As hard as it is to believe, atheist author and entertainer Penn Jillette believes that it is right to pray. However, the only thing that he would like to change about the act is who people pray to.
Jillette says that it is good for atheists to pray, even though they do not believe in God, because it encourages self-reflection.
"I realised recently that I do something very close to prayer," Jillette says in a video for Big Think. The atheist's prayer, which he calls "Penn's Guilt Round Up," is a reflection of the conversations he had with people throughout the day. Jillette uses that moment of self-reflection to ponder if he should have done certain things differently, and what issues he needs to resolve.
One thing that Jillette was able to fix in his life because of prayer was his diet. After days of prayer, Jillette became a better eater. "I am very hesitant to use the word [prayer], because I do not want to show disrespect to those that really think it's supernatural, but I would pray to be able to control the wants of my diet," Jillette says.
Jillette admits atheists are often guilty of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to God, because they ignore the important facets that come from religion, such as community building. "We must be very careful if we throw out talking to God, that we don't throw out self-reflection," he advises, adding that "it's okay to talk to an imaginary power, if you are sure that that power is imaginary."
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of people identifying themselves as atheists. Jillette is glad because it means religious people are becoming more tolerant of them.
He predicts the future will have "sucked out of religion all the good, the community, the self-reflection, the compassion, the love and thrown away the bad, the God, the hate, the superstition. Let that go away. Let the reflection of the community come back in."