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Tucson Atheists Message Board › Spirituality nonsense

Spirituality nonsense

user 10409973
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 1
This last meeting was very interesting to say the least, but I found the topic of spirituality troubling. I guess this is attributed to the fact that not every atheist is a rational atheist. I rely on the current knowledge and empirical evidence of science and the natural world. Anything that transcends the natural world is useless to me since it can’t be verified or tested, just as the proposers of a god figure like to state. This word spiritual is thrown around like the label “God” by most theists. Every person has their own muddled and fuzzy definition of the concept, all which have no real explanatory power. Just like the god concept was created by man, spirituality was also invented to satisfy our own egos. When trying to explain spirituality, I hear some people throw out words like feelings, emotions, and responses to love, music and art. These words already have specific definitions and connotations; spirituality doesn’t bring anything extra to the table. Then I hear statements like it’s the “consciousness of being connected with something greater than oneself”. Okay, can you define what it means to be connected? And what counts as something greater? Does the earth or universe count? This connection to something greater again comes down to ego. Do you need a deep personal relationship with something supernatural to make you feel deep emotions? Sounds like every theist’s relationship with their god. You can play speculative metaphysics and yearn for transcendental realities all you want, but in the end what does it achieve? It seems to come down to this desire to find ultimate meaning in our existence, and what spews out is our aggrandizing of natural everyday emotions.
Any thoughts or comments?

A former member
Post #: 360
Thanks Ray for your comments. I missed the meeting with great disappointment and I suspect that your comments are delayed thoughts about things people said within that forum.

First, I don't define spirituality here because, as you noted, it is defined so differently by everyone - BUT - I do know I have feelings about many things that take many forms. I don't call that spirituality. What I do grapple with is, what I call the essence of every human being. There are personality traits, but the combination is so exponential that I think we have trouble wrapping our small brains around infinitesimal variation and how people feel and behave based upon their particular characteristic reviewed against the broader baseline of human nature. It's like trying to think of infinity. You draw a line - space ends - but damn, what's on the other side of that line? We haven't hit infinity yet, have we? (I just pretend everything is a mobius, but I still haven't figured out what it outside the exterior wall of the mobius.) So, not being able to explain it becomes the baseline of where people define something to be spiritual.

I do realize that when I listen to certain operas I am literally moved to tears. Is that spiritual? No - but not sure what it is and frankly if I have to analyze it, it just ruins the whole experience. Is it the musical notes that just reverberate through my body causing a physical stimulus or is it some sort of perceived feeling that I am receiving through the music where I transfer that feeling from other experiences to the moment I hear the sound and then my memory just drags up that emotion from my subconscious of the prior experience? As far as I know, I have done that since childhood and children don't really have many prior experiences to make that transference.

I know that each personality is different and I refer to that as the essence of our being. That essence is basically just the particular incredible amount of DNA mixture that creates who we are. Some of us are moral, polite, ethical beings. Is that our spiritual nature? Not to me. I try to conduct myself in that manner because I think my world is just a more pleasant place (no fight or flight hormonal response needed when behavior is "in check".) I don't perceive it as spiritual, but practical (as in logical) - and frankly - when we all have nicer behavior, I do feel more "connected" to others. It creates goodwill - yep - good old-fashioned group consciousness. Studies show our health is better when we have nicer experiences with others. It is my personal solution to a failing health system. Create behaviors that help you stay healthy.

I am also "connected" to the natural world. I "love" animals, plants and "all the little creatures". Is that spiritual? I don't think of it that way. Sometimes it is just a compassionate attitude where I realize that we all function like animals and, as the Buddhists say: Eat or be eaten - not a pretty picture. I just know my blood pressure is lower and I feel more secure - my existence is not threatened when the world's processes are functioning as they have evolved to be - which is sustainable and yet simultaneously slowly evolutionary - that is for the laws of nature. "Heaven help us (sarcasm) with the current social world and man-made infractions. Is that spirituality? No, it is just practical.

So, I am not even sure whether my thoughts have a direct response to what you asked, but my consciousness saw the words to the effect of: Any thoughts? Those are mine.

Thanks for the forum. Take care.


user 10409973
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 2
Thanks for the great response Deb! And I love how everything you just described that transpires within the human species, can be observed and articulated in very practical terms. The word spiritual or spirituality doesn't even have to enter in the conversation. I guess my main objection is when someone says being spiritual, means being connected with something "higher than oneself". This needs to be explicitly defined so one knows whether we are entering the supernatural realm. I too feel connected to others, but its easy to see why when we just consider that we are all living beings. We can look at other living creatures in the natural world and express empathy, compassion, and altruistic impulses. Being an evolving social animal easily accounts for this. If people want to add a vague, incomprehensible, and useless spiritual or supernatural component, well they can store it in the barn with the gods, vampires, and evil demons.

A former member
Post #: 361
Don L.
Group Organizer
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 210
How do you describe the feeling that you get when you peer through the eyepiece of a 24" telescope at the grandeur of the Universe? Is that a spiritual event? I think one of the examples used at the meeting was viewing the Grand Canyon. If you are not moved by that experience, there is something wrong with you. However, I have to take their word for it since I've never seen the Grand Canyon. Also at the meeting there were discussions about the trip to the art museum. Some of the attendees were more moved than others. I think that is normal in our society. Art is not fully appreciated by all members equally. Personally, I didn't see a lot at the museum that move me. I might say that most the art flew by me and I missed its significance, not unusual.

