Prayers from a Non-Believer

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So begins a series of letters addressed to God from an anonymous young artist in this new book from the bestselling author of The Artist's Way. Following in the tradition of Letters to a Young Poet and Conversations with God, this is Julia Cameron's most inspiring book to date.

In the form of letters from the heart, Prayers from a Non-Believer probes questions central to the artist's journey-how can we preserve our creative selves in our busy modern lives? What is the meaning of...

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So begins a series of letters addressed to God from an anonymous young artist in this new book from the bestselling author of The Artist's Way. Following in the tradition of Letters to a Young Poet and Conversations with God, this is Julia Cameron's most inspiring book to date.

In the form of letters from the heart, Prayers from a Non-Believer probes questions central to the artist's journey-how can we preserve our creative selves in our busy modern lives? What is the meaning of art and how does it relate to spirituality? This book is a unique treasure from one of the great teachers of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this earnest and somewhat repetitive volume, Cameron-novelist, filmmaker, journalist, librettist, playwright, etc., and the author of the international bestseller The Artist's Way-ruminates on the identity of God, the power of creative energy and the meaning and consequences of faith. Framed as a series of letters to God from an anonymous "nonbeliever," a man of some means and much doubt, Cameron's book follows the "I" of the letter-prayers as he progresses from a kind of lazy agnosticism ("I don't officially believe in you") through a "a creeping sense of, alright, optimism" all the way to authentic belief ("I have put out the lit cigarette of cynicism smoldering on the sofa of my consciousness"). In his "conversations" with God, the narrator struggles with a job he detests, a sister whose passivity in an unhealthy relationship angers him, a longing for creative work and, perhaps most poignantly, an abiding loneliness. Readers of The Artist's Way and its many offshoots will find some of the material familiar-e.g., Cameron's attention to the Jungian concept of synchronicity and her belief in Matthew's "Ask and you shall receive" dictum. And though the letters repeat themselves and sometime feel a little whiny (hey, faith isn't easy, Cameron seems to say), Cameron's legions of fans will appreciate her honesty and her generosity of spirit. For those who seek company on the path to belief in self and "spiritual electricity," Cameron is a warm and expert guide. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The latest book by the best-selling author of The Artist's Way is a wander through her troubled relationship with a God in whom she does not quite believe-all in the form of letters, rather like Jean Webster's classic Daddy Long-Legs. By no means is this a study in conversion: Cameron's God is the doctor who like Freud heals by not responding, and her self-treatment largely consists in learning how to hear and then silence (at least momentarily) the worrying-or "whirrying," as she charmingly calls it-in her head. Cameron's book will not satisfy believing Christians but ought to command great interest among agnostics of all stripes. For public library collections, especially where The Artist's Way remains popular. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641740688
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/10/2003
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years. She is the author of many books, including The Artist's Way, The Vein of Gold, and The Right to Write, her bestselling works on the creative process. A novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film, and television.

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Read an Excerpt

PRAYERS from a Nonbeliever

A Story of Faith
By Julia Cameron


Copyright © 2003 Julia Cameron
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1585422134

Chapter One

Dear God,

I do not have an easy relationship to you, God. I am confused by your press. I have read so much about you, from so many quarrelsome experts, that I do not know who you are-if you are. And yet, I suppose you are-something made all this-and so I thought I would try to make contact.

I doubt that I will do this right. I do not know how to do this right. But I think the fact that I am trying should count for something.

Where should I begin? I like your world. With all its flaws and suffering, it is still beautiful. Perhaps we agree on that. Who knows? Maybe we agree on my gripe about "God Experts," too. They make it feel so hard to know you.

Yesterday, I lay down on a patch of grass and pressed my head to the earth as if I could hear your heart. Maybe I did. Today I wrote you this first prayer.

Dear God,

As I mentioned, I am trying to "just show up" and see what happens in relationship to you. I have been carrying my agnostic banner for a long time, and then I got the uncomfortable idea that maybe I wasn't so much agnostic as lazy. I hadn't drawn a dignified conclusion of nonbelief. I just couldn't be bothered to do the research. So I am experimenting with you-hey, it's only fair. We-thisworld-are your experiment, aren't we? Do you have a sense of humor?

Maybe you do. Baboons with their fire-engine asses are pretty funny. Also anteaters. Sloths. Tarantulas, if I weren't afraid of them. And perhaps me. I'm funny too: a middle-age person belatedly thinking, Gee, maybe I'd better try doing something around this God thing.

The truth is, you are confusing. It seems to me that making a violet would take a certain amount of care and attention, even tenderness. But at night, that vast swathe of stars spewed across all that black-what does that take? Perhaps a grandiose indifference? Maybe the coldness that numbers seem to imply. But maybe not to you.

It occurs to me that in trying to know you, explore your mind-if you can be said to have such a thing-I may actually get to know my own. That, perhaps, is not such a bad thing.

Dear God,

Full disclosure: I am only undertaking these prayers as an experiment at the suggestion of a friend. I have not had any spiritual awakening, and I frankly doubt that I ever will. My friend, who is a bit perky and even New Age, if you ask me, suggested I try thinking of you as "an invisible playmate." In light of things like death and the Holocaust, that made me feel like I was trying to talk to the Invisible Bully. Will I get struck by lightning for saying that?

As I have said from the beginning, I don't officially believe in you-although even logic seems to say something must have made all this. It's funny how I can not believe in you and still blame you. I guess I think of you a bit like God the Father after all-you know how kids always blame their parents.

