Podcast: Green Spirituality

Sojourners founder and best-selling author Jim Wallis was recently in the country talking about faith and politics. He famously said that the Democrats got religion when they saw the exit polls from the 2004 presidential election. It got me wondering how our own Green MPs understand religion, both in their own lives and beyond.

Today is the first of an occasional series where we talk to a Green MPs about their spirituality. First up, Gareth Hughes.

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124 thoughts on “Podcast: Green Spirituality

  1. Hi Gareth,

    This is fantastic……. you have managed to take the positive from your religious experiences and really meld them into a coherent philosophy which is…….well GREEN! Well done.

  2. Gareth:

    The Fourth Labour Government in the 80’s; for better or for worse…

    Hey, Gareth, surely, that is largely where the problem came from. Douglas and Prebble tied us into the neo-liberal agenda of supporting the greed of the wealthy and dismissing the poverty of those who have nothing as their own fault. Every subsequent Government has followed that agenda.

  3. Frog, Can these interviews be made available as transcripts for the benefit of those of us who are on dial-up?

  4. I would like to make a more meaningfull comment. but unfortunately I am on dial-up because where I live I can’t get broard-band because Telecom doesn’t think the Lake Coleridge community is worth it!!!!!

  5. @ Paul
    Thanks for your nice comments.

    @ Toad
    Interesting point – I think many of my generation have swallowed the neo-liberal agenda as given (helped along by media of course). Have you read this piece by Monbiot: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/10/11/the-values-of-everything/

    @dial-up users.
    I’ll look into if it is possible to transcribe, but I doubt it because it often takes a long time and is expensive to purchase. Feel free to ask me any questions on my spirituality and green views.

  6. gareth..

    u said..”..Why I turned vege and still am one is for environmental reasons…”

    and u said:”..Feel free to ask me any questions on my spirituality and green views…”

    so..given your first statement…

    ..and knowing the vegan diet is kindest on the planet/for all..

    ..cd u tell us why u aren’t vegan..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  7. I’ll be honest Phil i’m not perfect.

    I was vegan for a short while and travelled in India where veganism was difficult and coming back really missed dairy so now eat very little (mostly cheese) and buy organic.

  8. “Interesting point – I think many of my generation have swallowed the neo-liberal agenda as given ”

    It is not their fault. I think many who have grown up in the last 30 years are not even aware there are alternatives.

    Younger voters supporting beneficiary bashing and privatisation. The total self absorption of many current University students also. That is what we have taught them. “Greed is good”.

    Bernard Hickey suddenly seeing that “the market is not God” as if it is a new observation is a case in point.

    Notably many economics and management programs do not even study economic history or mention influences like Keynes.
    Adam Smith’s words on the market are quoted endlessly while his words on looking after your workers are ignored.

  9. Spirituality is political. This means speaking loudly about the theft of Palestinian land by a bunch of Europeans masquerading as Arabs (semites) who would have us believe God is a racist and likes them more than anyone else. Spirituality takes guts.
    I would have read what “Frog” said if he (she) had posted it. I also think people should be prepared to put their names to their statements.

  10. (I have now listened to the podcast)I think its silly to claim you are an atheist and also that you are spiritual. I think Gareth is confused. He says he is happy not to know the answers. This means he is an agnostic, not an atheist. (so much for university).There is no such thing as a spiritual atheist.
    This conversation (podcast) is off topic. It is not about spirituality at all. Being green or environmental is moral. It has nothing to do with spirituality.

  11. That’s true if you keep a very strict definition of “spiritual”, but many prefer it to be broad enough to include other intangibles, for instance the awe and exhilaration that one feels when contemplating nature. The context this often comes up in that I very much support this wider definition is when the religious claim that atheists (or even just scientists) are dry and passionless. Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow is a great read in this regard, showing how untrue that claim is.

    No atheist would claim they know all the answers or have absolute certainty regarding the existence of a god, nor that this is a problem. It is just a matter of degree, so your distinction here is not correct.

  12. Phil – “There is no such thing as a spiritual atheist.” – That is one of the misconceptions about atheism that I have long regretted. People who do not see the majesty of nature itself, cannot be in awe of a storm at sea or a tree struggling to survive in a desert…. or the simple wisdom of a bee… those people are not spiritual, whether they believe in a God or not. People who can stop and appreciate the smell of spring and the laughter of children… they are spiritual, again, whether they believe in a God or not.

    BJ

  13. Hmm!

    It seems many people need to understand what being an Atheist really means: Does not believe in God or deities. It does not mean you are partly Agnostic. It does not mean you are Anti-religious. Nor does it mean you believe in elements of religion or spirituality. Perhaps you are mistaking these for being a naturalist and appreciative of nature. Just as believing you’re a vegan or vegetarian does not always make you so. Considering the insidious nature of processed foods and their ingredients; it is likely that there are many people that mistakenly believe they are not carnivores. This is an exact “science”, not an issue of degree.

    Many religions incorporate an element or connection with nature within their practice. In fact the sentiments from such religions are in my opinion preferable over the ones that utilize didactic subjugation whereby religious beliefs are used for political advantage. We see this in the theft of Palestine as well as other American driven atrocities around the World. Thankfully religion as a controlling factor has seen a decline overall. However now there is the fear driven “war on terror” agenda to take its place. Invaders masquerading as saviours crap!

  14. Being that fascism has been on the rise in many countries, using a nom de plume is not such a bad idea. Intellectuals were rounded up by the Nazi’s don’t forget. With the implementation of technology that collates nearly every aspect of our lives including our beliefs, in the name of commerce and progress, fascists have more power to choose whom they discriminate against than ever before. Hitler would have a field day in this age where nothing is private or sacred.

    It would be foolish to think people are not victimised for their beliefs in New Zealand. In point of reference is Ahmed Zaoui, who was persecuted because of a fear of his supposed beliefs. We simply do not have freedom of speech in little old NZ. I’m unsure if it is even a constitutional right. Perhaps another common misconception from being brainwashed and Americanised.

  15. Quite untrue. Atheists do claim there is no God. Those who do not know are called agnostics. This is not a “very strict” definition. It is the normal every day run of the mill definition. To claim one is an agnostic and then say “I am very spiritual” is trying to have your cake and eat it too. Spirituality is like, being a pagan, or a buddhist, a zoroastrian, a christian, or a muslim. It involves concepts beyond the physical, material. An athiest discounts all that is not material. Everyone knows this!
    I think it is good to discuss “green spirituality”, but this podcast does not actually do that at all, except to claim one can be a “spiritual atheist”. This is like being a right wing socialist, or an Act party humanitarian.

  16. Quite untrue. Atheists do claim there is no God. Those who do not know are called agnostics.

    I didn’t claim otherwise. But even Richard Dawkins does not claim 100% certainty that there is no god and says he is therefore technically an agnostic in a pedantic sense. An atheist has just made an an assessment of the probability there is a god given what we know about the world and has concluded it is so low that there is little point in saying it could go either way like an agnostic would.

    This is not a “very strict” definition. It is the normal every day run of the mill definition.

    I was referring to “spirituality” when discussing definitions.

    An athiest discounts all that is not material. Everyone knows this!

    Only insofar as what they base their conclusions regarding the physical world on. Again, even Dawkins would disagree with you and has used the term “spiritual” in the “awe of nature” sense.

    I think it is good to discuss “green spirituality”, but this podcast does not actually do that at all, except to claim one can be a “spiritual atheist”. This is like being a right wing socialist, or an Act party humanitarian.

    Only with that strict definition of “spiritual” that relates to religion and no one here would disagree. This is just a semantic argument now.

  17. I’m gonna get that “spiritual atheism” out of the oxymoron closet and polish it up real good for ya mister!

  18. Now you see BJ, I do not think your average atheist would describe a bee as “wise”. In fact a bee has a very small brain and the atheist would credit the bee with very little intelligence, let alone wisdom. He would rationalise away the extaordinary cooperation of the hive as a series of instinctive impulses.
    To ascribe such transcendental qualities to a mere insect is to invite ridicule from athiests.
    I think being spiritual involves perceiving a sunset or a bee as an expression of something deeper, more “spiritual”. Perhaps as this podcast fails to come to grips with what it means to be spiritual we could all discuss this here.

