Atheist Spirtuality?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Magical Realist, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Is it possible? Does the "spiritual" or the "transcendental" have any business in the godless universe of the atheist? What would such a spirtuality consist of? Is spirtuality necessarily linked to the idea of spirits or the supernatural? Here's a brief article by uber atheist Sam Harris:

    In Defense of "Spirituality"

    "In writing my next book, I will have to confront the animosity that many people feel for the term “spiritual.” Whenever I use the word—as in referring to meditation as a “spiritual practice”—I inevitably hear from fellow skeptics and atheists who think that I have committed a grievous error. The word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, which in turn is a translation of the Greek pneuma, meaning “breath.” Around the 13th century, the term became bound up with notions of immaterial souls, supernatural beings, ghosts, etc. It acquired other connotations as well—we speak of the spirit of a thing as its most essential principle, or of certain volatile substances and liquors as spirits. Nevertheless, many atheists now consider “spiritual” thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition. I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens—no enemy of the lexicographer—didn’t share them either. Hitch believed that “spiritual” was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years. It is true that Hitch didn’t think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him—without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms “numinous” and “transcendent” to mark occasions of great beauty or significance—and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I’m sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well. We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense. Of course, “spiritual” and its cognates have some unfortunate associations unrelated to their etymology—and I will do my best to cut those ties as well. But there seems to be no other term (apart from the even more problematic “mystical” or the more restrictive “contemplative”) with which to discuss the deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness—through meditation, psychedelics, or other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. And I find neologisms pretentious and annoying. Hence, I appear to have no choice: “Spiritual” it is." - See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/a-plea-for-spirituality#sthash.pm8Yydye.dpuf

    “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

    ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

    "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men."--- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born U.S. theoretical physicist. Quoted in: Philipp Frank, Einstein: His Life and Times, ch. 12, sct. 5 (1947).



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    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
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  3. Balerion Banned Banned

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    I was about to say, "But the theists will misunderstand and use it against you!" Then I realized it doesn't matter what ignorant theists think. Why should anyone care what the intellectually-bankrupt think?

    I'm all for taking the word back. Good luck to you, Sam.
     
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    After reading so many theists' posts lately, I'm aware of how they could use this as an excuse for their God belief. Which is all they're really looking for anyway. Western theism has so monopolized spirituality for the past 2500 years its almost impossible for us to think it without a God. But Buddhism and Taoism offer viable alternatives I think. It's an interesting concept in any case and might help some here with some conceptual distinctions.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2013
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  7. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    How people define spirituality is their business. Just don't try to define it for me.
    That's the problem I have with these discussions. People on all sides telling each other what to believe.

    Live and let live...

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  8. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    I'm sorry wegs, I think you've gotten caught in the crossfire of a religious-atheist war. Just keep your head down and crawl to safety.

    On second thought, maybe atheists are not the problem. Maybe, more specifically, it's nihilists. What do you think?
     

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