Well, there’s one to bother philosophers and theologians.

I’ve been thinking. I do that a lot, actually, literally contemplating things like the nature of the universe and why mankind exists and all that. I don’t expect to solve any of the Big Questions, but if I do, I promise to post here.

Is it possible to be both an atheist and a spiritual person?

I mean, I don’t feel like my relationship to the universe has changed, just my perspective on it.

Here’s my way of looking at the world: if this is in fact the proverbial it, if this is the only shot we have at life and there is neither reincarnation or afterlife, we may as well make life as pleasant as possible not only for ourselves but for those around us. Well, I guess that’s straight-up Humanism, now that I think about it, but the point is still there–it’s not a fatalistic, nihilistic philosophy, regardless of the name attached to it.

Or maybe the language of the topic works against us, as these are usually considered traditionally “spiritual” ideals… not that religions have had any more success at it. So maybe it’s not that humanist ideals are somehow spiritual, but religious ideals are actually humanist, with the addition of the threat of punishment/offer of reward to get believers to uphold them.

Meanwhile, I find myself wondering if a skeptical curiosity about paranormality is compatible with a rationalist approach to the universe. I don’t mean the James Randi kind of skepticism, where he’s just as closed-minded about paranormal claims being false as true believers are about them being true. I mean a genuine, “I really don’t know.” Like, I really don’t know there’s no god, I assume there isn’t one based on the evidence (and lack of evidence) at hand, but I admit to the possibility of incomplete data or inaccurate analysis–and is that atheism for drawing a conclusion, or agnosticism for allowing for uncertainty?

Anyway, I’ve experienced a few things that I’m hard-pressed to write off as mere coincidence, hallucination, or mistake. I’d like to think some part of Grandpa, or Mikey, or Great Grandma live on outside of human memory. And these are the sorts of things I file under “I really don’t know”… but it feels intellectually insincere. Sentimentality, or open mind? I dunno.

I’ve also been thinking I need to clean up the icon that I used for this post. It has some digital crumbs and dribbles I don’t like.

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10 comments so far

  1. nuveeena on

    I always thought we all HAD to be agnostic by definition, because nobody REALLY knows about the creation of the universe and the responsible party/parties.

    That said, in my opinion, I don’t think spirituality has a thing to do with one’s beliefs about said responsible party, and whether that party is omnipotent, or a white guy with a beard in a bathrobe or a being of light whatever. Nobody actually knows a thing about it.

    Looking at the size of the universe, whatever is the boss, overseer or Big Kahuna, I am pretty sure that he/she/it is not a micromanaging bitch that freaks out if you misbehave. More likely, one’s misbehavior goes to karma. God by the traditional definition would be unknowable. Therefore, IMO, worrying about pleasing such a creature or phemomenon is just pointless.

    Live a good life, because that is the better way. Basically, do what all Jesus said, but I am no Xtian. Love your life. Respect others. Do the right thing. All that stuff.

    Cool sidebar first thing in the morning. More coffee now.

    • I think only the ones capable of the intellectual integrity to say “I don’t know” count as agnostic. I drew a conclusion (even though I admit to the possibility I’m wrong) and put myself directly in one camp… and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many religious believers who are willing to admit to that much, that they really don’t KNOW. So, speaking as an Atheist, I would say that agnostics are the more philosophically/theologically “pure” or “accurate”.

      Funny thing is, though, most Christians aren’t any more Christian than I am–and I daresay I’m more “Christian” than many, particularly those on TV. They’re all hung up on Old Testament rules or what some guy in a pulpit told them, and not on what Jesus himself said: “The whole of the law shall be love God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”

      I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a small number of true Christians, those who follow the law of Jesus and not the law of man. But not enough to convince me that god made man and not the other way around.

      • johnpalmer on

        Actually, I view faith as akin to courage. Courage isn’t the absense of fear; truly “fearless” people tend to be dangerous to themselves and everyone around them. Courage is the quality of acting well in spite of fear. And faith is the ability to recognize that you have no proof, that you have reason to doubt, but are willing to act as if you know the truth as well.

        Those fools who claim they know, with no doubt, about the truth of the bible are fools who consider faith a weakness, and have thus purged it from themselves.

  2. jayteeone on

    Dude, you have moved from ardent atheist to agnostic, congratulations. As far as being spiritual. Spirit = wind = movement = breath = that which is active within a being. God, according to the Judeo-Christian model, has a spirit, in fact it’s the feminine aspect of God according to the Hebrew word used, shek-i-nah. Yes humanists are spiritual, hell atheists are spiritual whether they acknowledge having a spirit or not.

    As you might recall I have a powerful intuition. Too many coincidences have happened in my life not to believe. I just don’t like to ram it down anyone’s throat, as you know. The other thing that some don’t understand about me is that I don’t love because I’m told to by God. I love because every ounce of my being tells me it’s the right thing to do. And love should be active (spiritual?) by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, etc., not killing them and then justifying it by saying God told me too, like a certain shrub.

    • I’d just like to say here that when I referred to having been fortunate enough to meet a small numebr of true Christians, you were specifically one of the people I was thinking of. :)

    • And I still class myself as an Atheist because I do draw the conclusion that based on the evidence there is no god. I’m just scientist enough to admit that the conclusion can be falsified with additional evidence.

      • johnpalmer on

        Nod. That’s referred to as “weak atheism” because it’s a belief in a weak statement. “I do not believe in a god or gods” is a weak statement, akin to “I do not believe there is a three legged hippopotamus who is stalking me”. Strong atheism is the statement “There is no god or gods”, which is a stronger statement to make.

        Agnosticism is a declaration that one has a lack of spiritual knowledge; a person is “without gnosis”.

  3. nsingman on

    I don’t know Randi that well, but I am familiar with many skeptics, and I’m one of them. We tend to keep open minds. We do reject the supernatural, but that’s only because we believe that nature encompasses everything. We also know that hallucinations happen, mass hysteria happens, etc. A skeptic generally refuses to believe in something absent evidence, whether that something is a god, or the Easter Bunny, or ghosts, or anything else for which claims have been made, but no verifiable (in the usual double blind studies) evidence demonstrated.

    Are there things that happen that we can’t explain? Sure. Does that imply the existence of supernatural phenomena? No; it means we need more and better science. :-)

    • James Randi, unfortunately, is the sort that will go into an investigation with the attitutde that the people claiming to have had the experience are liars and that it’s his job to prove they’re faking, not to go in and find out what’s really happening, and that makes him just as bad as the ones that are faking it. Deciding the results ahead of time is just as reprehensible as faking them.

      Are most paranormal claims total bullshit? Probably, and probably the vast majority of them. Are all of them? I don’t know. I’d like to think that there’s a little paranormal activity out there, at the very least for the little soupçon of mystery it gives an otherwise fairly well explained universe.

      • soundwave106 on

        It’s why I’m not a “militant atheist”, if you will. The mystery indeed is fun for many people. There’s no need to spoil it unless they are mucking with the quest for progress. :)

        Are *all* paranormal claims “bullshit”? I lean that way. Unfortunately, I’m far too aware of both the way brains can be unreliable, and the phenomenon of crowd-latching. On the other hand, bullshit can be fun as long as it doesn’t consume your life. So for the normals, let it ride. :)


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