What comes to mind when someone says, "I'm not religious but I'm spiritual"?

Would anyone care to comment on what you think, as an atheist, that a person is trying to say when they state that they are spiritual but not religious?  My own reaction is very negative; I'm usually expecting them to go on to talk about ESP or auras.  But maybe they are just saying they are interested in human values and emotions.

I think that being an atheist means recognizing that although we experience consciousness and emotions while our brains function, everything that we are comes from physical matter and will end when the brain fails and decays.  We have no "spirit" separate from our brains.

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Hi B.K.,

I think the fundamentalist label now extends to something even worse than traditional Southern Baptists. I don't know how hysterical they become at their services, but the new "evangelical" movement where folks are literally encouraged to have an epileptic seizure to prove they love Jesus is a new breed of crazy.

As for the "saved" stuff, yes, it is like selling vacuum cleaners door to door-you can never sell enough of them. The difference is, they want to kill you if you don't buy one;) It's so funny how they say the motivation to save others is one of love, but that "love" goes out the window if one tries to ask questions or have a discussion. Most people see them coming and either pretend to belong or back away slowly, because they know the person coming at them has come with a ticket to Crazytown.

Let's see ... the last time I told someone that I was a non-believer I was curtly told to "get right" and the person very smugly walked away.

I too have used this expression in the past, mostly after the time I began backing away from the idea of organized religion.  I remain agnostic because I haven't (yet?) reached the point where I can say there's no possibility of some type of supreme entity, however unlikely that may be.  I can't offer evidence because there is none.   I also suspect it is a lingering remnant of my upbringing as a catholic.  Part of the teachings that I was brought up on was that god is basically incomprehensible and mysterious, never mind the fact that the bible and the church (and all organized religion) go on to "explain" and teach about something that's supposed to be impossible to understand.   The idea of remaining "spiritual" seems to be the first logical step of someone pulling away from the idea of religion and some people never progress further.

There is a native american belief that whatever religion you were raised with in childhood, no matter how opposed to it you are as an adult, it will be something you never fully pull away from. For me, I notice this is true. If I lose my keys, no matter how illogical, I still ask gawd to tell me where they are;)

My core beliefs are more along the lines of admitting that there are many, many things we don't know, so I don't claim to know what is out there, but I know what is utterly ridiculous and can be proven to be false. We also know that the things that have been proven to be true-such as human beings starting out as eukaryotic cells (not Adam and Eve) do not jibe with the Bible, Q'uran, etc. But I will never shake that idea of Jesus, because it is so embedded into my psyche, and  I continue to be surrounded by it daily. I actually don't care if others believe in this stuff unitl the end of time-that's their business. I care that they want to force it on others overbearingly. I don't go running into churches on Sunday screaming, "Stop the service! You're all wroonngg!!" But they want to preach in public classrooms, and in state courtrooms, and that is hypocritical on their part. The founding fathers intended religion to be the separate, private business of individuals.

The word "spiritual" bugs me, due to the fact that iti implies there is a "soul," and it has such broad applications. I really feel like people use it believing they have to prove that they "at least believe in something." I don't think that is fair, because I believe in things that can't really be proven-such as when people have a psychic fore-knowledge of something-but I don't call that "spiritual," because I don't know that a "spirit" or "soul" exists. I just call it "the unkown as of yet." I think there is a logical answer for everything in this universe, it's just incredibly difficult to discover all that there is to discover.

     I agree, especially the part where you say people call themselves spiritual to prove that "they believe in something".  On some level it's people saying "I don't believe in religion, but I'm not an atheist for god's sake!"   Such is the perception of many people of non-believers causing even the non-believer to back away from the "A" word. I've been guilty of this myself. (did I say guilt? there's that catholic in me popping up again ;-) ).

     I consider myself a seeker, but not in the sense that I'm seeking god, I'm just searching for answers to those questions that, in all likelihood, I will never have the answer to.  While the ultimate question may never be answered, the intermediate ones have all, thus far, been answered by science.

I agree with you, Mike, but we should all have guilt. I. E. if you kill or blind somebody, even by accident, you should feel what we call "guilt." There are lesser examples but this is all true whether you believe in god or not. God has nothing to do with it.

On the other hand, we are all seekers but some do claim to be spiritual because "you have to believe in something" and they want to throw in that supernatural and also claim we all have to "server something" or "serve someone." All of this while avoiding an atheist claim, but it's simply not true!

It's like saying everyone is smoking, so we all have to smoke something. I don't think that way.

Mike, I understand the feelings. I claimed agnosticism until one day I came to the conclusion that there is no evidence because there is no evidence that exists. Turning totally to atheism just made sense to me, and I found comfort in knowing the universe exists without a meaning or purpose. It just is. And that was true for me as well. If my life has meaning it is because I give it meaning. If I have purpose it is because I experienced being part of this grand evolutionary reality, and that is enough.  

While that all may be true I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that all of reality just is...and always has been and always will be.  The questions of how, why and when are all based on our experiences and observations of living in the observable universe, it may very well be the case that what lies beyond is just simply not subject to the questions of how, why and when. 

You said:  "If my life has meaning it is because I give it meaning".   I like that.  I would go even further by saying that helping to give meaning to other people's lives gives meaning to our own lives as well.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson says "The Universe is IN all of us".

Side note:  I'm going to see him in NYC on Nov.4 in NYC.  He makes science very approachable for the layman.

There is another variable that influenced me. I experienced and observed the terrible harm caused by religious beliefs. I came from a violent home, based on traditions of the bible and I created a violent home because that is all I knew. When I ran away from my violent past I had to figure out a healthy way to live. That took me to science and research about what constitutes a healthy family. No where did I find health in the bible, in the teachings and the preachings of the religious. I did see and hear violence preached from the pulpit and the lectern. I recognized the hubris of preachers and teachers and congregations to which I belonged. I felt the sting of hate in racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination. I want no part of hate, only compassion, care, and involvement in healthy relationships based on healthy beliefs. Science blended with compassion works for me. 

Mike, this seems like a slant on this subject that we haven't touched on. What you say makes a lot of sense. I really liked this perspective.




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