  19. This explanation from Wikipedia seems to make a lot of sense:

    “Traditionally, religions have regarded spirituality as an integral aspect of religious experience. Many do still equate spirituality with religion, but declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world has given rise to a broader view of spirituality.
    Secular spirituality carries connotations of an individual having a spiritual outlook which is more personalized, less structured, more open to new ideas/influences, and more pluralistic than that of the doctrinal faiths of organized religions. At one end of the spectrum, even some atheists are spiritual. 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.
    In contrast, those of a more ‘New-Age’ disposition see spirituality as the active connection to some force/power/energy/spirit, facilitating a sense of a deep self.
    For some, spirituality includes introspection, and the development of an individual’s inner life through practices such as meditation, prayer and contemplation. Some modern religions also see spirituality in everything: see pantheism and neo-Pantheism. In a similar vein, Religious Naturalism has a spiritual attitude towards the awe, majesty and mystery it sees in the natural world.”

    I currently believe that while I don’t accept the existence of a god as described by many of the worlds dominant religions I do have a feeling of connectedness to our Earth and the wider universe. Lloyd Geering wrote “Christianity without God” and I am inclined to agree with his views that there have been a number of wise men, like Jesus who promoted similar moral codes and better ways of living (Bahais believe in a common thread through all the major religions). I think it is possible to accept the intent and morality of many religions, and I have a fondness for the artistry of religious buildings and many Christrian traditions (that are part of my personal history) while not believing in an all powerful god.

    I do have an open mind regarding different kinds of spirituality and levels of existence, I was influenced by Carlos Castaneda’s books in my youth and am aware of many cultural groups that have a spiritual connection and deeper than usual understanding of the environment they live in. Many of my family have had an intense experience when a loved one has died when they had a strong feeling, awareness or dream about the person at the very time of their death, despite not being near them at the time. Spirituality does not necessarily have to sit with a belief in a single or multiple deities.

    I also like the teachings or views of Krishnamurti who shocked his followers by stating that there wasn’t one easy pathway to religious enlightenment and we shouldn’t blindly follow the lead of others, we should instead follow our own path to greater understanding.

  20. Fundamental disagreement: the belief that God does not exist at all and everything can be accounted for from a material and scientific perspective ie Atheism vs Spirituality, which believes that reality is spiritual and not material in nature. I don’t know how much more fundamentally different you can get.

    Weak Atheism would still not account for any basis for a percentage in a Spiritual belief system. Although Atheism can include a broad range of beliefs, it is flawed to believe that Atheism (which comprises 2.3% of the population Worldwide) has any spiritual ethos within its definition or application. If you call a Spiritualist an Atheist, you need to back up your claims with facts. If you call yourself an Atheist and then go on about spiritualism, be prepared to eat your words.

    The only problem I have with Spirituality is that sometimes more is thought of what are random naturally occurring events than perhaps should be. But then that would be Mysticism wouldn’t it. Spiritualism is probably the closest thing to being Green in context of a religion. However Buddhism and even Christianity within its true application also have some Green characteristics. Treat others as you’d like to be treated has an environmental context if you accept the interrelation of everything in nature. Empathy for nature is often a core belief for many practices, even if it is not readily apparent.

    Whether religion has any business in politics; is another question.

  21. Fundamental disagreement: the belief that God does not exist at all and everything can be accounted for from a material and scientific perspective ie Atheism vs Spirituality, which believes that reality is spiritual and not material in nature. I don’t know how much more fundamentally different you can get.

    Except that I agree with that statement and haven’t implied otherwise. What I did was point out that, whether you like it or not, “spirituality” frequently is given a wider meaning in common usage, as sprout has expanded on a bit above. You would do better to just argue you don’t like that usage – I would even agree it can be problematic – and prefer another term for it.

    Kerry, I’m certain it’s only five ;-)

  22. Sprout

    At one end of the spectrum, even some atheists are spiritual. 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.

    Spiritual-ideals by Atheists… The explanation here is concerning the application of the word to a material belief in the form of cause and effect in Nature. In my opinion a belittling of the word: Spiritualism. Likewise a person’s feelings or introspection should not be defined in such a way by Atheists. Wikipedia’s explanation is in what Atheist’s believe, not if that belief is factually relevant or the proper definition. Nor does it discount the correct definition within a wider context of Atheism or Spiritualism.

    Christians used to think Witches floated. Should we explain that they believed this and then accept that explanation as a basis that the belief is founded. Clearly it was flawed, but explaining this would seem as difficult as dispelling the oxymoron proposed. Does the belief of Atheists that there is no God, make it so? Perhaps for some atheists.

    Must have a go at editing that page sometime.

    Valis

    Except that I agree with that statement and haven’t implied otherwise. What I did was point out that, whether you like it or not, “spirituality” frequently is given a wider meaning in common usage, as sprout has expanded on a bit above. You would do better to just argue you don’t like that usage – I would even agree it can be problematic – and prefer another term for it.

    It is not only problematic it is incorrect. Just as Spiritualism within its definition is specific but does not define many who would term themselves Spiritual. Atheists who believe in an essence in nature should probably define themselves differently (Naturalist Atheists, not Spiritual Atheists) and would do so if they were educated about their misunderstanding. The two are categorically polar opposites. It is not just my preference to proper definition and as such correct understanding; it is the correct and undeniable definition that needs adhering to. No matter what Atheists with this inclination believe.

    Spiritualists probably accept Atheists within the spiritual ie their reality, Atheist usually do not accept Spiritualism as reasonable within their ethos. Clearly the actual variable to conviction is as different as each individual.

  23. Emperor Todd-If atheism is defined as a lack of belief of deities it does not discount a belief of other forms of spirituality. I think your view that an atheists spirituality can be explained by science or through cause and effect, and therefore is not true spirituality, is unfortunate. I realize that the Wikipedia explanation does suggest this but also describes the “New Age” disposition:
    “…the active connection to some force/power/energy/spirit, facilitating a sense of a deep self”

    I went on to explain my view that there are a range of experiences, phenomena and states of being that cannot be explained by current science and I described some of these (I think it is perfectly reasonable to describe many of these as spiritual in nature). I can also see a natural association with some things regarded as spiritual with those described as supernatural.

    “The only problem I have with Spirituality is that sometimes more is thought of what are random naturally occurring events than perhaps should be. But then that would be Mysticism wouldn’t it.”

    I would have thought Mysticism could also be called a heightened sense of spirituality and naturally fits with the new age definition. Mystics have pursued enlightenment from within mainstream religions and without and generally use their religious beliefs and perspectives to describe their experiences. The fact that Buddhists, Jews and Christians all have similar “mystical” experiences suggests their feeling of oneness with their god may actually be something other than a connection with their deity. Even some scientists accept there is may be something outside what cannot be explained in scientific terms and is referred to by nuclear physicist Amit Goswami as universal consciousness, which could be the essence of all existence.

    Valis suggests that this discussion is actually one of semantics and thought that there may be a better word than spiritual to describe the core of this korero. I think “spirituality” can refer to a sense of wonderment in things natural (as Gareth suggested), a strong aestheticism or a deep connection to something or things that have no material basis, the word is fine. I feel Emperor Todd’s main objection is that he can’t see a valid use of this word outside a christian understanding, though I’m happy to be corrected if I have made an unfair assumption.

  24. Yeah…. but as Atheists go I reckon I am about average… and most of the folks I know who are atheists would understand what I was saying and why in fact there is wisdom in a bee.

    If one confuses what is a characteristic of a person (spirituality) and a characteristic of the universe (that there is a divine spirit), one can make the error of saying that atheists cannot be spiritual, but we are discussing spirituality, and that is the PERSONAL characteristic.

