Hey there Nexians!

I blog over at www.ziztur.com, and will be reposting some of my blog posts here and writing some new ones. Enjoy!

I can imagine that everyone reading this blog is aware of the fact that I am an atheist. You might be wondering what an atheist has to say about spirituality, or how an atheist defines spirituality. You might be wondering if I am going to ride in on my atheist high-horse. So before I actually begin talking about the subject of spirituality, I will quell your curiosity. Yes, I have a lot to say about the subject of spirituality, and yes, I am going to ride in on my atheist high-horse.

Spirituality can be defined in many ways, but I will define it here as health-care research literature has done so as: a personal search for transcendent understanding (Yuen, 2007), where transcendent means beyond the world, beyond human understanding, or beyond the self. It is the search and understanding of and for meaning and purpose in ones life through relationships with entities outside the self (McColl 2000), and the search for meaning and purpose of the individual. Most people (85% of Americans) also include transcendent understanding of a supreme being or a higher power in their definition of spirituality. I understand that spirituality in this context is important to most people. To them, belief in a higher power is absolutely essential to seeing the world as a place of purpose and meaning. Disbelief or denial of such a higher power is tantamount to insanity at worst, arrogance at best.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 15% of Americans are "unchurched". We are the disbelievers, the critics, the "angry new atheists". We have a voice, and for what seems like the first time in American history, we are finally being heard. What the world hears is this: We don't think there is a god. Here are our reasons. They hear this, because this is what we are saying. What they don't here is what we do with that information. People assume that atheists have no spiritual needs. This is false. Most people (perhaps all?) who become atheists wrestle with questions such as: What is the nature of morality? How do I find meaning and purpose in my life? What's the point? How do I justify my use of resources on the world? Does it matter that I can make a difference? These questions are just as hefty whether you believe in a god or not. It is time to start treating atheists and agnostics as people whose worldview is important to their sense of self and well-being.

References:

McColl, M., Bickenbach, J., Johnston, J., Nishihama, S., Schumaker, M., Smith, K., Smitsh, M., Yealland, B. Changes in Spiritual Beliefs After Traumatic Disability. Arch Phys Med Rehabil (2000) 81:817-23

Yuen, E. Spirituality, Religion and Health. American Journal of Medical Quality (2007) 22:77

Views: 11

Tags: atheism, healthcare, spirituality

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Comment by Ziztur on April 5, 2009 at 3:43pm
Oh, I absolutely understand the reason why atheists are reluctant to use the word spirituality - I too am reluctant to use the word.

Of course, not using the word creates a problem in which people who are spiritual see atheists' rejection of the word spiritual to mean that they do not care about life or desire closeness or bonding with people. This is seen in the healthcare system in which nurses feel that they are responsible for "spiritual" care, and by spiritual they mean any sort of positive human interaction. Atheists who tell a nurse they are not spiritual have been subjected to being treated without the typical humanity that nurses give, because nurses assume they are specifically rejecting that.

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