Many people nowadays claim a spirituality, but do not claim religious affiliation. I reject the idea of a spirit, as much as I reject the idea of religion, or of any supreme deity. However, this has me thinking about what one means by spirituality. In most peoples minds, I imagine, the two are almost synonymous. Spirituality=Creator.
But let me posit another idea. Contemplation of wonder. The poetry of reality. Awed, by the very nature of existence. My existence. Could this be classified as a form of 'spirituality'?
When I think about the cosmos, I realize just how insignificant I am. That my existence means nothing, less than nothing. I am just a byproduct, if you will, of the universe. Nothing more, nothing less.
However, all the forces and energy that started this cosmos, the early star formations that cooked heavier elements and gave them up to the universe in supernova explosions are inside ME. Yes, I am just in the universe, but the universe is also inside me. It is an integral part of me, you, dogs, snails, boulders. It makes me feel expansive, large, connected, bigger than I am. I feel significant, not insignificant.
I stand in awe of rainbows, butterflies, babies, evolution, spacecraft, astronomy, Shakespeare, Steely Dan, and myriad other things. I can explain the why of a rainbow, for example (and it isn't a promise made to never do it again by an angry god), but that only heightens my understanding of it scientifically. The wonder, the awe, the reality only deepens. I look on and say 'Wow, beautiful'.
I can think of many more examples, but I think you get the point. Whether one calls it spirituality or knowledge, I think it is inherent within us to look around and feel inspired. Not by delusion, like religion, but by reality. It bridges our emotional side and our rational side. To not only think, but feel. It is the greatest wonder of all.
As a kid, the social aspect of church was really great. Fabulous food at pot-luck dinners, Christmas craft workshop to make ornaments and decorations, the yearly rummage sale (which was almost legendary in the neighborhood), outings with the youth group, music programs, bowling outings, christmas caroling, the annual summer picnic with lots of fun games, and the refreshment table every Sunday after the service. We were a VERY social and active church, always gathering to do something fun. It was a relatively small congregational church with some of the friendliest and upstanding people.
As a kid I never questioned the presence of god, but at the same time I never felt his presence. The 'churchy' spiritual side never really kicked into full gear for me.
Post-church, I think any reasonable adult has the capability to seek out and provide their own social network for activities in a secular setting. I do understand that some people need a type of social structure that churches provide, but personally I think that is ultimately just a self esteem issue.
The price was being a conformist sheep
I heard some Christians years ago, talking about how new Christians had to be trained, how they came to Christian groups with their own ideas and they were instructed to stop thinking for themselves and accept the group's way of thinking. That sounded so fascist!
the good parts of religion could be accomplished without religion, and without the high cost.
For that, social justice on a global scale is crucial. There are many people in other countries who live in circumstances that we in the West, even the most underprivileged, would never have to tolerate. Religion helps those people feel OK.
the good parts of religion could be accomplished without religion
We haven't proved that - like if we took care of our homeless people who often are the subject of such scorn - outside the context of religion.
Actually, a lot of the homelessness problem comes from the war on drugs, from the punitive attitude towards drug use - which may be religiously influenced.
Some religions may do enough good to be worthy of mention, such as the Flying Atheist's. At least if they don't preach burning in hell forever. However, even then, teaching people to believe in the supernatural instead of what science has shown to be real is to my mind a great disservice, and has held society back to a large extent.
I do remember one other thing that I enjoyed about mormonism. I love music and singing, and very much enjoyed that aspect of it. They taught me some about music, and gave me the opportunity to sing in the choir, in small groups, and even an A cappella solo. Nice.
However, the price was way too high. The lyrics kept me in the brainwashed state longer than I otherwise would have been. Kept me fighting the truth. The truth about evolution and the story of the universe. Then, just being in church and listening to the doctrines being preached kept me fearful of never being good enough, fearful of satan, guilt-ridden, and sexually dysfunctional.
teaching people to believe in the supernatural instead of what science has shown to be real is to my mind a great disservice
That's a kind of faith, though - that individuals and society are better off without delusion. It's completely non-obvious that this idealistic idea is true for humans, who are the product of a long bumpy chance-filled process of evolution, with very emotional and social thinking.
I posted a discussion a faith related to atheism a long time ago, which goes into some of those issues.
Religion evolved, after all - because it was useful. Almost all societies have religions.
Possibly we can change our human environment so that religion is no longer useful. In a society where people have rights, and where people are better off materially, religion might not be so useful. Some affluent European countries don't have much religion and people seem to do fine that way.
I recall many of my friends, when we were all around 8 to 12 years old, that were a constant state of angst because of some biblical craziness they heard at church - Sunday school "teacher" [ "She's a simple, warm Christian lady" ] or from their parents. The whole process nurtures the concept of SIN - the internal censor - that darkness that GOD sees in your soul - SIN was the path to HELL and eternal suffering. Therefore, one avoided SIN out of fear and felt compelled to SAVE others from their SINS.
I agree with your secular take on spirituality, Tony, excepting that you leave out human beings special role as the universe knowing itself.
It bridges our emotional side and our rational side. To not only think, but feel.
That sums it up in a beautiful way. Thanks Tony.
Tony, you write so clearly and concretely in ways that echo through me. I can think of nothing to add, only to amplify what you write. This sense of wonder, of being so small and so privileged to participate in this magnificent universe makes me determined to live my life fully. We are not created to obey some constructed god, but to participate in life.
My five dimensions (oh! oh! another construct), are that I am, I participate, I am part of communities, I think, and I return to the stuff of stars. How could I ask for more?
Spud, loss of community was the hardest part for me, too. It didn't take too long to discover I could create a new community, based on honesty, integrity of cognitive thinking, of thinking and re-thinking ideas of what was real and what was not. As so many others, I had to give up family if I wanted to be healthy. For a time I thought that was too high a price to pay, and I did a lot of waffling. I finally had to burn my bridges behind me and seek what made more sense and worked for me.
The odd part of this whole process, many of my family did come to respect me and my decision, even as they did not share my atheism. Several times, my christian family members who feel depressed and anxious and angry come to me to sort out their pain. I have no idea of they have been able to unbind their minds, I only have anecdotal evidence that they, each one of them, question more.
It's interesting that your family comes to you when they're in pain. They must recognize your emotional and thoughtful competence despite their theistic brainwashing.
I Googled the word "Spiritual" and looked for images. This one image appeared and reveals the reasons I can refute religious definition of spiritual.
I have a construct that fits me better and works as I explore questions that occur to me. My computer no longer allows me to format my document so I will show you this way:
Being: I am a participant in this vast universe.
Doing: I do those things necessary to maintain my life, and support the Earth.
Belonging: I belong to a family, community, species, as part of the networks of the universe.
Thinking: I think, critically, to solve problems and imagine possibilities.
Transcending: I came from star dust and will return.
There is nothing in this concepts that keeps my mind bound to old dogma. I have dominion over no one or any thing. It frees me to be, do, belong, think and transcend according to my internal lights.