More Thoughts on Spirituality

Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Thoughts | 1 comment

The topic of secular and atheistic spirituality has brought up a ton of questions, so I thought I pursue those here. See my other thoughts first to see the topics I covered there, at “An Atheist and Spirituality” and “If not spirituality, then what?“. These comments have come from Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon and also comments here on my blog. Let’s see if I can answer the queries here.

The first is two messages from “vicflux” via StumbleUpon in response to the post “If not spirituality, then what?“:

“martin
as you think, therefore you are.
spirituality requires no evidence as it is the essence of all things…it precludes measurement and containment in thought form.
thanks for thinking :)”

“not meaning to spam your inbox, i just wanted to add something. religious people are often lampooned for what they call knowing.
i have left religion behind long ago, but i must say that their is an innate knowledge within each of us. you need no proof that you are, only the mind asks for proof. the being knows itself.
shakespeare had a good point when he stated “to be or not to be” regardless of what the rest of the story was (i never read it) being and knowing is a choice i say.
*thanks for your patience :)

Okay I see where you are coming from here. From your first comment, this like is the most interesting;

“spirituality requires no evidence as it is the essence of all things…it precludes measurement and containment in thought form.”

Sorry but I couldn’t disagree more. My whole point is that whatever it is we call “spirituality”, if it exists at all, does so inside the thinking brain, and therefore should be measurable, explainable and provable. There is no evidence for anything that can “preclude measurement and containment in thought form”, and this kind of woo-talk is how people explain the apparent existence of god. No, this will never do, my quest is not to add more fog to the discourse, but to show that all things being natural, we should be able to find this “spirituality” we sometimes experience somewhere within the brain and its activity.

Your idea is that there is a spiritual part of humanity that is there regardless, that it’s present in all of us, as you call it “an innate knowledge”. Firstly, there are many things that reside within each of is, such as instinct. Instinct is powerful, each instinct is an evolutionary advantage over those who did not have it. We don’t have to think to know we need to breathe or eat or copulate, but we do think about how we breathe, what we eat and who we copulate with. Could it not be possible that this “knowledge” is simply the awareness of the surrounding world that has been misidentified as “spiritual”? We all make brain mistakes, and this one, because its very definition is varied, could be the hardest mistake to shake off. Secondly, what is this “knowing” actually knowledge of? If it’s knowledge of God, then I discount this, as I see no reason to think that God exists. If it is knowledge of afterlife, then show me the proof of this afterlife and how people know, and I may consider it. My point is this; people often mistake the thoughts they have as “knowledge” when there is little or no evidence to suggest otherwise, but when new evidence is added the people who are hardest to convince are those who think they already “know”. People are not very good at criticising their own knowledge, so often we can end up being wrong and not realising it. Thanks for taking the timer to comment.

The second question comes from a Facebook user who added this to a posting on in response to the post “If not spirituality, then what?“:

“Um… where does mindfulness meditation come into all this? Yes, I agree with all the points in the article, but… I still like my mindfulness meditation! Isn’t that “an atheist and spirituality”? :-)”

Well, meditation is a great tool to help alleviate stress and to help a person feel calm and focused. There has been a lot of study into the advantages of meditation, and I am convinced that it is a way to help slow down the brain and clear away the cobwebs of the lifestyles we lead. And i can see the advantage to the practice some form of meditation or other, especially the pressures we place our minds and bodies under on a daily basis. But my problem is (and this is the main reason I have been thinking about this topic) is the term “spiritual”. I say that meditation takes place all inside the brain, that any sensations you feel, or any slowing of the heart-rate, or particular focus you sense, all take place inside the brain, and that meditation is simply a technique you can learn to help control these things better. Maybe you can see why I’m searching for a better term than “spirituality”.

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1 Comment

  1. There are very few “spiritual” experiences that cannot be explained by science. I like to ask Christians if they can imagine a friend or relative who died. Can they talk to them in their mind, feel emotions, and hear responses from their dead friend or relative? Can you imagine the same with some imaginary friend like Pinocchio? What is the difference between these imaginary experiences and talking to an imaginary Jesus? I used to talk to Jesus and I cannot tell the difference between my imaginary friend and Jesus. The reason is that there is no Jesus. He is just an imaginary friend.

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