    BJ

  25. Thanks Emperor Todd, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    “If you call yourself an Atheist and then go on about spiritualism, be prepared to eat your words.”
    “The explanation here is concerning the application of the word to a material belief in the form of cause and effect in Nature. In my opinion a belittling of the word: Spiritualism.”
    Sprout:
    “Even some scientists accept there is may be something outside what can be explained in scientific terms and is referred to by nuclear physicist Amit Goswami as universal consciousness, which could be the essence of all existence.”
    Clearly this is a spiritual concept, almost a religious concept, certainly in the Bhuddist sense. It seems clear to me that if one feels there may be a force, a “universal consciousness” then one is not an atheist. There are millions of religious people who do believe in the middle eastern concept of a man with a white beard sitting on a throne. Gareth’s statement that he is happy for there to be “unanswered questions” shows he feels there may be some force which holds the universe together, as seen in the beauty of a sunset or whatever. Clearly this makes him an agnostic, not an atheist.
    Valis, there is no harm in debating such things, especially when you grudgingly admit that my definition was correct. Perhaps you should go and commune with nature, get in touch with your higher self, tap into the power of the universe, meditate, and find some inner peace. Maybe even ask your ancestors for guidance.
    If one questions the use of a word and its meaning in a certain context then this is semantic by definition.
    For someone to post a topic labelled “green spirituality” invites such questions and necessitates a discussion such as the very good debate above, with the exception of the odd bad tempered and not very spiritual outburst.
    It is important that we use words to mean the same thing as everyone else, or else they have no meaning. Spirituality implies much more to me than recycling.

  26. I didn’t “grudgingly admit” anything since it was my starting point, but really, have it your way. The only new thing I’ve learned here is that there are people more pedantic than me.

  27. Of course there is a universal force or ‘consciousness’.
    It’s called gravity. Omnipotent, omniscient and thus far almost completely unexplained.
    Consciousness? you might ask? Well every atom (and smaller) in the universe is ‘aware’ of every other via the wireless marvel of gravity.
    May the force be with you!

  28. I fully appreciate the ‘each to their own’ philosophy. However…

    I categorically don’t think that Spiritualism is only a Christian understood phenomenon. I am simply arguing that Atheists should not define natural events or feelings as “spiritual” within their clearly defined belief system. The two beliefs are contradictory to each other. I’ve not previously made an attack on any individual either, just pointed out the exact definition and worldwide accepted understanding.

    The word is fine to describe a sense of wonderment in things natural etc, but not if you are an Atheist. Mr Toms was correct in pointing out that an educated person who is a public figure should have a better understanding of the terminology required in defining his beliefs. The debate concerning Gareth’s confusion, which appears to be widely accepted, is perhaps a semantic one. But there is clear definition between words and religions alike. If people could see the interconnection of beliefs, the world would be a better place. I’m not disagreeing that there is some shared wisdom, but again Christianity is not Buddhism and Spirituality is not Atheism etc.

    This is like being a right wing socialist, or an Act party humanitarian.

    Bwahaha! I couldn’t have said that better :)Don’t get me started on Act though.

    If a person is spiritual, it is acknowledging that the spiritual exists, whether personalised or in the form of a divine spirit. Saying your personal characteristics are spiritual and then saying you’re an Atheist, is incorrect. I would term this as a schizophrenic belief system not just an oxymoron. Even as a weak Atheist, the understanding within all its variance, is clearly that the spiritual does not exist. Spirituality is not just a sense of wonderment at nature or a feeling just as Christianity is not just about going to church. Although I wouldn’t want you to mistakenly think I’m crusading; if we discount the relevance of words and their proper understanding, we may as well bash each other with swords.

    There are many things that cannot be explained in scientific terms. The spiritual and mystical are but a couple in a huge list. The essence of all things has long been scientifically difficult to explain. An ether or “universal consciousness” (not gravity) being explained as spiritual cannot discount Gareth’s explanation of his belief (in terms of religious parameters) being flawed. Stepping on toes isn’t going to win any votes.

    Pedantry! Is that the extent of your argument? I know declare Emperor Todd the winner!

  29. Phil toms-I suppose it is down to semantics if you believe spirituality can only exist with a belief in deities and atheism is more than just a nonacceptance of a god or gods. Gareth’s comfort with unanswered questions could just be an acceptance that there is much in this complex universe that is not understood and sometimes when things are broken down into scientific terms it takes away the sense of wonderment of naturally occurring phenomena. Do we really have to understand everything?

    I agree with Bj regarding spirituality being personal and can be different in nature for each individual and i also like his description of spirituality being grounded in the wonders of nature and the universe. I feel uncomfortable about fundamentalism within any religion as I have trouble seeing it as a spiritual way of being. With fundamentalists there appears to be a heavy focus on following prescribed teachings and giving up individual curiosity for an acceptance of what are essentially another’s views. There is no appreciation of the essential interconnectedness of nature and all people but black and white divisions of right and wrong or friend and enemy (which has no relationship with the real teachings of most region’s founding prophets). I especially liked the placard seen during the Section 59 (anti smacking) protests “what would Jesus do?”. For many Fundamentalists the pursuit of personal gain at the expense of others or the environment is supported by their faith.

    Green Spirituality to me should be the opposite of fundamentalism, it should include a sense of wonderment and appreciation of our natural world and the universe, and involve a personal search in finding the best way to exist in a manner that celebrates, supports and enhances the environments that support us.

  30. Emperor Todd-I think you are being very pedantic with your definition of Atheist, all the definitions i have seen define atheism as a non belief in deities or gods not a rejection of all things spiritual. I think you are arguing from a very personal perception of what defines atheism which appears to only allow spirituality if it is aligned to a belief in god (unless your definition of “god” is broader than that which most commenting here seem to accept).

  31. Phil tom and todd,

    You are confusing a number of ideas here:

    First is that of atheism and theism. A atheist does not believe in any gods while a theist does believe in a god or gods. Atheism and theism, as such, does not necessarily involve claims to knowledge either way. Atheism may be subdivided in to positive atheism and negative atheism while theism may be subdivided in to positive theism and negative theism. In both cases positive indicates a claim that their position is the case while negative indicates that they do not know but see no reason to believe the opposite. Negative atheism normally takes the form of the null hypothesis “I see no evidence to support the existence of a god” while negative theism is more similar to a theist whom doubts the existence of god, such as Mother Teresa.

    Second is that of agnosticism, Agnosticism is a philosophical position that one does not know in a specific instance or in general. Being atheist or theist does not automatically denote agnosticism nor does it denote the absence of agnosticism. Negative atheism and negative theism are often partnered with a specific or general form of agnosticism. Positive atheism and positive theism are incompatible with agnosticism. Just what agnosticism is is often confused with the negative beliefs.

    Third is that of exactly what atheism entails. Atheism doe not denote any belief, only a lack of belief in a god or gods; it is a negative stance. An atheist is still able to be spiritual or to believe in the supernatural. Those positions which exclude the supernatural are referred to as “naturalism”, this is what is most normally associated with atheism and is what the “Brights” are. Naturalism, again, does not necessarily denote a particular approach, only the absence of the supernatural. Other positions, such as PEARLism, which take a post-positivist stance and believe in Physical Evidence And Reasoned Logic, denote a very specific approach and are a positive stance; that is, the say what the practitioner does believe rather than what they do not. As to spirituality, that depends on ones definition. If ones definition involves the supernatural then it is obviously blocked at the naturalist level while if it only involves a sense of awe then it is widely available to even the PEARList.

  32. Sprout, firstly thanks for addressing me using my proper title.

    Emperor Todd-I think you are being very pedantic with your definition of Atheist, all the definitions i have seen define atheism as a non belief in deities or gods not a rejection of all things spiritual. I think you are arguing from a very personal perception of what defines atheism which appears to only allow spirituality if it is aligned to a belief in god (unless your definition of “god” is broader than that which most commenting here seem to accept).

    Pedantic eh! The wider and generally accepted definition of Atheism clearly discounts Spirituality; not only in what Atheism doesn’t believe exists ie Gods and deities, but in what it does believe. We’ve already covered that. It appears those that purport to be, don’t always understand its philosophy. Clearly Gareth falls into this category, he is in fact an Agnostic, not an Atheist.

    Ah no! I don’t think Spirituality is only aligned with Christianity, but that it is not aligned with Atheism in any way. You seem to want to label me a Christian… please do so if this helps you to substantiate your argument in your own mind. However you would be incorrect. I didn’t know I had tried to define God. That would be rather arrogant of me and I’m never arrogant.

