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Can western atheists be spiritual?
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norwegian
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 11:14 am    Post subject: Can western atheists be spiritual?  Reply with quote

Here's wiki's definition of atheism.

Quote:
Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods or rejects theism. When defined more broadly, atheism is the absence of belief in deities, alternatively called nontheism.


And true to this, among the people I know at least, atheists are spiritually barren, people with no moral compass, and yes even having grown up unloved.

However, I am a living example of a spiritual atheist. While I don't believe I was created by god and neither do I pray to one, I believe there exist beings in lower and higher planes of existence than humans. A lifetime of meditation gives me a third eye. Some of these higher beings have attributes that humans might construe as god, just as much as how some lower beings like animals might construe humans as gods.

Buddhists, Taoists, Confucianists, all of them are spiritual systems that don't require theism or a belief in creator-gods. The act of "praying" to a statue or to one's ancestors is an act misunderstood by Abrahamists. To Christians, putting one's palms together in church is a symbol of submission and prayer to a creator. To a Buddhist and Taoist, putting one's palms together is an act of paying respect. The respect one would give to a king or a highly accomplished individual.

So putting one's palms together in front of a statue is to acknowledge the memory of a great or loved person who has passed on. The statue being an optional visual reminder of the person. Photographs weren't invented then but has since been adopted by many Taoists and Buddhists.

Anyway, for centuries Easterners have shown that it is possible to be spiritual, to have a strong moral compass, and treat each other with love and compassion without the need to believe in a creator god.

I suppose one can say that the ancient pagan religions of the west are distant cousins but much of that has disappeared, its followers headed either for the church or atheism after people concluded that Wicca, etc is nothing more than just silly superstition.

As I said, most western atheists I know have taken to the extreme right of atheism, completely rejecting not just god but virtually anything to do with spirituality. I don't have a problem with that. I just wonder if you think atheism and spiritually are mutually exclusive.

Also, do you think one must be religious in order to be spiritual?

And by the way, unlike Abrahaimst religions, spiritualism in Eastern thought is not a mechanism for getting closer to god or asking for his mercy or salvation. It is a window to understanding spiritual evolution, a mechanism of figuring out one's place in the universe, understanding one's past and present, and knowing where one stands to go to from here.

[To Mod: I'm unsure if this topic should be in this thread or under Non Abrahamic religions. The intent is to understand the mind of the western atheist. Feel free to move it to Non Abrahamic if you feel that's where it should be.]
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Neighbour

Copenhagen calling  Very Happy

Well I do not believe in the "soul".

Talking about meditations I consider them to be a rehearsel which have been perfected through years of years and it therefore seems healthy for the "soul". But, in my opinion, just not in a spiritual way, but in a complete material way. The stretching and the relaxing, the hymns and so forth is all contributing to release feelgood hormones, ie. the body likes it  Smile

Personally I would say it's up the person wether they want to consider them atheist, spiritual, believer or whatever, but in my 'world' I'm "atheistic" towards the soul, ie the spiritual, aswell.

Cheers and peace
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mr Copenhagen! Now you've dredged up some good old memories in me, memories of the blond kind  Very Happy

Tvebak wrote:
Well I do not believe in the "soul".


Cool. Buddhists don't believe in a permanent soul too, a major point that differentiates it from Hinduism. May I ask what made you come to that conclusion of no-soul?

Quote:
Talking about meditations I consider them to be a rehearsel which have been perfected through years of years and it therefore seems healthy for the "soul". But, in my opinion, just not in a spiritual way, but in a complete material way. The stretching and the relaxing, the hymns and so forth is all contributing to release feelgood hormones, ie. the body likes it  Smile


Well being comes from the mind. Even if the body is sick, the mind can still be happy. But if a mind is unhealthy, even a well-maintained body won't make one happy.

Quote:
Personally I would say it's up the person wether they want to consider them atheist, spiritual, believer or whatever, but in my 'world' I'm "atheistic" towards the soul, ie the spiritual, as well.


