally valid standard. If there is no universal standard of right and wrong, then I really am the ultimate arbiter of good and evil, and the only sensible definition of evil becomes “what hurts me.” “What hurts you” drops clean off the plate.

There are lots of decent, moral atheists; I only maintain that there is no intrinsic reason for an atheist to be decent and moral.

By the way, there are some other good prayers on this site:

One: In the beginning was diversity:
All: Puddle and pond, mountain and meadow, dandelion and daisy, raven and robin, cougar and cow, you and me.
One: And it was good!
All: From the beginning, diversity confused us.
One: We created categories: race, rank and religion; colour, class and creed; language, looks and learning.
All: And divisions came to be!
One: We gather to honour diversity:
All: To love creation, to celebrate difference, to embrace all within God's unending circle of love.

Cougar and cow… One thing they seem to have forgotten about the glorious diversity of nature is that diversity will eat you.

One: In the beginning was diversity:
All: Swamp and desert, virus and spirochete, fluke and louse, Guinea worm and tsetse fly, rat and cockroach, lion and crocodile, you and me – oops, one of them got you. Bummer!
One: And you tasted good!