What Replaces Spirituality When It’s Gone?

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This is a tough question to ask, and a tough question to answer. The thing about having deeply held beliefs is that when they change, a worldview changes with it. Nobody starts and ends in the same place, and everyone ends up having to find what works for them. Some people – even some atheists – end up embracing some sort of beliefs that entail spirituality. I am unable to afford such a luxury; discipline with regards to my therapy and mental health is essential to my survival.

I understand why some people pick spirituality or a sense of it, though.
Look at the world in a particular way, and aspects of it will always remain. There is a comfort to be had in believing things will just work out, or that there is some sort of mystery which requires that we treat others with dignity and decorum. To be sure, this even happens to religious folks – people switch sub-branches of a main religion quite frequently in free societies.

I’ve met and talked with people who replace spirituality with something else, like a broad focus on a specific purpose or cause. Sometimes it’s promoting an ideal, or maybe it could be adhering to a specific new set of rules for one’s life. It might not be rooted in mysticism, but it’s held with a similar deference.

Whatever the reason, it serves a purpose for people. If nothing else, it’s an answer to the question of what one believes. Others can take it or leave it, and they can find solace in whatever construct they create for themselves. In a sense, I’m talking about people dealing with the thing Nietzsche referred to as a post-nihilistic pessimism. After someone has destroyed an old belief, there comes a period of time where things don’t seem as vibrant as they were.

After losing spirituality, my focus has often turned to finding stronger connections with people.
From my perspective, positively impacting other lives is what my life will amount to. It’s something I can’t even take from myself, despite the times when I very much would like to do so. Regardless of the level of improvement, I can choose every day to add to the human experience.

There are times when it doesn’t work, and it probably disappoints me more than it ought to. Sometimes things just get in the way in life. Whenever this happens, I tend to feel listless and pessimistic again. Naturally, it doesn’t help that my mind is predisposed to that.

The most unhealthy thing I do is remain oblivious to helping myself. Despite years of therapy and medications, I still have not gotten around a permanent barrier to improving my well-being. A lot of this has to do with anxiety and the fear it spawns. Terror grips me at times where most people can function without batting an eyelash. In turn, this makes me feel like I’ve made no progress. In reality, I have actually made much progress.

I’ve just been crawling out of a very deep hole.

41 thoughts on “What Replaces Spirituality When It’s Gone?

    • Should add, one doesn’t have to believe in the gods to be “spiritual.” Theists have hijacked the word, but we should never forget, Buddhists (who’re atheists) are amongst the most spiritual people on earth. Indeed, I’d contend that people who hold steadfastly to Gaian beliefs are more spiritual than most traditional theists.

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    • Sorry I didn’t get to these comments sooner.

      Panpsychism is still a little too far into the supernatural for my liking. While it might be a working hypothetical construct for people, I don’t see it getting justified by evidence. In that regard, it’s just as useless to me as theism, since I’d be replacing one belief I can’t prove with another.

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      • Generally true, although some big names like Koch and Tegmark are investing a great deal of time and effort to try and verify it as a quantifiable thing. I see the greater benefit of it being that 1) it has no dogma attached, and 2) it places responsibility firmly on the individual, as opposed to irresponsible notions such as vicarious redemption.

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  1. Good news, Sirius!
    According to your atheist counselor, spirituality is a positive interaction with this world.
    “Terror grips me at times where most people can function without batting an eyelash.”

    Just be positive, dude!


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  3. I use the word “spirituality” for lack of a better term and because religion, organized and otherwise, hasn’t provided me with a connection deep enough, true enough, non-human enough, and pure enough, to rest my faith in. But “spirituality” is still a generic term that can’t and doesn’t have enough clout to really do justice to what I loosely use it to describe. I was born into a family of Mormons and was dragged to church most sundays until I was 12. I never felt a connection there, although there were and are lovely people that are members and that includes most of my family, haha! I never doubted my higher power, I just, well, kind of ignored looking into the subject further. When I finally did a couple years ago, I found a strength of purpose, a knack for healing, and a knowing that no one on earth could claim to have given me. And I don’t think anyone can take it away, not even me. I think you’re right about people reclassifying and resurrecting and repeating and replacing the place they put their focus. At the risk of being presumptuous, especially since I’ve only read this posting, I would say that, rather than losing your spirituality, you’ve named what was once an anonymous focus and have in fact found it. To me, what we’re all really searching for, period, is our purpose – and once we find it, how to make peace with it. 🙂 My best & warmest blessings, K

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  4. Great read. Maybe it’s all about helping others – I’d like to believe that’s why you write the things you do? Who knows, but if it is the reason and you made one person smile today, that may define something spiritual at its root. I could be wrong too 🙂


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