    I now declare Emperor Todd a God.

  33. Mutual attraction Valis!
    Meanwhile…
    If something supernatural exists, does that not then make it natural? Or are we talking about things that aren’t part of the known universe?
    Just on a personal level, things that appear in my imagination, what are they? (apart from deranged) Natural? or what?

  34. Emperor Todd failed to address the very simple point that spirituality is a characteristic of mine which has nothing to do with a belief in divine spirits or deities. Nor the more detailed criticism of Sprouts which enumerated all the distinctions that are being ignored when denying that an atheist may possess spirituality. It is not enough to be the biggest penguin, now you want to be a deity? But then so MANY of us won’t be able to believe in you. :-)

    BJ

  35. The wider and generally accepted definition of Atheism clearly discounts Spirituality

    Well of COURSE it does, or this discussion would not be taking place. The wider and generally accepted attitude towards Atheism and Atheists is basically incorrect, misguided rubbish. Which is perhaps what keeps people like me from being all THAT nice to the door-knockers who show up from time to time.

    BJ

  36. Negative and positive is also known as weak or strong Atheism. The ethos of Gods and Deities non-existence is a belief. I still totally disagree; Atheism has no amount of Spiritualism within its makeup. I am not confused on the issue in the slightest. The word Spiritual might be available to an Atheist, but to use the word would imply a belief in its structure. Its proper definition and understanding is therefore not apparent here, whether in terms of the supernatural or a sense of awe at nature. I do not mean that Gareth is an Agnostic in a negative way. His statement simply has far reaching implications, whether you view my ideals as fundamental or not. I assume you still think of yourself as an Atheist and not an Anti-religionist?

    I am the God, believe and give me your money :)

  37. I assume you still think of yourself as an Atheist and not an Anti-religionist?

    Personally, both apply.

    The word Spiritual might be available to an Atheist, but to use the word would imply a belief in its structure.

    Possessing spirituality is not the same as being spiritual.

    There is no god, you get no money.

    BJ

  38. Todd,

    Yes, positive atheism is strong atheism and negative atheism is a form of weak atheism (weak atheism being both negative atheism and implicit atheism). The use of positive and negative, though, is more strongly rooted in the philosophy underlying the belief and is less ambiguous. I, for example, am a negative atheist but I may be described as strident/strong in my demeanor in debates.

    An atheist can be spiritual as spirituality, in any sense of the word, does not need to entail the belief in the existence of a deity, even if it does entail some silly belief in something supernatural. You are attempting to force your own perceptions on to atheism.

    Further, from a psychological standpoint, the spirituality experienced by those of many religions is not able to be differentiated from the experience of awe or oneness; the actual phenomenon described as spirituality is common to all, even if the attribution to spirits is not. I feel spiritual when I walk on to a marae, when I visit a museum, when I marvel at the processes which have created us, when I realise that I can not explain something, and when I feel as one with the universe. It does not mean that I am attributing the sensation to actual spiritual forces. The word has become generalised as it has been accepted that the sensation is not due to an actual commune.

    I do not identify as an atheist, I merely am one. I identify, if anything, as a PEARList; as someone whom has cast away silly comforting beliefs in favor of logic and reason.

  39. “The wider and generally accepted definition of Atheism clearly discounts Spirituality
    Well of COURSE it does, or this discussion would not be taking place.”
    Surely the “wider and generally accepted definition” is (by definition) the meaning of a word, any word? Isn’t that how they work out what to put in a dictionary?
    “Gareth’s comfort with unanswered questions could just be an acceptance that there is much in this complex universe that is not understood and sometimes when things are broken down into scientific terms it takes away the sense of wonderment of naturally occurring phenomena. Do we really have to understand everything?”
    No of course we don’t. There is nothing wrong with being an agnostic. That’s what it means. it means “I don’t know”.
    “Atheism does not denote any belief, only a lack of belief in a god or gods”. No, that’s agnosticism. An atheist believes there is no God, no supernatural, no wise bees, or enlightened grasshoppers.
    This “sense of wonder, or awe” suggests to me an appreciation of the vastness of the universe, its profound complexity, the feeling that there is some power or force running through, that it is too vast and deep for us to understand. In short, a feeling that there is much more than we can understand, we do not know. This is called “agnosticism”. Atheism says, “No, no, the sunset is simply light waves reacting in the cloud formation, the bee has almost no brain, therefore almost no consciousness, therefore certainly no wisdom,.Acupuncture may work, and even though I have no idea why, it certainly does not involve meridians or other such mystical spiritual hocus pocus.
    This is the widely accepted understanding of an atheist.
    As for what we can call “spiritual”. Well that is clearly understood also. It refers to ideas about the supernatural, nature spirits, ancestor spirits, the power of meditation to change the world. Spirituality is something which requires work, commitment, principles. I have met followers of “Raj Neish” who wear robes and call themselves “renunciates”, while smoking, drinking and rooting their brains out. To me this is hypocracy. I can’t help reacting this way to the “spiritual atheist”. I find it pretentious and self righteous. You can be an atheist, an agnostic, or whatever. But if you want to call yourself “spiritual” you need to know what spiritual means, and if you want to talk about “green spirituality” then recycling and flouro light bulbs just doesn’t cut it.
    If “the sense of wonderment of naturally occurring phenomena” passes for spirituality then this must be “weak” spirituality – in fact I would say extremely feeble spirituality.
    The vietnamese monk who set fire to himself during the vietnam war and sat there while he burnt to death – now That’s spirituality. The tibetan monks who make their sand mandala over and over while meditating for world peace – thats spirituality. Sitting there going “wow what a lovely sunset” – that aint nothin!

  40. Hmm!

    I am merely explaining that the general perception, proper definition and correct understanding of being an Atheist does not include Spiritualism within its ethos. Personal perceptions aside; Atheists, even with the explanation you have proposed cannot be spiritual as this would be a contradiction in the widely accepted and proper understanding of Atheist beliefs. Spiritualism is an acceptance of the Spiritual while Atheism is an acceptance of the material. You even gainsay yourself Sapient… ‘It does not mean attributing the sensation to actual spiritual forces’. But it does, having a belief in the spiritual is a part of what being a Spiritualist is all about in my opinion. We are not talking about what you personally account to such feelings, or the word within a certain context or setting.

    Such acceptance of this use would diminish the spiritual and thus the theology of Spiritualism. A common trait I have noticed amongst many so called Atheists.

    The word has been generalised by Atheists perhaps, who do not think that the sensation is due to actual spirituality. Spiritualists would disagree with the materialistic explanation of the World by Atheism, as most Atheists would disagree with a Spiritualists spiritual explanation. It seems the Atheists here are the ones who are confused and out of step with their peers. I do not accept the use of the word spiritual within an Atheist philosophy and have seen nothing here to make me think otherwise.

    Sapient, To be something is to identify with it. You identify with Atheism and so label yourself a Negative Atheist. You’re also an Anti-Religionist and it seems a Pearlist if you like. To adhere to logic and reason is not just an Atheist standpoint; Spiritualism is also logical, although to an Atheist this might seem strange. You can’t be an Atheist and believe in the spiritual realm unless you are confused. Perhaps defining Spiritualism would be better in showing the oxymoron, although I’m a bit tired of polishing.

    When I convert you, you will give me all your money, your wife and possessions and kiss my gold laden hand while kneeling in the dirt at my feet. Pray to the almighty Todd!

  41. Todd,

    Atheism is not a belief in the material; it is a lack of belief in one particular instance of the supernatural. A lack of belief in all things supernatural and a belief in only the material is naturalism. While most atheists may be naturalists, they are not the same thing.

    There is a difference between being spiritual and spiritualism just as there is a distinction between a belief in a god and Christianity. As long as the system does not include a god, such as Confucianism, it may be spiritual without being theist.

    If we are talking about the experiences described as ‘spiritual’ then everyone may encounter such experiences regardless of actual belief. They may not attribute them to the spiritual, but the word itself has come to designate that sensation just as a burning sensation does not need to indicate that your had is on fire.

  42. Oh really!

    One particular instance… And that would be God I suppose. A very narrow definition of Atheism Sapient. I think I prefer Mr Tom’s description.

