Monday, January 5, 2009

Got Spirituality?


“I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say that I’d have … well, $1.35.

Frankly, I have no fricken idea what they are talking about. The term “spiritual” comes with very heavy religious connotations; words like “supernatural”, “soul”, “incorporeal”, “sacred”, “ecclesiastical” pepper it’s definitions.

I view theist "spirituality" as part of their dogmatic mumbo jumbo. My position on them is pretty well established. Similarly, I dismiss nonreligious/ non-theists who call themselves “spiritual” as supernaturalist asshats worthy of suspicion if not outright distain.

As close as I can come to understanding "spirituality" as a concept to which I can relate is looking at the sky on a clear night, or an alpine view on a clear day, or the Sequoia National Forest on a misty autumn morning, or hear Beethoven’s 9th, and be moved to say "Wow!" in response to the awe and grandeur it evokes in me.

It’s human appreciation for the majestic beauty of the planet without breaking it down into it's natural / material elements. It speaks to our innate wonderment for the complexity and vastness of the universe, and the reality of our utter unimportance to it; or admiration for the beauty of man’s creativity, technology, great literary work, or symphony; or reverence and respect for a well structured scientific theory or philosophical concept.

To be emotionally invested in, or moved by, those natural phenomena is peculiar to humans… entirely natural, nothing spiritual about it. I imagine that one who cannot experience that kind of awe or emotion is devoid of imagination, and is empathetically and/or intellectually defunct, possibly even sociopathic.

On the other hand, anyone touting their holy, esoteric, mystical, magical spiritualism are either sanctimonious gullible theists or New Age sheeple. Both are to be avoided or ridiculed mercilessly.

18 comments:

itsme_crazydad™ said...

An interesting point on Beethoven's 9th. He was deaf!

Makes it that much more amazing.

atty79 said...

I agree with your comparison of "spirituality" with awe and wonderment. I don't know if I agree that it's limited to people. I think any higher order creature when they stare out into the distance and fail to attribute analysis to what they see/feel have the same, though far less complex, emotion.

DromedaryHump said...

atty said: "I think any higher order creature when they stare out into the distance and fail to attribute analysis to what they see/feel have the same, though far less complex, emotion."

Interesting. Which higher order creatures? also, I'm curious: What evidence do you have that other species experience an emotion similar to "sprituality" or perhaps best called "awe" / "appreciation" of the natural world?

What is the basis for your "thinking" that this is the case. Unless youhave some objective scientific data as evidence, isnt this simply anthropromorphic projection of humamn qualities without scientific substantiation?

I trust your not confusing this discussion with instinctual behavior, or based on an ability toward self cognition, which would be off topic and not supporting evidence of strictly "natural world awe and wonder response" by other life forms.

I'd be very interested to see the data that supports your "belief".

thks,
Hump

atty79 said...

HUMP says: To be emotionally invested in, or moved by, those natural phenomena is peculiar to humans… entirely natural, nothing spiritual about it.

Where is your scientific evidence to support this claim? Or are you simply projecting your own feelings on that of all of humankind and the animal kingdom at large?

I'm guessing that you base this claim on your observations. Similarly, I based my claim on my observations that animals other than humans can also perceive the "awe" of which you speak . Further, I do not agree with scientists that claim that animals are somehow different than humans on certain emotional aspects. I have studied this subject in great length in undergrad -- my degree is in psychology and my school of thought was based on evolution. Based on evolution, we all have common evolutionary characteristics. It makes no sense that all of our simple emotional capabilities are somehow lost to evolution. Granted, with our heightened ability to think, the complexity of our emotions and our ability to respond to them are different than other animals. But that doesn't mean other animals don't have a semblance of emotions. Since you don't appear to be one of those fundamentalist Christians that believe that humans are somehow different than other animals, I'm surprised by your segregate attitude toward other higher order mammals.

HUMP asks: What is the basis for your "thinking" that this is the case.

