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Mike Adams

IT - Business Analyst, Los Alamos County

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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!

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    Jun 27 2012: I too am in wonder of are universe and it's evolution. Like you I am so greatful to be alive in this mathematical improbability. However, I do not see a need for anything spiritual. When I hear the word (spiritual), Immediately accociate it with religion, soul, and some unseen energy that is us. I am pretty sure this is not how you think of the word spiritual. I Think you are using it in a sense that connects you to are universe in a deeper way. As an atheist I do not want to give any power to religious dogma, because I feel it is infecting and contagious to mankind. For these reasons I will not call atheism a spiritual path. However, I will call it an exciting enlightened journey towards truth, knowledge, and wisdom. I donnot need a God or spiritual connection to appreciate the universe in all it's complexity. All I need is the will to continue towards a path of truth and understanding.
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      Jun 28 2012: I think generally, you and I probably agree, except in your condemnation of religion. I don't believe humanity will be any better off if religion is eradicated. I believe religion is merely an expression of the human condition (though it is one of many).

      I think people tend to be more interested in being right than in embracing the inherent ambiguity of life. If people stop having religion, I think they'll become dogmatic about something else...probably about topics which already carry a heavy load of dogma, like politics or economic theory.

      We'll substitute Cambodia's killing fields for the crusades. Well substitute right vs. left dogma for religious dogma. We'll let people starve in service of the holy "free market."

      I don't think much would change in terms of how we treat each other. I could be wrong...I often am, but this is my sincere opinion.
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        Jun 28 2012: Hi Mike, I think Marshall is just saying he doesn't want to reinforce religious beliefs by linking an atheist life journey to a word like spiritual with all its religious/supernatural meaning. No overt condemnation. Just some language like infection, contagious.

        I agree an end to religion will not be an end to greed, tribalism, misuse of power, respect for undeserving authority, hateful cultural practices and attitudes, or being dogmatic. Not all terrorists and wars are religious. There will still be bad people, ideologies, leaders.

        Atheism isn't an ideology, just a lack of belief in gods. Up to the individual to develop a world view, rather than a cookie cutter religious denomination. Humanism, Buddhism, Nihilism, whatever. Guess there will still be a battle of ideas and conservative versus liberal. Sexist, homophobic versus equality - just not empowered by religion, by claiming an absolute authority.

        But suggest there is special power to religion that can be extra dangerous reinforcing tribalism etc. It also supports dumb and harmful ideas making them off limits for review.

        Religion intertwines with other aspects of culture. It seems to have a multiplier effect in some situations. Atheism with enlightenment human rights and responsibilities is a good start I suggest.
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        Jun 29 2012: Mike, I apologize if I come off as condemning religion for all of mankinds trouble's and wrongs. Surely this is not the case. However, their is no denying the influence religion has in are daily global events. It is hard for me to accept the absolute power some people give religion without any question or evidence. It seems to me that most, (not all) religions teach people to close their minds to new ways of thought. If we do not evolve are thought processes, how will we ever have a better world then the one we have today. Why do so many people allow these archaic ideas govern and control every aspect of their live's? Look at places like Iran where you can be convicted of blasphemy of the holy spirit and sentenced to death. What is a spirit? And how do you prove it has been blasphemed?
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          Jun 29 2012: Hey Marshal, no apology necessary, this is a forum for open discussion and agreement or disagreement. I feel your comments were an addition to the conversation and I think this has been a respectful discourse.

          Also, I agree with most of what you've articulated, in particular with "If we do not evolve are thought processes, how will we ever have a better world then the one we have today."

          I think what I'm really getting at (and it is theory) is that without religion, I firmly believe people will simply find something else to believe completely and without question. I have known people from the far left and the far right, who in either case refuse to acknowledge that scientific knowledge is more likely to point in the direction of truth than a subjective point of view or anecdotal evidence.

          I don't see much difference between some of the free market purists or neo-cons with regards to their economic "truths" and my grandfather and his catholic "truths." I have family, who simply want to end petroleum production. I point out that it would devastate our economy and we need a comprehensive plan. They refuse to talk after that. It occurs as an article of faith to me...stop oil production and all will immediately get better.

