Can an atheist be spiritual?
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17-01-2012, 01:24 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:09 PM)germanyt Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:01 PM)kineo Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 12:52 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  No.

What's with all the tolerance going on here? Angel

Where you see tolerance, I see people asking for a clearer definition. The OP doesn't appear to have admitted to any belief in souls or spirits, just a vestigial activity from a former deism, or transitional stage on the way to atheism. But maybe I misunderstood.


IMO spirituality is belief in spirits. So what is a spirit? A supernatural entity from the afterlife? If you believe in spirits then you must believe in god right? Making that person at the very least, a deist.

That's the point, it's exactly that- an opinion. People throw around the word "spiritual" or "spirit" in multiple contexts. Sometimes people refer to the "human spirit" (which means what, exactly?), sometimes they refer to the heart or emotional being, and sometimes it's just a person's mind that they refer to.

So does the OP mean spiritual as in supernatural? Or simply their "being"- the mind. When a religious person refers to their spirit, what are they really talking about? They mean their consciousness, and they believe that the consciousness persists after death. As atheists, all we know about consciousness is that it's tied to the brain, so by all that we can perceive we know that the consciousness ceases to exist when the brain dies. My opinion is that a religious person and an atheist are referring to the same thing then they talk about a spirit, with a caveat that the religious person believes that the spirit persists supernaturally after death while the atheist perceives that it ceases upon death.

So when I hear him talk about being spiritual, and that he presents himself as an atheist, the context suggests to me that he's talking about his mind without the superfluous supernatural addition. So my assumption is that by being "spiritual" he's meeting a need of his mind, an emotional need maybe.

But, that's just my opinion. I really don't know what the OP means.
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17-01-2012, 01:30 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:24 PM)kineo Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:09 PM)germanyt Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:01 PM)kineo Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 12:52 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  No.

What's with all the tolerance going on here? Angel

Where you see tolerance, I see people asking for a clearer definition. The OP doesn't appear to have admitted to any belief in souls or spirits, just a vestigial activity from a former deism, or transitional stage on the way to atheism. But maybe I misunderstood.


IMO spirituality is belief in spirits. So what is a spirit? A supernatural entity from the afterlife? If you believe in spirits then you must believe in god right? Making that person at the very least, a deist.

That's the point, it's exactly that- an opinion. People throw around the word "spiritual" or "spirit" in multiple contexts. Sometimes people refer to the "human spirit" (which means what, exactly?), sometimes they refer to the heart or emotional being, and sometimes it's just a person's mind that they refer to.

So does the OP mean spiritual as in supernatural? Or simply their "being"- the mind. When a religious person refers to their spirit, what are they really talking about? They mean their consciousness, and they believe that the consciousness persists after death. As atheists, all we know about consciousness is that it's tied to the brain, so by all that we can perceive we know that the consciousness ceases to exist when the brain dies. My opinion is that a religious person and an atheist are referring to the same thing then they talk about a spirit, with a caveat that the religious person believes that the spirit persists supernaturally after death while the atheist perceives that it ceases upon death.

So when I hear him talk about being spiritual, and that he presents himself as an atheist, the context suggests to me that he's talking about his mind without the superfluous supernatural addition. So my assumption is that by being "spiritual" he's meeting a need of his mind, an emotional need maybe.

But, that's just my opinion. I really don't know what the OP means.


You mean like when a person refers to someone who 'has heart'? So heart or spirituality in a romantic or philisophical sense as opposed to a supernatural sense? If spirit is used figuratively as in the human spirit then how can a person really be spiritual? I don't know how to ask this question but how can one be 'tual' to something figurative?

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.”

-Mark Twain
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17-01-2012, 01:37 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
I think an atheist can be spiritual, just in a very different way.
I kept myself a few things from my religious times. They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things.
For example when someone I like dies or is really really sick, I will still light a candle. I am aware that this is not doing anything for the person, but for me it is a sign that I am thinking about this person.
I can light a candle and spend time with a sick person anyway, or I can light a candle for a dead person and have it more meditation like, remembering the person and what he/she did and achieved etc... Just really nice and comforting for me.
And like someone on page one (i forgot who Stark Raving? lucradis? no clue) said that he feels very connected to nature. I feel the same. I love being in nature and I am a complete tree hugger myself, and some people see that as spiritual. If you take that word out of the religious context and you are more like, I am spiritual because I feel very deep for <insert what you want>. So I think I am pretty spiritual, without gods or religions.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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17-01-2012, 01:43 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:30 PM)germanyt Wrote:  You mean like when a person refers to someone who 'has heart'? So heart or spirituality in a romantic or philisophical sense as opposed to a supernatural sense? If spirit is used figuratively as in the human spirit then how can a person really be spiritual? I don't know how to ask this question but how can one be 'tual' to something figurative?

