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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Sounds more like spiritual agnosticism but it does depend on how you define spiritual. I think the generally accepted definition of atheist is "a lack of belief in any higher power". 

In my book, spiritual means some sort of reverence or believe in something larger than yourself. Now, if that thing happens to be the physical universe, and the awe and respect that you might have for something as complex and large, I think the two can be compatible. In fact, you could call me a spiritual atheist in that sense. 

I think a lot of people tend to attribute some sort of meaning to their existence/some cognitive awareness that is larger than themselves when they talk about being spiritual. That's where I have a problem with the two, because that is in essence a basic definition of a god and then those two things aren't compatible. 


I think a lot of people tend to attribute some sort of meaning to their existence/some cognitive awareness that is larger than themselves when they talk about being spiritual.

I'm in this camp, metaphorically. The connection I have with people feels real in the sense that it's in my heart. (Another metaphor, if you will.) Intellectually I know the connection's not physical or supernatural. I think it's probably instinctive to feel it.

Other people feel more of this connection than I do, especially in church.

Whenever I hear a laugh track, I feel like they're trying to manipulate me by taking advantage of people's natural feeling of connection when they're laughing together. Does anyone else feel as I do that the reason we laugh is because it's a way for us to communicate a connection with each other? It's built into us by nature. Even babies laugh and smile naturally, before they learn about intentional communication. 

I'm feeling more strongly about this all the time, because I see so much atheistic revolt against the concept of spirituality. I don't blame atheists for revolting, because most people do think it's supernatural, which is worthwhile for us to argue against. But see, I think the roots and causes of the feelings of spirituality are real and natural, and not supernatural.

Feelings aren't facts. If they were, then contradictory feelings would be facts as well. Contradictions are nonsense.

I think before you can say you are or are not a spiritual atheist you have to define "spiritual". Like the concept of "god", "spiritual" is about as vague a term as it gets. 

God equals: father figure? creator? ghost? cosmic entity? nature?  Hell!  100 different people will give a hundred different answers. 

As far as spiritual goes I guess it could involve attitude, or ghostliness, or something created by the brain, an ongoing entity that lasts beyond our death, or aura or who the hell knows what all. 

Personally, I beleive that "spirit" in the ghostly sense is nonsense.  We are physical human beings.  Our consciousness is as close to spiritualism we get.  And our consciousness is caused by electro-chemical reactions within the brain.  When the brain dies it all turns to mush and any "spirit" we might have thought we had is gone as well. 

To me it's pretty simple without adding a bunch of hokieness to it.  We are electro-chemical beings like many other animals, with a bit more ability to manipulate our selves and our environment.  This may sound crude to some but it is reality.  And although crude, it is made palatable with the interjection of ideals and fantasies of spiritualism and god and a whole bunch of other things.  So if it takes thinking one has a spirit to make life palatable so be it.  My only request is that we don't let nonscience stay in the way of the decisions we make at the voting booth and elsewhere that nonsensically affect others. 

I look at the term "atheist" to mean without god.  There is no need for me to prove a negative.  The proof for theism is on the theist.  The natural state of being (as of precaveman days) is to have no idea.  And since god is an idea the proof is on the one supposing it. 

The same goes for "spiritualism".  What does the person mean by it, how does one describe it and how does one substantiate it?  If we don't know what we're talking about by definition then how can we agree or disagree.  For that matter, how can we understand it for ourselves if that is what we pretend to believe. 

Defining things in depth helps us to understand, prove and/or disprove to ourselves and others. 


Doesn't the term atheist just mean no belief in gods? Gods are just a subset of all supernatural nonsense, so an atheist could even believe in ghosts and other stupid shit like that, or not? And what exactly is spirituality? Doesn't sound like it's too much related with real things.

My take on Atheism is 'without theistic conviction' - meaning no religion.  To specify lack of belief in any deity I say "Adeistic", but I'm weird that way.  I just see deism as lacking in theism because although deists believe in a deity, they don't believe that deity has decreed standards by which we should live (theistic doctrines).

