The other day someone very proudly told me, "I am an atheist you know, I don't go to the temple and all" I smiled and told him the same. It is interesting to know how people nowadays are increasingly moving away from religion and irrational beliefs. With more and more people reading and learning new things about whats happening in the world the importance of prayer or so called 'irrational beliefs' is vanishing. Mind you here I'm not trying to take a stand on prayer and religion but just trying to understand the psyche people.
An atheist Someone who does not believe in the existence of God, the creator of all. Why do people pray? To get their wishes fulfilled or to rid themselves of the burden of sin or to thank the Almighty. Reasons are many if you go to see. For different people God means different things. The other day I was waiting outside the Mahalakshmi temple and I happened to befriend a young girl who had travelled for six hours to get a view of the Devi and ask her for blessings. "Mai toh kuch nahi maangti apne liye, sirf devi ka ashwirwaad hum sab ke upar rahe bus..." said Ankita. It was obvious religion was something that had been ingrained in her ever since she was a child. As she grew up she didn't question any of those teachings and continued with her religious practices.
Last year during one of our cultural studies class, we were asked to write down what God meant to each one of us. We got to hear all sorts of things from God being "A Santaclaus" to "A Moral Police". Someone said something that struck me, she was like," God is something to hold on to, like when your upset and there is nothing to rely on, God acts like that support system" . The idea of God being a support system is indeed central to a whole lot of us. No matter how pressing the situation might be "There is always a way out", "God is watching you" . Not necessary that always one is strong enough to withstand the pressures of life. At those moments when one tends to loose their sense of rationality, the illusion of security of God taking care of everything/everyone really helps.
On Wednesdays it really amuses me to see the thousands of devotees flocking at St.Michael's church. People come barefoot, take rounds of the altar kneeling, walk backwards from the church altar to not show their back to the idol and the list goes on. None of the above practices are listed in the bible. But still people do them, their sense of belief makes them do all of it. It is believed that if you intercede to the Mother of perpetual Succor (Mother Mary) your prayers will be heard. Most of these people don't question their belief and continue praying with the hope that their wishes will be granted. Are the wishes always granted? Mostly yes sometimes no. If yes then God listens to their prayers and if no then "This was not God's will".