TED Conversations

Mike Adams

IT - Business Analyst, Los Alamos County

This conversation is closed.

Atheism as a Spiritual Path

I have been an atheist for a few years now, but I continue to feel the need for a spiritual path and to live with spiritual principles.

PLEASE READ:
http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2011/01/morality-spiritual-atheism.html

I do have a spiritual path, which has found expression in my atheism. It lies in the unimaginable creative evolution of this incredible universe, in the complexity of our ecosystem and the incredible far fetched chance that with all the twists and turns that evolution took along the way, humans evolved and luckily for me, I somehow was born. I experience gratitude that despite all odds to the contrary, I get to experience this crazy and beautiful, yet challenging life, that I get to be a parent and try to make a difference for my fellow humans.

I definitely have a spiritual path. It includes and is largely based on science, on quantum mechanics and theory of relativity. It allows me to sit in awe at the wonder of a developing human fetus, which goes through the stages of evolution in it's mother's uterus. That we are all spawn from matter created from super novas and transformation of energy into matter and back again millions or billions of times until today. We look around and see this mass of diverse matter and life, but it is all star-dust, created by exploding stars and the transformation of energy.

Evolution continues to unfold unbidden and undirected, but incredibly beautiful!

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb

    Josh S

    • +1
    Jun 9 2012: I may be wrong but isn't a spiritual atheism a great example of an oxymoron?
    definition of atheism is 'disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.' from Miriam Webster.

    So if you believe in ANYTHING spiritual you aren't an atheist...
    • Jun 9 2012: That is what I always thought. Until I looked it up in Wiki. .. Just how much Wiki gives a correct definition of things can be debated, ... but it seems some so called "atheists" do give room in their definition for the possibility of the existence of the immaterial world....

      It seems that the definition .. .. in as much you can define a "collection of ideas" that a certain group of people share... is rather unclear ... even for Atheists.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
    • thumb
      Jun 9 2012: It depends on how you'd define spirituality.

      For me there are many spiritual things that have nothing to do with a god or a religion like spending a wonderful night at the opera, watching a performance that let me forget everything around me and connects me at the same time with the people in the room. For others it might be a spiritual experience to play a game of chess or even an online game throughout the night on your playstation, spending time laughing with good friends or family, a rock concert, a walk in the nature, ... attending a TED event!

      I personally think that people need those spiritual moments and I can understand that they find them within their religion and their faith. But I also believe that if we teach our children how to live spiritual moments without being religious, we will take away the last "core competence" of religion. And that's what religions are mostly afraid of.
      • Jun 9 2012: Katja,

        Looking totally aside from what we call "religion" Just what is your idea or your "concept" of the word "spiritual" ?
        Does it have to do with your thinking .... or more to do with your feeling life ? ... or both ?

        If we can gain a "concrete" picture of the "spiritual" (oxymoron anyone)

        And furthermore how can this experience at the opera or the walk in nature continue on living in your being. Perhaps you can recall the music at the opera. ... perhaps the shiny trumpets or the violins whispering strings. How can we do all this ? You can find joy in this experience that you may have had years ago. And this you can choose to do at will ... whenever you like !! Isn't that amazing !

        If your a materialist, you might say that this is all lodged in your brain somewhere. ... chemical reactions, neurons, ... etc. etc.

        Where is the fulcrum point here ?? Just who is looking back at these so called spiritual experiences that were so much enjoying talking about. If the experience is as you say spiritual ... then there must be a "spirit" that observes it all ...
        • thumb
          Jun 9 2012: Hi Daniel...nice to see you again...as always:>)

          Because I percieve myself to be an energy (spirit) being, every single thing I experience is thought of, felt and experienced, knowing of my connection to all that is.

          We can experience by remembering, if we choose. And by being totally focused and engaged in the moment, we can experience this thought/feeling of interconnectedness in every moment. It is "lodged", as you say, in every single cell that makes up this person we call Colleen, and is also part of the energy that moves through the body:>)

          We are multi-dimentional, multi-sensory beings. So, yes, we can get outside ourselves and be the observer, even as we are activily participating:>)
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Only because we call it "spiritual", there isn't necessarily a spirit involved. It's just the language, the word, that implies it.

          I don't believe in a god, in a spirit that observes or judges or creates. So I guess I should label myself as an Atheist (again, that's just a word that's been created by humans, right?).

