Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prayer vs. self-insight in decision-making

I’ve long and often said, in riffing on the classical Western religious description of prayer as a “heart-to-heart talk with god,” that it’s really a “heart-to-heart talk with one’s self.”

First of all, once you recognize and accept that, even if you still believe in some sort of deity, you can’t pray to him/her/it; certainly not in the way you considered prayer to be before this light went on.

The flip side, though, of losing out on the belief of being able to tap into god as “deus quam machina,” no matter how capricious this machine is, one gets the empowerment, small as it may be, of being able to look to one’s own self for insight.

But, the flip side of that is that any decisions one makes can no longer be passed off, or buck-passed, to somebody else, as in “I thought god was telling me to, …” (Of course, if you still believe in a critter “downstairs,” you still have recourse to the infamous “the devil made me do it” plea.)

For me, probably in part as a reaction to events of childhood, I have trouble decision-making anyway. In part, it’s a fear of somebody — god (in my pre-conversion days), a boss, some other authority figure, or someone else to be affected by my decision — judging or criticizing me for making that decision. In fact, often, the decision itself isn’t the problem; facing up to the consequences, including this judgment, is.

And, now, I don’t have any god as daddy the tear-wiper, daddy the hand-holder, or daddy the giant daddy to make it all go away, to comfort me.

I have me, and human friend to whom to talk these fears out.

On the other hand, a god both omnipotent and omnibenevolent by definition can’t have an experiential concept of evil, psychological pain or sorrow anyway, and so is of limited use as a hand-holder.

All in all, lumps unfortunately included, I’m better off wrestling with my decision-making on the only plane I know we actually have, with the only, limited, human help I know is actually available.

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