Question from Ollie:
If today God showed evidence that you needed that he existed and the Bible is 100% true what would be the first thing you would ask him to change in your life?
Answer by SmartLX:
I’d ask for an end to the threats to society me and my wife are concerned about for the future, and in particular the future our son will face.
And then, going off of Mark 11:24, I’d do my best to believe that these threats had already been negated and that God would take care of everything. If I did manage to believe this, which would be much easier if I were 100% convinced of God’s existence, it would be a load off my mind.
And then I’d wait. If everything stayed hunky dory, I’d praise and thank God all my days. If on the other end of the scale EVERYTHING I feared came to pass, I would wonder why God had heard my prayer and allowed this. Hypothetically pre-convinced of Biblical inerrancy, I’d go back to Mark 11:24 and conclude that God had done something in response to my prayer which had given me what I’d asked for in a technical sense without actually saving us from the threats. I would curse myself for not wording the prayer correctly, and I would wonder why God (who could read my mind) had not interpreted it as I intended regardless. I’d eventually figure he had something more important to sort out with regard to His grand plan.
This is of course similar to what actual believers go through when they pray for things. As you can see, even when the existence of the Biblical God is assumed, no matter what happens there’s a way to give credit to God, and therefore there’s no way to know whether God did anything at all in response to a prayer.
Question from Ashley:
Can you direct me to any atheist — or, more likely, secular humanist — devotionals or inspiring readings? I have been asked to do a (3-5 minute) devotional at one of the monthly meetings of parents at my daughter’s Christian school and I would really like to do it — not to rub anyone’s face in my atheism or challenge their beliefs, but just to show them that atheists can provide thought-provoking and inspirational ideas without including references to God, religion, Christ, etc. I can probably come up with something on my own, but I’d love some resources to consult. Any suggestions?
By the way, I am grateful to you for all the resources you supply and for your suggestion, years ago, that I consult Dale McGowan’s Parenting Beyond Belief regarding raising my children without religion. Thank you!
Answer by SmartLX:
I think I’ve found the earlier exchange here, and if so the book wasn’t our idea. Still, glad you found what you were after at the time.
I won’t lie, it was hard to get started on this question. Atheist and secular humanist devotionals are rare, because a devotional is just a (short) prayer by another name. When there isn’t someone to pray to, it seems a bit pointless to devote oneself to, and beg things from, an empty space.
So I started from scratch and simply looked for inspiring and thought-provoking short-form writing. I realised that there’s a common word for that: poetry. I found some great classical poems, and then was shown up when I found most of the best-known ones on a single two-page list here.
Not everything on the list is secular, so to be specific I recommend If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking by Emily Dickinson, The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and In Spite of War by Angela Morgan. They are respectively about living one’s life for others, finding one’s true identity, and finding joy in the midst of adversity and suffering. These are three things that religious people often think are impossible without religion, but a non-religious person could say any one of these poems and absolutely mean it (and therefore the religious beliefs of the poets themselves, if any, are irrelevant).
Depending on your allotted time, you could string the three of them together into one short speech. If any of them is not to your taste, that’s a whole site full o’ poems ya got there, so rummage around to your heart’s content.
Poetry connoisseur I am not, honestly, so everyone’s welcome to add their own favourite secular writings (use links if possible, to save space) in the comments. What could be read aloud in a church or other religious environment and make everyone think or feel something significant, while forgetting about God for a few moments?