This article on the Washing Post site 'Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer' is about an "atheist" who was overweight and depressed, so he created an imaginary "goddess" he coincidentally called "God'. He prays to this God three times a day, and attributes his healing to a "miracle". This was all a fallout from joining a 12 Step program that required prayer (Don't get me started), and seems to have gotten out of hand.
There's no way this guy's atheist, I would say he's barely agnostic. He's comparable to the vegan who has bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning.
Seems this whole issue begs the question: if there is no god, then why biologically/evolutionarily did the desire (instinct?) to pray develop in us? I guess I lean toward finding value in the mythological and the imagination- we enter that world all the time. Being atheist doesn't rule out using one's imagination, no?
"It is fear that first brought gods into the world."
-- Petronius --
Petronius for President and arch for Veep!
Regarding 12-step programs: my experience is this. When I was seeking help with my own addiction, I found 12-step groups helpful precisely because NO ONE there told me what I had to believe. For me, my illness was directly related to my religious beliefs, and I knew I had to unravel that bullshit if I was going to get well. So, it was a huge relief for me- a huge step AWAY from the doctrinal church B.S.- to enter a gathering where no one got to tell me what to believe- and my "higher power" simply became "the part of me that knows better". I don't doubt that preaching some specific belief system does happen in some 12 step groups and some individuals, I'm sure it does, but it did not happen to me. Part of that is because I chose sponsors and friends who had a similar view to mine, and there were plenty of them- and maybe that's because I was in the "progressive" Los Angeles area.