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Spiritual Atheism.

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Initial post: 9 Jan 2014 21:20:02 GMT
Heretic says:
At first glance this seems an absurd idea but there is one philosophical tradition that has practised this for 2500 years. This tradition has developed into many strands and has frequently enveloped the religion traditions it has come across.

Buddhism is a form that people find hard to define, is it a religion or a philosophy.

I find a lot in Buddhism that is useful to me as an individual. I have said elewhere that "any truth that cannot be lived (by me) might as well be a lie (to me)", well Buddhism makes many claims and I cannot say what is true or false about them but I can say this that of the bits of Buddhism that I can understand and the truths it teaches not only that they are true but it teaches you how to make them a productive part of your life.

The scientific community is looking at meditation and mindfullness as treatment for all sorts of physical ailments and I know that some of them are routinely used as treatments by the NHS. Why do they use it? Because it works.

My interest in Buddhism came from my practising Christian mystical methodoligies and the realisation that the mystical part of them did not require the Christian part and thereafter I was drawn to Buddhism, the philosophical part rather than the relgious.

There are ideas in buddhism that I think are wrong like re-incarnation but it is a philosophy that grew out of the fertile soil of Hinduism and it is not surprising it retained some bagage.

It is possible to be spiritual and an atheist without necessarily beleiving that the spirit or soul survives death.


Anyway that is a few random jotting that might prove interesting to bash around rather than some of the topics that are our staple diet.


In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 05:23:19 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jan 2014 04:52:16 GMT
light says:
Hi Heretic,

I agree, to me, living in a spiritual manner or having a spiritual mindset merely means to live according to a set of good standards which are contradictory to immoral standards.

Each religion has their own way of explaining what these standards and mindsets are. The NT says that evidence of the right spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control.

Buddhism has a path of right speech and action. It's all the same and if these standards are practiced in daily affairs it should bring some degree of inner peace and healing. I think it's impossible to have inner peace if a person lives with shame and guilt or has a bothered conscience over something they have done.

Belief in God is not necessary to obtain inner peace or the kingdom of god which is within.

thanks light

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 12:57:30 GMT
richard says:
i think to some of us this is a very important issue. some would like to propose that to not have a religious belief/affiliation is to be spiritually dead and this is i think a devious argument that can be used to try and devalue atheism. i suppose though that we do need to define spirituality as i think it can be used to refer to 'the Holy spirit' and so quite specifically to refer to the Holy spirit (Abrahamic religion) and to the presence of the Holy spirit and i would guess the Holy spirit entering a person or revealing itself to a person. this would be quire distinct from a more modern view of spirituality which could cover a number of beliefs and i am thinking specifically of things such as Wicca, meditation, yoga, healing crystals, karma, philosophies for living etc. personally i think being struck by the perceived beauty of something such as a sunset or panoramic view can be a spiritual experience where we might talk of being 'moved' or humbled.

i think Atheism can be defined as lack of belief in god (any god) and in a modern sense of the word quite separate from some concepts of spirituality where no god is required. i would however expect many religious folks to wish to use the concept of spirituality to refer to The Holy Spirit or god.

so i guess that an atheist may or may not be spiritual depending on how the term is being used!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 16:49:50 GMT
I think there is something in what richard says.

It is as if Christians have usurped the very notion of 'spirit.' Whereas, on the other hand, atheists and empiricists of all varieties have shied away from using the term so as not to seem to be endorsing unevidenced or dubious entities.

But the use of the terms 'spirit' and 'spirituality' need not be restricted to the postulation of a separable, and thus potentially immortal soul in a crude dualist sense, or the claim for the existence of a separate and personal deity.

In my own subject I found a remark by Emmanuel Levinas to be very apt to what philosophers are often up to:

'The concern to avoid the reification of the spirit, to give it a place of its own in being independent of the categories that are valid for things, animates all of modern philosophy from Descartes to Heidegger.' Existence and Existents 101-102

(Notice the very neutrality of the concept of 'the spirit' and 'being.')

