Definition of prayer
noun
a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity: I’ll say a prayer for him -oxford dictionary

On my page “Embracing Islam” I mentioned how I was going to learn to pray, but what does that really mean to an atheist? Well the first thing to remember is that you cannot be blasphemous to atheism. If you do not believe in deities you automatically fit into the atheist box, nothing else you believe and do matters. You don’t have to believe in evolution or own a copy of The God Delusion, you don’t even have to be anti religions. In fact, you can even follow a religion, after all many Buddhists and spiritualists are in fact atheists. If I sit in a church I am not betraying my atheism, there is nothing I can do that goes against my disbelief other than actually believing in gods, in which case I would no longer be an atheist so it wouldn’t matter.
So, based on principle, yes we can pray. But, on the actual definition, no we cannot, in theory…
There is a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes, it comes from the idea that when people are faced with real danger, they all hope/seek a higher being.
That saying is rubbish. There is a difference between hope and belief, there is also a difference between praying for help and believing a deity is listening. Sometimes when in a certain situation it is comforting to privately ask for help just for the distraction, it can be a god, superman or the invisible pink unicorn, but usually we are unintentionally calling for our own strength.
So what do I plan on doing when I say I will learn to pray? Firstly I will learn the Islamic method of prayer called Salah. If you have ever seen a Muslim pray you would be hard done by to say it isn’t peaceful and beautiful, especially when it is in a group. When I first ever saw my husband pray I was worried I would laugh, or find it uncomfortable viewing, but this was not so. Their inner calmness radiates and the world around them seems to dissolve. They get to that point through connection to God, and I am hoping to feel similar by using the time of pray for meditation.
The benefits of meditation on the mind have long been documented, and I can see why taking a few minutes five times a day for some reflection and calmness can be beneficial (especially when most of my day consists of running around after a chaotic toddler).
So although I might not be able to fully experience prayer, I do think it possible for an atheist to get something positive from it.

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