the presence of spiritual atheists

My cloistered Roman Catholic childhood still blisters my world awareness and often makes me blind to all that exists. While I can often see the wide panorama that is our universe, I sometimes miss the details that paint that picture.

I’ve been reading the book How God Changes Your Brain. The researchers who wrote the book surveyed atheists and found a number of them to be highly spiritual. While it sounds like a spiritual atheist would be a living oxymoron, a clear view of their beliefs makes me realize I am not so far removed from them.

An atheist is a person who does not believe that God (or any deity) exists. This is not to say that an atheist does not believe in a higher or greater power in the universe; they just do not believe in beings external to the universe who created and control everything. Because they do not believe in worshiping a being outside of ourselves, religious worship has no value for them. It is not that they don’t believe in religion. Religions exist. A spiritual atheist simply has no need of a traditional religion. However, a spiritual atheist is very open to transcendent experiences.

I ventured on to the Web site for the Center for Spiritual Atheism. And there they are advertising the slogan “We are all ONE” and connecting with other spiritual atheists on a Ning network. I wandered around and found phrases like “thoughts, words, and actions that are in harmony with the idea that the entire universe is, in some way, connected” and “that as they [spiritual atheists] go about their lives striving to be personally healthy and happy, they should also be striving to help the world around them be healthy and happy.”

Interestingly, an atheist is defined by another person’s definition of God. One spiritual atheist was quoted as saying “If ‘others’ accidentally mistake ‘God’, the mythical representation of the universe itself, for something that exists outside of the universe (the external creator and ruler of the universe), I have no ethical choice but to declare myself to be an ‘atheist’.”

I consider myself to be in a process of self-definition. I go about the world identifying with some labeled groups, yet not belonging to any single one of them. I do not want to be labeled. My beliefs are very similar to those of spiritual atheists, but I don’t know that I would use the term to label and define myself. I definitely want to transcend any categorization that is defined and determined by other people’s beliefs.

If we are all ONE, then we are all some of everything. And that can never be labeled.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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8 Responses to “the presence of spiritual atheists”

  1. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    I love the idea of not labeling as to others beliefs.
    As a Roman Catholic, I guess that is what I tend to “label” my self, I somtimes question things that seem to be contrary to any spiritual faith, rather a human interpretation of what should nd must be done rather than just being spiritual.
    Example: If God made everyone in his image, then why should any church judge who will be a “member” and who will not!
    If we are to /od, Divine, or any other light in each other, these beiefs fail us in the ability to be non-judgemental and love each other fullly as self acceptance, rather than made up beliefs that we have no way of knowing if þhey are truly /od or just mixed up legends that sOmehow got us to this place! I love my faith, however have real issue with things that are really trivial and actually allienate others that might think differently or act differently. Examples that come to mind are the male dominance still alive and kicking even in todays world. As a lector, I see this first hand up close and personel, church attitudes towards personal issues that are really betwween the indivual and God. It is also very interesting things like gossip are said to be sinful, but on a daily basis I see it all the time from those that claim to be church going faithful people. This trobles me quite often. I surely have seen more that I consider the best ethicalN. Moral people either step away from organized religion or just say they are of one faith or belief but not practicew it openly.

    Quite honestly a lot of these (what I call) made up belief systems turn out to actually harm rather than help others come together in peace, quite the opposite.

    Ok…I am done spewing my confusion about the matter… I would add that the essence of the issue is that bing at peace is the key.

    Kim. 😉

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim — I understand you perfectly. It is a case of people being unable to “walk the talk” of their religion. It ain’t easy being human. I spout stuff all the time here in writing. I spin such a fanciful idealism, but all that shatters in the face of complex human behavior and beliefs. I think we came here to work through those issues that you describe above — mostly because it seems to be prevalent. What is really interesting is that nearly all of our great mystics and divine prophets walked among people but were not of those people. Many of them spent most of their time alone: Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu. Even the Dalai Lama does not walk among his followers.

  2. holessence Says:

    “I do not want to be labeled.”

    Barbara, I sooooooooooo resonate with that statement, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the rest of the post. Another prime example of excellent food for thought. Thank you for broadening my horizons.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — I never even knew of spiritual atheists until I read the book; the authors don’t even use that term. It just popped into my head and when I googled it, there they were! I will probably do some more exploring because I find the whole idea tremendously intriguing.

  3. Gil Says:

    the concept of God or spirituality is too big for religion. Also I know we are one but sometimes I wish you would get out of my head. 😉

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Ha-ha, Gil! So glad to see you. Hope all is well in your part of the world. I agree with you that if God is defined as the entirety of all that exists, then existence has to be the only religion large enough to handle it. Same with spirituality — if all things are spiritual, then existence is the only way to contain its entirety. No, I won’t get out of your head . . .

  4. sandiwhite Says:

    I had to laugh at Gil’s remark, see? You are making a mark on the lives of people half a world away as well as your native country. I’ve never heard of spiritual atheists and it does sound like a non-sequitur, it leaves me scratching my head and wondering, “Huh?” The whole thing is just way too big for me, a common garden-variety Methodist, one who had to go away for awhile to test other theories and returned to the teachings of my youth to comfort myself. And why not, your religion should be your comfort and guide. Too much silliness goes on in the name of religion, dogma, theory and cant that very few ordinary folks can or would be able to understand. The message itself is simple and clear, to love your neighbor as yourself. Anyway, what do those atheists do in foxholes?

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Exactly. From what I can tell, spiritual atheists are allowing other people’s definitions of God determine that they are atheists, instead of declaring their own self-definition as spiritual beings who define themselves by their own beliefs. I find it interesting that in the list of “atheists” they have included Buddhist and Hindu believers. I hope to never find myself in a foxhole under any conditions, but my guess is that an atheist would respond like any other human and surrender their fate to the universal consciousness that some people call God.

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