Among the presentations coming up for me is one exploring common ground between enlightened Christians and enlightened atheists. Helping me to do this are atheists who respect religion while criticizing its negatives, the same negatives observed by thoughtful Christians.
The blogger ddjango offers a good example of spiritual atheism or secular spirituality. He invited me to write a guest post, but I'm afraid my post On Enlightenment on ddjango’s site became excessively abstract.
Wondering whether it would speak to most people, I asked a friend to read it and tell me what she thought. Her answer is gratifying:
AHHHH, Jeanette!! You give me such comfort!!! I loved reading your guest blog...and, in my opinion, the entry is a great deal like your book in that the reader must be a committed reader. He/she must be dedicated to learning, looking for answers and/or support for confusing thoughts that exist in himself/herself. Definitely NOT looking for an easy read. I am assuming that people who read blogs such as yours and ddjango's are just such readers.Flattery works for me.
That, of course, does not mean that each reader understands easily. I, for example, read the first half of your guest blog with relative ease...and found every word a "once-again renewal of hope"...and had to dig deeper and read extremely attentively once you wrote more about Comte-Sponville. BUT, I did understand what I was reading and I fall back again on the fact that your readers must read thoughtfully...and have some degree of inquisitive interest...and WANT to learn. And again, I think for the most part these must be the sort of people who DO read your blogs. The bottom line? PERFECT!!!
I’m just as delighted by this response from a friend who had assumed that Jesus was only a myth and not a man of history, until he read my book.
What a delight . . . to read flawless writing! I now understand much better than I previously had what Jesus might have meant by the ‘Reign of God.’ I even feel somewhat better about my tendency to live in and appreciate the present: I've had many timeless moments, and so perhaps have already enjoyed eternal life.For me it doesn’t get better than to clarify spiritual concepts for discriminating minds, and to indicate shared values where people expect total disagreement.
February 29, 2009
I started this blog hoping to have conversations about religion and spirituality in our daily lives. When I started writing God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky many years ago, I saw little possibility that my views would be accepted. Since that time I’ve watched a huge shift in perceptions, sometimes subtle, sometimes amazingly abrupt. Twenty years ago, Christians could comfortably assume that “everybody” prayed to Jesus. That’s no longer the case. But often I still hear and see the word “Christian” used as a synonym for “good.” This sends an implicit insult to people of other faiths.
The foundational message of my book is that religious myths play an honorable and indispensable role in human lives but our Christian myth is not superior to others. I ask readers to carefully digest what I say, because the word “myth” as it's popularly used means false and worthless. This hinders understanding of religious myth, which is perfectly respectable.
I invite believers and non-believers alike to uncouple spirituality from religion. Readers of God Is Not Three Guys will find instances of non-religious spirituality, and the video “Breaking up religion's monopoly on spirituality” at http://ddjango.blogspot.com/ prompted this reflection.
Here are examples of spiritual practice unrelated to religion:
• Entering a room and sensing its spiritual atmosphere, whether welcoming, threatening, playful, sad, etc.
• Feeling connected to nature while walking a country road, being in the mountains, experiencing a night with moon, stars, northern lights, etc.
• Intuiting a friend’s sorrow or elation or pride or shame,
• Knowing that certain persons speak wisdom, certain persons have good instincts irrespective of their educational level, certain persons have the natural intelligence to sum up situations and people.
These instincts, feelings, thoughts, and kinds of knowledge are spiritual; they are independent of scientific knowledge and also of religion. The speaker in the video states that we all possess spiritual judgment, but it has been “hijacked by religion.” I have to agree. Mothers often have it more than bishops, he says. I agree.
“We are our own spirituality,” he says. “We are it.” I believe there is something beyond us, something beyond our comprehension and imagination that is given the very inadequate name, “God.” And I don’t share the speaker’s antipathy toward religion. Religion has satisfyingly served millions. But we must not grant any religion the power to muzzle our minds.