Atheism and 'Spirituality' - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Atheism and 'Spirituality'


Recently I had my mind blown by a member of an atheist group on another site arguing that discussions on "spirituality" should be allowed because spirituality isn't the same as belief in god(s). Naturally I Googled it and was shocked to learn that there are lots of people out there who still identify as "spiritual" even though they also identify as atheist, or "spiritual but not religious." That seems like such an outright contradiction to me.

I don't understand how someone could come to the understanding that god(s) and all of the myths and religions surrounding them are fake, only to turn around and get into "New Age" or other "spiritual" practices and not apply the same lines of thinking which took them out of theism to their newfound "spirituality." It's like jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan -- a little less crazy, maybe, but still crazy! My uncle basically did this -- he left the oppressive religion of the family, but got into some weird bohemian New Age stuff instead. Like... why?

But then I've also never understood religious or "spiritual" people in general. Like why does anyone "need" religion or spirituality? It's such a waste of time and energy, all so they can gobble up comforting lies and avoid a few bleak truths. I mean I guess I can understand why sociopaths, psychopaths and sadists love religion, because it can give them power over other people. I've even seen some atheists take (pseudo)science and logic to a whole other level and basically start their own "movements" which are just religions by another name. Am I the only person on this planet who doesn't want to manipulate and exploit other people to get money or recognition??

I really just don't get people...

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 11:22 PM
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I guess I see it as you don't need music, poetry, movies or other art either. It just makes life that much darker and more empty to live without them. I think a lot of people relate to religion in the same way you do (I assume) to creative art. It's very unfortunate that some religion has become a tool to control and oppress, or made out to take the place of science and reason rather than being complementary to them.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 11:24 PM
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I've met spiritual atheists, but spiritual agnostics seem much more common. It's easy to see the appeal of spiritualism: you don't have to worry about any rules or unpleasantness of religions, and you can pick and choose whatever magic makes you happy. It's like a do-it-yourself craft project instead of a cultural imposition.

Once you accept that most people don't value reality/truth unless there are clear negative consequences to their life from picking make believe over reality, it makes sense. Creative free spirit types will gravitate to spirituality, those who want things more ordered go to religion.

Of course there can also be atheistic religions, like Jainism. Gods are good tools for religions, but not the only option.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 12:12 AM
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Technically, atheism is the rejection of the existence of deity (not all religions believe in deity, Buddhism for example, which is basically the religious equivalent of Deconstruction) and agnosticism is not knowing (not necessarily the same as belief or unbelief).

People think they aren't religious when they say things like they're "spiritual not religious," but it's more like they're relocalizing religious mysticism, discussion, instinct, questions, and fervor outside of an organised religion--it's doctrines, orthodoxy, churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples.

I don't think anyone isn't religious, honestly. People are just religious in profoundly different ways, and some of the ways in which people choose to be religious are abusive and are often out of touch with the limitations of the human condition.

Even if people abandoned all talk of God, metaphysics, divinity, ultimate reality, or any any sort of moral reality which says we owe something to other human beings outside of our own individual or cultural making, religion manifests in other ways--like civic religion/nationalism. What people buy, sell, consume--the things that they, in a sense, connect themselves to on a daily basis is their religion. Culture is religion. Politics is religion. Consumerism is religion (a generally bad one imo). I think the whole dichotomy of dividing the world into "secular" and "sacred" or secular/religious is altogether bogus.

In a sense, if ancient Greece or a present day nation/state or politician doesn't have God or gods to sponsor their wars, in the absence of any "religion" they'll find some other way to justify it. That being said, I tend to get pissy when people use Jesus of Nazareth specifically to sponsor their state violence, as he seems to not be interested in that sort of thing.

Essentially those things which people think in some manner either connect them to God, to some sort of purpose (even if it's a purpose they've invented for themselves), or to people are religious by definition.

I think many atheists are far more religious than they think they are, they just don't believe in a deity. Maybe a more accurate assessment, is that many atheists are philosophical materialist (there is no reality outside of material reality).

At the same time, I think many Christians (the religion I believe in) are way, way more "secular" than they think they are, most especially when they compete for cultural and political dominance.

Frankly, I meat atheists, agnostics, who show more demonstrable love (Christ likeness) for other people than a lot of Christians do.

I don't think you've escaped religion--I think your critiquing authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism, and for that I commend you. I just disagree with what you think religion is.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 03:33 AM Thread Starter
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@firelight

But music, poetry, movies or other art don't control people. They don't ask you to believe in fantasy blindly and unconditionally and dedicate your entire worldview to their whims. There's nothing creative or beautiful about religion -- and I cannot fathom how so many people can't see that.

