Don’t Mess Around, Don’t Complicate, Don’t Interrupt My Spirituality

One religious argument I hear from time to time is that people have God-shaped holes in their lives, and if they don’t follow a religion (usually the one that whatever person is making the argument believes), they’ll try to fill that hole with other things.

Drug abuse, overeating, sleeping around…it’s all because you need God in your life. Never mind that some people who are quite religious have these same problems, which makes me wonder what their excuse is. Not ENOUGH God, perhaps. Sure, you hear the stories of people finding Jesus and getting over their alcoholism, but what about those who already found Jesus and drink heavily anyway? And what about when religion becomes another addiction? In general, going to church is healthier than doing drugs, but religion can have harmful effects. Some people will insist on tithing even if they can’t feed their families. Others will buy into holy war, or the idea that gay marriage is something to fear. There’s also the question as to why God would make people so they wanted to have relationships with Him, and then not just freaking INTRODUCE Himself.

In the introduction to Misquoting Jesus, author Bart Ehrman describes his own teenage experiences, writing, “There was a kind of loneliness associated with being a teenager; but, of course, I didn’t realize that it was part of being a teenager–I thought there must be something missing.” It seems to me that the fact humans feel incomplete and lacking is not proof that there’s a God who wants to know them; it’s just part of the human experience.

A related issue is the insistence that everyone has a spiritual side. The problem is, these people have to really stretch the definition of “spiritual” when it comes to people who believe neither in traditional religion nor the more vague supernatural ideas that are popular nowadays. The Wikipedia entry on spirituality includes this passage: “While atheism tends to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims and the existence of an actual ‘spirit’, some atheists define ‘spiritual’ as nurturing thoughts, emotions, words and actions that are in harmony with a belief that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale.” But if this feeling is based only on natural laws and not anything supernatural, can it really be considered spiritual? It seems to me that the feeling of inner peace that spiritual activities give to some people isn’t necessarily anything magical or related to the totality of the universe, but a product of the human brain. Humans have a desire to look for things that make them feel happy and/or fulfilled. So do animals, I suppose, although their brains tend not to be as complicated, so perhaps it’s a simpler matter for them. Not ever having visited another animal’s brain, though, I couldn’t say for sure. I think I often use my hobbies and interests to get the same satisfaction that other people do from religion or spirituality, but I don’t think there’s any magic there. So when people try to separate the mental from the spirituality, that comes across as religious propaganda to me. If it relates to the mind, it’s mental, is it not?

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7 Responses to Don’t Mess Around, Don’t Complicate, Don’t Interrupt My Spirituality

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Interesting stuff to think about for sure. So what’s your reason(s) for not following organized religion or believing in God? Not trying to start a fight, just curious.

    • Nathan says:

      Mostly just lack of evidence. I don’t see there being any real need for a supernatural force to be running the universe. There are quite natural explanations for most things that happen. I also have problems with individual religions, but those really aren’t the same as my reasons for not believing.

  2. Coincidentally (or is it THE WILL OF THE UNIVERSE?) I just wrote some pages attempting to define what it is I Believe over the weekend, and touched on some of this there. I wrote that I think of myself as a Believer even though many people who think of THEMSELVES as Believers would think of me as a heretic or at least not a TRUE Believer, while some of the people who consider themselves UNBelievers actually believe some of the same things as me, they just use different words for it (those would be those “spiritual atheists” in the Wikipedia article. Those would not be Phillip Pullman, because I don’t believe the same things as Phillip Pullman even if the subject is basic arithmetic. I don’t know why, it’s just this weird thing I have). I think a lot of it is perception, and a lot of it is semantics!

    I do agree that the word “spirituality” may be misleading, not only for the reason you give, but also for the connotation of “spiritualists” being people who hold seances and that. Still, that doesn’t mean that the “spiritual side” doesn’t exist. It may be a subset of ones mental and emotional health, but it’s still there even under that umbrella. I think it may be, rather than a necessarily God-shaped hole, a Meaning-of-Life-shaped hole. Everyone needs to feel they have some Reason for Living, and spirituality and/or religion exists SPECIFICALLY TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION. I in fact actually had a question for, not specifically for you, but for all unbelievers a few months ago– in a counseling session, we were discussing Self-Worth, and how the Innate Worth of a person does not change, is always there, even if the person isn’t living up to potential or doesn’t even HAVE a potential or whatever, that a small child and a quadriplegic and a person with Alzheimers and a millionaire athlete ALL have equal Worth as human beings. And the ONLY way I could get my head around accepting this concept, this concept that is apparently invaluable to understand if one is to have decent self-esteem, was seeing it through a spiritual-religious viewpoint: “God Loves You just as you are,” as this cheesy-but-at-least-theologically-agreeable-to-me little board book my son has says. The only way I could accept that everyone has equal Worth is believing that everyone Belongs in the Great Plan of the Universe. Yet this was in a secular psychology book, so I wondered what the non-spiritual understanding of the concept of Self-Worth was like.

    Okay anyway there’s a start…

    • Nathan says:

      Perhaps self-worth is something we need to have in order to avoid getting too depressed, and hence stop functioning properly?

      • Well, that’s EXACTLY why it’s important for good mental-emotional health, but how do you make yourself BELIEVE in self-worth? It’s illogical, if you’re a complete lack-of-success, have no friends and no family, nothing going for you at all and everything you do seems to turn out crappy, to believe that you have just as much of a Reason to Live as someone who is successful and popular and loved. Which actually brings us right back to the God-Shaped Hole! It’s like saying everybody needs to believe in at least ONE illogical thing to be mentally healthy. Everyone needs to believe they have a reason for being, and asks “Why am I here?” and some answers are more metaphysical than others, but still, everyone needs to have an answer, or they give up hope, and if you’re not Great at Everything or at least SOMETHING Useful, it’s not logical to believe you have any self-worth at all. You have to take a bit of a leap of faith.

      • Nathan says:

        Maybe self-worth is an idea created by humans, though.

      • vilajunkie says:

        Even if the idea of self-worth wasn’t created by humans, it does seem to be exclusively in the hands of humans as to its value. I think almost every other species of organism does things based completely on instinct, but isn’t following your instinct an act of faith too? I mean, millions (billions?) of species of organisms bring forth offspring in the faith and instinct that This Is For The Good Of The Species. I mean, there must be something making everything living on Earth want to keep going and make the species keep going. Or else, “Why bother?” and let the species die off with you. What makes propagating the species so vital to an organism? There must be some sense of self-worth there, or else organisms would be willingly committing suicide left and right.

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