LISTEN, DEBATE, SOCIALISE! Spirituality - What on Earth is it??

Talk and discussion led by Marilyn Mason, former Education Officer of the British Humanist Association. (Details of venue below).

‘Spirituality’ hit the headlines on 17 October with publication by Christian think-tank Theos of a survey which claims ‘a third of the non-religious think spiritual forces could influence people’s thoughts or the natural world.’

But what is ‘spirituality?’ Non-religious Humanists are divided, although differences are often around the terminology.

On the one hand many Humanists believe the word ‘spirituality’ is devoid of any useful meaning. They are happy to abandon it to the religious sphere, along with the mumbo jumbo of crystal healing, astrology, feng shui, etc.

On the other hand some Humanists want to ‘claim’ the term back from religion. The issue is particularly relevant in the field of education. The view of Ofsted is that ‘Spiritual development,’ an essential component of the school curriculum under the Education Act 1992, is not synonymous with religion:

“Spiritual development is the development of the non-material element of a human being which animates and sustains us and, depending on our point of view, either ends or continues in some form when we die. It is about the development of a sense of identity, self-worth, personal insight, meaning and purpose. It is about the development of a pupil’s ‘spirit’. Some people may call it the development of a pupil’s ‘soul’; others as the development of ‘personality’ or ‘character’.”

Professor John White (Institute of Education) puts it more poetically:

“There is, in my view, a place for what might be called ‘the spiritual’ in education but it should be uncoupled from religion. It has to do with the cosmic shudder we all feel from time to time when contemplating the existence of life, especially our own self-conscious life, and of the universe…If OFSTED wants evidential criteria to help its inspectors, it is what the arts and contemplation of nature can bring about rather than religious knowledge, which should be top of the list.”

For a quick ‘cosmic shudder’ see, for example, American Humanist Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot:’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M

In her excellent paper ‘“Spirituality” – What on Earth is it?’ (http://www.humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/SpiritualitywhatonEarthisit.pdf) Marilyn skilfully analyses the fuzzy thinking around this subject. Everyone is welcome to come and join in the debate.

The room is open from 7.00. Light refreshments are available and there is an opportunity to mingle, chat and browse through our bookstall (courtesy of Newham Books). Everyone is free to join us after the meeting at the George pub (just round the corner, opposite Wanstead station). The meeting is free but there will be a collection at the end to meet expenses.

Wanstead Library is a 2 minute walk from Wanstead Tube (central line). 1 minute from bus stops 66,101,308,W13,W14. Free adjacent car park. Disabled access.

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