Yes, thank you for putting that clearer than I could- I did interpret what he said in a figurative sense. I'm not sure I understand your second question though.
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17-01-2012, 01:53 PM (This post was last modified: 17-01-2012 01:54 PM by germanyt.)
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:43 PM)kineo Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:30 PM)germanyt Wrote:  You mean like when a person refers to someone who 'has heart'? So heart or spirituality in a romantic or philisophical sense as opposed to a supernatural sense? If spirit is used figuratively as in the human spirit then how can a person really be spiritual? I don't know how to ask this question but how can one be 'tual' to something figurative?

Yes, thank you for putting that clearer than I could- I did interpret what he said in a figurative sense. I'm not sure I understand your second question though.

Like, how can a person call themselves Christian if they don't believe in Christ/God? Even if they intentionally live their life by the bible that they know is fiction they still can't technically be called Christian.


(17-01-2012 01:37 PM)Leela Wrote:  I think an atheist can be spiritual, just in a very different way.
I kept myself a few things from my religious times. They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things.
For example when someone I like dies or is really really sick, I will still light a candle. I am aware that this is not doing anything for the person, but for me it is a sign that I am thinking about this person.
I can light a candle and spend time with a sick person anyway, or I can light a candle for a dead person and have it more meditation like, remembering the person and what he/she did and achieved etc... Just really nice and comforting for me.
And like someone on page one (i forgot who Stark Raving? lucradis? no clue) said that he feels very connected to nature. I feel the same. I love being in nature and I am a complete tree hugger myself, and some people see that as spiritual. If you take that word out of the religious context and you are more like, I am spiritual because I feel very deep for <insert what you want>. So I think I am pretty spiritual, without gods or religions.


I think that to define yourself as spiritual you would actually have to believe that lighting the candle is doing something supernatural.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.”

-Mark Twain
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17-01-2012, 02:10 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:53 PM)germanyt Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:43 PM)kineo Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:30 PM)germanyt Wrote:  You mean like when a person refers to someone who 'has heart'? So heart or spirituality in a romantic or philisophical sense as opposed to a supernatural sense? If spirit is used figuratively as in the human spirit then how can a person really be spiritual? I don't know how to ask this question but how can one be 'tual' to something figurative?

Yes, thank you for putting that clearer than I could- I did interpret what he said in a figurative sense. I'm not sure I understand your second question though.

Like, how can a person call themselves Christian if they don't believe in Christ/God? Even if they intentionally live their life by the bible that they know is fiction they still can't technically be called Christian.

Gotcha, yeah that makes sense. In order to call yourself a Christian you actually have to accept and believe that Jesus was who the Bible says he was and that he died for your sins to save you from damnation. Add whatever other flavoring you want, that is a Christian.

In that light, if you take spiritual in a literal sense- that requires a supernatural belief and I don't think that mixes with atheism, or at least not with skepticism.
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17-01-2012, 02:17 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
When people talk about a spiritual connection, I think they are referring to a real connection that they can't explain, so it's labeled as spiritual.
As a child I was tortured by my uncles in such a way that I wasn't able to put my hands on my head for even a short period of time until I was 35 years old.
My arms will involuntary move to my sides to cover up my ribs in a defensive motion from a thought, let alone a touch.
I met a woman who was able to place her hands on my ribs and I felt at peace. I had no reaction, as if this woman's hand was my own hand.
I believe her and I shared a special connection that I couldn't explain.

When it comes to the idea of marriage, well more precisely, the ceremony. I had my own ideas about how I wanted this ceremony to take place.
I wanted to be married on hilltop in the forest at midnight under a full moon, with only myself, my wife to be and someone to officiate. No one else.
When I first began talking to this same woman that I spoke of in the previous paragraph, I asked her how she wanted to be married.
She told me - I want to be married on hilltop in the forest at midnight under a full moon, with only myself, my husband to be and someone to officiate. No one else.
She also added that it needed to be near a lake so that we could go skinny dipping afterwards.
Now our ideas weren't exact duplicates, but for me it was close enough to say that I felt a connection to this woman.
We shared an idea in much the same way people share webpages.

Many other such circumstances have happened in my life to give me the idea that there is some level of communication that happens in an unknown manner.
And I think we call this spiritual.

There are mysteries in life that we don't have a full explanation for or in some cases even a clue about what is happening because it's not consistent, it's difficult to predict and we don't know the mechanisms at play.

But I think what we can know is that these things have a real and understandable explanation. They are natural things we can't explain. In turn, i think some people tend to mislabel that as supernatural, when it's just something we haven't yet figured out.

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17-01-2012, 02:22 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 02:17 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  When people talk about a spiritual connection, I think they are referring to a real connection that they can't explain, so it's labeled as spiritual.
As a child I was tortured by my uncles in such a way that I wasn't able to put my hands on my head for even a short period of time until I was 35 years old.
My arms will involuntary move to my sides to cover up my ribs in a defensive motion from a thought, let alone a touch.
I met a woman who was able to place her hands on my ribs and I felt at peace. I had no reaction, as if this woman's hand was my own hand.
I believe her and I shared a special connection that I couldn't explain.