But I do not think I want a parent-child relationship with you. I am not sure I want any relationship at all, but I do wonder if I might not be late to the party. Maybe we've already got a relationship and I am just pretending we don't. Kind of like, "Alright, I put my arm around you at the movie, but it didn't mean anything, so don't get carried away."

Don't get carried away, God. These letters don't mean I am your new best friend. I am just thinking about you. If there is a you, that is. Funny how just entertaining that possibility makes it seem somehow more possible. Do you think prayer is the greased slide to faith?

Dear God,

What follows is the kind of prayer you don't want to get. I'd call it whining and it certainly shouldn't get priority over prayers for starving children, world peace, or any other noble cause that crosses your venue.

As you know-since you are God, after all-I am talking about my life: my cushy, privileged, nicer-than-most life. I have almost exactly the life I always said I wanted, and I don't really like it very much. My creature comforts are adequate-more than adequate. I could use the same word for my friends. Then, too, there's the arena of professional accomplishment, in which I am, well, accomplished. The point is that my life is stuffed to the gills with people, places, and things that ought to make me happy but don't. So I feel like an ingrate. Or a cliché. Is this what they mean by "midlife crisis"? I have heard the phrase "dark night of the soul" bandied about, but that seems a little melodramatic for what is essentially the old Peggy Lee complaint: "If that's all there is ..."

You can see why I feel like I am whining. I am whining. It's not so much that there's something wrong with your world-check out the sunset last night, for example. It's my world, my "inner world," that's off-kilter.

My friends are full of advice, ranging from the ridiculous to the ridiculous and all of it probably good or good enough-we're a reasonably enlightened crowd. I have been told to get a hobby. A new relationship. An advanced degree. A Jungian therapist. A puppy. A service commitment to some worthy cause. Maybe I will do all that stuff-alright, even like it-but it all seems a little topiary, like I am shaping the edges of my life and not addressing the problem-the void-at the center. That's why you're hearing from me. Better late than never.

If you have any thoughts, you know my e-mail. Actually, how do you answer prayers?

Dear God,

My friends have begun to back off. Let's face it: A dark night of the soul is not a social asset. When I tell them what I'm thinking about, namely you, the existence or the nonexistence of you, they make worried little sounds as if I'm having a breakdown. Nonetheless, they're full of good advice. As I've told you, hobbies, therapists, kittens, a renewed love life-all these things are mentioned as the cure. When I say they sound more like distractions, I'm treated like I've gone too far. My friends take it personally when I reject their advice. The word they use among themselves is "crackpot," as in, "He's got some crackpot idea about getting to know God." Is this a crackpot idea? Perhaps you could talk to my friends.

Dear God,

I have an ulterior motive with these prayers. I am hoping to attain something of an overview, a broader perspective. I am not talking about "child dies, leaf falls from tree-same value." But I am thinking that if I could attain what is probably called faith, I might have an easier time of things, a sneaking optimism, a suspicion that just maybe everything will work out after all.

Living in a city makes that harder, I think. There's the everyday crush, of course, but there's also the fact that cities seem to be about what man has made, and the rest of creation gets marginalized. I mean, an Omaha farmer watches a field go cold and dead and gray. Omaha in winter is a hellish place, but then spring! Little green shoots. Bigger green shoots. Corn. Pardon the pun, God, but something as corny as corn can make you trust that life has more up its sleeve than the apparent wintry disaster of the moment. I mean, there must be a balance-at least as much beauty and hope in this world as disaster-but we, don't focus on that. The evening news is not good. But it's not the whole story, either. My thought is that maybe you hold a larger view than CNN. That's why I an trying to tune in to you instead.

Is there a you?

Dear God,

My sister is a good woman. As you may have noticed, she goes to church every week, and she's kind to her neighbors. She also does a considerable amount of work with the Animal Rescue League, and she's always taking in strays to nurse back to health. They flourish under her care. I wish she'd turn the same attention to herself. She wouldn't give a pet to a bad home. Why doesn't she see that she deserves a good one? Personally, I think her ne'er-do-well husband wants a mommy, not a wife, and then maybe a few girlfriends on the side, to which he mysteriously feels entitled. Was I standing behind the door when the entitlement gene was passed out? Was my sister? I guess my simple point is this: I'm at my wit's end. I've listened to my sister's woes with as much patience as I can muster. I'm about to do something rash. How do you stand it, listening to us all? And do we ever do what think we should?

Dear God,

I am uncomfortable with what has been happening to me since I started writing to you. I would even blame you-if I believed in you. I seem to be looking at my life with different eyes-seeing where I have settled, where I have said, "This is probably as good as it gets," even when that wasn't good enough. I see that I have not stepped up to the plate in a lot of areas. I have just said, "What's the use? It probably wouldn't work out anyhow."

"It probably wouldn't work out" has dissuaded me from a lot of risks-risks that if I thought there were a you, a supportive you, I might have tried taking. I am beginning to get the uncomfortable feeling that my world is too small and that I can try, comfortably, to blame that on you-but I might be the real culprit.

I'd like a new place to live-something larger,


Excerpted from PRAYERS from a Nonbeliever by Julia Cameron Copyright © 2003 by Julia Cameron
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2005


    Found book to be a very easy read. Hard to put down once I started reading. Good book to give someone that is struggling with their believe in God. Not preachy will not turn person off. Not offense to any church or group.

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