An Atheist Spirituality?
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21-10-2013, 10:28 AM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
I don't really believe in the spiritual in the way that some new age types do but some of my favorite artists would fall into this category...

Take Alex Gray for instance, his art is 'heavily spiritual' and the concepts are cherry picked from a variety of religions, etc. and I do believe that these ideas help him create this art... But if you find yourself at a studio event where has created a sort of non-denominational church of sorts it's just people creating their own nutty amalgam's of Native American/Eastern/Western woo and drumming/drawing, w/e and it's all very clearly delusional.... I can tolerate it because of it's freeform non-authoritative nature but I can't really embrace it myself...

Now on a personal level I feel one needs to have a some margin for 'practical spirituality' especially when you are coming from a religious past...For me that means staring up at the stars and thinking like a deist, trying to find universal patterns/truths in art and music or praying to the god of micro-processors not to fry my computer again. A good musical jam can feel profoundly spiritual at times, as with any trance state. Obviously certain drugs can make you feel intensely spiritual, like you are floating above reality, or part of some larger, greater and infinitely beautiful organism (which is why so many great artists are spiritual).

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21-10-2013, 11:21 AM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
I wondered, since my teens, what 'spirituality' meant. Ya know, you'd hear people say things like 'I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual'. I didn't understand what that meant. It wasn't until a year or two ago that I came to the conclusion that it doesn't mean a damn thing. Spirituality doesn't mean anything to me. It's a nonsense word. It's a placeholder. The sentence I used as an example means 'I don't buy into the religious bullshit, but I don't want to be left out'. That's my humble opinion anyhow.

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21-10-2013, 12:47 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
(21-10-2013 09:25 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  As for spirituality, I don't have much respect for the word and I try to avoid it. It's the sort of word that can mean just about anything to just about anyone, and at the end of the day the result is that the word itself doesn't really mean anything. It literally lacks definition. The concepts it might be meant to represent, I don't necessarily have a problem with those, but the word doesn't help me understand that those concepts are what's being represented.
Hi, thanks for your response, it's been really helpful. I know my definition was a little awkward, but I was trying to find a way to define spirituality in a more universal way that might cover as many possibilities as possible. At the same time, I think the word spirituality has become in general society a rather agnostic one- it's kind of a fall-back position for those who don't want to feel like they're committing to either side of the fence.


(21-10-2013 09:25 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  The only thing I really think takes us out of existence as a biological being is death, and I'm in no hurry to find that. If you're talking about some other plane of existence totally apart from the universe we live in, I don't buy it and I've got no use for it. I'm quite happy in this universe, thank you, even if it does need a bit of improvement. But it sounds like... and now I'm interpreting... that you're talking about a pursuit of awe and wonder, or a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves, or something that emotionally catches us up so that we don't focus on the everyday. I have a great deal of respect for this, but I see it as part of our biological existence, as arising from the way our brains are arranged and our endorphins triggered, rather than in spite of it. It doesn't speak just to the virtues of what's beyond our bodies, but also the amazing virtues of the body itself.

Your interpretation was what I was getting at. I could never believe that when an atheist falls in love with their partner, or look at their newborn baby, that they stop to think that what they're feeling is nothing more than biology, psychology and chemicals rushing around their bodies. Of course not.. we connect with someone as a person, we see their inherent dignity as a human being and we ascribe a whole set of values to that person as a result of it. I like that definition of love from the Unitarian-Universalists 'the inter-dependant web of existence.' But as others have said, you don't necessarily have to define that as spirituality.
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21-10-2013, 01:24 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
(21-10-2013 12:47 PM)Yasmin Wrote:  
(21-10-2013 09:25 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  As for spirituality, I don't have much respect for the word and I try to avoid it. It's the sort of word that can mean just about anything to just about anyone, and at the end of the day the result is that the word itself doesn't really mean anything. It literally lacks definition. The concepts it might be meant to represent, I don't necessarily have a problem with those, but the word doesn't help me understand that those concepts are what's being represented.
Hi, thanks for your response, it's been really helpful. I know my definition was a little awkward, but I was trying to find a way to define spirituality in a more universal way that might cover as many possibilities as possible. At the same time, I think the word spirituality has become in general society a rather agnostic one- it's kind of a fall-back position for those who don't want to feel like they're committing to either side of the fence.


(21-10-2013 09:25 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  The only thing I really think takes us out of existence as a biological being is death, and I'm in no hurry to find that. If you're talking about some other plane of existence totally apart from the universe we live in, I don't buy it and I've got no use for it. I'm quite happy in this universe, thank you, even if it does need a bit of improvement. But it sounds like... and now I'm interpreting... that you're talking about a pursuit of awe and wonder, or a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves, or something that emotionally catches us up so that we don't focus on the everyday. I have a great deal of respect for this, but I see it as part of our biological existence, as arising from the way our brains are arranged and our endorphins triggered, rather than in spite of it. It doesn't speak just to the virtues of what's beyond our bodies, but also the amazing virtues of the body itself.

