September 2013 – Can a Humanist be spiritual?

We’re not a group to shy away from the big questions! This meeting revolved around what it means to be “spriritual.”

The discussion opened with an analysis of spirituality from a humanist perspective.

The term “spiritual” can be used in various contexts:

  • Spiritual as shorthand for “religious” or “devout”
  • Spiritual as shorthand for “in touch with one’s inner essence”
  • Spiritual as shorthand for exploring subjective experiences one can’t normally access (e.g., via meditation, communion with nature, etc.).
  • Spiritual as shorthand for engaging in behaviours related to what is best about human nature (culture, inventiveness, beauty, kindness, etc.)

The ensuing discussion ranged widely:

  • quotes from Lawrence Krauss
    • “Spirituality is a sense of awe and wonder at something bigger than oneself.”
    • “The spirituality of science is better than the spirituality of religion because it is real.”
  • questions as to whether spirituality is physical, mental, emotional, or separate from those. Some discussion was about essence and feeling including feelings of peace and oneness with nature and feelings of awe.
  • does spirituality exist in the subconscious; does it relate to how runners describe being in the “zone”. Is it an energy linking us to each other, nature and the univers?
  • examples of spiritual people included Jesus (the man, not a son of god) and Ghandi.
  • suggestions that meditation and communing with nature are ways to be spiritual and to be at peace, allowing us to be accepting of others who are different or behave and believe differently.
  • it was suggested by some that spirituality can be a bridge between religion and science.
  • it was thought that to be truly spiritual, you would have to lose religion. Carl Jung was credited with saying, “Nothing interferes with man seeing the face of God more than organized religion.” Religion exists in the mind while spirituality exists in the heart, body and soul. Religious people can be good and spiritual as well.
  • being spiritual means living in the present and being aware of all the input to our senses. Spirituality is personal.

In summary, we are all human and have all had experiences which could be described as spiritual, so no matter how it presents itself, or what we call it, or how we feel about it, spirituality can unite us.