When it comes to the idea of marriage, well more precisely, the ceremony. I had my own ideas about how I wanted this ceremony to take place.
I wanted to be married on hilltop in the forest at midnight under a full moon, with only myself, my wife to be and someone to officiate. No one else.
When I first began talking to this same woman that I spoke of in the previous paragraph, I asked her how she wanted to be married.
She told me - I want to be married on hilltop in the forest at midnight under a full moon, with only myself, my husband to be and someone to officiate. No one else.
She also added that it needed to be near a lake so that we could go skinny dipping afterwards.
Now our ideas weren't exact duplicates, but for me it was close enough to say that I felt a connection to this woman.
We shared an idea in much the same way people share webpages.

Many other such circumstances have happened in my life to give me the idea that there is some level of communication that happens in an unknown manner.
And I think we call this spiritual.

There are mysteries in life that we don't have a full explanation for or in some cases even a clue about what is happening because it's not consistent, it's difficult to predict and we don't know the mechanisms at play.

But I think what we can know is that these things have a real and understandable explanation. They are natural things we can't explain. In turn, i think some people tend to mislabel that as supernatural, when it's just something we haven't yet figured out.


I think that you long for something more in the explanation than there really is. In the first paragraph I'd suggest that there is likely a psychological explanation for how you feel and the second suggest that you are just hopelessly romantic (feel like I've used that word a bunch today).

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.”

-Mark Twain
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17-01-2012, 02:26 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 01:53 PM)germanyt Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:37 PM)Leela Wrote:  I think an atheist can be spiritual, just in a very different way.
I kept myself a few things from my religious times. They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things.
For example when someone I like dies or is really really sick, I will still light a candle. I am aware that this is not doing anything for the person, but for me it is a sign that I am thinking about this person.
I can light a candle and spend time with a sick person anyway, or I can light a candle for a dead person and have it more meditation like, remembering the person and what he/she did and achieved etc... Just really nice and comforting for me.
And like someone on page one (i forgot who Stark Raving? lucradis? no clue) said that he feels very connected to nature. I feel the same. I love being in nature and I am a complete tree hugger myself, and some people see that as spiritual. If you take that word out of the religious context and you are more like, I am spiritual because I feel very deep for <insert what you want>. So I think I am pretty spiritual, without gods or religions.


I think that to define yourself as spiritual you would actually have to believe that lighting the candle is doing something supernatural.

Not necessarily, GT. Leela clarified it by stating, "They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things." And I understand this. It's positive reinforcement of a self reliant brain.

When the belief in something supernatural becomes more of a belief in the self, it can become better reinforced with all manner of things which stimulate pleasure centers in the brain. That could very well be what causes people of faith to believe or be "spiritual" anyway.
It would be their own brand though....

As a non-Theist, I experience the self through my self.
A person of faith would experience the self through... god, religion... whatever.

You have an avatar here on the forum - your symbol that celebrates your strength.
You have a signature here - your words held up as an Atheist shield
Leela lights a candle to celebrate her mind and thoughts in her particular way.

All our symbols change as we change our minds.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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17-01-2012, 02:28 PM
RE: Can an atheist be spiritual?
(17-01-2012 02:26 PM)kim Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:53 PM)germanyt Wrote:  
(17-01-2012 01:37 PM)Leela Wrote:  I think an atheist can be spiritual, just in a very different way.
I kept myself a few things from my religious times. They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things.
For example when someone I like dies or is really really sick, I will still light a candle. I am aware that this is not doing anything for the person, but for me it is a sign that I am thinking about this person.
I can light a candle and spend time with a sick person anyway, or I can light a candle for a dead person and have it more meditation like, remembering the person and what he/she did and achieved etc... Just really nice and comforting for me.
And like someone on page one (i forgot who Stark Raving? lucradis? no clue) said that he feels very connected to nature. I feel the same. I love being in nature and I am a complete tree hugger myself, and some people see that as spiritual. If you take that word out of the religious context and you are more like, I am spiritual because I feel very deep for <insert what you want>. So I think I am pretty spiritual, without gods or religions.


I think that to define yourself as spiritual you would actually have to believe that lighting the candle is doing something supernatural.

Not necessarily, GT. Leela clarified it by stating, "They comfort me and they are more symbolical than anything else. No belief sticks to those things." And I understand this. It's positive reinforcement of a self reliant brain.

When the belief in something supernatural becomes more of a belief in the self, it can become better reinforced with all manner of things which stimulate pleasure centers in the brain. That could very well be what causes people of faith to believe or be "spiritual" anyway.
It would be their own brand though....

As a non-Theist, I experience the self through my self.
A person of faith would experience the self through... god, religion... whatever.

You have an avatar here on the forum - your symbol that celebrates your strength.
You have a signature here - your words held up as an Atheist shield
Leela lights a candle to celebrate her mind and thoughts in her particular way.

All our symbols change as we change our minds.

Is that not a form of symbolism and not so much spiritualism?

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.”

-Mark Twain
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