@Paul

Why do people need "magic" to make them "happy" in the first place, though? Why can't people just accept that what we see is what we've got and make the best of it, without trying to impose all of these ludicrous fantasies and rigid rules that work only to reinforce our inherent tribalism?

@donistired

I think you're giving religion WAY too much dominion! Religion is defined as a system of belief and worship of a superhuman or otherworldly entity, typically god(s). It is characterized by dogma -- core beliefs or principles that are held as Absolutely True. Granted, some states like North Korea and the Soviet Union replaced religion with nationalism and/or leader-worship -- but this is merely another form of control. At its core religion is all about control.

Contrary to your assertion, I am not at all religious. I don't "believe" in anything fantastic, metaphysical or otherworldly. I don't "worship" anyone or anything. I have zero interest in all the metaphysical questions that everyone else seems incapable of simply leaving at "we don't know yet" and getting on with their lives. I'm not much of a consumer; I buy what I need and save the rest. I have no need of connections to god(s), purpose or people. What, then, is my "religion"?

I do believe that only natural laws and forces operate in the universe so that kind of makes me a naturalist, though I'm not a big fan of nature itself. But how is that religion? There's no worship and no dogma, no organization dictating anything about how I live. I believe that nothing should ever be "sacred" -- everything should be open to questions, criticism and even mockery. I believe that religion is a relic of our unfortunately superstitious and tribal past that needs to die out if we're to have any hope of actually bettering humanity or the world we live in. And I don't understand how more people don't see that.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 06:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetragammon View Post
@Paul

Why do people need "magic" to make them "happy" in the first place, though? Why can't people just accept that what we see is what we've got and make the best of it, without trying to impose all of these ludicrous fantasies and rigid rules that work only to reinforce our inherent tribalism?
Life for most people is a frustrating series of failures and things that are completely out of their control. Who wouldn't want supernatural forces in their corner which they can appeal to or manipulate? Who wouldn't want that unexpected death or cancer to have a higher meaning that makes it okay? Who wouldn't want to know they have a powerful advocate controlling the things that seem out of control? Who wouldn't want to be loved and know that everlasting bliss awaits them? I'd certainly love for that to be true.

Tribalism is a plus too -- people want to belong, they want to have a team to play for, that's what gives their lives meaning. Only socially disfunctional tribeless people don't seek that in various ways (of course there are many other tribes besides religious ones).

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 06:17 AM
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its just a matter of what is more fundamental. truth/fact are defined within a narrative. narrative and language are more fundamental. narratives certainly vary and there are observations to be made about the nature of language and narrative. I wont go into that further yet?

but your last post was basically I have values X, Y, Z. why dont other people also? well they can basically think the same thing about A, B, C. some belief has to be foundational and beyond question, or you would end up questioning everything.

are you failing to understand that the mechanisms that make your conviction in your own beliefs so strong and make other beliefs seem ludicrous - they function the same for other people and their beliefs.

I get pushing your own agenda and beliefs - of course that's how they function, you believe them and act on them. but at the kind of meta level of discussion can't you accept that the differences in belief are arbitrary?

beliefs can function the same as all differences. we see opposable thumbs as a good, evolution favors humans, there are many humans etc etc. say someone believes opposable thumbs are bad. evolution still functions. so who cares what they think? and they could somehow be right? humans end up polluting, bring on catastrophy etc etc, this wouldn't happen if we didnt evolve thumbs? so they say good and bad are uncertain.

zizeck says ideology is like a garbage can and we are eating from the garbage all the time, we just cant function another way.



religion is just a class of ideologies to which your own ideology is opposed. you cant meaningfully hold onto that and also justify your judgements. you cant use a pair of pliers on all of your tools, because you cant use the pliers on themself. you've excused your own views from judgement while you apply those views on other views. to follow the metaphor, someone else has picked the hammer to fix all their tools and you scoff at them because they arbitrarily chose the hammer. but you have the pliers arbitrarily. you both suffer the same paradox.

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ― Mother Teresa
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 06:24 AM
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I think the meta discussion of particular views must always fail to justify itself - can only justify own fundamental views by brute fact, which is not a discussion, has zero power of persuasion to holders of different views because they have exactly the same justification for their views.

you can discuss how language and narrative function. and you can present a model of values etc without an argument for them. which is what I see in tao te ching. not an argument, just some thoughts from wise old *******s. which is really the spiritual mode of thought. seeing something as aesthetics and a model rather than as logical premises. others might find the aesthetic and models of behaviour etc of the bible to be attractive. and that's just how it functions.

