Hi. My name is John, and I’m a spiritual atheist.
Like “God,” the word “spirituality,” is a conveniently ambiguous term. That said, it’s not so vague as to be totally meaningless. I think it captures an area of concern better than any other term out there. I especially like Wikipedia’s definition:
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate reality or transcendent dimension of the world; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his or her being, or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual’s inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality: a more comprehensive self; other individuals or the human community; nature or the cosmos; and/or the divine realm.
Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities and/or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.
This definition captures the collection of concerns that are most meaningful to me as a skeptic. Above all else, I am deeply interested in “an experience of connectedness with a larger reality: a more comprehensive self; other individuals or the human community; nature or the cosmos.” As a skeptic, I don’t believe there is solid evidence for the Gods conceived by the major Western monotheisms, for an immortal soul, for reincarnation, or for any kind of universal karmic moral laws or any purpose to the universe. But I can and have felt this deep sense of connection to others and the pursuit of this connection is important to me. And I find that many skeptics/atheists either do not share my concerns, or do not have a set of common terms, understandings and practices to discuss this concern. When I look past or translate into metaphor or into my own terms the god language and/or much of the doctrine of Christian mystics and Buddhist practitioners, I find methods that bring me closer to this sense of deep connection with others.
These questions are primarily for my fellow skeptics, but feel free to pitch in if you have something you think may add value to this conversation:
1) Do you feel a need to pursue a sense of persistent and meaningful connection to humanity, to this planet, or to the universe? Do you feel that you can have singular experiences that can deepen this sense of connection?
2) Do you feel that spirituality is a useful term for discussing your own concerns for connection, emotionally transforming experiences, mindfulness, or becoming a better human being?
3) What practices have you tried or adopted in these pursuits?