Your interpretation was what I was getting at. I could never believe that when an atheist falls in love with their partner, or look at their newborn baby, that they stop to think that what they're feeling is nothing more than biology, psychology and chemicals rushing around their bodies. Of course not.. we connect with someone as a person, we see their inherent dignity as a human being and we ascribe a whole set of values to that person as a result of it. I like that definition of love from the Unitarian-Universalists 'the inter-dependant web of existence.' But as others have said, you don't necessarily have to define that as spirituality.

Well atheists don't spend every minute of the day interpreting feelings of love or whatnot as biology. Most of the time we just ride around in the car without fussing about what's happening under the hood. I don't, say, get angry at someone who cut me off in traffic, and then automatically interpret that in terms of endorphins and hormones and this or that part of the brain. However, when I engage in introspection about my emotions, which isn't that rare but which is hardly my whole waking life, that's how I will see it.

One of the big philosophical debates is that of mind/body (or soul/body or spirit/body, if you prefer) duality versus unity. Are we divided people or are we whole people? There's basically two ways people can respond to the proposition that the entirety of our conscious existence and process, and all the relationships that result, arises from simple biology rather than some pairing of biology with some sort of metaphysical soul or spirit. One reaction is to reject it on the grounds that it cheapens who we are, by making it seem something worldly and material. Personally, I think this represents a preexisting bias against biology. Maybe it feels icky or something. The other way to react, which I prefer, is to say, "wow, biology is capable of some awesome stuff". This doesn't devalue things like love and relationships. Rather, it emphasizes their value, and enhances our respect for the capabilities of biology with the realization that it's producing something so wonderful. .... or I suppose you could go the straw nihilist route, so that's three, but I wouldn't recommend that one.

I suppose, if you really want a distinction, you could metaphorically abstract the notion of mind as "software" running on the body's "hardware". Not all software will run on all computers (nor run the same on all computers it can run on), but if successfully transferred to different hardware it would be the same program running. Then it makes sense to identify as the "program" that's running rather than the body it's running on. This metaphor is flawed in several respects, not the least of which that we have no real way of transferring the program from one machine to another. (Which is probably a good thing. The distopian potential... brrrr.) But as a metaphor it still serves as the basis of a viable distinction to be drawn. I'd personally reject it, because consciousness and body are so thoroughly coupled and cohesive that thinking of them as separate makes understanding both of them harder, but that's more conceptual organizational preference than a statement of something being true or false.

(Also, interdependent web of existence isn't really the UU definition of love, so much as a recognition of connection with the rest of the world, though the two concepts are related. I could talk about it at length but this isn't the thread for it.)
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21-10-2013, 02:00 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
(21-10-2013 04:16 AM)Yasmin Wrote:  When I was asked by one of the users here 'what type of Christian are you?' I was a bit taken aback, because then I thought 'is there more than one kind of atheist?'

Sure there are. I consider myself a Christian atheist for example.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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22-10-2013, 12:57 AM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
(21-10-2013 02:00 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  
(21-10-2013 04:16 AM)Yasmin Wrote:  When I was asked by one of the users here 'what type of Christian are you?' I was a bit taken aback, because then I thought 'is there more than one kind of atheist?'

Sure there are. I consider myself a Christian atheist for example.

Fuck that noise! What's with all that 'turn the other cheek' bullshit?

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22-10-2013, 01:04 AM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
I believe in AWE, not spiritualism (but its semantics I guess)
To me its just sheer amazement of the scope of things great and small, or the WTF i have no idea moments.
Going to hand out leaflets door to door,
"have you experienced awesome lately", if not ,open your damn eyes and look around.

Theism is to believe what other people claim, Atheism is to ask "why should I".
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22-10-2013, 12:09 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
(22-10-2013 12:57 AM)Dark Light Wrote:  
(21-10-2013 02:00 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Sure there are. I consider myself a Christian atheist for example.

Fuck that noise! What's with all that 'turn the other cheek' bullshit?

I think that lesson is often misinterpreted to mean "Roll over like a pussy" where the actual lesson is "Practice restraint or someone's gonna get hurt and it ain't gonna be Girly". Big Grin








As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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22-10-2013, 12:42 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
But I wanna get sumoed by Girly in the Dōyō!

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22-10-2013, 12:46 PM
RE: An Atheist Spirituality?
I agree with morondog and dark light. From recent experience, it is much easier for people to say 'I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual', than "I'm an atheist." Upon meeting someone I hadn't seen for many years, when the subject came up, I indicated that I was "not really religious". He responded, 'I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual'. I replied "I don't even go there myself".

That prompted a definition of what the other person meant by "spiritual" (appreciation of the universe, wonder, the numinous). I'm not sure if it was an a more relaxed explanation that his view of things did not necessarily include "woo", or trying to get me to agree that we were of the same mind.

I left it that I did not think we were saying the same thing, but that was perfectly fine; I no longer try to convert people on the subject.

Frankly, I think the phrase is a socially acceptable way of saying that someone has rejected "traditional religion" (probably christianity) but isn't comfortable declaring a position, hasn't decided, or doesn't think it is any of my business.

I agree that spiritual doesn't really mean anything and has to be defined, so it's just a way of being counted as "something else", or "none of the above".

I don't personally find it useful to use the word in describing myself to others, because it does normally just lead to more discussion about definitions. If I wish to discuss my position on the subject, I'm more likely to say "I am not religious", or "no longer religious".
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