Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not religious but spiritual

Tom Shepherd writes an excellent column, “That’s a Good Question,” for Unity magazine, which fosters “practical spirituality for daily living.” In the November/December issue, he comments that those who claim to be “spiritual, not religious” disparage organizations dedicated to the Divine. Good point.

But I find the distinction “spiritual, not religious” useful for communicating with persons turned off by religion, atheists, for instance, and some agnostics. To my observation, they can be intensely spiritual but hate religion, seeing nothing good in it and resisting evidence of any good done by it.

Atheists are driven by spiritual conviction. Because of it, they are disgusted by religious corruption and aggression, but they deny that they have spiritual beliefs because they conflate them with religious beliefs. Religions are types or brands of spirituality, in Shepherd’s words, “a trail of settlements along the path to support” our spiritual journey, but I see that atheists practice spirituality without such support.

As I wrote in “Food, shamans, atheists, lesbians” (a few posts down), I can find common ground with atheists when I distinguish between spiritual and religious and when I interpret Christian language non-literally. This is quite an achievement because atheists detest worship of the Christian god that Shepherd rightly says “does not exist.” I cherish the comment of the atheist who said I comforted her and take it as evidence that I showed respect for atheist spirituality.

For more on this subject see my column Does God exist? Wrong question!

1 comment:

SF Kid said...

I am atheist and not spiritual either. And atheism is not a religion either. It is simply a lack of belief in a supernatural explanation of things or a supernatural being pulling the strings. There are people out there who label themselves atheist and can be quite dogmatic or seemingly religious about their non-belief - proselytizing, even. So, like all human activity, there is a vast range of behavior for any particular label.