Warning: fruity post ahead

An ongoing discussion and point of musing in my mind over the past few days has been the comparisons of the ideas of prayer VS wishing VS positive thinking VS spells etc...
Having grown up in a well balanced and relatively sane/normal religious family, I understand the concepts of faith, prayer and the idea of trying to be a good person and praying for strengh and guidance. And my agnostic friends see such things as a crutch, but I wonder if something fills the needs in your soul and help you find direction, is that a bad thing? I don't want to go on a tirade about the endless problems I see in organised religion, especially with myself not sure where I stand with any/all of my beliefs and such at the moment...I'm on another thought train entirely right now.

You see, a friend of mine is a Wiccan. She's not fruity or new agey...she's a logical intelligent scientist with strong opinions, so I give her credit for having thought through things. And she doesn't have a strict belief thingy per se, but she does like the idea of being in touch with who you are, what you and those around you need and trying to live in a way that doesn't harm the world you live in. She also believes in the idea of spell casting...but not as an "I have the magic power to do this" concept. It's more of an attitude similar to prayer or meditation...and the more I think of it, the more I'm inclined to nod and say "go for it". After all, taking conscious actions to focus your thoughts and wishes on a particular thing (in this case the safety and well being of a family member in a time of stress) in the form of a ritual - is that anything different than a fervent prayer or keeping someone "in your thoughts"? Could it not accomplish the same thing? If you're declaring a thought or intention to the world out there...even if it only accomplishes nothing other than to make you feel better, is that a bad thing?

Now I must be clear and say that I balk at and have come to hate ideas like "The Secret" where you just have to want something badly enough and concentrate on it and it will come to you, cure you, etc. The idea of this kind where if it doesn't happen to you you just aren't trying hard enough/don't want it bad enough/aren't ready for it yet is the exact same issues I have with organised religion when it comes to guilt and false hope. When I see "the Secret" in the hands of patients in the cancer centre here I want to rip it out of their hands...but I suppose they need something to focus their mind on...and better positivity than despair. It's just the wrong way to go about it if you ask me. I firmly believe in spreading goodness and hope and the power of positivity, but false hope? That is just sinister.

Hmmmm...
I don't know if this all makes a lot of sense...it's a spewed out mish mash of what has been rolling around in my head the past few days...Why? Well, there was a sudden death in the extended family (didn't know them personally but still a surprise) and it got me thinking about this while wondering about people dealing with their grief in their own ways.
What do you out there think about all this? Is the method better than intent? If you're not blindly hoping in falsehood, can a little positive thinking go a long way?
I'm interested to hear your thoughts, as mine are all over the map at the moment...

Comments

Corey said…
Wow. YOU have open things up for a very interesting discussion. I have too many long winded ideas to say anything but I look forward to see what others have to say.
Magnus said…
As an amatuer historian, as someone with a great respect for overall historicity I can't help but feel a bit dismissive of Wicca and other such modern faiths.
I have never seen the point of a "faith" where you just make it up as you go along in order to make yourself feel better.
I have known wiccans and the spells as power of positive thinking never made sense to me. Sorry Geo, but I lump it in with easy-believism along with God you to be rich. Life is difficult and challenging so too is faith.
Trent said…
Your confused. I'll cast a spell for you. Maybe it will make you feel better.
Geosomin said…
Again...to be clear:

I'm not going trying to validate wiccans or any other faith-I'm not even talking about religion here, but I'm SPECIFICALLY talking about comparing prayer to the fervent wishes, postive thoughts or spellcasting in other religions in the human race? Do you see them as valid comparisons?
I really want to know...
Trent said…
There is a sense in which we do define our own reality, or rather, bring definition to it; our attitudes and thoughts affect us; we can get physically sick because we're nervous, and the chestnut that laughter is the best medicine is valid to a certain level.

We can build psychological walls where we think they should be, and because we've built them, that defines who we are, even though our metaphorical psychological property line is ten feet further out. Thanks, no, I'm happy with this fence.

There's the well-known placebo effect, where a placebo will have unexpected results simply because the person receiving the sugar pill thought it would work. And so it works.

So yes, to some extent, I think you're right. That if we carry a positive attitude, be it through prayer, clicking your heels together and saying there's no place like home, or other, it will affect our overall well-being.

But there are limits. Things like _The Secret(tm)_ take this and turn it into something more than it is. It's like that old "You can be anything you want to be." Well great, because I really want to be a rock.

Help, I'm a rock.

