Can you be spiritual without believing in a higher essence?

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by Bjarki, Mar 10, 2009.

  1. Bjarki

    Bjarki Registered Member

    Yes or no?

    I've been thinking about this recently. It occured to me that when you think of a 'spiritual' act, you immediately think of prayer, church rituals or meditation. And I couldn't really imagine doing that without turning to a higher essence like God or something like a World Soul or whatever.

    They say listening to music can be a spiritual deed, or creating or viewing a piece of art, or a walk in nature, etc.
    But how are these spiritual, other than making us feel good and at ease with ourselves and the world around us? Is that what being spiritual means?
    If so, how can we set it apart from normal day-to-day reasoning and feeling? What's the difference between being emotional and being spiritual, between being philosophical and being spiritual? Is there any? Or is it the 'divine' aspect that makes it so?

    Is 'spiritual' growth for an atheist something comparable to say.. gaining wisdom when it comes to using your reason, and coming to terms with things when talking about emotions? Isn't that what spiritual growth in religion aims for?
    If that's true, can we make a difference between our day-to-day activities and doing spiritual things? Aren't they simply intertwined with one another, something we do unconciously?


    Sorry about the rant, was kinda like reasoning with myself :lol:

    The main question being:

    Can an atheist be spiritual, or does his lack of a belief in a higher essence like God disqualify him from such a notion?
    And if so, how?

  2. Hiei

    Hiei The Hierophant

    You're really asking two questions here.

    1.) Can you be spiritual without believing in God? And I completely believe that you can. Look at the pagans, hippies, or any other religion that doesn't celebrate God. They're about the respect for everyone and the earth mother. Which could be misconstrued as a higher power, but it's not. It's all about cohabitation with all the living creatures of this planet and the planet itself. And that's very spiritual.

    2.) Can an atheist be spiritual, or does his lack of a belief in a higher essence like God disqualify him from such a notion? I don't think you can classify all atheists together. Just because they're denying a deity, it doesn't mean that they can't feel a power within theirselves that any other religion would consider a spiritual feeling. The only difference is that they're not praying to anyone.
  3. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    I don't really think of prayer or church rituals with the word "spiritual"; those remind me more of "religious". I think spiritual is more of an awareness and a different way of viewing things around you and seeing its connections. However, I always thought there's a higher essence related to it, not necessarily a higher Being, but recognising that we are just a small part of something bigger (even stuff like collective consciousness). :dunno:
  4. EndWinterRomance

    EndWinterRomance PREGGERS

    I think it depends on your definition of the word spiritual. I personally think of spirituality in a sense of being a good person and living with ethics and morals, not being worried about death but how people would think of you after you pass.

    I guess partially you need to believe in a higher power but I guess that isn't always the case..... that's just my idea anyhow.
  5. Tucker

    Tucker Lion Rampant

    Have you read the Tao Te Ching, Bjarki? It's the most spiritual text I've found, yet I recall no mention of gods on any of its 81 pages.
  6. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    I think most would say yes. Humanists, pantheists, Zen Buddhists, etc; all have a spirituality of a sort. Consider the reverence that Asimov or Einstein showed towards the universe, while disavowing the supernatural: and not all atheists disavow the supernatural, mind you. I've never known belief in a deity to be taken as a prerequisite for spirituality, even by most of those who do believe in such things.
    Swiftstrike likes this.
  7. Bjarki

    Bjarki Registered Member

    Do you practice 'spirituality'?

    It seems to me like this 'awareness' you're speaking of can only be endured in a passive way without God. When you actively search for it, or try to analyze it, you have to turn to God or a world energy (or collective consciousness as you call it).
    Without 'God' it's just a nice feeling, an 'ordinary' emotion that reason cannot explain. So there's not much you can do with it, with this awareness, it's just something that strikes you every now and then. There can be no spiritual growth there I guess, unless that growth would equal an increase in quantity of this spiritual feeling.
    I have not, but I've read some basic info on taoism.
    It's a borderline case I guess. Taoism seems like a pretty passive religion to me.. a lot of emphasis has been placed on 'undergoing' things. The goal of meditation is to tune into a certain 'flow of the universe' or force behind the natural order. It's questionable whether or not that can be counted as a higher essence, I'm inclined to say that it is.
    But yes, I guess taoism is one of the religions that comes closest to detaching spirituality from God.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2009
  8. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    I do, but I'm also partly religious, so a place for the Source/God/Higher Being naturally comes into play from time to time. :)

    However I still think it's possible to achieve a heightened sense of self awareness and empowerment or feelings of achieving human potential by simply drawing on the energies we already have and viewing/living the world differently, and not necessarily calling on to someone to provide it (the way some would often evoke God's presence and intervention in prayers).
  9. Kazmarov

    Kazmarov For a Free Scotland

    Only certain types of nontheists subscribe to a denial of the abstract. It's not like they all go around talking about love and beauty as complex neurochemical reactions. I certainly subscribe to the idea that certain things are more or less unexplainable or fundamentally different from reality as a whole. Many nontheists think spiritually and live spiritually without saying that the abstract is in fact divine.

    I guess one could say that my spirituality is mostly based around thinking of things in abstract terms rather than concrete ones- not that I disavow rational explanations for everything, but rather that I think of them in a different way.
    PretzelCorps likes this.
  10. Bjarki

    Bjarki Registered Member

    Yeah, that's what I'm thinking.

    Like Einstein, I'm fairly sure he didn't sit down for an hour of spirituality, but instead became spiritual while investigating the wonders of nature, for his job.

    Without God or a higher essence spirituality seems aimless, because there isn't a language we can use to interact with this 'spiritual' dimension, other than reason (which nontheists are likely to call 'philosophy') or emotions / feelings.
    Perhaps it's a matter of how we define spirituality then... as spirituality when it's aimed at God or in some other way intertwined with religion and as common acting/feeling if not.

    It does bring up the problem of how you can 'cultivate' yourself if you do not speak a religious language. Is spiritual growth in this case the same as pursuing a career, relating to other human beings or gaining life experience in general?
    Is perhaps what we call 'self-help' the modern equivalent of spiritual teaching?

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