    There is a difference in being spiritual and being a spiritualist. But the difference in being an Atheist and spiritual is infinite. I’m not talking about an Atheist belief in spirituality making you a Theist. Just that an Atheist is not spiritual in his theology, even if he uses the word as a descriptive.

    There is also a difference to the fireworks being a man made occurrence and something spiritual. Although some might have a religious or spiritual experience to such events, I would probably call this retarded!

    God wins again… my subjects can continue to polish that turd if they wish.

  43. Phil Toms

    Surely the “wider and generally accepted definition” is (by definition) the meaning of a word, any word? Isn’t that how they work out what to put in a dictionary?

    Not when it regards personal beliefs and attitudes. Those cannot be defined by people who do not hold them.

    I think this is what is p!ssing some of us off so much. Some yahoo trying to tell us what we actually believe and think… squirreling words away and explaining how we can’t be what we say we are. Which is, when it comes down to it, what is being attempted by a couple of people posting here. All in a good-natured way, but it still generates significant resentment.

    What OTHER people think is not definitive with respect to a religion… or to the lack of one.

    My definition of Islam or Judaism or Catholicism is not relevant to those faiths… though it is more likely to be accurate.

    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/37289_Got_a_Question_About_Religion_Ask_an_Atheist

    The definition of what is a Muslim or a Jew belongs to the Muslims and Jews, not to an evangelical mob of book burners in Florida. Similarly the definition of what an atheist is, and what he/she must and must-not believe in order to be an atheist belongs to the atheists, not to someone else.

    The only difference is that Atheists are less organized about such things.

    BJ

  44. Todd,

    Theism is only one particular form of stupidity, one can still be a atheist and have stupid beliefs. While I agree that being spiritual in the supernatural sense is stupid and that explicit atheists whom believe such things are being logically inconstant, the fact still remains that you can be an explicit atheist and still believe in the supernatural. You can be an implicit atheist and be spiritual without being logically inconsistent at all.

    You are a demigod at best, you have yet to win a single discussion on this blog. Worship the true pantheon and one day you may taste the ambrosia and be allowed to serve me forever.

  45. As for what we can call “spiritual”. Well that is clearly understood also. It refers to ideas about the supernatural, nature spirits, ancestor spirits, the power of meditation to change the world.

    spiritual [ˈspɪrɪtjʊəl]
    adj
    1. relating to the spirit or soul and not to physical nature or matter; intangible
    2. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) of, relating to, or characteristic of sacred things, the Church, religion, etc.
    3. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) standing in a relationship based on communication between the souls or minds of the persons involved a spiritual father
    4. having a mind or emotions of a high and delicately refined quality

    See number 1? That can of a certainty, belong to me as an atheist.

    Notice that number 1 has nothing to do with God, Deities or Religion.

    Notice also number 4, which I could claim if I weren’t such an indelicate and unrefined sort of person. :-)

    BJ

  46. The notion that you may have a “soul” does not in any way necessitate a belief in a deity or that the soul be immortal.

    BJ

  47. Todd

    Being an atheist, I call nothing God, and nothing is sacred.

    the general perception, proper definition and correct understanding of being an Atheist does not include Spiritualism

    The general perception is, as I pointed out, irrelevant to what being an Atheist means to the persons most directly concerned. As for the “proper definition and correct understanding” part, you are simply wrong about what those are. :-)

    BJ

  48. Bjchip

    What OTHER people think is not definitive with respect to a religion… or to the lack of one.

    What you personally think and what is correct understanding of Atheism and Spiritualism can be two different things. We are not arguing against your personal beliefs bjchip, but rather the wider context involved. Whether this is insulting is up to you. Polishing the turd is a figure of speech by the way.

    Sapient, I have won the debate on many occasions. Whether your personalized viewpoints can see this is another question. Thinking Theism is stupid would point to the personalised argument against the correct definition argument. And in my experience, the majority always wins the debate. Picking the parts of my argument you are able to argue against and adding further philosophical discussion to try and confuse the issue is not very productive. You cannot be an atheist and still believe in the supernatural or spiritual Sapient, unless you’re confused about the definition of your beliefs. Saying otherwise does not make it so.

    Please describe the soul from an Atheist standpoint?

    Watch the fireworks in wonder and awe Atheist. It is not a religious or spiritual experience because you have renounced those beliefs.

    I bath in the ambrosia you merely have a drop of. Built with religious passion from throughout the ages; my temple spits on the dust of your inferior pantheon. Whatever your belief, adulation of me is assured because I am omnipresent. Mere existence worships my Godliness because I am your creator. To not worship is to renounce your own existence, worship Todd or die.

    Too much huh!

  49. Todd,

    This is your greatest debate yet and you are still failing.

    I am, as I have stated, a pearlist; I do not believe in the soul, free-will, or any of those silly things. I can not provide you with a specific example of what a atheist would construe the soul as since, to me, they all seem absurd. The fact remains that an absence of belief in a god does not need to be associated with an absence of belief in the soul, magic, or midichlorines (sp?). This is the case even if there is no proposed mechanism to explain the existence of the phenomena.

    If you are omnipresent then that means that I just took to you like a dog to a lamp-post. Funny, really.

  50. Sapient,

    My argument is great but fails… It seems you have a penchant for the oxymoron.

    But were not talking about a mechanism to explain phenomenon. You are trying to draw the argument into a religious vs non-religious one. I’m not in fact Anti-atheist by the way. However clarification is needed where a self-titled Atheist wrongly associates with another contradictory belief. The concept of God incorporates ideas concerning the soul and to a degree even magic, especially in the eyes of most Atheists. It would seem you and bjchip are exceptions to this rule. Non-committal to an Atheist concept of the soul, you would effectively just be arguing against yourselves again anyway.

    Your reference to your argument being a dog is acceptable.

  51. Apologies to BJ. I did not mean to offend. I could have phrased it better.
    I have never heard of spiritual atheism before and I am quite confused by the term. Your fellow atheist considers the concept of a “soul” to be silly. I am not sure what you mean by a “soul” but I always thought it denoted a “spirit” self which outlives the body. It is confusing to use words to mean other than the conventional meaning.
    I also always thought that to be an atheist was to believe there is no god, not just to not believe there IS a god. Surely an agnostic does not believe there is a god but also does not have a belief that there is no God.
    Given that God is indefinable and could simply be a force which binds the universe, some sort of “universal consciousness”, this distinction is important. If an atheist thinks such a force may exist, surely he is an agnostic, or else what’s the difference then between an agnostic and an atheist?
    A really good movie on exactly this overlap between science and spirituality is “What the Bleep do we Know”.
    Magic is undiscovered science. This does not mean it is not magic. Sub atomic particles do not obey the laws of newtonian physics. Time slows down as you approach the speed of light.
    Indigenous cultures talk to their ancestors and believe in nature spirits and telepathy. They call this their spirituality. That’s what I always understood by the term – a belief in other realms, planes of existence, sort of like “The Matrix” only without the Aliens, or Starwars (Remember the Force, BJ)

  52. Todd,

    I am not trying to turn this in to a religion versus non-religion discussion. In fact, I am trying to say that religion, spirituality, magic, etc. can be believed in by atheists as well as theists. None of these things need to actually include gods.

    Just because monotheistic religions incorporate these things does not mean that they are limited to religion.

    What people perceive a word such as ‘atheism’ to designate does not change the literal meaning of the word. Atheism is a very specific word which designates only a lack of belief in god or gods. While words can change their meanings over time, atheism is a neologism and its meaning relies on the meaning of theism; a word for which the meaning has not changed.

  53. “Spiritual Atheism” is still an oxymoron Sapient, no matter how much you try to polish the turd.

  54. “I am trying to say that religion, spirituality, magic, etc. can be believed in by atheists”
    Religion can be believed in by atheists?
    You’ve really lost me there. So you can be a christian atheist, or a muslim atheist? Isn’t religion a “theism”?
    I suppose the Pope could be a contender. Those preists don’t seem very afraid of the wrath of God, do they?

  55. What you personally think and what is correct understanding of Atheism and Spiritualism can be two different things.

    …not true, as my understanding is the correct one and what other people (or Gods) mistakenly believe is quite irrelevant.

