I just found this great comment in response to this comment piece on the Guardian.
What struck me most is the analogy between playing music and analysing a piece of music. I think that’s a simple but effective way to get at what the appeal of prayer/meditation/religious expression/creativity might be, where it comes from. I also like the point about being in dialogue.
Here’s the comment:
I don’t think prayer and rational thinking have to kill each other off. They’re different modes of thinking used for different purposes–like the difference between a musician’s mindset while playing music vs. analyzing a piece of music. Prayer and meditation might be a way to access the right hemisphere of the brain, which grasps the gestalt but can’t articulate what it knows. Maybe prayer is an attempt to have a non-verbal dialogue with that part of the mind. The other part of the brain is what argues and rationalizes. (Including rationalizing the next one.)
Talismans are a resort to magical thinking, and we know (if we’ve studied anthropology) that people resort to magical thinking when the odds of failure are great. Magical thinking comforts people in incredibly painful and problematic situations, like homelessness, addiction, and abuse. Talismans make us believe we’re under the protection of something other than ourselves, and sometimes they give us the courage to do the right thing. Maybe what people call Deity is a beautiful poetic metaphor for something alive in all of us.
If talismans and prayer lead to hope, and hope leads to a proactive solution–and for an addict that means recovery, it’s powerful and constructive. Too many people, addicts and non-addicts, ignore the proactive solution part.