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Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy Paperback – 29 Jun 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 97 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books; Reprint edition (29 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846947022
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846947025
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 0.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 584,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I teach at the University of Gloucestershire, and am interested in Buddhist Studies, but also in a wide range of topics...

I have written about Buddhism, Death in religious contexts, Blues music and Contemporary Spirituality.

I blog at dispirited.org

Product Description

Review

Refusing all inwardness and consolation, David Webster faces down spirituality's guile in favour of a bleak atheism's hints of a worthwhile life. Bracing, timely stuff! --(Peter Manley Scott, University of Manchester, UK)

Annoyed by the phrase 'I am not religious, but I'm very spiritual', Dr. David Webster successfully maps out the problems and contradictions it leads to. This is as close to a 'must read' as it gets, for the religious as well as the spiritual reader, as well as for atheists. --(Dr. Mikael Askander, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden)

Should be placed gently but firmly in the hands of any budding convert who thinks that the vacuous claims of a new spirituality are any better than the lies, evasions and hypocrisies of orthodox religion. --(Professor Christopher Norris, Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy, Cardiff University)

About the Author

Dr David Webster is Principal Lecturer in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Gloucestershire. His main work is in Buddhist thought, and its relationship to Western Philosophy.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By P. A. Jourdan on 14 Jun 2012
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Webster's book starts out slightly facetious, which I know has turned some readers off, but it manages very quickly to demonstrate the necessity for an intervention into the world of Mind-Body-Spirit writing. The spirituality movement is often considered harmless if kind of kooky. Webster is fair, I think, in separating out the merely vapid from the intellectually dishonest and dangerous.

Some of spiritualism's claims are easy to dismiss (correctly, I find) as trivial. Webster prefers to focus on the problems that come with being totally inclusive, even at the cost of serious philosophical/ethical contradictions. He attacks the idea of a "feminine essence" which pleases so many alternative healers and gurus, and exposes it for the regressive cliche that it is. Treading slightly more familiar territory but from a philosophical (not scientific) perspective, Webster shows how incredibly tenuous and meaningless the link really is between the scientific method (and literature) and the spiritualism movement. There are also considerations of what, exactly, "spirit" even means. Is it just a metaphor, or do fans of New Age have a particular meaning in mind?

In what I am certain will be one of the book's most misunderstood and misinterpreted passages, Webster writes of the challenge of dealing with the contradictions in a "conventional" religion like Christianity:

"In conventional religion, once you accept its fundamental tenets, you are challenged in two primary ways. Firstly, there may be beliefs, or doctrinal notions, that you find hard to believe. You cannot abandon them though, and have to enter into a reflective, thoughtful, possibly hermeneutic process to try and make sense of them. This is intellectually and personally demanding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Forde on 6 Jan 2013
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There is nothing in this work that should be seen as representing a challenge to the personal integrity of those who have a professed affinity for ideas commonly labelled as New Age/Contemporary Spirituality/Mind, Body and Spirit (MBS) thinking, and who choose to live their lives in ways that align with them; it is, nevertheless, a trenchant critique of these ideas, and their political and social implications when adopted as social practice, written from an atheistic existentialist perspective.

Any summary of New Age/Contemporary Spirituality/MBS thinking will not do complete justice to it; no summary of anything ever does. In its essentials, though, one is likely to find what Nevil Drury, in his book "The New Age: Searching for the Spiritual Self", describes as follows: "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics...(it is) a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas." Thus it offers an approach for exploring and adopting spiritual beliefs that appeals to some people because of its inclusive, pluralistic, non-dogmatic, and `non-religious' characteristics, and engenders disdain from others for appearing to be a spiritual `catch all' that lacks philosophical and theological coherence.

Webster's critique of these ideas and their application is multifaceted, but the following are the three main concerns he identifies as central to his polemic: " the impact of spirituality" (as defined by the New Age/Contemporary Spirituality/MBS movement) "on critical intellectual thinking, on our sense of the social and political, and the impact on the human potential for happiness and fulfilment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By irskine riddle on 24 Feb 2014
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I ordered this because I know the author. It is heavy going but if you persist it is intriguing .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jason on 29 Dec 2013
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I loved every second of this read, it expressed my own views in an articulate and logical way, and is a much needed critique of the modern ideology of "spiritual". Bravo.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H on 16 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
If contemporary spirituality is something you have not given much thought - this is the perfect starting place.

Webster's accessible and witty style will draw you in from start to finish, and leave you wanting more! Although not explicitly referred to, perhaps the main statement to take away for the opposite camp is this - "Keep an open mind - but not so open that your brain falls out."

In chapter four (my favourite) he deals with the inevitable death we all must face. Drawing from wide a range of sources from Socrates to The Seventh Seal, Webster invokes a simple, yet powerful, message to his readers - the meaning of our lives will not be found "...in the realm of the spirit, not in the heavens, or post death worlds, but here and now - with other people..."

While Dispirited is not without its controversies, I do, nevertheless, appreciate the concerns Webster raises in the book as they are ones I share i.e. spiritual solipsism, little buddha statues on mantelpieces, lack of socio-political engagement and so forth.

I think anyone who reads Dispirited (even the "Spiritual, but not Religious" person) will take something away from it. For this reason alone, this book deserves to be widely read!
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