I think people can get really far from the creation of meaning. and creation of meaning, creativity itself is the only magic I believe in. it functions by free will, arbitrarily, even if those are deterministic, it's something I think is insanely amazing. if you forget it, you might be lost in dogma, someone else's creation

in that way a lot of logic, reason etc is totally dogmatic and domineering just like religion. there are things they want to crack down on, things they reject in others completely. but if you see it as creativity and magic then you can see others as co-creators rather than opposites/oppositional. I feel like that's a healthier viewpoint, for me anyway. and I can see the value in the dogma also, it was created, had a function, changes over time, etc etc.

i think the result of meta-analysis tends toward acceptance rather than putting one ideology above another. acceptance that I am A and someone else can be B and those things arent mutually exclusive, even if A and B ideologies are logically mutually exclusive. in every mind there is a whole world which functions in a unique way. I try to accept that my world is not the world. it's a simulacrum. reality is in the mind.

which comes back to magic and miracles. because we needn't work on the supposed reality "out there" (which is beyond our reach anyway), our understanding is an understanding of non-reality, of a simulation, of mind only. to alter perception/mind/belief is to alter the reality which we actually live in. therefore to believe in a spirituality/god is to create a spirituality/god.

the rejection of the fact that others minds function differently than ours and therefore believe different things is a kind of solipsism. it's very egocentric to believe that of all the minds yours is the "correct" one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tao te ching chapter 1
The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of all things.

Therefore:
Free from desire you see the mystery.
Full of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret,
The secret of secrets,
The gate to all mysteries.
when you do the meta analysis you see how it functions - the mystery. with attachment to your ideology you push your ideology - the manifestation. the two have the same origin - we can't discuss anything without eating from the trash can of ideology, cant achieve complete detachment. complete detachment is the Buddhist dream, not the aim of taoism. we can see the pattern without the particulars, like seeing an asymtote.

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ― Mother Teresa

Last edited by andy1984; 10-24-2020 at 07:03 AM. Reason: I edited the **** out that
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 08:08 AM
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My whole thing is that I reject the idea that humans are the best thing the universe has produced. When I hear people singing humanity's praises I find it funny. I firmly believe our capacity to understand existence is severely limited, kind of like expecting what we consider to be inferior beings (considering them inferior is really stupid to me) to understand what we humans can. So basing myself on that, I have to show some humility and accept I pretty much don't and can't know much about the big questions. God? I don't buy any of the gods of religions I'm aware of, but I can be down with some vague, amorphous idea of God. I don't worship, though. If I believe in God, it's one that doesn't consider us excessively important, not more than any the rest of it anyway. Don't know if this makes me spiritual, but there.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 08:19 AM
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If you take the definition literally then I suppose he's right because atheism means disbelief in Gods/deities not other supernatural topics.

Anyway I think a lot of people use it in a similar way to art/creative pursuits etc and I especially think this as most of the new age stuff has associated aesthetics etc and it's also a community oriented and self improvement thing I think. I don't really care because I understand the appeal psychologically, as long as they're not using it to sell crap like Goop, or spread beliefs that are socially toxic like the Abrahamic religions.

Also there are so many dickhead atheists around that I don't really think it makes Humanity better automatically. If anything I've come across more pleasant and open minded new age people than atheists.

I've been rewatching Friends recently so this is kind of played out perfectly by the relationship between Phoebe and Ross. Like Ross is a really annoying character (in general tbh,) and has to be right all the time, just obnoxious and kind of full of himself. I thought while watching him that I've come across many similar personalities online. Phoebe on the other hand while believing a lot of kooky stuff has a much more positive outlook on life and is more empathetic and less controlling. And I am closer to Ross in personality tbh in many ways which is probably why I hate him


It also reminds me of this, I showed my brother this clip because he brought up something that reminded me and he was like I feel like I'm both of these guys and 'it's like feeding the two wolves'


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 08:51 AM
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Whatever we let govern how we live, talk or how we see/treat other human beings--that's our dogma, and "everyone's dogma lives loudly within them." You might say you don't have a dogma, but your letting a dogma govern how you see other atheists.

Personally, I'd rather everyone share their dogma with people. If someone wants to bear witness to the Buddha, to Muhammad, to the Tao, to Brahman or whatever they believe in or don't believe in, I say let them do it. I've probably got something to learn from them (no, I assuredly have something to learn from them)--what most concerns me though isn't their religiousness (because I'm not only religious, I'm a religious realist), it's who is this religion's out-group? Who is on their periphery? What strangers do they demonize? We're all born on one side of life, and we all have to go through this traumatic thing called living. We might be better off if we at least try and pay close attention to each other's words.