          That is all I'm saying. I'm not trying to defend religion exactly, I just think that if we want to create that just world, the focus will have to be on people's need for certainty in life. I have known many "gnostic atheists" who in conversation would say that they don't "know" there is/are no god/s. But when the topic shifted to something else, they would make statements that firmly imply knowledge of god/s non-existence.

          I also know religious people, Christian, Mormon, etc... who embrace the ambiguous nature of life and who are pretty clear that their religious beliefs are beliefs, rather than knowledge.

          I'm just think that a focusing on religion, whether pro or con, will likely lead down a tunnel with no cheese.
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      Jun 28 2012: Marshal and Mike,
      I don't interpret Marshal's statements as a "condemnation" of religion, but rather his reason for not wanting to "give any power to religious dogma", as he says.

      I agree Mike that religion is one expression of the human condition, and throughout history, it is apparent, that many times religion does indeed, become an infection and contagion in a way that often adversly impacts many people.

      I agree that some people often tend to be more interested in being right, than accepting each other and beliefs that may be different. I also agree that if some folks didn't have religion, to act out their underlying feelings, they may find another avenue. Those who have a tendancy toward controlling others, violence and abuse, will find a "cause" with which they can use their agressive behaviors. Those who have an argumentative personality, will find something to argue about.

      One of the problems with religions, is that they often sanction mistreatment of others. Nothing is done within a religious organization about the molestation of children, the killing of people under the guise of religion, mistreating and rejecting people because of prejudice. These adverse actions, which are sanctioned by churches, need to be recognized for what they are. Many people who say they are devoutly religious and adore their loving god, turn around and abuse people in so many ways.

      The molestation of so many children for example...
      It was covered up by the leaders of the church and allowed to continue, because they were representatives of god and protected under the rules of the church. If they were in the general population, they would have been convicted of a crime and punished.

      I grew up with this hypocracy and contradiction with a father who was known to be violent and abusive to his wife and children, and was honored by the church because he did volunteer work for the church and school, and showed up for mass on Sunday...sitting in the front row of course...to be seen.
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        Jun 28 2012: Perception and reality.
        Its not just what you do.Its who knows what you do.
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          Jun 28 2012: I agree Obey...that is one perception...who knows what we do is important to some people.
          In my humble opinion, it's HOW we do something that is MOST important....what is our intention?

          If one truly believes in a religion and a god, and lives the beliefs, like my mother did, then HOW it is done is beneficial to oneself and all of humankind.

          The opposite way of "being", is my father's life, in which it was ok, as far as he was concerned, to sit in the front row at church, recieve communion, do volunteer work for the church and school, then go home and beat his wife and kids.

          I see this concept way too much with religious fundamentalists/extremists. They say the words...love thy neighbor...treat everyone as we would like to be treated...bla....bla....bla!!!
          Then they exclude certain people from their church because of prejudice, kill people under the guise of religion, and often, even tell us we are uninformed and ignorant because we do not accept their god and religion! These are some of the very apparent reasons that many people are turning away from beliefs in a particular god or religion.

          If they (religious fundamentalists/extremists) would simply take a look in the mirror, and evaluate their words and actions, our world could be a better, more harmonious, more peaceful, safer place to live.
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        Jun 29 2012: Don't misunderstand me about religion, I'm not saying it is all great. I honestly believe, though that not much would change if we do away with religion.

        I just believe that when we see the hypocrisy of many religious people or hear the religious justification for perpetrating evil, people are quick to blame religion, because it is used to justify horrible actions.

        Stalin, however, didn't use religion to justify the death of more than twenty million people under his reign, communism was officially atheist. When the US Government took my full blood Native American Mom away from her parents and adopted her into a white, American family, they didn't use religion as an excuse, but rather the concepts of integration and cultural superiority.

        I truly believe we will cross all of those bridges of poor ethics, using our politics or economics as justification. The global sex trade is funded by greed. Hundreds of thousands of young children are kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery so that someone else can make money. It is justified by the need to make a profit. The same can be said of sweat shop labor.

