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.
I think the reason that the word can be problematic for atheists only because it's a word that has become so closely associated with all the various kinds of religions. I think you're right though to say that you don't see any problem, because really there isn't any problem. There's no contradictions in an atheist using the term "atheist spirituality." But take one step outside the atheist community and say that and I'm sure people are not just going to say, "oh yeah! I get it. Cool." (as has been shown already in that article Albert linked above.)
The closest thing I have to spirituality is the feeling I get sometimes. Usually after I've had a drink or three or vaped a big old bowl.
Maybe a particularly beautiful landscape will catch my attention, or the way the trains seem so lonely late at night. I can feel my place in the cosmos. I understand that I am fleeting and finite in this state.
I know that from stardust I am made and stardust I will return.
Sometimes I muse in quiet contemplation of Multi-verse or String Theory. I let my mind wander through the avenues of particle re-assimilation and monkeys with typewriters bashing away through eternity. That's all evolution really is, right? I think about virtual interaction, and the possibilities of future generations to imprint their essence onto a microchip and live on forever someday. I revel in 'what-if' and find peace in the idea that "every little thing is going to be alright."
And it is going to be alright. Because no matter what happens, no matter how we nuke our world or rape it beyond our species survivability range, there will always be something -DNA-less things in the depths of ocean vents or bacteria on Twinkies or even an army of cockroaches that will continue on the incredible experience that is LIFE. We might not recognize it. We might not have a kinship with it, but it will develop in direct response to what we do with the world now. We are shaping it for better or for worse, either ushering in a new species of humanity if we can continue to be human, or more than likely, probably some form of bug or reptile or hell, even ocean slime if we don't get our shit together and instead somehow wipe the earth back to square 1. But even if we do? What develops in that toxic-to-us but abundant and fertile breeding ground of whatever replaces us will maybe reach our current level of self-awareness and look back at the formation of their environment, and know that our follies proved to be the lucky chance for their species to thrive. As our technology advances and we begin to learn more and more about the formation of our planet, it's safe to say that in some unknown amount of time, other sentient creatures could evolve and learn to do the same. What will they find as they piece back the clues of their atmosphere and water supply? That we destroyed our own environment to the point of self extinction but irreversibly changed it so that something else could ascend to the top of the food chain? My goodness, what will they make of us, I wonder. Will it all be seen as part of some Divine Plan? I find myself amazed by the prospects of how life will continue, but I know that without doubt, it will.
And that is important, but I'm not sure why.
Perhaps I want it to continue because of the laws of inertia.
Things like to keep doing what they are already doing.
I am life, therefore I want life to continue.
The more I can empathize with all forms of life, the more at peace I feel with my own demise. I know I live on in the imprints I make in this world. It's as ongoing as the Butterfly Effect. Rippling ever outward.
That's my spirituality within atheism.
I just call it Awe at Existence.
Biology is freaking awesome.
finally listened to that podcast that albert linked: http://www.pointofinquiry.org/spirituality_friend_or_foe_adam_frank...
i think that anyone really interested in this issue would find that discussion very interesting. Both Adam Frank ("a nonbeliever with a deep respect for the domains of human spiritual endeavor who represents the pro-spirituality view [that is, the pro-use-of-the-term-spirituality]...a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester), Tom Flynn (a non-believer who represents the anti-spirituality [use of the term] view. He's the executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, etc...) make good arguments to support their positions. However, I think I'm now leaning strongly against using the term "spirituality."
Tom Flynn:"One of the other aspects of "spirit" is that because it can be a metaphor for so many things, it's very easy to reach for in basically a sloppy use of language. If you're tempted to say or type "spirit" or "spiritual" or one of its cognates, there's probably a better word that says exactly what you really mean and doesn't run the risk that some of your hearers or some of your readers are going to think that you just admitted that you believe in ghosts."
In the end though I feel it's a serious thing to impoverish language (cultural self-molestation) for any reason, whether valid or not. I don't think I'm going to participate in the effort.