No, I'm not. And no matter how hard I try, and no matter how much I wish, or how many spells I cast or prayers I say, or how much I invoke the Secret (tm) of life, I'm not going to be a rock. It just doesn't work that way.

I don't like the comparison between prayer and the power of positive thinking, or spellcasting because to my way of thinking, prayer is not about bringing about changing me and my attitudes, it is about communication. The trouble is, too many people pray like this: "Dear God, please give me a good day, and give me this and give me that, and make the world a happy dappy place for me."

One of the profound differences between the Christian faith and so many other beliefs is it isn't about me. And one of the profound ironies-- hypocrisies, failures, whatever-- of the church is, despite this, Christians often become the most selfish, self-indulgiant, me-centred creatures on the planet. Maybe it's that whole "don't think about purple elephants" syndrome. Where the very act of trying not to think about self is in itself thinking about self.

Which is off-topic, and I've now run out of steam on my rant, so I'll end now. Thank you. Good day. Thank you. Cleveland Rocks. Goodbye.
Pacian said…
I only recently found out what 'The Secret' was about. There was a great article about it on Salon, (can't be bothered to find a link), which outlined all the various ways that positive thinking has done harm.

The best example was Bush&Co just *really hoping* that Iraq would pick itself up all by itself. Their hopes, sadly, did not make it so. Imagine if, instead, they had been a little more negative.
Magnus said…
Did I get deleted or did it just not post?
Geosomin said…
I didn't do anything...
Magnus said…
Weird... did I post it on my own blog? Nope. Damn you blogger!
Corey said…
It is a valid comparison. They all share the same element of hope. And that is all that anything can truly offer. Hope doesn't come from outside it comes from inside. The outside forces are just the method, the mode of delivery, whether it is prayer, fervent wishes, positive thoughts or spellcasting. They are all working towards the same result, hope. Hope gives you strength. Strength gives you confidence. The confidence to face whatever challenges you have in life. Not to over come these challenges, but the ability to take them on.

However people need to be responsible for their own choices and actions. If we have extreme expectations based only on belief, then there is the possibility of great disappointment due to lack of belief or other factors. Yet as individuals we need to be respectful of the deeply meaningful choices that others make. No form or method is flawless nor is any execution of it. Obviously we see what suites us best. Does God perform miracles? Do spells really work? Can you really achieve anything with positive thinking? Or as the agnostics would ask, is it all childish make-believe like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus?

The simple question is why do we pray, cast spells, or think happy thoughts? We do it to make ourselves feel better. If it does that for you, then it is validated for you.
Magnus said…
Prayer isn't about wish fulfillment or positive reinforcement - it is an act of devotion to God. Prayer is a discipline that the devoted are suppossed to engage in regardless of whether they get what they want, need or desire.
The "power" of Prayer isn't about making us happy per se and it is nothing like children's letters to Santa. Again, it is a spiritual discipline and an act of devotion.
Corey said…
Yes prayer is an act of devotion to a person's god, which ever religion they may choice to follow, but the results are part of the same happiness package. The act of prayer re-enforces the covenant between that person and their god, which in turn gives that person piece of mind, security, belongingness, and a commitment of love (to name a few). And these are all the key elements to being happy. Thus prayer is about being happy. No god (or any leader) wants their followers to be unhappy, so all that is left is happiness. If you are full of love or the Holy Spirit, you will be happy. God is love. Love brings happiness. God brings happiness. Prayer brings happiness. That is a good thing.
Magnus said…
I disagree. Call it the influence of Buddism if you want, but life is often suffering. (and to quote Augustine, "All truth is God's Truth")Desire brings suffering. Love brings suffering. Devotion brings suffering. Happiness is not an entitlement. Devotion is being able to stick with God even through terrible times, times where life seems terribly unfair and unjust.
I'm not saying happiness is mutually exclusive from happiness, but it is not explicitly inclusive either.
Geosomin said…
"I'm not saying happiness is mutually exclusive from happiness, but it is not explicitly inclusive either. "

?????
is there a typo in there?

Corey, I find I'm mostly agreeing with you at the moment. We don't pray to BE happy, but it can bring comfort as a result of doing so.
Magnus, I agree that faith and belief and life are not easy, but it is often faith and prayer and other acts of kindness or self balancing that help us endure it.Buddhism is a lot more realistic about life than most other religions, but even the meditation and prayer of Buddhism is to calm and centre ones self and to worship. These are positive things meeting positive needs.
Indeed good things... I"m not sure I'm in the position to say what is more valid, unless it is deluding or compromising an individuals well being or leading them into a false hope or happiness.

Share the LOVE people. Share the love.....:)

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