Anyone hear Beyond Belief today (yesterday now)? It was on atheism. I was pointed to it by allybalder - thanks al!
The host is Ernie Rea, two of the contributors were Anthony Grayling and Linda Woodhead. there was also a muslim guy. What interested me most about the programme were the two different definitions of atheism:
ER: How do you define atheism?
AG: Well quite simply its a rejection of of claims to the effect that there are any supernatural agencies or entities in the universe. In a way its rather an unfortunate label because as somebody who doesn't think there are supernatural agencies - now that would include the Olympian gods and godesses and fairies and pixies and so on - is not best described as an atheist, which moves immediately the discussion on to the ground of whether or not there's a god of the traditional kind. Such a person would simply say: all there is is the natural realm and the natural laws that govern it, and such a person might very much better be called a naturalist, if that didn't suggest he liked (running?) around with no clothes on.
LW: I'm just an average kind of Britain in that I don't define myself as atheist, nor do I believe in a personal god, but I would describe myself as spiritual.
ER: Are you an agnostic?
LW: No. I believe that there's a richer and more wondrous dimension of existence that contains truths and powers that aren't immediately obvious to us, but which becomes available through understandings and particularly through appropriate action.
Now what really interests me is this business of being a "spiritual person" as mentioned by Linda Woodhead. What is meant by spirituality? Is it real? Is it relevant to humanism?
I regard spirituality as being the "motivational essence" of a thing or person. The treeness of a tree, the cupness of a cup, and so on. Of course, with inanimate objects this motivational essence is purely assumed, it doesn't really exist as an experienced quality of being The tree probably does not "want" to be a tree, and I'm sure the cup has no capacity for such subjective feelings. However, there is nevertheless an intrinsic quality (or I suppose its a set of intrinsic qualities) which is common to all cups, which can be called "cupness".
With people its more fluid. A human's spirituality is I suppose the principal motivating force central to that particular personality. Like say Bob Maxwell's spiritual essence was probably basically greed (probably mixed with fear). And so on.
To what extent is there a mystical association with the idea of spirituality? Is there something transcendent about the spirit, over the matter, of a person's identity? Above all, is this something we humanists have to take account of in our attitude to and relationship with the external world? If so, how to do so?
Transcriptions via Omniscience v3.6.04