Do you believe someone can be a spiritual atheist?


When someone asks my religion I always say “I’m a spiritual atheist”, most of the time the person who asked looks at me confused and says there can be no such thing. I explain to them that I don’t believe in god, which is my definition of atheist, but I do believe everyone has a soul and that there is more to life than just chemicals in the brain. If they understand they tend to ask more about what I believe in, but plenty of times they just shake their head and move on, still puzzled.


What do you think? Can there be someone who is, by definition, a spiritual atheist or do they count as some other religion?


To get your brain churning, here are a few questions:

  • What’s your definition of atheist/atheism?
  • What’s your definition of spiritual?
  • Can the two ever coincide?
  • If you think there is such thing as spiritual atheism what qualifies someone as being that?

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If you are going to call yourself spiritual, then it is up to you to define what "spiritual" means, not us.

I'm not sure I agree that atheist = anti-theist. One of those makes a claim (anti-theist "there is no god") whereas the other simply rejects the claims of others (atheist "I don't believe in any of your gods"). 

But maybe I'm wrong on my definitions. 

I believe you are correct, Forrest.  Further, I would say that in the most pure sense, "Atheist" is simply that absence of theistic belief - there doesn't even need to be a pro-active rejection.

Ah, yes. I agree with you. The confusion comes from the fact that we have created a name for it. I think Sam Harris has a bit about how we don't have a-astrologists or other descriptions for people who lack a certain attribute. Generally we don't describe things by what they aren't. 

Thanks for the note!

Well, we do have apolitical, amoral, and asexual.  These are things that are more of an 'outlook' or 'perspective' than simple body of knowledge.  I suppose I could try to persuade someone to a position of 'agravity' but that wouldn't cause them to float away.

Ha. That makes me think of Tim Minchin and his skit on gravity. 

I'm curious as to how you can say that spirituality infers a higher power?

You know, technically a deist might be considered an Atheist, since theism involves not just a belief in a god, but some rituals and doctrines combined to form a 'religion' or theology.  So, in that sense, one might be an Atheist yet hold to the notion of mind/brain duality even though there is no evidence for it (and plenty of evidence against it).  I'm sure many Atheists would disagree.

There are no prerequisites in Atheism for rationality, logic, evidentiary epistemology, or skepticism.  One could be Atheist yet believe the Great Gazoo acts as their extra-terrestrial guardian angel.  I've even run across Atheists who believe in holistic medicine.  Bleh.

As for myself, I've become more of an anti-supernaturalist than Atheist.  Of course I'm still an Atheist because I am without theological ritual/doctrine or god-belief, but for me that is just a byproduct of anti-supernaturalism.

Thats how I am too. My atheism came from a more general rejection of the supernatural.

I can certainly see how someone might believe in more general supernatural ideas, and still reject the idea of gods. To me though, the distinction between a supernatural intelligence and anything else supernatural is pretty much non existent. If you think there is supernatural 'stuff', what makes you think that there are not also supernatural 'beings'?

Exactly. :D

I wouldn't consider a deist to be an atheist. I suspect our definitions may be different... but that would make us adeist atheists.

Yeah OK, deists are technically atheists in that they are non-theists.

Very close one, and not instinctive, but at least grammatically correct.


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