'One ongoing trend in the workplace is to provide spiritual retreats and workshops to its employees—from the mailroom to the office of the CEO. The hope of many is that when a person explores his spiritual side and experiences various forms of enlightenment, everyone benefits. Relationships become stronger, ideas emerge more freely, productivity increases, and the overall ethic in the business improves'
I don't know if they mean "spiritual" in the religious sense. I think "spiritual" is one of those loaded words because it can mean many different things. People have called the team building ropes course a "spiritual experience" but it isn't a religious event.
I think any event that doesn't have a religious component is an atheist event.
I also see the term "spiritual" as a loaded word, since its meaning is so vague, and usually undefined.
For a while, I was attending a men's group, and one evening mentioned that it would be intersting to explore the possibilities of an atheist spirituality, just as one of those comments meant to open up a dialogue. The immediate reaction, from one, a New Age woolly-headed type, was "how can you have spirituality without a religion?" Can we have spirituality without a religion?
Dr. Peter, I like the idea of a secular retreat, I wonder how hard it would be to put something like that together. I mean I love the idea of a TED conference, but that's a serious investment .
Having been to religious and spiritual retreats I can say this for sure. The basic premise of a retreat is rest, relaxation, inspiration, developing a sense of unity, community and most important FUN. I don't see where religion would enhance any of that, indeed religion takes away from the retreat atmosphere at times, which I experienced first hand and made me decide to become Atheist.
I still enjoy Buddhism as a philosophy, non-violence, the interdependent nature of reality, etc... I enjoy the meditation practice, I enjoy the peaceful community. It's not a religion for me, so I'm going on a meditation retreat at a Buddhist temple in mid Sept.
Maybe some folks here have the resources and with the right help and backing something could be put together, maybe get a few speakers. Invite people to conduct work shops, yadda-yadda. Seems like a nitch market, and something worth looking into.
Even if it's just reserving a camp and having a wilderness retreat. I've been seriously planning on going to the rainbow gathering, and if the Shambala festival wasn't so far away I'd think about going to that.
I note the importance of the definition of 'spiritual', and amongst others it may be - a celebration of ecclesiastical views that contain the worship/mysticism/superstitions of the incorporeal, or an esoteric experience that concentrates on the intangible/cerebral elements.
I'd like to know if there is data out there which shows the degree that employers will fund the spiritual retreat when it's objectives are defined by the ecclesiologists/theologists as opposed to the willingness to support the secular retreat.
Does the church picnic hold the same weight in value as an Atheist's picnic?
I'm retired; throughout my business life (or at least the last half of it - roughly the '80's and '90's) my partners and co-workers knew of my atheism and my growing interest in Buddhism. Even though my major partner was a devout Christian, it never interfered with our business dealings. We are still good friends, and our lunch discussions every month or so have helped each of us grow in tolerance and understanding; certainly Dale is much more likely to define his Christian beliefs in terms that might apply equally well to Buddhist ethics, and I have learned how to question a Christian in ways that expose the essential ethical foundations of his or her faith. And I see ethics as essentially secular and humane values.
Wrt a "secular retreat": sounds like a business strategy meeting to me. No particular ritual, reality based, task focussed, and fundamentally rational. At the height of our agency's growth, we had a couple of weekend retreats - the seven partners rented a couple of houseboats on Lake Cumberland and took our spouses down for a little bonding and some unformatted discussion about the way we wanted the business to go. It was pretty uncomfortable, but we did get to know one another better. No religion at all, except in some personal exchanges. Again that might have been because they all knew that Joan and I are lifelong atheists and I was a little too major a cog in the company's machinery to offend, but I think it was mainly because they were decent people, who understood instinctively the boundary between having a belief system and possibly sharing with another what that meant to them personally, and pressing others to accept the same beliefs. No proselytizing would have been tolerated.
The whole thing might have been very different had I not been "out" as an atheist. That, to me, is the most important thing about the modern atheist revolution; there are still fundamentalist Christians who will bridle at atheism and refuse to open themselves to a new understanding. But if you're really good at what you do, so good that you'd be hard to replace or do without, and if you are calm and rational when you talk about your atheism and reject proselytizing as a tactic, and if you make a sincere effort to understand the motives of Christians, preserve some empathy for the pain that leads them to cling to such an absurd belief system, and find the common ground you share as caring human beings, then you can work together comfortably and even enjoy one another's company.
When the discussion turns to belief, and people want to know what I believe, I identify myself as an atheist; when it's a matter of what religion I practice, I'm perfectly comfortable identifying as a Buddhist.
A somewhat rambling response to the many interesting issues raised in this thread.
I don't think I'd have a problem with a spiritual retreat, as long as my company is footing the bill and its not Christian based. I kind of like those hokey retreats where you go out to the mountains and have some Native American talk to you about spiritual journey or something cliche like that. It's not like I'm expecting to see something, but I like these things b/c before I was an English major I was a Cultural Anthropology major... So we took some time learning about tribal and world religions, I thought the subject was fascinating. But I know its not everybody's cup of tea. It's just fun.
Hell I'm still up for drinking wine with my girlfriends and reading tarot cards like we did in middle school. It's fun and we get to joke around about the "results."
A lot of people have mentioned how vague the word "spiritual" is, I agree. Everyone has a different meaning for that word... I usually define it as something that is an overwhelming emotional experience. I think my company would just have a retreat at a nice bar and get drunk together... its a great team building exercise. ;)