Members a the meeting may have noticed that I'm fairly quiet when the subject of spirituality comes up. I don't believe for one moment that the feeling has a supernatural source. I can be awed by the universe without believing in the supernatural. On the other hand, the feeling comes from a place I don't understand. Just as I can't appreciate art, I can't understand those that feel spiritual. Is it a right brain/left brain thing? I have no idea. I can't belittle the things that I don't understand.
Philip M.
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 8
I often wonder at the response that words like "spirituality" or "belief" generate at the atheist and skeptic meetings. Is the word so tied to religious or supernatural connotations that we cannot give the speaker the benefit of the doubt that they mean something outside of religion? The word "spirituality" derives (albeit perhaps not directly) from the latin "spirare", "to breathe". Here is a perfectly good word that, I think, accurately describes an experience that takes my breath away - listening to certain pieces of music, learning new bits of the universe, and many other experiences. Must we come up with new words to describe these things that have never been appropriated by the religious community? Or can we give each other the benefit of the doubt that we mean it in a different sense than the Pope might mean them?
user 10409973
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 3
I agree that we should absolutely give people the benefit of the doubt. This is why instead of assuming, I always ask what they mean by spirituality. How do they define it? The Latin "spirare" does mean "to breathe. But the word that is derived "spiritualis", means "of breathing, or of the spirit or soul". It is the "of the spirit or soul" part that is usually associated with the term spirituality. This is where we get into the fuzzy territory of supernatural and a skeptic will naturally jump all over it.

If we want to talk about emotional responses, heightened sensations, or human feelings, that is fine. We can do so without the mention of spirituality, souls or spirits. We do not need the extra term of spirituality when talking about a persons appreciation of natural beauty in our planet.

Its like if I ask a theist to define god, and they say god is love. Well we already have a word for love. Its called love. They are just putting one label on something else. Lets say we use spirituality to define an experience, or a tingly feeling one gets when contemplating the vastness of the universe. This is a deceiving usage because the meaning has nothing to do with "spirit". And by itself the concept has no real explanatory power. To use spirituality in this sense is useless and we are just adding extra steps.

We cannot escape the supernatural connotations, especially with the word "spirit" embedded in the concept.
user 9892987
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 2
I love my new ipod
Love ya Aunt Clare
I love the ocean
Love conquers all
In love
Make love
True love
Love of Country
Love it or leave it
Love child
The Love Boat
I love sleeping in on Sundays
I love animals
Take Care, and all my love
I loved that scene where the guy's head explodes

"Love" is a word that is so overused in so many contexts that it has lost it's punch.
If the term "Love" is almost meaningless without the context that surrounds it,
then why not dilute it some more ? Love is God. God is Love. Sure, why not.

A former member
Post #: 366
This is actually a reply to Don, which I could not make earlier due to a site technical glitch, so sorry Phillip, I am out of sync by on post.


I think you used a very interesting word that is usually used in the Bible referencing spirituality. The word is 'awe'. Awe by my understanding is a feeling of being so stunned by something that it leaves you in a form of torpor. Your mind cannot find that logic between knowledge and experience. As I mentioned in my prior post, it is something around which we cannot "wrap" our logical brain's processing of input because we do not have the current knowledge base to do so. Additionally, this input is simultaneously evoking a visceral response of almost fear of the unknown, yet our brain tells us we are in a safe place, so the fight or flight response is not needed. Yet, the "frozen" - torpor response occurs. The intellectual portion just shuts down and the visceral experience just takes over.

I have very little knowledge of music but enjoy many different types - BUT - my experience with opera mentioned earlier, whereby I have an automatic cry response with certain operas - is a visceral reaction. It is extreme high notes that elicit that reaction. These notes are forceful primal sounds, which most people relate to terror, happiness, fear, etc. and crying is a release to the stress that has been built from the sound symbolic of the emotion being expressed - which can be anger, fear, pain, etc. So that is what is eliciting my 'awe' moment.

I read a scientific study once whose outcome said people usually relate to their world based upon one of their visceral strengths: sight, sound, or touch. Somewhere in our infancy or youth, combined with our DNA resources a pattern was set in our being to relate to the world a little more predominantly within the three senses. From that starting off point, everyday, our world is further solidified in experiences as we use that sense to experience the world. So as we become more comfortably exposed to something we prefer it. Perhaps, like the preference of looking at the universe over art. I have had more exposure to art than to stargazing, so my preference became more developed towards the former. Funny, as I write this, I realize that repeated exposure is how religion indoctrinates. They say that a sighted person, upon going blind, will develop another sense(s) to navigate their world. Same with interests and the 'awe' response which some label a "spiritual experience".

A former member
Post #: 367
Benefit of the doubt is a nice, kind thing, but it can be tricky. I had learned in a business group culture in a large metropolitan area to talk about having a "grander vision" to fulfill a business case purpose. I then moved to a community where there was a group culture of expression your faith to God in every sentence while explaining something else.

When I spoke about having vision, people were not getting my reference to business but thinking I was expressing an undying faith in their God. Those business minded people did not take m seriously and it became an invitation to religious people to suddenly invite me to prayer. To this day, I avoid the use of an absolutely great word. "Don't you just "love" it? (That one is for you Mikey.- smirk)
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