I see the same stare in dogs and chimps that I do in people, including myself, when perceiving a sensation without analysis. My observation is in contradiction with your observation. Therefore, more scientific study will be necessary -- but in no way does your opinion on the matter based on your observation trump my opinion on the matter based on my observation. We have two competing theories and two subjective, conflicting observations.

HUMP says: I trust your not confusing this discussion with instinctual behavior, or based on an ability toward self cognition, which would be off topic and not supporting evidence of strictly "natural world awe and wonder response" by other life forms.

You're going to have to explain what you mean here further. I'm not talking about instinctual behavior (and by that I mean emotional responses that are of the lowest level, such as the perception of fear or a need for flight). I'm talking about emotions that are on a slightly higher level.

I have no idea where self cognition comes into play. Emotions, like perception, do not always require thought. In order for me to address this, you have to explain yourself little further.

DromedaryHump said...

no need to explain further.

you have no scientifc evidence for the proposition...for what you.. "think" (aka believe).

You have anecdotal stories based on your simple observations. Almost sounds like the definition of faith.

anyway...
Thanks.
Hump

DromedaryHump said...

ATTY, PS: you may understand the scientific method, as you said.

But based on what you have written here you're not a strong advocate / apostle of it as a basis for substantiating the legitimacy of a personally held opinion drawn from ad hoc observation and anthropomorphic projection.

atty79 said...

That is simply not true. The scientific method is a great means of supporting personally held opinion.

You made a claim in your post that is not scientifically supported. That is your theory. I made an alternate hypothesis. I neither have the time nor the resources to gather the data and analyze it for whether it supports your opinion or mine.

And as for anthropomorphic theory, granted it's been nearly 10 years since I graduated from college, my recollection was that -- like a great deal of science that deals with psychology -- it is less about science and more about how people feel. Anthropomorphic theory was developed because people just feel that they have to separate themselves in vast ways from their animal "cousins". From my recollection, the research was far from conclusive and there was research on both sides of the theory.

My hypothesis is that there are great deal many mammals that share emotional similarities to humans. That's my hypothesis; unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I neither have the resources nor the time to gather data with regards to that hypothesis.

DromedaryHump said...

atty said : My hypothesis is that there are great deal many mammals that share emotional similarities to humans.

Hheheheh....No! That wasnt the argument you fronted. You proposed that some species exhibit emotions that emiulate / paralell something akin to what in humans is called "awe, wonderment" an appreciation for the mystery of the planet or unibverse, aka "secular spirituality".

Thats a far cry from "share emotional similarities to humans".

If it were simply "share emotional similarities" WE WOULDNT BE HAVING THIS ARGUMENT.

Nice way to back out of your original premise. But it's a tad transparent.


atty: unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I neither have the resources nor the time to gather data with regards to that hypothesis.

Understood. You'd need more than a life time, because no such data exists.

DromedaryHump said...

PS: I wasnt speaking about anthropomorphic "theory". I'm talking about simply projecting human characteristics on animals or innanimate objects. We all do it, but real scientists don't.

Heres an extract from an interesting article on animal emotions. Link is below it if youd care to read the whole thing.

"... bona fide scientific research omits interpretations of what the observer THINKS [all caps is MY emphasis]the animal is feeling. That is called anthropomorphism and is usually taboo because it requires projecting human emotions onto an animal without really understanding the true nature of the behavior. It's just a guess based on what is already known. Scientists steer clear of this practice, unless it promotes science."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2003333119_animals01.html

Anonymous said...

This author is a fucking asshat, Jesus loves you and will make you breakfast after even the worst blackout night of drinking. I have proof!


Balsam ;)

DromedaryHump said...

Bals!!
you crazy phucker!!!
Nice to see youre still breathing if not entirely sane. :)

Nice going on electing a compete asshat as Senator!!! But one expects that kinda nuttiness from a state that elects professional wrestlers as governor.
Heheheh.
Hump

Anonymous said...

Hump said:

“I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say that I’d have … well, $1.35.

---

Heh! Only met 27 spiritualists?

When I have engaged in a conversation with such people, the vast majority of those who claim “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” when asked to explain end up saying that "Jesus is lord and savior" but are embarrassed to be identified as Christian. Perhaps I should lay off because they are at least beginning to recongize how silly Christianity is?