Most definitely. Exchange of ideas yes, compulsion no. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am watching this conversation with utmost interest! Thanks to both of you for your wonderful and civil contribution.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome AB. Under normal circumstances civility and religion foums are a contradiction of terms so let's enjoy the "peace" while we can.  Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All_Brains wrote:
I am watching this conversation with utmost interest! Thanks to both of you for your wonderful and civil contribution.


hmm then I hope we will make a good perfomance  Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi fellow scandinav  Smile

Lost yet anothe comment. Don't know wether its this site or the It-administrator at my work trying to make it hard for me doing other things than work   Rolling Eyes

What are you relations to Norway? Born and raised?

norwegian wrote:
Cool. Buddhists don't believe in a permanent soul too, a major point that differentiates it from Hinduism. May I ask what made you come to that conclusion of no-soul?


I'll do the lazy thing and copy paste a comment I've already written on the subject, have some cooking I have to do:

Tvebak wrote:

The subject "soul" is in my opinion an idea our ancestors have developed to explain our conciousness. There have been different ideas on how this "soul" have manifested. Many thought it was in the heart, which have also come to influence on the bible and the quran, where the "mind" is somehow talked as being in the chest/heart. Later when scientist realised that the brain played a very important role in this field the "soul" was attached to the brain. The "heart"-analogy was very powerful and therefore it still dominates poetry, litterature etc. etc.

The neurological advances there's made these years a amazing. Thinking that you can have a part of your brain replaced by a protestese within relative (if not already) few years is in my opinon amazing. The heart as the home of the "soul" has been completely ruined, in my opinion, by the mere fact of heart-transplantations. The same might be the case for the brain.

But to the explanation of the conciousness, think of a little baby, think of the different persons around the world suffering from different abnormalties in the brain (autists, spastic and many more). These examples show, in my opinion, what conciousness is made of. And its made of the constant interaction of the many different small elements in our brain and the impulses we get through the different senses. Through times we get some impulses on how to behave and how to react on different things. This makes us have feelings and emotions.



Quote:
Well being comes from the mind. Even if the body is sick, the mind can still be happy. But if a mind is unhealthy, even a well-maintained body won't make one happy.


I agree. It's more complex than that. In my earlier comment, which I lost as mentioned  Sad  , I somehow ended up on some thoughts about the different things that triggers fx our behaviour, fellings and memory; ie. the different impulses we have recieved and get all the time.
Through the life we have lived we trigger differently on different impulses and this also forms the way we will trigger on different impulses in the future (experiements with placebo-medicine is an example of this), some might be indifferent towards meditation and some might have a negative respond on it. For some sents can trigger some memories, people also react different on the alltime perfect drug, sugar.
It's mainly based on the way of our 'socialization' and on how the biological features are of the nerve-system and the brain. In my opinon  Very Happy

I think that was somehow what I tried to write earlier.

Now to the stove.

Cheers and peace
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Buddhists, Taoists, Confucianists, all of them are spiritual systems that don't require theism or a belief in creator-gods. The act of "praying" to a statue or to one's ancestors is an act misunderstood by Abrahamists. To Christians, putting one's palms together in church is a symbol of submission and prayer to a creator. To a Buddhist and Taoist, putting one's palms together is an act of paying respect. The respect one would give to a king or a highly accomplished individual.


The same could be said to be true of Hinduism as well.

Quote:
Cool. Buddhists don't believe in a permanent soul too, a major point that differentiates it from Hinduism. May I ask what made you come to that conclusion of no-soul?


Are you a Buddhist? What convinces you that there is no soul?
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2007 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Tveback,

My family originated in Bergen but we moved around Europe for a while and finally settled in the American midwest. Can't even speak the language well I'm afraid... but one thing for sure I LOVE the countryside in Norway.

So you've basically equated soul to consciousness and consciousness to the random electrochemical interactions in the brain. Sounds fair. Remove the brain and you'd pretty much stop all reactions.

