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Spirituality Sans Religion

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Posted by Aurino Souza on April 26, 2001 13:51:39 UTC

In a recent post John wrote:

" We should talk about the spirituality thing independent of religion or God "

Regardless of my religious beliefs I couldn't agree more with that. I think it's silly to deny that humans have a spiritual component to their psychological make-up, although the word "spiritual" carries too many connotations to be accepted by everyone. Perhaps we should use "human-ness", or "subjective-ness", or any word that expresses whatever it is that defines what being human is. Personally I'm OK with the word spirituality as long as we keep in mind that association with religion, theism, or the existence of spiritual beings living in other dimensions is not a necessary consequence. Possible perhaps, but definitely not necessary.

One famous professed atheist, can't remember the name, said something like you can be an atheist and still be moved by spiritual feelings. He had no problem going to a church and being deeply moved by the beauty of its interior, the seriousness of the ceremony, the power of choir music. I think he perfectly captured the spirit of it (no pun intended)

However, here comes the problem. If we can't deny that spirituality, in that loose sense of the word, is a psychological trait most of us share, atheists included, and if we accept that for most people spirituality is the single most important component of their psychology and must somehow be expressed and shared with others, then the question is, how can people do that outside of a religious framework?

I'm sure that for most people the answer is, they can't. Spirituality is too strong to be subdued and kept privately, and although most religions are full of problems they are the best channel people have to express and share their feelings. So if we get rid of traditional religion what do we put in its place? How can we, as a society, express the values that are most dear to us in a way that can be easily understood by everyone, and in a way that can be passed to future generations?

This is not a trivial issue. It's not something that we don't need "because cockroaches don't have it and they do just fine". We are not doing fine. There's angst and despair and desolation in the modern world, and much of it is a natural consequence of denying or ignoring our spirituality. To illustrate that, according to official statistics one third of what people spend in medical care is wasted on terminal patients to artificially prolong their lives, often for no longer than a few days and more often than not with no benefit at all for the patient himself. We don't even know how to deal with death anymore, and that is a sure sign that we lost our wisdom.

So, again, should we accept religion as the best, if not perfect, expression of spirituality, should we come up with new ways for expressing it, or should we just simply reject the notion that being human is somehow special?

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