If you considered "spirituality" to be the spirit of religion and considered the spirit of religion to be betterment, living virtuously, etc, sure. If you consider the spirit of religion to be the notion of a god, obviously not. But here's where it gets murky. God belief is the belief in a BEING creating the universe (something we all know to be ridiculous given that the physical universe is responsible for the concept of being). If you believe the concept of selff, ego, being, is NOT the result of traceable physical occurrences in your cranium, and that as a result you could retain that "being" while no longer having a corporeal construct to harbor it, then first I'd have to ask: Are you familiar with this new science called "neurology?" And then: If it's not a conscious, omniscient god governing your post-corporeal being (oxymoron), then what WOULD it be? It sounds weak at best. Like some kind of... theoretical Newtonian karma.

I can go along with the idea that there's no God but there is a spiritual element to us that goes beyond flesh, bone and brain neurons. I don't think there's anything incompatible between refusing to accept the idea of a creator diety and believing there's something else to us that can carry on, probably changing into something very different over time, after we pass away. It's basically mental energy that keeps us going, and like all energy it has to go somewhere once we've used it.

I think current philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology contradict your "mental energy" hypothesis. Do you think a similar "mental energy" keeps animals going? If not, what do you think makes humans different, and in what realm does this energy operate? I guess the only way I can agree that there's nothing incompatible between rejecting deities and believing in a nonphysical energy/spirit is if you reject deities for different reasons than I and most atheists do. I don't know what your reasons would be, but mine (lack of evidence, logical contradictions, common sense) apply equally to spiritual "stuff", however it's defined.

First of all, I think “spiritual” is a broad term.

If by "spiritual" you mean that you believe we are made up of more than flesh, bone, and chemicals, then yeah, I agree with you. I absolutely do not believe in any gods, but I do think that we have an energy inside of us that has to go somewhere when we die. I don't pretend to know what actually happens to that energy - whether our energy finds a new human (baby) to inhabit and we are reborn (reincarnated), whether we move to another dimension and/or become a "ghost", whether our energy just dissipates into the atmosphere and we just return to the cosmos, or if something I have never even imagined happens to it. Perhaps we have a choice in the matter when we die, but that would almost have to imply a being or entity larger than we are, and that I do not believe.

I personally define Atheism as a lack of belief in any god or entity that is unseen/unprovable and perceived as the creator of life and/or larger and more meaningful than existence, human or otherwise, here on Earth. I think that any such entity would be present and accounted for if it really existed. I mean, really, what use would a benevolent being have for all this mystery and manipulation/game playing? I also think that the term atheism implies a tendency to look to science and reason for the answers to life’s questions, large and small, instead of accepting a religious “answer” to such things.

Spirituality I would define as the belief in the human soul, with or without the presence of a god. A lot of people I know are spiritual Christians - that is, they believe that Jesus died for our sins to cleanse our souls, but they do not believe in any of the corresponding religious dogma that usually comes with being a Christian - AKA: They don't go to church and feel that they can adequately worship Jesus/God on their own. Virtually all of the Pagans and Wiccans I know are very spiritual as well. I don't necessarily think that you have to believe in any god(s) to be spiritual, but it usually comes with the territory because most people want to make sure that the part of us that never really "dies" goes to a better place after this life.

I don't see any problem with merging Atheism and spirituality, as long as you are simply acknowledging that, yes, there is an energy within us that never dies. But as soon as you throw heaven, hell, nirvana (not the band – lol), paradise, what-have-you, into the mix, you are crossing the religious threshold.

I would have to say that I am a spiritual atheist, as I believe in ghosts. I have seen too much evidence that a part of us remains here after we die to deny it - all criticism be damned! (LOL). I don't think it has anything whatsoever to do with any higher beings or gods, I just think that it is a part of our natural world that we do not yet understand - perhaps we never will; perhaps all these paranormal investigators that have popped out of the woodwork who take a scientific stance on the matter will figure it out for us - I don't know. It really doesn't matter, because everything and everyone is going to die someday and will find out for themselves. We can't guarantee much in this life, but death is a certainty!

Rest assured, you are not alone!


I kind of think you are crossing the religious threshold when you believe in ghosts and an "energy" that outlives us. Realize that there is just as much good evidence for these concepts as there is for god. I am not "spiritual" in exactly the same way as I am not a theist, and for exactly the same reasons. I guess I don't see how you can reject the god hypothesis as unfounded, but still believe in an equally unfounded nonphysical energy.


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