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Spirituality

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Alan C.
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Re: Spirituality

#61 Post by Alan C. » March 5th, 2008, 5:37 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

This is an interesting article, and not overly long.
You can be spiritual without the church.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

FloatingBoater
Posts: 189
Joined: September 16th, 2007, 11:50 am

Re: Spirituality

#62 Post by FloatingBoater » March 9th, 2008, 3:56 pm

I am ejoying this thread immensely. The use of the word 'spiritual' or 'spirituality', belongs to the English language and therefore available for anyone to use. I have often thought of myself as being a spiritual person in the sense that I have an appreciation and values for thing which cannot be measured, costed or otherwise defined, the give me a sense of being beyond trite descrition.
Seeing my daughters borne for instance, I regard as a deeply spiritual experience that moved me to tears and humility, joy and awe.
As an A-theist, why should I feel uncomfortable in using this word because religions lay their particular ideology to be structured arount Spirit/Spirits(of the etherial nature/Spirituality etc etc.
I rather lean toward the expression spiritual atheism if only to differentiate myself from the more derogatory connotaition of atheist, which in common use implies badness or less worthy than anyone who professes allegiance to just about form of religious attchment.
Take back the language I say, interpretation is for others to define.
Let us accept that the difference between a prophet and a madman is not what they say but whether the crowd accepts the story and tells their children to believe it.

MHB
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Joined: February 22nd, 2008, 1:31 pm

Re: Spirituality

#63 Post by MHB » March 9th, 2008, 10:20 pm

FloatingBoater wrote:I rather lean toward the expression spiritual atheism if only to differentiate myself from the more derogatory connotaition of atheist, which in common use implies badness or less worthy than anyone who professes allegiance to just about form of religious attchment.
Take back the language I say, interpretation is for others to define.
I'm reading a fascinating book entitled: The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, by Andre Comte-Sponville. It is not a volume of cutsie quotes, it is a very thoughtful series of very readable philosophical essays. Nearly 1/2 of the book is dealing with the issue of "Can there be an atheist spirituality" and his answer is a resounding and moving yes. "Spirituality" should not be confined to religion and its language. It is a way we have of experiencing the universe we are a part of.

I highly recommend this short book to everyone interested in this thread. :)

FloatingBoater
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Re: Spirituality

#64 Post by FloatingBoater » March 9th, 2008, 11:16 pm

Thanks for the tip MHB ... Cheers :thumbsup:
Let us accept that the difference between a prophet and a madman is not what they say but whether the crowd accepts the story and tells their children to believe it.

Noggin
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Re: Spirituality

#65 Post by Noggin » March 10th, 2008, 11:35 am

Yes, many thanks, MHB. I will try to get hold of it.
FloatingBoater wrote: Seeing my daughters borne for instance, I regard as a deeply spiritual experience that moved me to tears and humility, joy and awe.
I think you've given a classic example of what I think of as a spiritual experience. It is deeply awesome but also undeniably human and it's an experience that, so far as we know, no other members of the animal kingdom experience in the same way.
It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man. -- Old Norse Proverb

MHB
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Re: Spirituality

#66 Post by MHB » March 10th, 2008, 11:49 am

What this thread may be pointing out is that it's important for any non-theistist view of life to have as part of its world view a sense of the mystery of life - an ability to respond to all of reality with awe - with "oneness". Perhaps one of the things that makes atheism or humanism a harder sell to theists is that they think they might have to give that up. If they think that we are trying to reduce existence to the ego or a science class they couldn't be more wrong. Instead, we are saying that theists call that connection with the mystery and awe of life as a relationship with God, we call that connection just what it is, a connection with the mystery and awe of life. There's no need to throw in that added word, God, to enhance the experience any more than it is - it isn't explained by or enhanced by adding the word God.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Spirituality

#67 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » March 10th, 2008, 12:59 pm

I don't personally use the word "spiritual" to describe any of my experiences. I have no objection to anyone else using the word to describe their experiences, but I do object when people assume that I know what they mean if they use that word, and that word alone. I do understand words like joy, elation, peace, exultation, awe, comfort, calm, tranquility, wonder and bliss, and if such words are added then I do get the picture. But then I would have got it without the word spiritual. It seems to me that "spiritual", as it has been used in this thread, describes human emotions, rather than specifically the human "spirit", howsoever that is defined. And I'd rather have a fuller picture of what those emotions are. I think it's more interesting.

