Do atheists believe in spirituality? Part 2

I have decided, logically, and because it is easier, to address one issue in each part of this blog

Firstly, one problem that comes up in discussing spirituality, and came up in the comments, was the terminology and its confusion or association with religious or theist ideology.

As may be obvious the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘spirituality’ are derived from the word ‘spirit’. Many definitions of the term 'spirit' given in Encarta are connected to humans in a normal context: life force, will, enthusiasm, disposition, attitude, group feeling, influence, intention, shared outlook, etc. The term 'spiritual' could be connected to any of these roots, and often is (again Encarta includes definitions 'connected by an affinity of the mind, spirit or temperament' and 'showing concern with the higher things in life').

 Before people believed in gods or God, they believed in spirits. The earliest forms of belief were animism and spiritism. Whether the idea of ‘the spiritual’ was applied here is difficult to ascertain, because modern English didn’t exist then. The first documented uses were in the Bible based on the Greek ‘pneuma’ meaning breath (life force). We get our words pneumonia and pneumatic from the same root. The word translates into the spirit or life force of humans, a spirit (being) or the Holy Spirit according to context.

 I think it is quite legitimate for agnostics, non-believers and atheists to use the term ‘spirituality’ in a modern and non-religious sense, but is it useful to do so? Given the close connection and possible confusion with religion? How would you define meditation, for example, as a spiritual practice or something else? True, in many ways it is a psychological practice. Is it helpful to define things as spiritual or some other term? What does it add?

 Cameron commented that he was searching for a suitable alternative word.  Unseen commented later to another comment:  “Does it have to be just one word? Why?”

There are practises which some may call spiritual, that I find uplifting, edifying or inspiring.  I am not sure what to call them?  But I do want to call them something, to own them and identify with them.

Any suggestions for a different name?  Or do atheists believe in spirituality?


Views: 123

Comment by Doug Reardon on November 5, 2013 at 10:03pm

Atheists can believe in anything, the only unifying concept is "no gods".


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