Wow, this is a little amusing, a little pathetic (in the modern sense of "lame"), and quite pathetic (in the ancient sense of "full of pathos"). I just discovered this "prayer" that I wrote back in September, 2004, when I was working at that godawful truck routing company by the airport. Probably right around the nadir of the last ten years of my life, really.
I've changed quite a lot spiritually since then, and my life has also become much better, both quantitatively and qualitatively (more on this, later). Even so, this weird, conflicted message to "any God or Greater Being" is endemic of a real problem that I'm struggling with right now--that of giving thanks.
Since time immemorial, giving thanks to the gods for one's good fortune has been a sign of virtue, while failure to do so has indicated a selfish character and, usually, a well-deserved comeuppance. This makes a lot of sense to me, for as we ritualistically thank God (through prayers, burnt offerings, new temples, or whathaveyou) we are also acknowledging that good fortune has a place in our life, and cementing the good times in our memory, claiming them as a full part of our life's story. When hard times come around, it's all too easy to forget that joy was a part of us, unless we memorialize it in some concrete fashion.
And yet this is no reason for an Atheist to start believing in God (and even if it were, how would I know which one to start with?). I feel that matters of faith and spirituality are far too important to ever be treated as simply as a means to an end. In addition, it's quite dishonest to pretend to give thanks to imaginary figures (if they don't exist) and quite unjust to give them more credit than they deserve (even if they do).
Much of my good luck (as I mentioned) has come through my own merit, and while humility is important, it's also important to remember one's own worth. Also, to me, prayer in general and prayers of thanks giving in particular imply a sort of quid pro quo--you save me from this shipwreck, I'll repay you with sacrificed cattle. You save my cat, I'll go to church on Sundays. Surely the ein sof is above petty bartering? And surely it's demeaning for me to pretend to barter for things that I deserve--that everyone deserves--merely by being alive.
After I wrote that bit of heartfelt html, Byron did indeed get better. My relationship with Katya became more strange than ever, but also more wonderful. I did get that job at Northwestern, it was better than I imagined, and I went on to experience good fortune in ways that I hadn't even dreamed of while routing big rigs (the 'nidge, for example, is something I could never have predicted!). I feel like I'm narrating the ending of "A Christmas Carol" here, which says a lot about how great my life is these days--some times it might not feel very "happily ever after", but by comparison it is pretty amazing.
I would like to find a way to express all this joy. An honest, respectful way that doesn't involve groveling or make believe. Something with dignity, but not just a casual 'blog entry. I think that ritual helps to formalize such actions, and also allows them to transcend the profane and become sanctified.
Writing that html in 2004 certainly helped at the time, and now, three years later, I can read it a realize just how fortunate I am. However, it's just a hastily-typed digital record. Now that I've survived that stage of my life (and, no matter what happens next, I can certainly state that I survived that period) I'd like to recognize it in some way. If I had the right thanksgiving ritual my current bounty might stay on in my mind longer, and become a real part of my personal narrative. That seems quite important to me.
P.S.--As you can see in my letter, I tried never to pray for things (trafficking in unknown magics, I thought then) and still avoid it. To this day I would never say, "Please God, let me do such and such". I don't believe in God, and so why shouldn't I say these empty words? It's magical thinking, and I see it as a (very mild) character flaw. Further evidence of the "soft" part of my "soft atheism".