    I also always thought that to be an atheist was to believe there is no god, not just to not believe there IS a god.

    This is correct… but…

    The fact that I cannot prove there is not a God means that I must, in a logical and scientific sense, affirm that I do not know. I can on the other hand “believe” that there is no such thing based on, among other things, Occam’s razor.

    The key point here is that I accept that I do not have proof, and will not ever have proof of that belief. Proof of a negative being no more likely here than in any other question.

    That which I do not yet understand is yet not God.

    I am not sure what you mean by a “soul” but I always thought it denoted a “spirit” self which outlives the body. It is confusing to use words to mean other than the conventional meaning.

    That’s a fair criticism. I have a tendency to break things up a bit more thoroughly than most. It is an engineer’s habit to do this.

    When faced with the question of whether we have “souls” as in some intangible but effective phenomena that is essential to our being “alive”, the question is difficult. We don’t know that much and there may be evidence of things we don’t understand. None I believe, to be honest, but I keep an open mind.

    However, the assertion that souls are immortal adds something that is not at all in evidence and totally unnecessary…. unless you want to make people reckon on a final reckoning so as to control their actions in the here and now… a cheap trick which most religions use.

    If I can reject the notion of God on the basis of that lack of necessity, I can certainly reject the notion of an “immortal” soul and yet accept the possibility of a soul being present while we live.

    The concept of God incorporates ideas concerning the soul and to a degree even magic, especially in the eyes of most Atheists.

    What the concept of God incorporates does not limit those things to solely being part of the concept of God.

    That someone’s belief in God entails a belief that we are all capable of thinking does not require a person who believes we are capable of thinking to believe in “God”.

    The error of including all that other luggage with the deism and not understanding that it is all entirely separable is not mine, it is yours oh fallible and unbelievable one :-)

    People who think they know it all can be quite annoying to those of us who do. :-)

    respectfully
    BJ

  56. Phil Toms

    I can’t really be offended, being as offensive as I am myself. However, there is a certain degree of “being told what we believe” going on, and that is a dangerous place to go with us most times.

    This time it is “all in fun”… or I would not play with words so cavalierly.

    :-)

    BJ

  57. This is interesting!
    So what we are arguing about here is that atheists still often have a desire to be irrational about the world around them while still criticising the hell out of those that do the same but are not atheists!
    Ha!

  58. Shunda,

    No, we are arguing that atheists can still have irrational beliefs as atheism does not entail a belief system but rather a lack of some specific systems.

    Those atheists which most often criticise religion, the Gnu atheists, are almost always pearlists and rational in their beliefs.

  59. You know what the sad reality is Sapient? People will be “truth challenged” regardless of whether they are religious, atheist or any where in between.
    In my experience the primary motivator for all people seems to be self preservation, how honest we are about that fact is what will determine our rationality and “safety” towards other human beings.
    Personal insecurity is not that bad for us if we acknowledge it as such, but when we start projecting it and defending our irrationality, the sh!t starts heading for the fan!

  60. This is interesting!
    So what we are arguing about here is that atheists still often have a desire to be irrational about the world around them while still criticising the hell out of those that do the same but are not atheists!
    Ha!

    Not a desire, but it’s a fact that we’re all human and are faced with the same struggles. People will achieve to different levels on the rationality scale and there’s no reason the higher scoring folks shouldn’t encourage others along :-) Indeed how rational we are can be a life and death issue and that’s what motivates people to speak out.

    You know what the sad reality is Sapient? People will be “truth challenged” regardless of whether they are religious, atheist or any where in between.

    Yes, we’re all sinners, but don’t then stretch this to imply that all views are therefore equal and deserving of respect. 2+2 does equal 4, not 5 after all, and evolution is a fact too.

    Personal insecurity is not that bad for us if we acknowledge it as such, but when we start projecting it and defending our irrationality, the sh!t starts heading for the fan!

    So you’re going to stop defending your irrationality, Shunda? So glad to hear it!

  61. So you’re going to stop defending your irrationality, Shunda? So glad to hear it!

    Once I have been convinced that I am acting out of insecurity I will repent and ask for your forgiveness Valis!
    You have made a good argument against some manifestations of Christianity, but not so much the way I see things, in fact I think we probably share similar reservations about organised religion.
    This is indeed a strange world we live in!

  62. Once I have been convinced that I am acting out of insecurity I will repent and ask for your forgiveness Valis!

    It is not your apologia I seek, but merely your enlightenment! But I’m not sure why insecurity should be the only source of irrationality? Or why irrationality from other sources shouldn’t be fought just as hard?

    You have made a good argument against some manifestations of Christianity, but not so much the way I see things, in fact I think we probably share similar reservations about organised religion.

    I have never doubted it, though I am alarmed when you come down on the side of these christians when confronted with a gnu atheist challenge. It is in these times I most see your insecurity peeking through.

    This is indeed a strange world we live in!

    Strange and wondrous! And capable of making us all feel spiritual, regardless of our views on the deity!

  63. I have never doubted it, though I am alarmed when you come down on the side of these christians when confronted with a gnu atheist challenge. It is in these times I most see your insecurity peeking through.

    You don’t really think I’m a Christian do you Valis? My previous posts on this thread state that I am not. It might perhaps be easier for an Atheist to argue against a Christian in terms of their irreligious beliefs, but that’s not the case here. I’m in fact a free thinker and do not require externalised qualification to form my beliefs, whether religious or not.

    Nor have I tried to tell Atheist in general what to believe, but rather that the belief in the Spiritual would discount them as an Atheist.

    I think Atheism does entail a belief system. Otherwise the definition of Atheism is very narrow and would be limiting within an open discussion. Atheism to my understanding is a belief in natural phenomena without the need for religious explanation. Therefore Atheists do have a belief system. I think this needs to be cleared up even if acceptance of what I have posited limits an Atheist argument within the debate. Atheism in general (ie all the various differences of thought under the “Atheism” banner) must have some sort of explanation as to how everything evolved. Well wouldn’t that be a belief in something and not just a non-belief in religion?

    An Atheist would say that there is no proof that God exists and so logically he does not exist, not that he doesn’t know if God exists. Again that would make you an Agnostic.

    There has still been no explanation of the soul from an atheist perspective.

    The Popes will worship me or burn eternally in the fires of Hell. Then I will turn my religious crusade towards the enlightenment of Atheists with a religious fireworks display. None shall resist the wonderful spiritual experience. Todd the almighty God wins again.

  64. BJ “The fact that I cannot prove there is not a God means that I must, in a logical and scientific sense, affirm that I do not know.”
    You see I always thought that one who does not know is an agnostic.I still have no idea what you mean by a soul. It seems to be your own concept, unrelated to the accepted meaning of the term. I don’t think you can do that.
    I can understand that living in the US with Bush’s war against the “evildoers” and gog and Magog, and all those dreadful evangelists and god’s favourite race, one may wish to use a stronger word than agnostic, which you may feel implies the bible bashers may be right.
    To call ones self an atheist is a stronger rejection of all that baloney.
    However, I feel this categorisation of one’s self precludes the embracing of “spirituality”. For myself I occasionally have “imaginary” conversations with people who have left this world, and the odd portentous dream. This is the spiritual realm, and I try to reserve judgement as, like you, I do not have enough to go on to decide if it is real.
    I think it is fine to feel one perceives a “soul” or the “wisdom” of nature, but I feel you then stomp on your own “spiritual” or perhaps “pagan” instinct by declaring this not to be a supernatural force while again, you do not have the evidence to make this judgement. Maybe it is, and that is why you describe it as “wisdom” or a “soul”. This is your direct experience.
    This is where conventionally, the atheist rationalises spirituality out of existence, and reduces his “dreamtime” to random electrical impulses in the brain. Popular with greenies is the concept of “Gaya”, a sort of conscious planet. To me an atheist could not countenance such an irrational notion.
    Gareth says he is “intensely spiritual” He does not say what he means by this and we are left with no idea at all what he means. He did a degree on religion, but he studied UFO’s claiming this to be a modern religion. It is not, it is science, or science fiction. Aliens are not spirits.
    I also disagree with Gareth that people flew planes into buildings because of their religion. It was because they felt their racial group was under attack by the USA. This was part of a war which has been going on for a very long time. Either that or it was in inside job, set up to justify an attack on Iraq, which had nothing at all to do with 9/11, but which was giving money to the Palestinians, and to steal their oil.