We may be in genuine danger of throwing babies out with very stale bath-water.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 18:15:09 GMT
richard says:

the concept of spirituality and what exactly we mean by it is an interesting one. i wonder how much of it originated with ancestor veneration and a primitive belief in a spirit world along with the Shaman who could enter this world and converse with the spirits. the idea of unseen forces at work must have seemed plausible to them as in fact it still does today in various forms to many people.

i think you are spot on regarding people shying away from using the term because of the connotations that come with it.

i've not come across Emmanuel Levinas but i already like the guy!

and yes what a shame to risk throwing the baby out and missing out on part of the experience of life.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 19:32:37 GMT
The word 'spirit' derives from the word 'breath.'

Probably by association with the invisible principle of life (which may well be how 'breath' was understood), it became identified with such things as consciousness, life-force, motive, urge, desire etc.

But usually the further away from the obviously carnal: love rather than sex, food for thought rather than food to eat, things to look at and listen to rather than touch, art rather than craft, music rather than song and so on, the more spiritual it seemed.

The danger here is the idea of reifying a process into a thing or substance. It is this danger that makes materialists shy away from the notion of spirit.

richard 'the idea of unseen forces at work,' quite right richard. What are love, consciousness, desire etc. if not unseen forces?

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 20:10:57 GMT
richard says:
there comes a point in the history of our species where we know they are burying their dead and not only that but in some cases burying them under the floor of their home (cleaning and arranging the bones) and we start to see grave goods buried with them. we can only really speculate about the reasoning behind this but there certainly seems to be something going on, some reasoning. how curious death is that one moment a person is alive (animate/breathing) and then they are not! what has changed. life has left the body so where has it gone! it seems very reasonable to propose a spirit world where a 'person' or person's life force/spirit goes when their body dies. not the turning off of a switch but a transition/moving on. why would our ancestors not believe that when people and animals died their 'spirit' didn't continue in some other shape or form or realm.

as you say the term has become associated with a move away from the material to a different perspective and for many this perspective is perceived to be at odds with our scientific age and i can see the argument that a non religious spiritual belief is really no different to a religious one and all the relevant arguments atheists use to question the validity of religious spirituality (being non empirical/subjective) will come straight back at them. it may well be an argument worth having though!

Posted on 10 Jan 2014 22:14:20 GMT
Heretic says:
I find the idea that the 'religious' can somehow claim everything beautiful, awe inspiring, fantastic or terrible as evidence for what they believe. The truth is we all know these things are natural. It is understandable that we can try to see all of these thing as they relate to us. Some of these are on a scale we can relate to such as a tiny fire in a grate but the same thing on a bigger scale such as a forest fire could be the wrath of the fire god. Many things might be seen as terrible or miraculous a flood or lightening, a baby or a rainbow. The natural world on which we rely on for everything can throw many things at us that some us might not see in our entire lifetimes such as an eclipse or an aurora and we can understand the desire to attribute an unseen hand as being the cause.

The bible (King James Version) says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Well we as a species are no longer children and whereas we may not yet have what Professor Stephen Hawking describes as "a theory of everything" we are no longer a stone age wandering around a desert.

I see the spirit of something to be an attribute man hands to the non-physical aspect of things, including himself. So beauty, gentleness, magnificence and fear inspiring are attributes that could be described as part of the spirit of whatever they describe.

In this sense we have a spirit made up of our mind, our beauty or lack thereof (I had to get that in first), our capacity for gentleness or war, our imagination. But we are more than this because we are capable of caring deeply for each other, having compassion (even for strangers or another species).

The human animal frequently aspires to be much more than he needs to be, to reach for a kind of nobility, to create for himself a sense of purpose and a reason for being. We have constantly built for ourselves, one generation after another, a better if somewhat better world and if we can resolve for ourselves the problems we unknowingly created for ourselves such as the ozone layer (I'm told it is slowly getting smaller now) and global warming then we will do so well into the future.

Man is unique, at least on this planet, his spirit precedes him on a journey to the stars and he will one day follow those radio and TV signals he has sent before him.