On the otherhand the few "true" new-agers I've met had reasonning skills subpar even to their Christian fundie counterparts.

- Fastthumbs

DromedaryHump said...

Fast said: "... Jesus is lord and savior" but are embarrassed to be identified as Christian."

Yeah, that...or like that nutty wooman "truthteller" from the old chat room who is a raving bible banging jesus fanatic but claims to "hate religion" LOL!

"new-agers I've met had reasonning skills subpar even to their Christian fundie counterparts. "

I concur.
Theres a guy in a message group who said he's spiritual but doesnt believe in the bible or god per se... just in something "bigger than himself" based on a near death experience he had. When asked if that something is a supreme being, and what does he mean by spiritual... he said: "I don't know..its a metaphysical thing." Phucking brilliant.

Brandon said...

My definition of a "spiritual" person is any person who generally rejects mainstream religion and instead adopts tidbits of whatever they fancy from various religions and mix it with new age mumbo-jumbo.

Most people I've talked to who say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious," go on to say that they don't believe in God, but some higher power that they can't define, or they believe they have spirits that live on after they die, although they have no idea where they go or where they came from or where the location they go to comes from.

I frankly have more disdain for spiritualists and "grab-bag" religionists (those who pick and choose aspects of their religion or various religions that fit their personal world-view) because these people have absolutely no idea what they're talking about and have little clue as to what they're doing.

DromedaryHump said...

This "dont believe in god, but do in a higher power" Ive heard too. Frankly, it sounds contradictory to me.

What this says to me is they may not believe in the prototypical god of the abrahamic religions. Maybe their god image is less anthropomorphised. But they are just substituting one mind disease for another.

atty79 said...

I have to disagree with Brandon. I have far more disdain for mindless followers of religion than I do for spiritualists or grab bag religionists. Those mindless followers of religion or more susceptible, in my opinion, to the unfortunate intersect between a belief in a higher power and moral ideology.

The way I see it, those who pick and choose beliefs or simply say that their spiritual at least, in some respects, think for themselves. They may have that unfortunate characteristic that they make a determination on God's existence -- that God does exist -- but they at least contain that characteristic that they don't have to mindlessly follow someone else to maintain the fantasy drawn from that determination of existence. I find that mindless followers tend to match their own ideology with that of their religion without rhyme or reason. Contrastingly, I find that the "spiritual" can create their own ideology without interference from some grand, self proclaimed cult leader.

Now the whole "don't believe in God, but do in a higher power" does seem a bit contradictory. I again had to resort to my earlier comments. I think that "higher power" spirituality is nothing more than a rush of endorphins when all seems calm and brilliant. It makes evolutionary sense. You want creatures to appreciate when they're not being chased down, hunted, and they're not starving, or dealing with whatever other malady. I think when the animal mind is "calm", the resulting good feelings can be characterized as spirituality. This unexplained feeling of calm and awe -- in a way, this out of body experience. For people, particularly those less educated and unwilling to examine themselves, that experience becomes the work of a "higher power".

OJ said...

Sam Harris discusses "spirituality" at the end of his book, The End of Faith. He uses the word "spiritual" to describe experiences much like the ones you referred to (looking at the stars, autumn leaves, etc.) He also notes that it's a pretty terrible word to use because of the clear religious implications but that he can think of none better. Surprise surprise, critics who read the book attacked Harris's use of the word.

The word "spiritual" bugs me a lot, but when I look at the stars or at the beauties of nature, I do get a sense of, "wow, the universe is really awesome and I'm a part of that." We need a new word to describe that experience.

DromedaryHump said...

OJ,
Agreed. Maybe a better word is "wonderatual", or "wonderatualist" derived from "wonder & natural".

As in:
"I'm not one of those new age or theist "spiritual" jerkwads... I'm a Free thinker and "wonderatualist".

I never invented a word before, but if "fucktard" can enter our lexicon, I imagine wonderatualism could eventually catch on.

:)
Hump