  65. You don’t really think I’m a Christian do you Valis?

    Is your name Shunda too?

    An Atheist would say that there is no proof that God exists and so logically he does not exist, not that he doesn’t know if God exists. Again that would make you an Agnostic.

    I think you should stop trying to educate us mere small fry and run along over to Dawkins’ site where the big boys are getting this so wrong too. Do tell us how you get on.

  66. Aww Valis, play nice.

    I presume you think that all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities and its not a God created universe… Isn’t that a belief? Or would it be easier within this debate to not have any belief, just as bjchip does not want to define his belief in the soul?

    Repent you evil Atheist. Only through worship of the almighty Todd will you know freedom from your fear.

  67. Sorry, something about your style makes me not want to play at all. As I’m one of the most active posters on this topic, that’s quite an achievement, if you can call it that. Maybe it’s my character flaw. Maybe not.

  68. Shunda,

    Remember how I said that being an atheist, a freethinker, or even a naturalist does not mean one is not a total dip-shit? That an individual religious person can still be smarter than an individual atheist and that it is only on the whole that the religious are less intelligent/questioning?

    You are religious, kinda. Phil Tom and Chlamydia Todd are supposedly free-thinkers. QED.

    These two have obviously never interacted with the international atheist community as their positions are totally out of kilter and show very little contemplation or understanding.

    I tire of this discussion, neither side is going to cave. It is thus pointless.

  69. Dear Valis,

    I apologize if my writing style offends you. I presume that it is actually my argument itself rather than any particular form my writing takes. I understand you needing to attack me on something being that I have torn the Spiritual Atheist argument to shreds. My writing is a poor choice though as I am quit accomplished in this area.

    Dear Sapient,
    You have decided that you have lost the argument and have resorted to childish insults instead. I mean honestly, is Chlamydia Todd the best you can do? I’m unsure if Mr Tom’s has informed us of any title to describe his beliefs and I’m sure he does not appreciate your ill informed attack on me to include him or Shunda.

    I have demonstrated that Spiritual Atheism does not exist, not that I practice any religion. I have used the ideas expressed by religions in disproving your argument Anti-religionist. QED.

    I tire of this discussion, neither side is going to cave. It is thus pointless.

    No more posts from Sapient concerning Spiritual Atheism. Check!

    It would be a pity if such insults were the extent of your argument. However I can appreciate you not wanting to take on the Almighty God Todd. To forsake there being a God is one thing, but to go against the Almighty God Todd would be a foolish thing indeed.

  70. “The fact that I cannot prove there is not a God means that I must, in a logical and scientific sense, affirm that I do not know.”

    You do not have to KNOW something to believe it. Any Christian can tell you that. Thus I can BELIEVE there is no god without having proof… which is particularly necessary as it is not possible to prove a negative.

    BJ

  71. Valis!

    It seems that you mistake my “The Almighty God Todd” nom de plume etc as an arrogant statement concerning my beliefs. It is in fact a light-hearted approach at poking fun of primarily Christianity but also Atheism and religion in general.

    Again it would be a pity if your argument declines into personal insults. However, it would seem too late for such remorse. I for one would prefer that you desist from such obnoxious behaviour. I personally would never stoop so low.

    Now F off dick wad!

  72. Todd,

    It was more of a compliment to Shunda than an insult.

    The choice of chlamydia was to contrast your titling yourself as a god. I figured that a pathogenic bacteria often caught through silly encounters which latter causes itching, infertility, and sometime blindness, would be an apt comparison.

    There are some people that are not worth debating and for which they only rational response is mocking; you are one such.

    Valis’ comment relates not to your claiming divinity but to you thinking you have even made a scratch in our arguments.

  73. Actually no, Sap. We debate people here who are merely wrong all the time. Take Shunda. He’s often wrong and incredibly frustrating at the same time, yet I don’t mind him (despite wanting to throttle him reasonably often). I think it’s simply because he’s not a pompous ass, unlike our Todd.

  74. Valis:
    “I’ve had enough. I can’t see a fundamental disagreement here so you can carry on splitting hairs without me.”
    That was your comment, number 23.
    We are now up to 90 and you are still here.
    Comment no 85 “Sorry, something about your style makes me not want to play at all.”
    “I’m sure you’ll need phil’s help, so feel free to take him with you too.”
    Comment 90 “I just prefer debating with people that aren’t entirely up themselves.”
    It is a waste of a life to keep doing something you dislike, especially when mostly you are just insulting people who are enjoying a light hearted debate. You are clearly miserable.
    Is that how you live your life?
    Perhaps you actually do enjoy being here and insulting people. Maybe you enjoy bringing everybody down. You are actually generating negative energy.
    It is important to learn to enjoy the moment. This moment is the only time we have.
    Maybe its a spiritual affliction. Some soul searching is in order. Your atheism clearly is not meeting your spiritual needs.
    This is not a good space for you. Go, run along the beaches, feel the awesome power of nature. Do something that will make you happy.
    Remember happy? Go, Valis, go! Set yourself free! Run like the wind!

  75. Valis,

    His claim to divinity is obviously in jest, what is it that you base his pompousness on if not his conceit and his obviously thinking he has flayed our arguments while not having even scratched them?

  76. Sapient,

    Didn’t think that was the last we would hear from you. Are you Valis’ spokesperson now?

    I totally disagree of course. I have presented a well-formed argument against there being Spiritual Atheism (not to be confused with a personal belief of some atheists in the spiritual). You are correct in that I will not change my mind on this and it appears you also will not. Therefore we are at an impasse and thus should accept each position. Or we could just insult each other some more. That is always a bit of fun. It’s nice to see you two ganging up to defend Atheism, but insults aren’t going to get rid of me by the way. At least you believe in something. I now understand the ‘Negative’ part in the label you first gave yourself Sapient.

    Ah yes! A pathogenic bacteria such as Chlamydia would be an apt contrasting comparison to a pathological belief of being a God, if you were six. Although my true belief is that I’m somewhere in between these and obviously more highly placed than you and Valis merit.

    I prefer the confrontational aspect of debate instead of lets say Mr Tom’s more theoretical and practical aspects of the associated concepts. This is a very valid form of debating “style”, but unfortunately another area for you and others to attack, instead of debating the argument properly.

    I would rather be a pompous ass Valis than an almost illiterate Neanderthal.

  77. Sap, I think your comment captures it pretty well:

    These two have obviously never interacted with the international atheist community as their positions are totally out of kilter and show very little contemplation or understanding.

    That’s enough even without the divinity crap.

  78. Valis/Sapient

    These two have obviously never interacted with the international atheist community as their positions are totally out of kilter and show very little contemplation or understanding.

    You are correct; I have had no need to communicate with the international atheist community, this none communication has not given you an advantage in the debate. If a none-communication makes me out of kilter with Atheist belief, then from the appearance of your arguments, that is a good thing. However I do not believe Sapient or Valis is representative of Atheism in general.

    I think what we have here Mr Tom’s, is a couple of people running interference. This would be an effective tool in disrupting Green minded people properly debating topics, which have some importance. It’s the first thought I had when previously reading some of their posts. I have raised this concern before without any response, however I could be wrong in my deduction.

  79. “You do not have to KNOW something to believe it.”
    Well I for one can not believe in anything while I also think it may not be true. That’s the silly thing about faith. Faith is the crowbar with which they lever young men into war, when the real reason is empire.
    So if you acknowledge that you do not actually know that your soul does not outlive the body, then you do not completely believe it.
    I am intrigued by your concept of the soul.
    Medical science has revealed that there is no seat of consciousness anywhere within the brain or the body. My theory is that consciousness resides in every cell, and that is why you get a “heartache” or a ‘broken heart”. You can physically feel pain emanating from the heart, yet it is only a pump and the cause is emotional. The cells and the dna are tiny. Scientists now suggest the brain operates on a quantum level. So my understanding is that the cells can tap into some sort of quantum field. This throws the whole thing wide open.