I do have another problem with the word, though. It can also be used to hint at a kind of moral superiority. I can't help feeling that there's a certain conceit attached to the declaration: "I'm a very spiritual person." It suggests to me something along the lines of "I'm special; I'm deep; I appreciate the finer, nobler things in life; I'm a much better person than all you shallow materialists."

Or maybe I'm just being defensive. :D

Emma

Ted Harvey
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Re: Spirituality

#68 Post by Ted Harvey » March 12th, 2008, 8:17 am

I just noticed that the episode today of USA import comedy programme 'Everybody Loves Raymond' was on 'Faith'. It's not a programme that I would normally watch, but given our discussion and givent the them of the episode I did. It was mostly set in the local school and a big annual event. Guess what was meant by 'faith'? Yes, it was unmistakedly religious - with references to kids and community chucked in. The overall title of either the event or the school was 'Our Lady of Faith' (I could not bear watching enough of this unfunny episode to clarify which of the two it was).

I read and see countless examples like this of the use of 'faiht' and 'religious belief' and readily interchangeable in most peoples' everday langiage.

MHB
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Re: Spirituality

#69 Post by MHB » March 12th, 2008, 11:51 am

Ted Harvey wrote:'Everybody Loves Raymond' was on 'Faith'. It's not a programme that I would normally watch,...I could not bear watching enough of this unfunny episode...
Thankfully it only exists in re-runs. Sorry that it's lifeless body washed up on your shores.

I have faith that the mechanics that service airplanes I fly on have done their job. Another can have faith in God. Neither exercise in faith means what we have faith "in" exists. I may be lucky my plane didn't crash because it turns out the mechanic in question is a raving lush. Another's faith in God is also misplaced, since God doesn't exist.

Your right though - for most people their definition of faith is simply what their religion happens to be.

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Alan C.
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Re: Spirituality

#70 Post by Alan C. » March 22nd, 2008, 6:00 pm

This article is loosely on the topic of spirituality, but the main reason I'd like to share it with you, is that it gave me such a chuckle :laughter:
Sydney Archbishop warns against occult forces.

Yay! I'm finding some beauties today, have a laugh at this one, some of these Bishops should do stand up!
UK'S FINANCIAL CRISIS IS DRAWING PEOPLE TO BECOME CHRISTIAN
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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wattsll
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Re: Spirituality

#71 Post by wattsll » March 22nd, 2008, 7:32 pm

I also got a chuckle out of the first site:
"We are actually incurably religious, and we will worship, we will dabble in the supernatural, we will think of these things,"


I guess we may as well pack it up, there's no hope.

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Curtains
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Re: Spirituality

#72 Post by Curtains » May 16th, 2008, 5:36 pm

I didn't write the definition below, I saw it here but I like it and want to share it with others.


>>"Spirituality" is the opposite of "animality". Forgive my simplification but I need to turn it into a duality to get to the point without this turning into a mini-book no one will read.

"Animality" is the term I give to the nature of human beings as mammals--we are conceived the same way as mammals, we are mortal as mammals, we have pretty much the same symmetry that aids in our ability to move about as do mammals, we all have brains, we all dream, we all have two eyes, two nostrils, a mouth, breasts, glands et al. we must all consume other forms of life and eliminate waste in much the same way of that which exceeds what we can wholly convert into more of our own mass.

Many or perhaps most humans are culturally led to believe in some artificial separation from sharing animal nature and some even go so far as to live a culture of denial in which mankind is assumed to have no connection with animals at all and that we are instead a specially created being to which all else is secondary and subordinate--this is called "providence" or "divine providence" and it makes us the center of the universe and the reason it exists in general. This is a problematic assumption that needs some clarity shined upon it before potentially camouflaging it with the rest of my attempt at an explanation of spirituality in the light of animality. The assumption of the existence of a god is an act of ego-centricity which fails to understand the universe, it's age and the enormous potential for life to exist elsewhere in many types of configurations. Rash ego-centrism based upon superficial knowledge could also be described as "parochial narcissism" where one sees him or herself as so central to the meaning of the universe as to contrive a delusion of psychological connection with the god being himself--beleiving such self importance as to have "god' give orders and messages directly into the mind (something no one in this age believes to be anything other than schizophrenica delusion). The contrivance of a god and there have been many come from living at a time where not even something as simple as the nature of "weather' was understood to have natural engines but instead appeared to just come and go and sometimes harshly to the effect that it would take people and live stock with it in the form of casualties of weather extremes.

It is natural when your entire existence is threatened constantly by this extreme called the weather to do anything to save your retched existence and if that means shaking some beads and muttering a bunch of mumbo jumbo, you'll do it if the only other choice is to lose a foot to frostbyte to prove a point.