Tvebak wrote:
I agree. It's more complex than that. In my earlier comment, which I lost as mentioned, I somehow ended up on some thoughts about the different things that triggers fx our behaviour, fellings and memory; ie. the different impulses we have recieved and get all the time.
Through the life we have lived we trigger differently on different impulses and this also forms the way we will trigger on different impulses in the future (experiements with placebo-medicine is an example of this), some might be indifferent towards meditation and some might have a negative respond on it. For some sents can trigger some memories, people also react different on the alltime perfect drug, sugar.
It's mainly based on the way of our 'socialization' and on how the biological features are of the nerve-system and the brain. In my opinon


Pavlov's experiments established the link between external stimuli and behavior. Ring the dinner bell and the dogs begin to salivate. It happens in corporate life too although they'd be salivating for money not food Smile  So yes, socialization has a lot to do with how we react to sense stimuli.

roshan wrote:
Are you a Buddhist? What convinces you that there is no soul?


Hi Roshan. Yes I am a Buddhist.

Let me start with an observable fact, that identities change very rapidly. The you today and the you in ten years time may be very different. Your values, beliefs, behavior and attitudes could be completely unrecognizable. Just ask your spouse. But whether the change is large or small, the fact is it changes.

Some insist that only circumstances change but we do not. I disagree. We all get tired of our favorite song one time or another. If the song never changed, then what was it that did.

That our identity is drastically different between birth and death is easily observable. If our soul is our 'self' and self is our identity, then we can argue that the soul is not permanent just as our identity is not permanent. Buddhists believe the so-called soul subject to birth, decay and death just as the physical body is. It is constantly dying, renewing.

Humans are extremely attached to self and identity and the fear of identity loss is unimaginable. But if one can achieve deep concentrated calm, he can mentally detach to observe the 'self' and see how this identity called 'I' rises and falls, change from state to state. Its there for anyone to see.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Hi Roshan. Yes I am a Buddhist.

Let me start with an observable fact, that identities change very rapidly. The you today and the you in ten years time may be very different. Your values, beliefs, behavior and attitudes could be completely unrecognizable. Just ask your spouse. But whether the change is large or small, the fact is it changes.

Some insist that only circumstances change but we do not. I disagree. We all get tired of our favorite song one time or another. If the song never changed, then what was it that did.

That our identity is drastically different between birth and death is easily observable. If our soul is our 'self' and self is our identity, then we can argue that the soul is not permanent just as our identity is not permanent. Buddhists believe the so-called soul subject to birth, decay and death just as the physical body is. It is constantly dying, renewing.

Humans are extremely attached to self and identity and the fear of identity loss is unimaginable. But if one can achieve deep concentrated calm, he can mentally detach to observe the 'self' and see how this identity called 'I' rises and falls, change from state to state. Its there for anyone to see.


Hi Norwegian, I will agree with most of your post, but I think you have misunderstood the Hindu concept of a soul. It is not the same as the "self" in the western sense which refers to the human ego. It is a relative reality since it is always changing, in contrast to the absolute reality, which is the soul, which is immutable.  The ego or human self as per Hinduism is therefore illussory in comparison to the soul. The soul as per Vedanta is defined as pure awareness. The soul itself is a non agent - it neither thinks nor acts. Here is a definition "without parts, without qualities, without action and emotion, beginningless, endless and immutable. It has no consciousness, such as is denoted by ‘I’ and ‘Thou’. It is the only Reality."

I would argue that there is in fact something that does not change - the state of enlightenment that can be achieved by humans. This state of enlightenment is basically the realization of the soul, as per Hinduism. I think the primary difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is that Hinduism realizes that the material world/the ego is illusory due to its impermanence and dualism, but claims that behind it lies the absolute reality, which Buddhism (particularly the Theravada sect) generally doesnt recognize. However, many Mahayana schools also recognize an absolute reality, they just call it Buddha or Nirvana instead of Brahman/Atman.

Read the section titled "Nirvāṇa in the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra" here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana
Read the section titled "Sunyata in the Tathagatagarbha Sutras" here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Void_(Buddhism)

The relationship between Sunyata and Nirvana in the above sutras is exactly the same as that between Maya and Brahman/Atman in Hinduism.

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