J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Month: July 2011

Why (as an Atheist) I Pray

How do we communicate with our subconscious minds? (art by Jerrycharlotte)

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.

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Self-Quantification — Beyond Narcissism

What are you measuring, and why?

Someone who is obsessed with how many grams of protein they consume, how many hours they sleep a night, or how much they can bench press can quickly become annoying — especially when they insist on sharing that information with us.  Broadcasting such information on social networks is even more of a faux-pas (polluting the stream).  I don’t care how many miles you ran this week, and neither does anyone else.

What’s behind our nation’s self-quantification fad — especially among the tech elite?  It’s a combination of:

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Pour Gasoline On Your Life Spark — Part II

"Following your sparks" is providing positive feedback loops for your brain ... recklessly throwing fuel on your interests and ideas ... the risks of not growing your brain outweigh the extreme measures you might need to take.

Last week I wrote about the idea that nurturing your life spark — whatever activity or subject dominates your interest at any given time — may be an effective way to encourage adult neurogenesis (one of the ultimate markers of brain health and mental health).  I also defined life spark as being more focused, specific, and malleable than the term life passion (the latter annoys me because it implies a monolithic singular interest that never changes throughout a person’s life).

The post was getting too long, so I broke it up into two parts.  Here’s Part II …

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Pour Gasoline On Your Life Spark — Part I

The gasoline fight from Zoolander — not what I’m talking about.

In Japanese the word is ikigai, in French raison d’être, and in English life passion.  While there are cultural differences in meaning, the concepts are similar.

Life passion is the most frustrating and least useful concept of the three.  The phrase strongly implies both singularity and permanence.  A person has only one true life passion, and it doesn’t change.

I think life rarely works that way.  Even looking at the most inspired and productive individuals in history, many of them were all over the place.  Thomas Jefferson, in addition to his service as a founding father and POTUS #3, was also a voracious reader, an accomplished architect, an inventor of mechanical devices, and a polyglot.  Issac Newton is famous as a physicist and mathematician, but was equally consumed by both alchemy and theology.  Buckminster Fuller contributed to humanity as an inventor, philosopher, writer, and speaker.  Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in both chemistry and physics.

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