I identify as an atheist. Empirically, I’ve never seen any evidence supporting the existence of a deity, and rationally, none of the major religious belief systems make any sense to me. Cosmologically, I guess I would call myself a meta-evolutionist (I believe both in Darwinian evolution, and in the evolution of the evolutionary process).
Still, I respect many religious traditions and practices. I respect religious tradition because I like tradition in general, and religious ones are often the only ones available in any particular life area. As for religious practices, I take an eclectic approach. I like pork chops and bacon too much to ever be kosher, but I don’t mind (and sometimes enjoy) reciting Jewish prayers before meals (my wife and daughter are Jewish).
One religious practice I embrace wholeheartedly is prayer. Prayer can mean many different things, but I’m talking about the “personal dialogue with God” variety.
So how does this fit in with atheism? If I pray, who or what am I praying to? Do I just have a massive tolerance for cognitive dissonance? Or have I bought into the sloppy pseudoscience behind “remote healing”?
No and no. My practice of prayer is consistent with my rational, atheistic belief system. Nothing spooky or supernatural is required to make an argument for why prayer is effective (for me).
I’ll try to explain.