Abandoning Spirituality

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Over the past few years, I’ve become averse to spirituality beyond what I learned in my former faith. Generic mystical claims – beliefs ranging from the thin veneer of relation to reality, all the way to grandiose beliefs about the reality of reality itself – are things which have made me uncomfortable. Not because I think there is something to them. Rather, because they sound like elaborations on things which I have discovered were lies.

I know I risk a good amount of condemnation from most people when I say this. My thoughts on the subject are antagonistic to even the smallest amount of spiritual belief. Much of this is because I cannot justify to myself why, if I was presented with two mutually exclusive spiritual claims, one should be held above the other. Such conflict is easily avoided by nodding and changing the subject.

To me, spirituality feels like standing over a dangerous cliff. There is an angry wind about it, and it is difficult to tell which way that wind will send a person once a leap is made. No guarantee can get made that once a belief is held that it will always be the same belief held into perpetuity. Nature has this way of changing things. Thoughts are not immune to this inexorable force.

I fear for people who take the leap. I fear the ledge. I fear the potential violence that can follow.

The worst thing is that I have nothing to offer in its place. People have this feeling that pulls them a certain way, and they have to call it something. It can’t be described, or quantified, or measured. So people talk about it without having a way to truly talk about it. I cannot know what people are thinking, so I can’t offer a different perspective other than it feels wrong.

And yes, people can live a fulfilling life hand in hand with spiritual beliefs. I do not have so much hubris as to try to claim to know the sum total of human experience. But, like an uncontrolled fall, spirituality puts a person at the whim of external forces. One can hope for a peaceful descent, but that peaceful descent cannot be promised.

16 thoughts on “Abandoning Spirituality

  1. I think a lot of this is because of artificial separations: mind and body. body and soul, etc. As a consequence we are taught/leaned to neglect our body as a full partner in the corporation I refer to as Me. I have a rather large Board of Governors: my conscious mind, my unconscious mind, and my body, including all of the autonomic functions built into it by evolution.

    Tale our unconscious minds. Two of the jobs this set of mental functions has is to keep us alive by monitoring our energy consumption and also to act swiftly when that is needed. If you were to hear a Grizzly bear growl right behind you, your conscious mind would be wondering “I say, is that a Ursus arctos horribilis growl, or another bear?” While your unconscious mind would have you running away at great speed, fully aware that we didn’t need to outrun the bear, just outrun any other humans nearby. The conscious mind is equipped to ponder things, but that was inappropriate at that time.

    Our emotions and out bodies send us signals all of the time, but religious teachers tell us to conquer those feelings and avoid acting upon them, which is a little like a soldier throwing away his best weapons.

    So, those indoctrinated in a religion were taught to ignore significant parts of themselves. An unintended, or possible intended, consequence is that when we here a voice suggesting we act in a certain way, we tend to thing our god is intervening in our life instead of “I had an emotional response” or “I had a gut feeling,” and when there was time for contemplation you could see whether those natural “feelings” were appropriate and trustworthy going on.

    So, when ordinary people hear the religious saying things like “Jesus spoke to me, telling me …” they feel left out. That there is a dimension to life they haven’t discovered yet. And when everyone around them says the same sorts of things, they can’t all be crazy, so it must be me. Ergo, spirituality.

    I tend to use the word “ghostiality” as better describing the phenomenon. “So you believe in ghosts and spirits, then?” is a question I ask, either out loud or just in the comfort of my own mind.

    This shows up in all sorts of ways. For example, people who discuss free Will always think of it as conscious free will. They imply that acting subconsciously must be programmed it as an automaton might be. We don’t think that of our conscious minds, so why do we think that of our subconscious mind? I consider my subconscious mind to be fully Me as much as any other part of me. When it acts, I act. I think that just because we do not observe the workings of these mental process (which is a good thing as it would really slow us down) we are suspicious of them and better to assume bad agency than good agency when one has no data to decide.

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  2. All life, death and matter is vibration. Modulations and undulations at different speeds of atoms and electrons in there various densities. If you think of spirituality as a connection tuned or distorted to the environment, maybe its less distasteful when you picture that, when people talk about the spiritual. Its a much more plausible explanation than deities.

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  3. I’m not going to go into a long and detailed and nebulous discussion related to your post. All I’m going to say is we are who we are. If someone wants to look at themselves and the world around them through “spiritually enhanced” eyes (whatever that means for them), then so be it.

    However, IMO, it’s certainly not a necessity for simply “being.”

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    • The problem that I have with the laissez faire treatment of spirituality is that the “so be it” can protest funerals and fly planes into buildings. But, to live in a free society, one cannot police the thoughts of others. So is the danger of extremism just a cost of living?

      That cost seems steep even in less extreme cases.


      • I’m not sure you understood the point of my comment …

        I don’t see it as a “laissez-faire” outlook. The “so be it” is more that there’s little we can change in others and, as you say, we cannot police their thoughts. It’s more than we must often just accept things (and people) for what they are.

        Perhaps the “hang-up” is the word itself since we are somewhat “programmed” to connect it with the supernatural when, in actuality, one of the definitions is: Animation and energy in action or expression.

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      • Based on your response here, it seems I got it just fine. The laissez-faire part of what you’re describing is this notion that people have to accept the potentially dangerous notions of others. It’s about non-interference, or claiming there is nothing to be done.

        Is there nothing to be done about the hordes of people spreading COVID because they equate mask-wearing with political defiance? Some people are doing this solely because their spiritual beliefs (no, not animation, but belief in the supernatural) require them to believe the people they vote for are divinely ordained.

        I understand that I’m probably sounding like I’m nitpicking or just being argumentative. To that extent, it’s unintentional. I’m mostly just frustrated that there’s no better alternative right now than to let people endanger themselves and others.

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  4. Of course, it is easy to blame “spirituality” and “religion” for many of these ills. But simple human greed and will to power (the latter often JUSTIFIED by religion but based at the core on power hunger) is as destructive a force. The Amazon rain forest is literally being burned down right now to provide pasture for growing animal feed. The peasants need to feed their families and the multinationals need to report their quarterly profits. Not much spirituality or religion involved. Just too many (greedy/desperate) people.

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