Friday, September 21, 2007

What does "spiritual" mean?

"Spiritual" is a term that I hear frequently, it's one of those "throw away" terms that seems to be used most frequently to avoid the need to be specific about what you do or don't believe religion-wise. I hear this term most from people who seem to be "too rational" to believe conventional (big 3) dogma but can't seem to let go of religion completely, kind of a "religiosity lite". When pressed such people often equate "spirituality" with a feeling of awe, reverence or mystery, I really, really don't get this, perhaps I'm just someone who is not wired this way but I find it hard to accept because I experience those emotions frequently myself, but I find no need to equate them to anything "supernatural".

So what things inspire me (a cold godless atheist) to feel awe and reverence, well that's easy, what registers with me is walking into the Duomo in Florence, listening to a powerful piece of music, contemplating geological time, drinking 1961 Latour, standing on top of a mountain, jumping off the mountain with a paraglider strapped to my back, watching my children play, and a million other obvious, thrilling or even mundane human experiences, but which of these requires a supernatural explanation, frankly none that I can see?

Wouldn't it be interesting to do a brain scan of an atheist and a believer both experiencing the same "spiritual" thing; I'd bet a lot of money that they'd be identical, if they were then that would suggest the only difference is the "interpretation" of the feeling, not the feeling itself, removing the "spirit" from the spiritual, now wouldn't that be awe inspiring!

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