The act of contriving (inventing) a "god" in man's own image is an act not of spirituality above animality but indeed precisely an act of predictable animality--a tendency to view life in a "hierarchical configuration" in which there is an ultimate alpha male or equivalent to which we all must yield and become subservient. There is therefore nothing "spiritual" whatsoever in objectifying a myth and creating a culture of repression and oppression around it. It becomes a complete theater of animal territorialism where "might makes right" and those who appear to be the most extreme in pushing the cause and righteousness of the entire pseudo-culture we now call religion, gain power in that hierarchy as people are forced by the immensity of numbers all falling under the spell without apparent choice to believe that they can be singularly transcendent of this culture and see it all as a fancy theater of animal dominance and submission which they are free to dissent from.

Spirituality is how I define the courage and conviction to do just that. To get off ones knees and get on the ball of accepting truth as it plainly reveals itself--truth for which we find language that helps use understand meaning without default to blind acceptance of authority. Spirituality is the step we take above animality--to step outside the ancient box of might makes right, winner takes all and territorialism reigns as the measure of a man's worth. Spirituality is the impulse to overcome impulse. It is the non-territorial, non-defensive intellectual act of reserving judgment of strangers as automatic enemies and competitors and instead considering them as potential fellows in the common cause of mutual facilitation--the growth to become a new whole greater the the some of its parts. No god can grant spirituality nor can a god take it away--it is a gift a man or woman gives to him or herself in which he or she asserts the courage to face truth no matter where it leads and no matter what sacred cows fall along the way. It is not an assertion of "superiority" or a challenge to gods, traditions or dogma--it is merely learning how evil can be disguised as good by others and good portrayed as evil and developing the legs and the heart to cave to neither. One has achieved spirituality when he or she no longer needs to be told what is good or bad--it is as clear as a bell which is the way of the beast and which is the way of the spirit being--a man or woman for all seasons who opens his or her heart and mind to the entire breadth of the truth, popularity and devil be damned.


On a personal note I liken it to the opening scene n 2001: A Space Odyssey where primitive humans come face to face with some part of their future they don't yet know the nature of or how to access. If the answer weren't puzzling, we would already have a world at peace on course with a Renaissance in which we answer every dilemma and assure a permanent cosmic destiny for humanity as a whole. But alas we continue to beat our chests and threaten each other with clubs and sticks. I believe the momolith from the future to be what cyberspace could become--a step stool to our own redemption. I think I know the secret of how to get inside it and reveal some of the secrets of the age but I can't get close enough in my own life time because there are too many ambitious and territorial apes in the way who don't grok anything but kill or be killed. I'm a silver back gorilla though and am not done trying by a long shot.<<

Jem
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Re: Spirituality

#73 Post by Jem » May 18th, 2008, 12:56 pm

I confess I can't be bothered to read the whole thing. It seems heavy and academic. But I get the impression the piece contains interesting ideas, if only they could be more simply and concisely presented.

Occam
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Re: Spirituality

#74 Post by Occam » May 19th, 2008, 8:10 am

I've avoided bothering with this thread because I see "spiritual" as a nice synonym for "non-rational" or "belief in fairytales". I do have strong emotions, and I recognize that they sometimes are at varience with my reason, but I don't elevate them to some mythological realm above or even not accessible to logic and rationality.

Years ago I was on a visit to the Grand Canyon. I walked to a view point and and saw it for the first time. I was dazed by the beauty and immensity of this geological formation. Another person standing there went into a babble to her companion about this being one of the most spiritual experiences in her life. I agree that I was in awe, but come on. the term spiritual is just plain silly unless the person hasn't learned to use his/her reasoning facilities.

Occam

Zoe
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Re: Spirituality

#75 Post by Zoe » May 19th, 2008, 12:34 pm

Well it's a shame you haven't bothered with this thread, Occam, because you would have seen (1) a very intelligent and civilised discussion about what spirituality could mean to atheists and (2) that nobody who has defended the use of the word is elevating strong emotions "to some mythological realm above or even not accessible to logic and rationality."