Like the word "spirit" is the use of the word "soul" going to be an issue for similar reasons, because some meanings of the word too can be taken to have religious significance?
I don't think it's an impoverishment of language to find and use a word that more specifically represents what you are actually trying to express. If, that is, there is one. I haven't thought about it a whole lot yet but other words similar to spirituality seem to be problematic as well. Like "numinous" for instance, or "transcendental." Maybe something along the lines of "sublime" would be closer. An experience in which you stand before something in awe filled with a sense that is both beautiful and terrifying.
Well, you can in principle spin this out almost endlessly. What about a derivative, like getting inspiration (breathing into) ? That can be construed to mean sets of ideas that come from some supernatural realm into your head by virtue of you being specially attuned or receptive to it.
I have recently noticed that the word spirituality is more and more common in media. I personally think it's a ridiculous copout. Canada has many closeted agnostics. I specify agnostics because I have never met an "atheist" who "professes" to be spiritual, but I have met literally dozens and dozens of agnostics who claim so much.
One can ponder one's place in civilisation, one can ponder what it feels like to die, one can ponder whether such or such a policy will increase the number of humans on earth, whether such or such a policy will increase "self perceived" happiness, whether it will increase replicable measures of happiness. One can ponder and dream all one wants, it still has nothing to do with spirituality.
Spirituality is nothing. Its meaning is no more palpable than the definition of "god", it concrete terms, the word spirituality has no more foundation than god. As the definition of god is nearly infinitely malleable to the speaker's intent, so is the muddled definition of spirituality.
It's our new buzzworld... "If you aren't spiritual you are a not worthy of a respectable human being" (often not stated in so many words but implied in a conversation context). That is just as silly as the same statement regarding any particular religion.
The more I hear this word the more annoyed I get.
I don't believe in spirits, souls, or ghosts. Those are all examples of a kind of spirit. The only other kind of spirit I know of is, spirit in the sense of enthusiasm or pluckiness, as in "school spirit" or "team spirit." My concern as a philosopher is that people still cling to the idea that there is a separate reality from the material world represented by or referred to by the words "spirit" and "spiritual."
A feeling of being "at one with" or "connected to" the world is just a feeling, and it's real in the sense that any feeling is: as a manifestation of a state of the brain. That's not romantic, but that's the way it is.
I don't believe in spirits, souls, or ghosts.
A feeling of being "at one with" or "connected to" the world is just a feeling, and it's real in the sense that any feeling is: as a manifestation of a state of the brain.
Is that not profound? Without feelings, are we not just robots? Machinery does not (yet) have awe of the universe or feelings of connections to it, much less longings to connect and understand.. and feel. Reticence to embrace (or even experience or admit to) such feelings seems (to me, at least) to abdicate their explanations to simple minds who content themselves with traditional, standard, supernatural, non-explanations.
How about goosebumps when listening to certain music, that satisfies another kind of yearning for connection? Are such feelings just useless artifacts of random neuronal firings? Perhaps they're significant experiences that drive us to recognize, pursue and make connections with the world we live in, in a neuro-computational (but innately spontaneous) way that evolutionarily enhances our social/group behaviors, and creativity.
Why have we not yet thought of a better word for it?
I wish that i could use awful - filled with awe, but that has also been subverted to another meaning. I am told that I am extremely logical and skeptical by theists. They all tell me that it's amazing that I am highly spiritual because of my treatment of others and my outlook on life. It's been very hard to extract that "spirit" part of the religious concept from the term.
I have helped many religious people see that what they see as spiritual has nothing to do with a belief in the supernatural. My wife (JW) sees me as a extremely spiritual person and thinks that (with faith) I could easily be one of the sheep in her particular view of reality. She sees me as religious without a religion.
I had a long discussion with a retired preacher neighbor and he gave me one of the best compliments that I have ever received. After about an hour of discussion he said: You know what your problem is? I replied with trepidation: No, What? He replied: You're too smart.
I thanked him.
I am an awe filled humanist and naturalist.