July 23, 2015 at 4:19 am #1212
Is it actually possible to be a spiritual atheist? I’d like to think it is.
You look up and see a glimpse of the universe knowing that you are connected to it, that the universe we all live in is also within us and that’s pretty amazing.
A scientist looking for a cure for a disease can be a spiritual experience.
So is it truly possible for an atheist to be spiritual?July 23, 2015 at 8:47 am #1213
Hey Winter Lily, I’ve got my own brand of spiritual atheism, but it’s hard to define so that people understand it. I think it’s because the concept is deceptively deep. It’s based on the inbuilt tendency of all living things to thrive, which contributes to survival, which contributes to reproduction. Obviously, it was put there by evolution, and it corresponds to the religious concept of God’s love. There’s more here: http://www.yellowgrain.co.uk/healing_principle.html although I’m not all that pleased with the explanation so far.
I agree that “oneness” is also a spiritual experience and I think this can come from taming the ego which keeps us feeling separate. http://www.yellowgrain.co.uk/the_ego_and_spirituality.html
I definitely think that atheism could use a shot of spirituality. It is truly possible. After all, Buddhism is an atheist religion and it’s very spiritual.July 23, 2015 at 8:48 am #1214
@earthheart, “spiritual” is one of those terms that people use freely without defining what they mean by it. The two examples you have given seem like they are talking about experiences being emotional rather than spiritual. In which case the question would be “Can an atheist be emotional?”. To which the answer is obviously yes.
Would you be able to define what you mean by spiritual and that will help clarify the discussion.
P.S. Just as I posted this I saw the reply from @simonpaynton. I admire his efforts on his website as what he is doing is not an easy thing. It is easy to criticise and say nothing is clearly defined but much harder to actually try to define terms clearly and accurately. As you have brought up the word spiritual in your post I would be interested in your definition.July 23, 2015 at 11:14 am #1218
I’d be interested to know a general definition you might have too, Winter Lily.July 23, 2015 at 1:21 pm #1222
The sort of feeling you have described is actually fairly common, a combination of awe at the sheer size and scope of existence, a realization of just how small you are in comparison to it, and profound joy at being able to experience it. (This is often felt by scientists and they will try to convey it when they can, Sagan certainly did his best to do so in Cosmos.) What we don’t get, that theists do, is any sense that there is a “god” behind it.
This one is rather popular in some circles, it was posted on the old Think Atheist. I just re-watched it to refresh my memory of it, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll find it to be “spot on”July 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm #1228
@simonpaynton @steveinco For me spiritual simply means to feel a deep connection to say for example nature and/or to deeply admire something like for example science. I don’t know if feeling a connection with something is an emotion, which perhaps it is. Perhaps being spiritual simply means feeling deeply emotional about something because that’s what it seems to be. When someone is spiritual they are emotional about something like for example how most Christians feel a connection to there bible might just be them feeling emotional about it.
July 23, 2015 at 2:22 pm #1230
- This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by Winter Lily.
When someone is spiritual they are emotional about something like for example how most Christians feel a connection to there bible might just be them feeling emotional about it.
Absolutely. Faith and belief are very emotional fundamentally – and science is factual. They seem to appeal to different parts of the brain. When an atheist feels awe at the size and majesty of the universe, they are not appending a sense of self-worthlessness to it (the “we are all sinners” thing), and I think that kind of rarifies the experience for us.
July 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm #1233July 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm #1234
- This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by Strega. Reason: For typos, as always
If by spiritual you mean being aware of the kinds of interactions and connections you have with others and trying to understand how to better relate with others (with some help with epirical research) including some proven forms of meditation and breathing/stretching exercises…exposing yourself to as many experiences as possible, trying to stay positive and find landscapes and skyscapes and art and music and cinema and theatre and bonfires and cloud formations and animal watching that puts you in awe…I wouldnt call that spiritual but “personal development with a taste for the awesome”.
If by spiritual you mean chanting specific phrases, checking up on your chi and aura while sipping walrus saliva tea to cleanse your karma while someone sticks frozen needles into the chakra zones of you temples…then I would call that spiritual. I am amazed at how many atheists the are who are this kind of spiritual..but there is no reason they cannot or should not exist. An atheist does not believe in god. That is all. An atheist can do a whole variety of kooky irrational woo and still be an atheist. Should an atheist be like this? I wouldn’t recommend it…but who are we to tell which delusions an atheist should embrace?
July 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm #1237
- This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by Davis.
@earthheart, I think your definition fits well with what you wrote in your original post. Here is a definition of spiritual from good old Google that fits more with my understanding of it:
Spiritual: relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
The emphasis here is on things that are not material or physical. Emotions are both of these things as they are a manifestation of physical brain processes and physiology (although of course our experience of them is very different from this dry explanation).
Conversely, non-material or non-physical things, to me, refers to things like ghosts, fairies, what a lot of religions refer to as the “soul”, and God. Whilst I see no reason why an atheist can’t believe in stuff like ghosts my question to them would always be why reject God and not ghosts.July 23, 2015 at 2:37 pm #1238
I think a lot of atheists object to the word “spiritual” because it often comes freighted with a lot of woo (like @davis illustrated in his second example). I don’t experience that, but I’ve learned that the word is so nebulous that it means different things to different people, and I know that as used in the video I posted, it means something very different from anything having anything to do with woo.
I personally wouldn’t have used the word to describe the mental states described in the video I posted, for many of those reasons–I don’t want the woo-connotations attached to what I have to say.
I try to figure out what a specific individual means by “spiritual” before classifying them as woo-believer who is simply a supernaturalist of a different stripe from a theist.
July 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm #1240
- This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by SteveInCO.
Thanks Winter Lily, I need your ideas too.
I think a connection is a connection, and we feel emotional about the connection.July 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm #1241
But then also, emotions are fundamentally about liking or disliking, and we like what makes us feel good. Why do things make us feel good?
July 23, 2015 at 11:21 pm #1255
- This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by Simon Paynton.
Without reading most of the replies, I would say yes. Of course you can be a spiritual atheist. As long as that spirituality is not defined by or around a god.
Sometimes, we look at the cosmos, or the ocean, or some nice scenery, or whatever, and we just feel that sense of belonging or of being a part of it along with everyone else.July 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm #1267
Why yes, of course! The lack of belief in a supernatural being does not imply the lack of spirituality. I, for one, do consider myself ‘spiritual’, as I experience awe and wander on a daily basis—when I see ‘miracles’ of nature, of the vast space out there and within ourselves or of science. When I look at my son growing up and learning new skills every single day, at the starry sky at night, when I listen to music, when I watch films like ‘Her’ or ‘The Ledge’, or read Philip K. Dick’s, Allan Watts’s, Ken Wilber’s or Stanislaw Lem’s stuff I have no doubt I experience something greater than me, than us all, something our limited senses and minds are not capable of processing beyond their boundaries. It all does not imply the existence of any sort of deity, it merely implies our immersion in a ‘soup’ of which we understand only as much as we can at any given moment with the mental tools we’re equipped with, individually. We keep expanding and growing more and more conscious and aware of our capabilities and limitations, but the journey seems never-ending. And I like that never-endingness.
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