          But I do believe in energies or vibrations that are set free with whatever we do, good and bad ones and that these energies influence us more than we are willing to accept. And maybe we just don't have the means to measure them or we have lost the ability to see and feel them.
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: I agree Katja...we use the words created by humans in an attempt to explain feelings:>) I believe spirit, soul, god are words that were created to try to explain the energy vibrations we experience, and we can experience them at many different levels, for many different reasons. If it is a religion that causes one to recognize the energy vibration, so be it. If it is interacting with people, specific activities, nature, so be it.

          I agree that the energy vibrations influence us, and we influence the energy vibrations with our thoughts, feelings, words, actions and reactions. I believe that we can increase the energy vibrations, by the way we live our life journey, causing more peace, joy and contentment. We can be open to experiencing the energy vibrations on many levels, and we recognize it at whatever level we are willing to be open to.

          Sounds like you know all this already...I'm simply confirming my agreement with you:>)
      • thumb
        Jun 9 2012: I totally agree Katja,
        I don't like to label myself because I feel it is limiting. With the information I have at this time, I do not believe in a god and do not practice any particular religion or philosophical belief. I am everything and nothing, living a life of integrity, with joy, compassion acceptance and unconditional love.

        I agree that we can feel connected (which is spirituality to me) in every single moment, by being fully engaged in the moment with each and every activity.

        I agree that religious leaders are afraid of losing control, when people realize that they do not need a religion to experience a close connection with everything and everyone:>)
      • thumb
        Jun 10 2012: Hi Katja, what you feel is not spiritual feeling, its mere happiness and getting lost in the moment. that feeling is for you and its good for you.
        on the other hand, to have a spiritual feeling, you dont need an opera or chess board or a play station or the help of friends and family...you just have to know yourself. you have to isolate yourself from materialistic world and should listen to yourself.
        you get that feeling, you said, only when you go to an opera. what about the rest of times? how about having that feeling every moment, no matter whether you are in an opera or not. if you had a spiritual feeling once, you wont need any operas to feel that again.
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy, you didn't read my post correctly.
          I just mentioned Opera as an example. I feel this connectivity all the time and I think I am a very spiritual person. But I still don't need a god to feel this and

          Obey, I don't think that spirituality is something supernatural. It is very natural, it's something that is produced in our bodies, in our brain. It's a kind of energy, that we produce and feel and share with others. This energy is still natural.

          The only thing that - in my opinion - is not natural, is the believe that there is a god or there are gods and goddesses somewhere out there that influence our lives and our destiny.
        • Jun 10 2012: Bingo Pranoy !!
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy and Katja,
          I understood that you were using opera as an example Katja, just as you used several other examples, which led me to believe that you experience connectivity, joy contentment in every moment?

          I agree Pranoy, that to experience this feeling of a higher energy vibration, we simply need to know ourselves. It seems like Katja knows herself pretty well, based on what she has written. How does it serve you to tell her what she is, or is not feeling?

          I agree Katja...experiencing the energy vibration is not at all "supernatural". It is part of our natural human experience, and by giving control of our natural human experience to some power "out there" we are giving up an important part of our "self".
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: I agree Katja. These so called spiritual experiences are probably just going on in our brains/body.

          No need for magic spirits or supernatural beings.
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy, I'd beware of telling people whether they are or aren't spiritual.

          It seems to me that the nature of religious dispute lies in people telling others whether what they are experiencing is spiritual or not.

          Katja, I tend to agree with what you've said with the exception that I don't believe it is unnatural to believe in a god or goddess. I think that must be natural as many people have naturally been believing that for thousands of years.

          In terms of a spiritual experience, according to this Scientific American article, there is a spiritual part of the brain which scientists have identified:
          http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=brain-activity-altered-during-relig-08-12-24
        • thumb
          Jun 12 2012: I agree Colleen. Feelings of transcendence can be achieved without resorting to religious type pathways and processes.

          I get the same from meditation as a someone who visualises connecting with a supreme being.

          Even some drugs make us lose our sense of self.

          I guess just our brain. Although religious folk may twist this natural phenomena to indicate there is some god that has created us this way or being tricked into a substitute to the real god.

          The other aspect is the softer eureka, ah ha moments, the felling connected, the seeing connections the intuitive.

