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Can I be an atheist and spiritual?

Firstly I would like to say thank you to rawgodsrantings for the kind words, it is always refreshing to hear from a fellow atheist with a different perspective. The email was on the topic of spirituality, a great coincidence as I just arrived home from Waterstones (our equivalent to Barnes and Noble) with these.

I was hoping for that striking cover of Waking Up with the very relaxed being in the clouds in front of a blue sky, I guess the content is more important. I decided to buy the book as I have only listened to the podcast for Waking Up and Sam Harris’ talks on it. I was going through an episode of anxiety and depression and it was comforting to know that there was a way out in the absence of religious belief, I came out of the dark period before actually buying the book. It is never too long before such a period rears its ugly head again, I am hoping to learn a lot from the book and I am sure it will inspire me for future posts.

I tend to drift away from using the word ‘spiritual’ as all too often my lack of belief comes into question.

‘Oh you say bless you after I sneeze, you must have Jesus in your heart to some extent?’

‘You say Oh my God?! You know there is a God, you are just denying it’

The above sentences are not uncommon for atheist ears, using the word ‘spiritual’ can give off mixed signals or send me into an unnecessary debate. Despite this, I do feel spiritual, maybe even more so than many theists. I do not feel detached from the universe, far from it. I guess the closest I have been in blog form to addressing this is in my post Has a star ever told you it loves you? in which I talk about our parents and loved ones going from stardust to complex lifeforms, capable of looking after us. From this perspective, the universe has a duty to look after us and as a result, I realise I am the universe trying to understand itself. I struggle to see how atheism prevents the possibility. Am I alone in thinking if there is a God, our nature doesn’t change so much? What if a species does in fact evolve to the point of immortality, how different could the Christian God be? Going back to Arthur C Clarke’s third law, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The universe doesn’t lose any magic because I do not believe in a God, I gain an increased amount of awe and wonder without the limitations of religion. The only down side I have so far is just how mind blowing the universe is when not limited to a poor interpretation by stone age communities. It can become very overwhelming.

Thankfully, the universe has been kind to me so far, to an extent. As it cannot hear me I devote this appreciate to the people around me.

I will leave this with a video I found whilst looking for some insight. It reflects my own perceptions quite well.


4 replies »

  1. My problem with “spirituality” is that there isn’t even a good definition of the word. People use it to mean all kinds of things, but if I try to get them to pin down what they mean by it, I’m rarely successful in getting anything useful. Often it’s tied up with the specific beliefs of a religion, or with new-age woo-woo belief in some kind of spirits or “vibrational energy” or other nonsense. And as long as people are using it like that, I’m not going to use the word at all.

    We need some new words.

    There’s the kind of focus on connecting with the workings of your own brain, the kind of stuff that I read from Sam Harris. I’d call that mindfulness, or introspection, not spirituality.

    But we need a new word for the kind of deep appreciation for the amazingness of the world as it is, and of our place in it. The emotion expressed in your linked video. And I haven’t found the right word yet, and we probably need a good wordsmith to coin a new one. One that doesn’t already have religious baggage attached to it. So that I can say “Some people say they are not religious but they are spiritual. Well, I’m not spiritual, but I am ______.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope that word surfaces soon! It is in this link that Sam Harris says something similar to what you have just said-

      I agree with why you don’t use it, as soon as we have a term I am comfortable with I am sure I will use it quite often.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The universe doesn’t lose any magic because I don’t believe in God, I gain an increased amount of awe and wonder without the limitations of religion.

    These lines man. It’s like the entire thing I’ve always tried to explain to theists. I look up at the sky, at the expanse of the Space and simply can’t imagine everything being there simply for my existence. It’s arrogant to presume everything happens for us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blog. It is great to read we have a similar outlook! The more we know about the universe, the less it seems to have us as a priority…


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