In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 22:58:57 GMT
richard says:
i think the question of spirituality and we probably should stick to a pretty open concept of it rather than as purely the spirit of god, may well be one of our species defining qualities. maybe our desire for knowledge and what we can do with it that took us from a very primitive existence to building cities and going into space is part and parcel of what we broadly call spirituality. can we really separate our functional development as a species (building, irrigation, writing, making, calculating) from our more aesthetic/spiritual pursuits? archaeologists are starting to think that spiritual centers may well have preceded the development of larger settlements. our desire to develop our minds seem to have gone hand in hand with developing our other skills. our ancestors were figuring out how to work metal and build more impressive buildings along with better farming methods but they were also contemplating the meaning of life by creating religion as explanation for their experience. it is so easy to look out at this world and be awe struck by it and looking out into space is just a whole new level of awe! i wonder if there was ever a time when man regardless of what he was doing did not find time to think about questions such as 'why' and 'what might something mean'. the hunter/gatherers tens of thousands of years ago looking up at the night sky or seeing new lands for the first time, feeling compassion, love, fear and wonder. with a loose definition of spirituality is it not part of what defines our species. could we be all that we are if we did not have it.

Posted on 11 Jan 2014 12:52:53 GMT
Spin says:
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In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2014 13:14:08 GMT
Mrs. F. Shaw says:
Bleah! That's the problem with spirituality. Our thinking brains think we are much more important than we are. Instead of understanding our place in nature, society and the wider world, we want to be important to a GOD! A God who is benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent and omnipresent who chooses to do nothing.

Delusion is incredible. There isn't a tougher nut to crack in the human psyche.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2014 13:21:43 GMT
Spin says:
Mrs f: You do NOT understand your "place in nature". If placed in the wild you would not last a week without a mobile phone or a Tesco's...You are a product of the urban jungle you were brought up in. The nearest you get to "nature" is an Attenborough TV program or a trip to the zoo.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2014 13:37:05 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2014 13:44:35 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2014 20:48:57 GMT
Heretic says:
Sorry for the surprise 'spin' but that made sense and is probably not far from the truth. Let's see if you can build on it?


In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 06:11:04 GMT
Dear Ma.

How do we know if we are 'deluded'?

Please explain why one persons "map" of reality is okay, and another's is delusional. What is the difference?

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 11:23:48 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jan 2014 18:52:45 GMT
The delusional persons "map of reality" won't match, or will directly contradict the evidence. If someone claims they're Napoleon we usually medicate them and lock them up, if they claim that 2000 years ago a carpenter was a superhuman deity, but also the son of that deity, and was conceived by a ghost, which is also the deity, and that they were in fact one and the same, and that belief in this was a monotheism we are urged to respect it. It's clear that humans find delusions comforting we all do this to a greater or lesser degree. I delude myself that I am never a grumpy old b*****d, luckily my wife is on hand to put me straight, and keep me in touch with reality.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 11:32:21 GMT
Mrs. F. Shaw says:
Reality is the difference, Gomer. Subjective experience may be 'real' to some people but that doesn't mean it is. The sciences can explain how the brain perceives and interprets events. So if there is a logical, rational, reasonable and evidenced explanation for such things why would anybody continue to believe that magic is the cause of anything? If it makes you feel better to believe that magic is the answer for you, fine. But is it real, is it true and how can you know for sure? If you don't have a reasonable answer to that question then you are deluding yourself.

I've told you before, I'm not your mom. Don't you have a mom? In any case, I have my own kids and don't need any more. Mrs F will do. Thanks :)

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 11:55:02 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jan 2014 15:55:22 GMT
Drew Jones says:
You shouldn't have to be told that all maps are not equal. We test 'maps' by making predictions then interacting with the world to see whether that expectation was fedback or the map needs a rethink. If you are deluded your map will constantly take too long getting you places, leave you stranded or telling everyone else they are in the wrong place.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 15:24:21 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 15:26:24 GMT
Dear Ma.

You need to enter the reality of reality...yes, a true Meta state. Nothing is real, nor true...however you will cling to your belief system.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 15:33:41 GMT
Mrs. F. Shaw says:
There's a difference between clinging to a belief system for no apparent reason and making an intellectual conclusion based on solid evidence. I think you don't understand this difference.

Reality is not difficult unless your delusional thinking requires it. Which I'm guessing yours does.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 15:36:45 GMT
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits

- Albert Einstein

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 16:33:58 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 16:42:16 GMT
Mrs. F. Shaw says:
How do you know I don't, Gomer?
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Discussion in:  religion discussion forum
Participants:  20
Total posts:  192
Initial post:  9 Jan 2014
Latest post:  13 Feb 2014

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