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There are three pages on this site – a clearinghouse of examples of secular graces, reflections, and “prayers”, a page about living intentionally with a focus on gratitude and kindness, and this page – of personal opinion about secular gratitude and prayer, and what this means to some. This site is intended as a safe space and resource for secular individuals and those seeking to understand the secular perspective and/or find inclusive alternatives to prayer, grace, and reflection.
National and international “Good Without God” campaigns promote the ubiquity of human potential for kindness. But there is also Gratitude without God – many practice daily, mindful living that includes appreciation for the good within us and around us, without attributing that feeling to a god or other supernatural entity.
Gratitude is a human emotion shared by those of all faith and non-faith perspectives; the habit of routine thoughtfulness and mindful living includes creating meaningful, personal traditions to honor others and ourselves. The scientific study of the benefits of gratitude is fairly new but extensive and rich in resources. There are some links in the sidebar of this page to help you start reading further.
Thoughts on secular reflection, gratitude, & goodness: Why this matters to us.
Some secular individuals hear the words gratitude, inspiration, or connection to something greater than ourselves and discount their value because they associate those terms with religion and supernatural practices. But studies continue to find that positive living incorporates these elements, however they are meaningful to the individual.
Secular prayer doesn’t speak to the supernatural or ask a supernatural entity to intervene in natural life. Gratitude is an acknowledgement of the good things in our lives and around us, and directed thanks is to those who make it possible. We can appreciate a bird’s beautiful song; a genuine expression of gratitude directed at the bird or nature in general.
Some of what most understand a “prayer” to be are not part of the secular experience. The most selfish element of religious prayer is requesting the supernatural to intervene on behalf of self or others in lieu of taking personal action for the betterment of the world. Many view this as passive at best, and potentially destructive and detrimental to our communities. The investment of time and resources in religion can be viewed as wasteful, and the deflection of responsibility as disheartening.
It is confusing to hear people say that they think a human cannot be “good without God”. Compassionate action, gratitude, connection, respect, and community are human, logical, evolved characteristics that are essential to meaningful life and transcend faith and non-faith perspectives. From the Humanist perspective, we act in accordance with these things because of integrity, character, reason, and our connection to one another.
Our finite time is precious. We only get so many minutes in life, and each moment should be lived with intention. Imagine the immense benefit to our communities if even a portion of the hours and money spent in churches, bible studies, and other faith-focused activities were spent instead on direct service and initiatives that make a true positive impact. In fact, it is not uncommon for some to question how one can be good WITH god – that goodness is much more difficult and diluted within a religious perspective.
To be connected to the world around us and to live a positive, meaningful life, requires us to be part of it in action, word, and thought. The habit of mindfulness, reflection, and gratitude is essential to this process.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Gratitude and positive living are also habits that happy, connected people are in the habit of. We can build intentional pauses into our day to create this proclivity – including a gratitude reflection before meals and at the start and end of each day. Many find gratitude journaling beneficial. Whatever your method, the habitual practice of gratitude centers, creates balance, focuses us on action, revitalizes, and strengthens positive attitude and connectedness to the world around us. All that in addition to documented physical health benefits.
“The more you practice [gratitude], the more you appreciate what you have, the more it grows; and the more good things you look for, the more you see.” (Steindl-Rast) Steindl-Rast’s three keys to living gratefully:
- Stop – build in ‘stop signs’ in your busy day, whether it’s an app on your computer that rings a mindfulness bell, or remembering to keep your eyes closed a second longer in the morning to bring your awareness to the gift of sight.
- Look – once you stop you can see what this moment is the opportunity for. Open your senses to discover the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of all that surrounds you.
- Go – doing something with the opportunity life provides.