10 March 2023


This week, Atheist Revolution blog put up a post titled "Atheists, could secular spirituality help us bridge our divides?"  Please do read it to see for yourself what it says rather than just relying on my response to it, but in brief, it argues that "spirituality" can serve as a common ground between at least some atheists and the religious, and that there is no inherent contradiction between being an atheist and being spiritual.

The post ends, "If spirituality is not relevant in your daily life, that's fine too.  Steer clear of it while remembering that many others do value it.  Resist the temptations to rain on their parade."  Out of respect for this admonition, I refrained from commenting on the post.  However, I do feel that the following needs to be said.

If an octopus tries to grab me with one tentacle and I resist and move away, what I am rejecting is the aggression of the octopus, not just that one tentacle.  I will not respond differently if it reaches for me with a different tentacle.  And the nature of a thing does not change merely because we use a different word to refer to it.

I grew up without religion, I have never believed in it, and I have never seen any value in it, regarding it instead as being a delusion and almost entirely malignant.  It is that delusion, that malignancy, that I reject and avoid, not the word "religion".  You can call it religion, spirituality, mysticism, superstition, or anything else -- I want no part of it.  To the extent that those words refer to different things at all, they are merely different tentacles of the same octopus of delusion.

(As to finding common ground between atheists and religious people, that is indeed possible via more surface routes such as cooperation on shared political or social goals, but religion and non-religion are simply irreconcilable world-views.)

I concur with Atheist Revolution's view that "It is okay that others aren't like you in every way..... You get to decide what is right for you, and so do they."  That's freedom of choice.  I'm well aware that some people who have disentangled themselves from the "religion" tentacle still willingly wind the "spirituality" tentacle around themselves.  It's a decision they're entitled to make, but it looks like a very odd one to me.

For me, only the freedom of unobscured reality will do.


Blogger Jimmy T said...

Well, I grew up steeped in conservative religious practices, and didn't know much about the real world for a long time. After serving a couple of years in the marines, I decided to put myself through college as a science major. That was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I never looked back favorably to my childhood years. I've found more answers to relevant questions after having done so. Of course the parental unit was appalled, but the journey had already begun. So the truth won out over superstition. Such is life...

10 March, 2023 07:12  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Very interesting subject. I had to look up the definition of "secular spirituality," because it seemed to me to be an oxymoron.

Here's what I found: "Secular spirituality is the adherence to a spiritual philosophy without adherence to a religion. Secular spirituality emphasizes the personal growth and inner peace of the individual, rather than a relationship with the divine."

I guess that is as good a definition as I understand it.

My "secular spirituality" consists of being out in the country (I almost wrote "natural world," but a scientist once told me that cities are also the "natural world," since human beings, who are of the "natural world," built them.

Getting out of the city and into a rural setting with more trees, open fields, mountains, streams, or being near the sea, etc., fills my need for this thing call "spirituality." Being among these land and seascapes is satisfying and refreshing to my well-being and inner peace. (Staying off the internet and not listening to news does that as well.) I don't attach any divine being to the sense of peace and joy I feel when I'm in any of those places. I just calmly appreciate the fact that I am well enough and aware enough to take joy in them.

That's about as "spiritual" (or whatever one wants to call it) as I get.

10 March, 2023 09:08  
Blogger Mary said...

I agree completely with your view. I see the tentacles even among some physicists, in the cosmic consciousness or the universal mind concepts…it’s still a tentacle.

10 March, 2023 16:52  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jimmy T: A good understanding of science is a mental vaccine against a great many kinds of nonsense.

Shaw: It seems like an oxymoron to me too. I think what's going on is that people realize religion is baloney but they don't want the stigma that comes with completely abandoning it for rationalism, so they opt for formulations like "spiritual but not religious", and everyone agrees to pretend not to notice that that doesn't mean anything.

I don't see aesthetic appreciation, or the sense of peace that come with avoiding annoying stimulation, as being "spiritual". Those things are just products of evolution like everything else, and they don't require belief in anything supernatural. They're not even uniquely human; chimpanzees have been observed climbing hills just to sit and watch sunsets.

Mary: Bad habits are hard to break, even for the most intelligent. I suspect you'd find that scientists are at least less inclined to such stuff than the general population is, just as they're less religious.

10 March, 2023 18:32  
Blogger NW MAN said...

I am very happy having never believed in any god or spirituality. I enjoy life and the people I keep around me. I don't think people are truly happy if their happiness depends upon their continued allegiance to the rules of a religion or the constraints of spirituality.

11 March, 2023 05:08  
Anonymous rick shapiro said...

Spot on. However, the feeling of exaltation that occurs on perceiving a grand vista or a magnificent theorem proof is definitely pleasurable. It's unfortunate that that feeling is so often co-opted by memes like spirituality or religion.

11 March, 2023 09:45  
Anonymous spirilis said...

You stated something about Artificial Intelligence the other day but I didn't have time to dissect it. It must be very difficult to understand something when all you can possibly know is it on or is it off. The Nothing you revere will always and everywhere be unknown to any intelligence, artificial, humane or Betelgeuse. Religion is a construct of Human minds It has nothing (whatever that is) to do with God, the Holy Sprit nor a man named Mohmmad or Jesus, who had the ridiculous belief that humanity might be better served by kindness and love than sword drawn blood. I find it inspiring that after 2000 yrs of failure they still believe. Satan split from his creator over the dispute which keeps them occupied I guess.
A humane is an AI. How will you ever find gold if you can't tell it from pyrite, Chalcopyrite or mica? Do you not see that it might be possible the death is how one travels space? That instead of heaven you get to a planetoid around Betelgeuse? How is it that you see infinity as Zero? If we ARE intelligent what is it's value? 100 years out of infinity, pretty poor assed gift!
Also , Do you really think beauty is for H. sapiens and incidental to dogs and chimpanzees?

11 March, 2023 10:51  
Blogger Jack said...

I've had a similar reaction to the one you describe for some time, rejecting both religion and spirituality. I've recently started thinking about secular spirituality as being quite different from religion. There is overlap in the sense that most religious traditions incorporate some aspects of spirituality, but they tend to dress it up in a bunch of unnecessary supernatural constructs.

I'm still not convinced that there is value in secular spirituality, but I'd like to explore it a bit.

11 March, 2023 13:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

NW Man: That's the best way. A "continued allegiance to the rules of a religion or the constraints of spirituality" means bowing down to a figment of somebody else's imagination.

Rick S: Yes, many things are pleasurable, without having anything to do with spirituality or mysticism or whatever one calls it.

Spirilis: Sorry, but I don't understand anything you said there, and I don't believe you understood it either.

Jack: Well, best of luck with it. I look forward to a further post from you if you conclude that there is anything worthwhile there. In the meantime, I see no sign that there is.

11 March, 2023 14:17  
Blogger Daal said...

I admit I have my moments of 'why not?' spirituality & don't begrudge others the same. still, it's hard not to feel nervous around religious people, especially christians. always wary that they're biding their time to rack up points to heaven if they convert me. christian or otherwise, I wonder how much thinking they do for themselves, particularly when it comes to voting...

12 March, 2023 16:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Unfortunately, religions work rather like parasitic diseases -- the ones which are best at programming infected people to spread them to other people are the ones which become most widespread.

Dogma if any kind discourages thinking for oneself. You're supposed to just accept the answers provided.

13 March, 2023 05:54  

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