I don't believe in God anymore.
Yet once in a while, just before I go to sleep at night, if my wife hasn't come into our bedroom yet, I'll get down on my knees, put my elbows on our mattress, fold my hands, and recite the Lord's Prayer.
I did this when I was a child. I'm pretty sure my mother, who raised me, didn't believe in God any more than I do now. But she thought it would be good for me to learn some religious rituals, such as praying.
Sure, I remember some as being rather creepy. Like the "If I die before I wake..." prayer. Geez, I was ten years old, or whatever. How likely was it that I was going to kick the bucket during my sleep?
The Lord's Prayer, though -- innocuous.
Give us this day our daily bread. Absolutely. I liked bread. Forgive us our debts. Cool. Lead us not into temptation. Well, at that pre-pubescent age there weren't many evils tempting me.
So when I was young I didn't mind that bedtime ritual of saying a few prayers. It made me feel like I was talking to somebody who cared about me, my Father in heaven.
My parents were divorced. I didn't have a father around. Maybe this helps explain why I felt good saying the Lord's Prayer. Heck, now that I'm old, maybe the same psychological factor is at play.
In my early 20s I got initiated by an Indian guru. This was just a few years after the Beatles had gone to India to meditate with the Marharashi Mahesh Yogi. After tripping out with psychedelics, I was ready to try some journeying into higher regions of reality without drugs.
After many years, over thirty, I stopped believing in the guru and his teachings.
However, I still meditate every day. Sometimes I even repeat the so-called Five Holy Names that I was given as a mantra way back when. Gives me the sort of feeling saying the Lord's Prayer does. Well, even better, since I believed in the power of the mantra much more intensely and for a lot longer.
Thus while I don't believe in God or the guru, I do believe in the power of my mind to make me feel in certain ways. I explained this last year in "Imagine how you felt when you still believed."
I used to believe in God. Also, in a guru who was considered to be God in human form. I believed that I had, or rather was, a soul which could travel back to God -- either after I died or in this very lifetime. I believed that God, guru, and karma were directing what happened to me, which meant that both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were linked to a Big Cosmic Picture.
All of those beliefs felt good.
They felt like a warm coccoon, sheltering me from the harshness of reality. Though I followed an Eastern meditative practice, I wasn't much different from a Christian who takes comfort in believing "Jesus loves me; He has a plan for me."
I can still recall, even reexperience, those enjoyable feelings that came from believing. All I have to do is put myself back into the state of mind I was in during my true-believing days.
Impossible? Self-deception? Not really. I look upon this as being akin to getting a benefit from a placebo, even though the patient knows there is no active ingredient in the fake treatment.
If someone felt good when they had certain religious beliefs, where did that feeling come from? From themselves. This is obvious. Other people can be exposed to the same beliefs and not feel anything.
Keep the genuine feeling. Discard the false beliefs. Here's how I ended that previous post:
So if, like me, you have given up believing in this and that (such as God), try remembering how you felt when you did believe.
What produced that feeling? Does the feeling still exist? Do you need to believe in the exact same thing(s) with the same faith-based fervor to re-experience the feeling? If everything seemed right with the world when you believed in something that you now consider to be untrue, what prevents you from having that same warm feeling right now?
I don't claim to have firm answers to these questions. I'm just suggesting that whatever benefits someone gets from a belief system don't have to be given up just because belief has been replaced by doubt.
Those benefits were produced by the person's brain. Non-existent things like God or soul can't produce effects. Whatever warm and fuzzy feelings religious people have come from themselves, their own brains, not from an invisible entity that has no demonstrable effects in the world.
Just as it appears that a sugar pill can have positive health effects, even if recognized as a placebo, so can a belief, even if recognized as being untrue. Novels, television shows, and movies are recognized as being fictional, yet generate strong real emotions nonetheless.
No need to give up the good feelings a false belief brings. Keep the feelings. Give up considering the belief is true.