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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 09:20 AM
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If anything I've come across more pleasant and open minded new age people than atheists.
My experience has been completely different. I've met a number of outwardly "new age" spiritual people and without exception found them to be the most obnoxious bunch. (Obviously that doesn't mean that's how I feel about everyone who identifies as "spiritual" whatever that means, only the ones I've been unfortunate enough to meet.)

Out of the people I've worked with, I'd say, less than a half were religious. Out of that number, a negligeable number of people were, what I'd call, proselytisers (I'm in my 40s and can count on one hand those examples). The rest were agnostics/atheists/irreligious. For the latter, the subject of atheism is immaterial and only comes up in pointed conversation where it is an immediate subject. Similarly, for the majority of the religious folks, belief in god is a strictly personal issue that they see no need to bring up in general conversations.

I can't say the same about the "new age" folk I'd met. For those that I've worked with, any conversation was an invitation to somehow introduce either their lifestyle, worldview, or unsolicited advice. What's even more worrying was that their opinions and advice often ran contrary to scientific consensus, like get reiki or see a chiropractor, instead of seek medical advice. If someone was feeling run down and had a headache, it was 'oh don't worry it's just the negativity/badness radiating out of you'; whereas any sane person would enquire as to the state of the person's general health/sleep/fluid intake etc, for them it was 'here's some essential oil or crystal, or why don't you just try my yoga class, for which I charge Ł15 an hour'. Not to mention that I'm yet to meet a single "new age" person who wasn't obsessed about 'chemicals' vs natural products, or had some conspiracy belief about vaccines or science in general.

In my last job, one of my best friends is a young Earth creationist whose life's goal is to have me "saved". I absolutely love the girl and consider her one of the most genuinely nice people I'd ever met. And even though she wears her beliefs on her sleeve they are actively moderated and rarely create any friction as she is mature enough to know when to bring them up and figure out when her opinions may not be welcome. Regrettably, I've not been able to bridge that gap in worldviews with the new age folk. Not saying it's entirely their fault, just that they exhaust my patience and generate far too much conflict regardless of a setting.

I appreciate that not all "spiritual" people are "new age", just that I've not met anyone who outwardly identified as "spiritual" and wasn't into "new age" stuff also.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 09:38 AM
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@Sheska

Yeah I guess we've just come across different people. It can blend into a lot of intolerant stuff like conspiracy theory, and people will use any tool to get power over people as well like the OP said. I don't believe this is unique to religion or spirituality though, I think people use science in a similar controlling way.

Also I wrote that post kind of quickly but I wasn't just thinking about new age people but also neo-pagans, vaguely pantheistic people and a variety of other stuff I've come across.

edit: I also grew up in a town where Christianity was kind of forced on me through the education system in primary school, and there were a lot of conservative Muslims around so I didn't form the most favourable opinion of those religions either.




Also this is somewhat related OP I read this a while ago about the psychology behind certain types of beliefs. There are also differences between the kinds of people who like organised religion and spirituality. Spiritual people also tend to be higher in schizotypy:

https://sci-hub.se/https://www.scien...1002771730135X

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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 09:42 AM
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@Sheska

Yeah I guess we've just come across different people.
Which is kinda my point. We can't draw these type of generalised conclusions about whole populations of people. Our individual experiences are anecdotal and have no bearing on overall objective picture.

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if you believe in aliens, does that still make you a atheist?
There is nothing that precludes an atheist from believing in aliens.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 09:58 AM
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Well I literally said in my post 'I've come across' ..... It's also somewhat subjective and down to what you see as pleasant traits in other people.

I've visited new age communities and areas and obviously come across them online, I guess I find them less annoying. I'm sure if I lived somewhere with loads of them for a long period they would start to annoy me since most people do sooner or later. It's just a matter of time/exposure probably lol.

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post #16 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 10:01 AM
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Well I literally said in my post 'I've come across' ..... It's also somewhat subjective and down to what you see as pleasant traits in other people.
Not disagreing with you at all. Was just an observation on the subject in general.
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post #17 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 01:16 PM
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@firelight
But music, poetry, movies or other art don't control people. They don't ask you to believe in fantasy blindly and unconditionally and dedicate your entire worldview to their whims. There's nothing creative or beautiful about religion -- and I cannot fathom how so many people can't see that.
It seems to me that that is the very thing that the New Age and Spirituality people are seeking, the parts of religion that are not about control and blind submission. I share your puzzlement that many people do seem to want to control and be controlled. But I don't think that those things are intrinsic to religion itself... I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that point.
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