Praying, But Not to God

I write this on International Pizza Day, so I wish you a Happy IPD, and a tasty pie made just the way you like it. We’re sad not to be celebrating in the usual way, i.e., the one described in How to Start Your Own Holiday.

Also, please enjoy this essay I wrote about prayer at the Biden inauguration. I won’t be putting every Washington Post piece on my website–since I can really only point to them anyway–but I do want to call your attention to one that emerged from years of thinking about religion and God in the public sphere as well as from that crystalline moment on January 20.

Other recent columns anticipate Trump’s future presidential portrait, appreciate feeling body-less in the Zoom era, and, just this past weekend, explain why a person should watch the Super Bowl (note: it’s true even if the game in question is very, very bad). And more!

But this one, reflecting on the need for prayer and wondering if we could pray while keeping church and state separate, is one that I hope kicks around for a while. Read it here and let me know what you think.

You can read the rest of the column here at The Washington Post.

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]


  1. Hi Kate I liked the blog, but disagree that the “blah, blah, blah” is harmless. The greatest danger of propagating false thinking and speaking into the national dialogue is that they blend into the wallpaper, are taken for granted. This sustains falsehood and empowers those who believe in and abuse the words to suppress and control us. To accept this is to participate in their retrogressive and reactionary agenda. To quietly tolerate such public balderdash is to endorse it. As a comedian I heard recently said, he acknowledges religious beliefs, but does not respect them. That having been said, I have tried to get away from religion in my writing, mostly as a self-preserving action, but also to give my readers a break from the ear worm that continues to spin through my brain.

    You may recall my op-ed in the TU “Silence is a form of reverence” re: the Christian invocations at the Greece NY Council meetings that went to the NYS supreme court. They ruled against the plaintiffs because of “tradition.” Tradition is another word for conservatism and reactionary government.

    As you know, we celebrate pizza night every Friday (or so) which is our only formal religious practice. It is a worship of our relationship, not of a deity.

    Though I’ve often claimed to be an agnostic rather than an atheist, I really am an atheist. Calling myself agnostic is a matter of semantics, because you can’t disprove a negative. On the other hand, as you have said, if you can prove Santa is a fairy tale, you should be able to prove God is as well. The trouble is that those who believe in God are eternal children mentally.

    I think the best way to envision God is to not concern oneself about whether or not He exists. He is clearly useless to us, as good as nonexistent even if He is a real entity. As you say, the “We” is what matters and what spells our success or failure in life. Those who stupidly appeal for help and mercy to a being who, according to their twisted logic, is the one who rained down upon them the misery they hope He will alleviate, are pathetic creatures. And abandoning their responsibility for such things as preserving the environment in favor of one who has lifted nary a finger to undo the harm we have done is the height of hypocrisy and idiocy.

    I agree with your assessment that the poet offered a more powerful and meaningful message than those who delivered the usual God boilerplate. Unfortunately, if we don’t eliminate the boilerplate, the substance, no matter how eloquent, will never be understood.

    Hugs to you and yours and I hope you collected on your dinner bet (safely.) However, since the election was stolen, I expect they are refusing to admit they lost the bet.😂 We have not dined out in over a year and probably won’t for a long time. May feel safe getting take out after the shots kick in. Don’t know when, if ever, we get together with people indoors, vaccinated or not.

    Did get our first shots and are scheduled for second in a couple of weeks. Will believe it when the needle goes into our arms and hope the variants don’t screw the whole thing up.



    1. My point was that even when invocations of god are their least harmless–uttered by well-intentioned people and falling on the ears of a confirmed atheist–they are still not what we want in ceremonial speech. At best, they are “blah blah blah” but is that the best we can do when we want to say something important? I don’t disagree that there are larger problems with belief, but I wanted to keep the focus narrow here.

  2. Hello, my dear Kate, and Happy New Year!  Somehow, I don’t think my previous notes have been getting to you, so I’ll try this avenue and see if anything lands. I’d LOVE to read your pieces in the Washington Post, but really don’t want to subscribe to another outlet. I’m already pretty overly full with news material.  Is there any other place where I could access your writings? Holly

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *