A contradiction in terms? Perhaps, however, what word would be used otherwise to describe the state of, in a sense,  being aware of being the universe, being aware of its self? And further of that awareness being an influential  factor in a persons behavior?

Or in other words what word to use, to describe someone whose fundamental interpretation of reality, is an active part of their awareness? In non-atheists it is called spirituality, personally I have no problem with atheistic spirituality, it seems to do the job for me; however it could be problematic. I'm curious what other folks here think.

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I too have no problem with the idea of atheistic spirituality. For myself I feel (although my thoughts and beliefs are ever evolving) that being atheist means the belief that there is no one god or gods above me. If we have to use the idea of god, then I believe that we are all gods capable of creating and manifesting our own reality without the help of any fictional god. Where I get "spiritual" is that I believe in my own "higher self" which is a collective of my past selves, more commonly called "intuition". For me, religion is myth created by humans of long ago who did not understand their reality in terms of science. I don't believe in myth as reality but I do believe myself to be more than just rational mind.


I am unclear what you mean Valerie by past selves, do you mean as in reincarnation?

Also what do you mean by "more than rational mind?"

If your answer to either of these relies on something, other than that which is produced by the physiology of the brain/mind, and ends when that physiology ends, then your definition of atheist is apparently accurate, but different than what I think most people mean by it.

Also I'm curious about this statement, "...then I believe that we are all gods capable of creating and manifesting our own reality..." This sounds like multiple solipsism to me, I'm nearly certain I've misunderstood you.

i like the thinking part of this however the word spiritual implies god..i think maybe use the word 'awareness' or perhaps' energy ' might be better ; but the use of the word spirituality simply does not apply...... AND ( get this) might mix up the goofball religious people who are not affiliated with any organized religion...but define themselves as 'spiritual' but not 'religious'. Frankly i dont want them around mucking things up.

Unfortunately Lynn those words are already used, and to be clear would need to be in the context of, most likely rather wordy phrases. Something like "cosmic awareness" sounds entirely too new age for me. But your stated concerns are precisely in line with mine. It seems to me if atheistic spirituality, proves to be too problematic, then we are faced with the need for a neologism.

interesting topic, and one i've been thinking about lately.

@albert I'll defintely listen to that podcast tomorrow, which I'm sure will affect my perspective.

@serena Great point

@heather I totally understand what you're saying and what I have to say I think is similar.


I think, like others have said, that the problem with the term "spirituality" is that it seems to be tied too closely to non-materialistic world views. It seems that the most common connotations of the word "spiritual" itself set it directly against "material." And yet, even though I am strongly materialist, I have a hard time just giving the word up. 


I mean i think of everything as being material, i don't think there's anything that is not a part of the physical universe, like a soul or whatever, it's all physical, consciousness, all of it. We may not know exactly what thought is, but I just see it as a material phenomenon that we are still working on figuring out. Just like answering the question that comes up when talking to theists, "well if there is no god, then how did we get here?" I guess it's really hard for most people to accept that we just don't know, but we're working on it, and that's the best we can do at the moment.


But I've had experiences like being outside at night, looking up at the stars, and being overwhelmed by the reality of it, that above my head and all around me was an infinity of space, and that i was a part of it, directly connected, an inseparable part of it. And yes, while some of these times have been while under the influence of mind-altering substances (and I don't necessarily discount altered states of perception as being invalid), not all of them have. If it can be put into words it's something like: i am in the universe, of the universe and an inseparable part of the universe. all things are one, the perception that there are separate things is an illusion. But yet, I have no sense of there being any kind of "higher power," or "universal consciousness," or "god" or anything like that at all. Just that the universe is immense beyond our wildest abilities to comprehend, yet it is real, right there in front of our eyes, and that through completely natural processes, we, as complex conscious beings are able to contemplate all that.


So like heather said, "is this spiritual?" If not, what? I don't know what else to call it.


Last year I spent a month in the forest sleeping on the ground under the stars.  I did go back to town once a week for a shower and supplies.  It took me a few days to get used to being out there alone, and it took the animals about the same amount of time to get used to me being there.  Anyway, once I was comfortable, each night I would lay there watching the stars move past the black silhouette of a pine tree that stood in a convenient spot for my line of sight.  It continually struck me how amazing it was that all of that had led to me laying there staring back at it, aware that it was there, like the universe reflecting upon itself.


I often think of those fractal graphics that zoom rapidly in or out, revealing the details as being a reverberation of the greater part which itself is a reverberation of the greater part and it gives me a rush.  I sometimes wonder if Moses didn't experience the same thing while laying by a little fire, but upon returning just couldn't find any way for people to grasp what the hell he was talking about.  He could have been saying, "All these little fucking idols and god-concepts you have are just childish, there are such more incredible things to contemplate that you can't even imagine."  Perhaps all they caught out of his ravings was the bit about the fire and receiving these incredible feelings from overwhelming thoughts, only to turn around and attribute them to Yahweh, one of the bigger god-concepts they had at the time.

Heather that has to be the most gracious interpretation of scripture I've ever heard, I do think it is entirely just a nice idea though.  One of the other topics I intend to bring up here though has a lot to do with exactly that transition from polytheism to monotheism and its implications for a possible evolutionary track of consciousness.

wow! a month in the forest sounds AWESOME! I would so love to be able to do that.


You know, theoretically, your musing about moses may not be too far from the truth. Maybe the experience we're talking about essentially the same as someone who feels that they have experience god (or whatever), the difference being into what paradigm of reality they interpret the experience. I mean, so maybe moses did have a profound experience of being united with a single reality, but the only intellectual framework he had to put that experience in was yaweh, the one god. maybe?!

Well I'm part Canadian Indian, as in aboriginal, and it also struck me that my many many great great grandmother could have, two thousand years ago, laid in that exact spot and the stars would have looked identical - although she would probably be more familiar with them than I.  Anyway, yeah, there is no reason to think the experience would be any different for someone even ten thousand years ago, just the model we use to understand it - and they didn't have a bag of smarties.

Hi Heather, I can easily see your ancestors having a much better possibility of such an experience, given the close ties of native Indian spirituality with the natural world.

As far as  the mental experience of people ten thousands years ago goes, there is actually a lot of reason for it to be vastly different than ours. According to one theory of the origin and evolution of consciousness, it may be only around 8000 years old. I'll be bringing that up in another thread.

I wish you had brought it up here because I find it profoundly difficult to believe.  If there were a vast shift in our mental capacities only 8,000 years ago then I would require a very extraordinary explanation as to how it occurred so uniformly throughout our species.  On one side I have ancestors that walked across the Bering Strait at least 12,000 years ago while the other side of my ancestors were already well established in Europe - so if there were a big change in our mental experience only 8,000 years ago then I have difficulty understanding how it affected Africans, Euros, Cree, and Asians so uniformly.

I should have called it a hypothesis, even though its author thinks it is a theory. One of the problems I've had with it is, it only accounts for the development in the fertile crescent and areas directly effected by what went on there. I would not propose that consciousness developed by the same manner, or at the same time everywhere. You raise one of the questions I have of the theory as well, what about the far east, and the Americas, these are not covered. If you think what you've heard of it thus far is profoundly difficult to believe, and while I found the age estimate similarly startling, it is not the most startling claim of the theory. The problem is that, the theory hangs together pretty tough. I would welcome your comments on it, whether you read the book, or when I figure out how I want to post on it.

The book that explains the theory is, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", it is by Julian Jaynes. But please remember it is only one theory. Regardless of the theory though, the book is well worth reading for the first few chapters discussion of what consciousness is and is not, as well as a fascinating delineation of characteristics, and behavioral construction. It is however only one theory, I've found one other that I'm reading now, there do not yet seem to be many available.

I am relatively new here, and am still feeling my way around, I have many things I want to bring up for discussion.  My experience thus far with forums has been unsuccessful, due to a variety of reasons; however, this one looks promising. Part of my motivation is selfish, I need rational discussion of many points in order to have any hope of advancing my understanding of the issues of interest to me. At the same time I am compelled to want to share some of these issues as I consider some of them paramount to the future of the species. (sorry if that sounds amazingly arrogant it really isn't as it is the work of men like E. O. Wilson, and Richard Dawkins*, that compels me.)

Let me assure you, I respect your question, and appreciate your participation; however, I am trying to learn how to keep threads to specific topic, I should have known that reference would be provocative, I will cover it though.


*Lumsden and Wilson, "Genes, Mind, and Culture"

 Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene",  I've read some of his other books, this however was the first of his I read, and contributed to guiding me onto the course I've followed for 25 years in regards to my investigations.



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