It doesn't sound as if the person at the Grand Canyon was necessarily doing that either, from what you tell us. It sounds like she was simply using the word that she felt best described her sense of awe and wonder. I might very well have used the same word, in the same circumstances, myself. As I said in my earlier post, for me spiritual experiences are those that touch us as emotional, imaginative and empathic human beings and have nothing to do with "mythological realms". If she meant she felt closer to God at that moment, then that was her delusion and her imbuing the word with a meaning of her choosing, just as you are doing - just as we are all entitled to do. :)

Occam
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Re: Spirituality

#76 Post by Occam » May 20th, 2008, 9:02 pm

Zoe, we all have the right to imbue words with whatever meaning we desire, however, that makes it a bit diffucult to communicate. I tend to accept the definitions of my dictionary (admittedly not as authoritative being a U.S. edition): Spirituality - The rights, jurisdiction, tithes, etc. belonging to the church or an ecclesiastic; the fact or state of being incorporeal. Words that seem associated with it are: soul, sacred, devotional, supernatural.

I realize that a modern use for some is to mean refined or intellectual. My problem with that is when we assign a new meaning to a word, the old meaning is still hidden in our minds, and each time we use the word we validate those hidden concepts, even if we are using it in the other meaning.

It's like the Unitarian minister, who, when I suggested that she be more theologically neutral in her sermons, said, "I understand your concern, but whenever I say 'god', just think 'love'." Sorry, but our minds just can't dichotomize that nicely.

Occam

Zoe
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Re: Spirituality

#77 Post by Zoe » May 21st, 2008, 8:56 pm

Many words have several dictionary definitions. You've given the one you like. Here's the one I like (from the Oxford online compact)

"relating to or affecting the human spirit as opposed to material or physical things".

And that's how it's been used in this thread. :D I've never heard it used to mean intellectual or refined.

Occam
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Re: Spirituality

#78 Post by Occam » May 21st, 2008, 11:38 pm

Unfortunately, Zoe, that definition you got from the Oxford Compact Online doesn't get us anywhere. Anyone who has a modicum of understanding of English could come up with that type. E.g. Largeness = the property of being large. Defining spirituality as having to do with the human spirit doesn't get us any closer to a functional meaning. We then have to define spirit.

And, I just don't buy the concept of some incoporeal, ineffable, non-material (immaterial? :smile: ) thing that is supposed to exist within people, but which can't be measured, identified, or demonstrated.

Occam

Andy Armitage
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Re: Spirituality

#79 Post by Andy Armitage » May 22nd, 2008, 8:30 am

Occam wrote:Unfortunately, Zoe, that definition you got from the Oxford Compact Online doesn't get us anywhere.
Occam
I wonder if we just sometimes have to drop a word as being not suitable. Clearly, it means so many things to so many people, and, as you will know, the more meanings a word has, the less meaning it has (you have only to look at how modern writers foul up our language by using words inappropriately: are we to drop uninterested now, for instance, because so many people say disinterested, and don't really mean disinterested?).

Be that as it may (and I do have a "thing" about how our language is being messed about with by journos who ought to know better), I've always found spirituality a useful word because, provided you state your definition, you can use it to open up all sorts of conversations. I once gave an intervew to an American gay website when I edited a gay humanist magazine and spent a few hundred words trying to define what I meant by spiritual. I won't attempt to paraphrase it here, but I see it as a product of the mind, and, in saying that, I'm not being dismissive of the mind. It's awseome. Am I being reductionist? Ultimately, yes (in that I see it as an emergent property of electrochemical brain activity of enormous complexity), but I don't see a problem with that, because the wonders of a sunset, a poem, a piece of Mozart or a Monet or Renoir can be discussed and reasons can be given for liking this or that (you can be really, really reductionist and examine the particles of paint or the sound waves, but you'd be a prat or a total bore if you did and would not go down well at parties).

Sometimes it's nice to have a vague word that sort of conjures up meaning in other people, even though you may not know exactly how it's affecting them. And perhaps that's a good way to leave it: let's use the word vaguely, because sometimes it's handy to be vague.
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Maria Mac
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Re: Spirituality

#80 Post by Maria Mac » May 22nd, 2008, 11:28 am

Andy Armitage wrote: Sometimes it's nice to have a vague word that sort of conjures up meaning in other people, even though you may not know exactly how it's affecting them. And perhaps that's a good way to leave it: let's use the word vaguely, because sometimes it's handy to be vague.
Amen.

I've found this discussion very interesting and useful but, for once, I haven't changed my opinion at all. But then I had originally held the view that the word was useless and to be avoided and already been persuaded otherwise through discussion at another forum long before this thread ever started. As Jem said, two pages ago:
Jem wrote:I see broadly two irreconcilable points of view on this subject. Clearly, the people who don't like the word aren't going to use it and the rest of us will continue to do so. I don't think there's any problem really.

:shrug:

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