        I just don't see the end of religion making any real difference in these sorts of things. While defending freedom, "patriots" will continue to say things like, "America, love it, or leave it!" We'll continue to accuse people of being Nazis for trying to expand health care. People are capable of pretty disgusting behavior and they'll find a new religion to justify that. Some other belief system, which perhaps doesn't include Gods, but does leave them feeling justified in not examining their own faulty point of view. I think if we want to change this, we'll have to dig a lot deeper than religion.
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          Jun 29 2012: Hi Mike, we had similar race policies in Australia with the indigenous people, although my understanding is part of it was to give them some god.

          Totally agree bad people and inhumane policies don't need religion.

          Atheism is lacking a belief in god. It's a personal choice. Outlawing religion is not atheism. Stalin may have been an atheist but outlawing religion it is not an automatic outcome. Atheism does not equal communism.

          I think theists are being a bit deceptive or ignorant when they link a lack of belief in god with totalitarian regimes that outlawed religion.

          Most Atheists I know support human rights including freedom of and from religion alongside the separation of church and state.

          Agree that it takes more than an end to religion to address the bad that are not part of or reinforced by religion. While I have an opinion, I'm not sure on balance if the world would be better or worse with or without religion. Either way we can do better than we are now.

          My guess is things are much better now than the past in many places. Thanks to the enlightenment etc cruel punishment and torture is frowned upon. Slavery is no longer accepted although sanctioned by the Abrahamic texts. Equal rights. We no longer lock up homosexuals in Australia. They are still killed in some places. The idea of monarchy is challenged etc.

          There is something beyond religion, maybe helped sometimes, maybe hindered sometimes, where our cultures have evolved. Sometimes in the early days religions may have been socially innovative and improvements. Nowadays I see religion in many places being dragged slowly into the 21st century, with human rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.

          Things like greed etc seem to be par t of our nature depending on the individual. Maybe religion moderates some individuals, but I think the underlying cultural norms are more powerful. I think religion can be a + or -.

          Regardless, of the pros and cons, the question is is it true
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          Jun 29 2012: You know Mike, I am less interested in an end to religion than I am in moderating it.

          No more theocracies. Freedom of religion with a secular government. Not sneaking creationism and prayer into state schools. Not forcing iron age and medieval morality on others based primarily on dogma.

          One of my bugbears is how it is difficult for religious adherents to reject the dogma that is damaging. The advocacy of slavery in the bible was fighting words leading up to the US civil war. The stand against same sex marriage has strong links to religious dogma. Why shouldn't catholic priests be able to marry? Why not women priests? Circumcision of powerless infants is simply GBH wrapped up as tradition and religion. Who says aborting a fertilised egg is the same as killing a thinking feeling self aware child. Why does the foetus's right to develop and be born automatically trump the rights of the mother in regards to what happens in her body, particularly if she was raped etc. Its not black and white. A lot of religious morality stamps binary directives on complex issues.

          Religion may stunt the debate of these sorts of issues on their merits. The starting point and sometime the end point is a book, or religious authority says this, every other argument is just to defend the dogmatic position.

          So while a lot of the bad isn't going anywhere in general, there is nothing wrong with hoping bad is reduced, including the bad from religion.
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          Jun 29 2012: Mike,
          I don't think I misunderstand you about religion. Your topic is "Atheism as a Spiritual Path", and that is what I am addressing. Nowhere, have I suggested doing away with religion. In fact, I've spoken in favor of religions on many discussion threads in which people suggested doing away with all religions.

          I am very aware of the benefits derived from religious beliefs for some people. That's why I used the examples of my mom, who truly lived her beliefs, and used her religion as a valuable life guide, and my dad, who was hypocritical and contradictory in the way he used religion.

          I also clearly stated in my comment above..."One of the problems with religions, is that they often sanction mistreatment of others. These adverse actions, which are sanctioned by churches, need to be recognized for what they are."

          Religious organizations are a HUGE part of our societies. The catholic organization, for example is one of the largest and richest entities in our world. I believe that if/when religious organizations start being accountable for their actions, which adversly impact people, it WILL make a difference in our world simply because of the masses of people who are controlled by religions. I agree with you that all challenges in our world are not going to be resolved by encouraging accountability/responsibility within religious groups, but it certainly will start to influence the way our world functions, simply because of the numbers of people we are talking about.

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