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happiness is for everyone

April 18, 2009

While I lack a belief in a creator God, I consider myself a very spiritual person. But this raises the question, Are non-theistic views and spirituality compatible?

I think it depends on what is meant by “spirituality,” but in general, I don’t see any inherent contradiction between them. For example, Sam Harris, one of the most outspoken atheists in America, has no problem being an atheist while at the same time being open to the fact that people have spiritual experiences. As he wrote in 10 Myths – And 10 Truths – About Atheism:

“There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences.”

As for the use use of the term “spirituality” itself, he states in The End of Faith that:

“It is difficult to find a word for the human enterprise which aims at happiness directly—at happiness of a sort that can survive the frustrations of all conventional desires. The term “spirituality” seems unavoidable here—and I have used it several times in this book already—but it has many connotations that are, frankly, embarrassing.”

So, from this perspective, I don’t think there’s anything that precludes someone like me, who lacks a theistic worldview, from also being a spiritual person for the simply fact that we all have the ability to have these profoundly emotional experiences, regardless of our religious inclinations.

To me, being a spiritual person is all about finding happiness. The way I see it, happiness isn’t just reserved for a select few; happiness is for everyone.


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