          The more we think for ourselves and not take things as the truth without critical evaluation the better. So I hope you are right. I fear a backlash by fundamentalists. They have more children and it keys into the worse of our primal tribalism, heirachialism etc.
      • thumb
        Jun 10 2012: Hi Katja, I guess the word spiritual can be stretched to cover a lot of ground.
        It is quite loaded with meaning related to spirit.
        A lot of the things you mention can be profound, similar to religious type experiences.
        After all we share the same brains.
        When we use the word spiritual if often comes with connotations of the supernatural where as the things you mentioned are natural and non delusional.
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Obey,
          I think/feel that what has "loaded" the word and concept of spirit, is the connection it has been given to religions? There have been many people throughout history, who believe that the ONLY way we can experience the increased energy vibration that creates contentment/happiness is through religion. And, of course, some religious leaders reinforced this belief in an attempt to control people....in my humble perception.

          I find that the higher energy vibration can be attained without dependance on a religion, and it appears that more and more people in our world are thinking and feeling for themselves and discovering this idea. I believe that we are evolving as human beings to the point where we will no longer settle for being led by others' beliefs. We are thinking, feeling and experiencing on a higher energy vibration, and there is NOTHING supernatural about that. It is real, and very natural....in my experience:>)
      • thumb
        Jun 10 2012: Katja, i never said spirituality is supernatural or there are gods and goddesses somewhere out there that influence our lives and destiny (and i dont believe in tooth fairy too :) ..see, i dont believe in any particular religion, i have my believs and i had posted that earlier in this conversation...
        its all natural and its inside us. thats what i was saying, its INSIDE you, if you search for it in the outside world you cant find it..
        and yes, i dont know what you feel. as long as you can connect to that feeling all the time, even at tough times when you really need that...you are doing it right.
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2012: Agree that atheism is simply not having a belief in gods.
      You can believe in all sorts of other speculative and mystical stuff, just not gods.

      Most atheists I know have awe and wonder, many meditate, but they tend to think that what we expeirence is the material. universe, our minds, which are amzing enough without inventing stuff like spirits.
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2012: From free online dictionary:
      spir·i·tu·al (spr-ch-l)
      adj.
      1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.

      This does not contradict disbelief in a supreme being or beings.
      • Jun 10 2012: Hi MIke,
        There you are ! I've been waiting for you to pop up on your own conversation...

        Most people in the Atheist corner of the ring refuse the idea of the "not tangible or non-material"

        Although, strangely enough, when you ask them about their thinking and feeling, something that is most highly intangible, they seem to be a little thrown off. Loose their balance. They do of course have both feeling and thoughts, but they have a hard time connecting that with the concepts of spirit and soul. This is a big jump for many Atheists.

        What could be the chances of their being a very direct correlation between your thinking and your spirit .... and your feelings and your soul....?? Could the spirit be actually be something of the nature that is living and pulsating in the here and now. That which is also here walking around on the physical plane of existence. Living within a little 80-90 year segment of "time" ... a little slice of eternity within a physical existence yet still "within" the eternal now.... ?
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2012: Good questions.

          I have been gone, due to yard work. My wife and I have a permaculture garden, so I've been chicken-proofing a coop and setting up drip irrigation. Finally had a chance to drop in and see what was going on with this conversation today and I'm surprised by the excellent response!

          I tend to disagree with "The New Atheists" in terms of believing that that atheism is superior to theism. I do believe a lack of certitude is superior to certitude in most arenas.

          I don't personally believe in a spirit (not as being distinct from the biological and chemical reactions in my mind). I use the term spiritual, because I believe it causes people to stop and think. To ask questions, to wonder, "What does spiritual mean?" I spent 13 years as a regular member of AA and though AA has a spiritual solution to Alcoholism, it doesn't in the end define spirituality. In fact in any meeting with five or six different people, you are likely to find five or six different answers to "What is Spirituality?"

          --ma
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2012: Just curious, JS, if you read my link? Perhaps your comment was intended as a shift in context, but it isn't in keeping with the context of the link I provided as the foundation of this discussion. Which is fine, but I thought it could offer clarification if you are confused by my use of spiritual and atheism to describe my theology.
      http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2011/01/morality-spiritual-atheism.html

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.