I don’t believe in gods. I don’t believe in religion, organized or informal. But am I still spiritual? Can atheists be spiritual? This is a tough question to ask because spirituality is often very poorly defined, perhaps even less well defined than religion is. There are people who claim they are spiritual but not religious and I guess, depending on how they define things, that might be possible to reconcile logically.
But I still see some problems with this.
What I’ve noticed in reading on the subject is that people who make this distinction between spirituality and religion seem to saddle everything that’s bad with religion and everything that’s good with spirituality. Me, as an atheist, I guess don’t have a problem with associating religion with negative things but I’m pretty sure there are religious people who’d object to that.
The other thing I’ve noticed in reading about these subjects and growing up as the child of hippies, is that this sort of distinction really only started to become prominent in the rise of the New Age. And some might call the New Age just another religion, alternative though it may be. And it seems to be something mostly confined to the US and other Western countries so I don’t really know if Non-Western countries would observe the same distinctions.
But given those distinctions I suppose it’s possible for someone to be a Buddhist or a Hindu or Wiccan or whatever and still be an atheist. They don’t believe in gods, they don’t believe in organized religion but they are still spiritual.
But I think a more valid way to think about this is that spirituality is just another, informal and highly personal form of religion. It’s not organized or taken from organizations from the outside, it’s arrived at from within personal experience. But here’s the thing, my distinction still says spirituality is a religion even if one is making up for oneself. And one’s personal religion could still be just as rule-bound and straitjacketed as organized and traditional religion is.
But having said that, I think it’s possible for some atheists to be very spiritual yet still not believing a god or gods.
But that’s not the way I go. My atheism rejects spirituality as well as traditional religion and gods. It goes all the way. I suppose if we vaguely and only define spirituality as having feelings of emotional depth, resonance and deep meaning with or for something, maybe in that really vague sense, I could be called spiritual. But I’d much prefer to say instead that something, science perhaps, is something I like, respect and find deep meaning it. I would not say, I have a spirituality based around science because that strikes me as nonsense.
I reject things based around words like sacred, spiritual and so on because those words are laced with a lot of baggage that I, as a secular humanist atheist, just don’t want to associate myself with.
Anyway, I just figured I would clarify that bit to the Internet at large.