How to Have A Belief in God So Practical That It's Good Enough for an Atheist

I was at a recovery meeting, and there was a gentleman, I’ll call him Ned, with 17 years of sobriety who talked about how he is an atheist who prays. He even uses the word God for his higher power, but he doesn’t believe in an actual God. I was like, “Whoa! What? I’ve never heard anyone say this before.”

Ned said a power greater than himself is an acknowledgement that Ned isn’t the center of the world. For him, God isn’t a celestial being or divine inspiration, but the method or the action of detaching from selfishness. I’ve been reflecting on this perception of God, and I admire this no-frills, no-bull understanding of a higher power.

At the end of the day, we need a spirituality that works. If it doesn’t, then what’s the point? Ned has a spirituality that helped him get sober and compels him to do good. He works with people suffering from addiction and donates his time as a doctor to countries that are under served. He navigates life with mercy and grace, has coping mechanisms to deal with his and other people's shortcomings, and the world is better for him living in it. I say if his understanding of God is helping him do all that, it’s working.

There is beauty in the attempt to find a higher power even if we can never be scientifically certain that it exists. There is a divine space of uncertainty in my own spirituality that I find compelling. For me, that space is about asking questions and being content with not having absolute answers. It’s about living a life that has many shades of grey and is open to change. It’s about having a spiritual style that is authentic and true to who I am. It’s also about trusting a connection to something far greater than myself, because this universe is so much more than me.

My perception of God changes as my life changes and as I grow as a human being. Lately, I’ve been imagining God as a powerful woman with long, crazy hair and determination in her eyes. Sometimes I think of glitter and sparkly stuff occupying the hearts of every human being and beams of light and glitter connecting every human being on the planet and call that God. Other times, I close my eyes and see nothing, but I feel light, free, and buzzy. The more I attempt, the more I find a conception of God that works for me, and the better I live. It’s all about the journey.

Now you try. Here are some questions to get you thinking and journaling about who or what a higher power is to you. Feel free to get creative or to depart from the concept of God you were raised with. This is about owning your own spiritual experience and making it real, accessible, and meaningful. Trust - even if you’re feeling agnostic about the existence of a higher power - that asking these questions will lead to helpful insights.

  • What is the value, for you, in having a belief in a higher power?

  • Do you hold an image in your mind of what this higher power looks like?

  • What five words can you use to describe this being?

  • Is there a name you give to a power greater than yourself?

  • How do you want this power to help you?

  • When do you feel most in touch with this power?

To conclude this exercise: close your eyes, be with your higher power, and let the revelation of your concept of God to continue. I find that my higher power speaks to me the most when I don’t try so hard and just allow her to move me.

Having a conception of God is a journey, not a destination. You can always return to your answers and your questions for a tune up or to update how you understand God. I’m excited for you to find a higher power that works for you! Let me know how it goes:


©2018 by Rachel Schmidt