How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
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16-04-2013, 12:12 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
I haven't read the entire thread, so apologies if this has already come up.

Can someone explain to me what "spiritual" actually means? I'm not trying to be difficult. I honestly don't know.

People have said to me, "You may be an atheist, but I can tell you're a spiritual person," and I smile, since it's meant as a compliment . . . I think. But I don't know if I'm spiritual or not, because the meaning of the word isn't clear to me.

The dictionary doesn't help. My desk dictionary defines "spiritual" as "of, relating to, or concerned with things of the spirit." So what's "spirit"? The relevant definitions are:

1. "moral or spiritual part of man, believed to be immortal and to separate from the body at death; soul."

That doesn't help me. I don't believe in postmortem preservation of identity ( GirlyMan) or an immortal soul. When you're dead, you're dead; like the Norwegian Blue, you simply cease to be. I do think I have a moral part, but it's not going to continue in some disembodied form when I'm gone.

2. "religious, mental, or emotional part of man's nature."

Forget religious, obviously. I do have a mentality of sorts, and I feel emotions. Does that make me spiritual?

Maybe "spiritual" is simply a catch-all term to refer to whatever is not crassly material in our nature. If you experience music so deeply that it sometimes makes you cry; if you feel love intensely; if you have a sense of being connected to the rest of life, that the dogs and cats and raccoons and skunks and beetles are your brothers and sisters (I've had that feeling, deeply, but only once or twice, and just for a moment)--does that make you spiritual?

I don't know. What do you think?

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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16-04-2013, 12:59 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
jfk696 & Ghost say it well. People are welcome in a "house of god" due to their shared belief in a common imaginary friend, and anti-theists are welcome in an atheists coffee shop for their shared views. But an atheist coffeeshop might have 10 people in it shootin the shit, which is cool, but is no more than a little clique of friends. Your bowling league is going to bowl, not donate to the local fire department, nor should any small group of friends feel obligated to do so. But there aren't any YMCA / Salvation Army-like organizations completely free of any religious ties. Why we won't see the end of religion in our lifetime is for that reason among others;....they are doing good for poor people, or sick people. But if an atheist organization were to do that, we wouldn't EVER force our beliefs on any beneficiary, or even say something ridiculous like, "well I couldn't be doing this without my freedom from religion", when asked why we do it. We'd just do it because it feels good to help people from time to time. After a long enough time people see they can do that good without having to thank god for it, then (even if "religion" itself doesn't die off) you run less risk of a lesbian being denied help because we have no holy book that says that shit is unexeptable! And if this organization, in doing good, causes people to leave the church of christ, and hang out at the house of reason, GOOD. Unfortunately Morondog said it best. I want to sign up as a member, not create/build the institution myself, or by myself!

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16-04-2013, 01:19 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
I don't know if I want to call it "spritual", Cufflink. But I get a bigger sense of beautiful grandeur when stairing into the nave of a cathedral than I do when hanging out at home, or sitting in an office lit with endless flourescent bulbs. The idea that this structure was engineered to elicit that very psychological reaction in people is probably not crazy. I just wish I could go into a place like this and find the guy behind the pulpit spouting physics, biology, mathmatics, and any number of factual information, accepting questions from those sitting in the pews, never answering with anything but truth, or "I don't know, how about we google it Wink ". I would actually hyperventilate in momentary delirium in which I might think, "holy shit, there is a god", then I'd faint. When I woke up (I'd have come back to my senses) I'd ask where the collection plate was, whereupon the guy in charge that day tells me, "the atheist organization for saving whales (etc, etc...) will be by in an hour if you'd like to help them, but we don't need anything here save your companionship Smile "

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16-04-2013, 04:03 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
Hey, Amy.

Well we won't know until it happens. That's the sucky thing about systems.

And while in principal I agree that people have to leave (or join) religion of their own free will, one can certainly force them out of their religion with death camps Sad

Hey, Cufflink.

From what I understand, spirituality has to do with a connection to what is essentially the non-literal. Many people cut themselves off from the non-literal. I think spiritual people are just trying to say that they don't believe in God X or religion Y, but they do have a spiritual side.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

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16-04-2013, 11:23 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
Death camps don't force someone out of their religion; they force them out of their life. And if you did that, you wouldn't have to ask if they needed an alternative to religion, since they'd be dead.

I don't agree about people joining of their own free will, though. If that was always so, there would be no need for childhood indoctrination. A lot of people are not given a choice.

Though as for not knowing until it happens, I think one also has to address the human tendency to believe wacky shit. People are not usually logical. People tend to be superstitious, and so on. And I wonder if that will ever totally go away, since cognitive errors are so common and tend to feed the superstitious thoughts and behaviors. On the other hand, there is a gradual trend toward being more reasonable due to advances in knowledge, but I guess I'm pessimistic. Maybe there's no real need to speculate about things to fill the space religion once occupied, if religion is always going to occupy that space. It's probably better to just think about "what can non-religious people do?"

@Gulegon: But there already are secular charities. I'd say the important thing is for them to grow and for more of them to be formed, and for them to have more visibility and respect.
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03-05-2013, 11:57 AM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
(02-04-2013 08:19 PM)TheGulegon Wrote:  In a Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet round table discussion, Sam Harris made the point that science doesn't really tackle, all too well, the "spiritual" aspects of the human experience. Now there's nothing about the concept that love, relief (etc...) is nothing more than a bunch of endorphines getting dumped in amongst our neurons that would cheapen the way I feel those emotions, but for some it would. First loves, first time a person is accepted by a large group of friendly people; there simply MUST be more to it than that for them. I'm an athiest, but even I think to take an awe inspiring, life changing moment and reduce it to a measured, clinical calculation takes something away from it. I don't know what that "it" is; just feels like somethings missing. That all being said, I guess I'm asking is there a way to meld the scientific, and the spiritual? If all the organized religions of the world were to disappear tommorrow, a new one would pop up the day after, and I doubt science could fill the void!

Inspiration is missing from the question. From a scientific point of view this approach to understanding the physical qualities of spiritualism can be called the mechanisic and/or referential approach to understand the very real feelings of awe and wonder. Actually religion plays a zero role in the determinations and the possible wonders of any human when that person is confronted with any physical phenomena that he/she is subjected to. Many things happen all at the same time but everything is tempered with the associative memory of the individual. Religion is the usual excuse for the event simply because the person being confronted with the event requires a simple and immediate reason or definition as an explanation without the necessity of having a comprehensive or complex set of values that mjust include the question of how.....not why. Fraqncis Collns is a good exsample of one who is confronted with the event of a trio of waterfalls suggesting the only approach to the why that he could muster together for an adequate explanation. It must be a sign of the trinity insead of the natural approach of some physical structure. What would he have thought of therewere four or two waterfalls next to each other as C. Hitchens imagined and espressed several times. Would Collins have even noticed? I doubt it but there is no doubt that all the elements were present in his brain and overall set of values to trigger his "accepting Jesus".
IOWs there is an explanation for inspiration and therefore spirituality but it lies only in the human brain's capacity to question. Lose that part of the brain to a drug, the surgeon's scalpel, an accident or some other physical interference and the spiritual quality can and will disappear.
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03-05-2013, 01:52 PM
RE: How can we Atheists provide an alternative?
Science is not an alternative to religion because it is not anything like religion. Christianity, for example, remains totally stationary regardless of any new evidence prevented contrary to its claims. In contrast, science is a method completely open to substantiated evidence provided by tediously scrutinized research. Religion is a claim, science is a method.

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