  80. Todd,

    It has given us an advantage because we actually know what we are talking about. One should interact with a group before one tries to describe them. One should seek to see if a particular thing is possible before declaring it impossible.

    ~

    PT,

    Well I for one can not believe in anything while I also think it may not be true.

    And what can you know to be true? I have certainly never encountered anything that could be said to be fully justified.

  81. Sapient!

    You presume that I don’t know what I’m talking about, just because I have not had need to communicate with the international Atheist community. You and Vilas do not comprise a community by the way. Rather arrogant again Sapient. We know things to be true all the time, and they are justified in their truth.

    Anyway… I think to argue about Spiritual Atheism further with such school yard thinking would be counterproductive to the topic.

    Although the debate has been focused on an Atheist philosophy, Green spirituality can encompass all religious beliefs whether they enhance or contradict each other. The main ethos of being Green after all is in preservation and thus the continuance of humankind on Earth, whereby spirituality will continue to grow and flourish in all its variances.

    There are seven Angels dancing on the pinhead. I counted the ballot papers again.

  82. Todd,

    Valis and myself do not comprise a community, but we are not alone in our positions. Indeed, our position would appear to be the consensus.

    Just what do you know? I would contest that we may hold true beliefs but we may not know our beliefs to be true as any such claim to knowledge is based on assumption and is thus not fully justified. This is, indeed, the root of the philosophy of Descarte’s “I think, something is” and Socrate’s “I know that I know not”. I am willing to bet that you can provide no posit which has no grounds for doubt.

  83. Sapient

    It has given us an advantage because we actually know what we are talking about. One should interact with a group before one tries to describe them. One should seek to see if a particular thing is possible before declaring it impossible.

    One should seek to see if a teapot orbits Jupiter before saying that it does not. That would make you insane. You argue against your previous argument Sapient.

    Just what do you know? I would contest that we may hold true beliefs but we may not know our beliefs to be true as any such claim to knowledge is based on assumption and is thus not fully justified. This is, indeed, the root of the philosophy of Descarte’s “I think, something is” and Socrate’s “I know that I know not”. I am willing to bet that you can provide no posit which has no grounds for doubt.

    You discount reality or personal experience with your statement. Belief within the context of religion is not only the formation of presumed ideas; it is as real as the sunshine and the rain to some people. You aren’t trying to say nature doesn’t exist are you? Presuming that I don’t know because you don’t know if I know is not very constructive. The debate does not require further philosophical distinction or you trying to mash well formed philosophical ideas into your argument. You are being philishitical sapient. You have used a double negative by the way. I expect your own argument does indeed cancel itself out.

  84. sapient: “I feel spiritual when I walk on to a marae, when I visit a museum, when I marvel at the processes which have created us, when I realise that I can not explain something, and when I feel as one with the universe. It does not mean that I am attributing the sensation to actual spiritual forces.
    When you walk on to a marae you are entering a place inhabited by people who talk to their ancestors all the time,who cultivate this spiritual connection. You experience this spiritual force directly and in your materialist world you have no word for it and choose to call it “spiritual” while at the same time denying any spiritual attributes to it, arrogantly redefining the word, or rather dis-defining it as in your lexicon it has no meaning,no explanation. I suggest this is illogical as you experienced something you do not understand and have no experience of. So who are you to proclaim what it is or is not? to contradict those whose world you have entered, who will happily explain the spiritual force you are directly experiencing, while at the same time denying its existence. Something hit you out of the blue. You cannot see it, touch it, you have no idea what it is yet you insist on proclaiming what it is not. If it is not a spiritual force then what was it? And why must you call it spiritual? Surely you should call it “emotional” if that’s what you think it is?

  85. Todd,

    The teapot argument does not apply to the possible and the impossible but to the most reasonable position to hold given that the proposed circumstance is possible. The teapot argument is an example of the reasoning behind the null hypothesis. If you really want to get in to the null hypothesis again, it is against you as well so long as one understands that the linguistic roots of atheism require one to be without a god but naught else. By going from a theist population norm which includes spirituality to a atheist population, given that the only necessary difference is the lack of a belief in god, the null hypothesis is that the atheist population will not vary in any aspect other than belief in god.

    I did not create a double negative. You may want to look up the function and definition of a double negative; my sentence does not function as a double negative as it does not cancel itself out but designates two negative abilities and it does not fit the definition as the negatives are in two separate clauses rather than the single clause required for a double negative.

    What someone presumes to be real does not make it real, even if they are religiously devoted to the idea. The nature of reality is set regardless of how we perceive it. Reality, though, can not be taken in to account in justifying a position as we can not directly access reality, instead we access reality through our senses, thinking, and memory (personal experience); all of which are incredibly flawed and, even if not flawed, could be tricked by the “Descartes daemon”, “brain in a vat”, or “butterfly” scenarios (think matrix). I presume that you do not know not because I do not know but because there has never been a single instance of knowledge demonstrated in the thousands of years that people have been trying and logic, itself a assumed standard, dictates that you can not.

  86. Phil toms,

    The brain is my domain. The phenomena is relatively well understood. We can experimentally induce the experience rather easily. One of the most used mechanisms of inducing this particular experience is the electromagnetic stimulation of the lobes. Do a search on Michael Persinger’s “god helmet” if you want to know more. The induction in those particular instances described above is a behavioural reaction.

  87. Ah! So they have giant magnets set into the gates of the marae?
    So your “spiritual atheism” should really be called “behavioural reactionary atheism”, and Gareth, rather than being an “intensely spiritual atheist” should really describe himself as an “intensely behavioural reactionary atheist”.
    Sad really that you feel you must stomp on your own spiritual experiences (and by implication everyone else’s) but still cling to the notion that your “behavioural reactions” are somehow “spiritual”. In what way, then, are they “spiritual”?

  88. Phil toms,

    The experiments merely show that these experiences can be induced in the absence of phenomena which may be taken as indicative of a spiritual presence. The implication of this is that spirits need not be involved in the sensation.

    People can be trained to perceive any number of things through respondent and operant conditioning. The presence of things with a strong history or where spirituality is expected can easily be made to create such sensations in the absence of actual spirits. Most of the time this is due to rule-based conditioning, a subset of operant conditioning.

  89. They are ‘spiritual’ in the sense that the word ‘spiritual’ has come to describe a range of sensations. The sensations experienced, while not being attributed to a spirit, may still be the same and thus are best described as ‘spiritual’. They could just as easily be described as ‘mumbablo’ but the meaning of this is not understood by many, or any, and this there is no utility in referring to it as such.

  90. So even though you have defined your own sensations as behavioural you prefer to call them spiritual, even though you do not actually know what others experience. for some reason you feel you experience a magnetic force when entering a marae. As an atheist there is no particular reason why you should react this way, given the absence of magnets, yet this still happens to you, and you still experience it as spiritual, or you would call it something else. It is arrogant to assume you understand the internal experience of others, then to say you experience the same, then call your experience spiritual, then say it is nothing to do with spirit and therefore the spiritual is merely behavioural.
    This is a weird way to justify the use of the word spiritual while denying its meaning. You should call your experiences what you actually think they are. You don’t actually think they are spiritual at all. You think they are behavioural.

  91. Phil,

    The experience often attributed to spirits is experienced by both those whom perceive spirits to exist and those whom do not. This is a fact. So while the phenomena itself may not be of a spiritual origin, the word still describes the actual experience.

    I am not saying that there is a magnet in the marae, I am saying that the use of magnetic fields may produce those same experiences. This is a fact. This means that that experience doe snot always actually have to be due to the spiritual.

    I am saying that the experience, at least in my case, may be elicited by rule-based conditioning rooted in the historicity of the object and the socialisation involved in being brought up catholic. I experience the same sensation in catholic churches and cathedrals.

    I am saying that this may be the case for other people and that, based on what is known, it likely is. I am not discounting the possibility of the spiritual but I do have a explanation that fits well with the present data; better than a model invoking spirits. If evidence is presented that can not be explained by the model, such as the actual existence of spirits, then I will re-evaluate my interpretation and may well make the attribution to spirits which you do.

  92. Which brings us back to the original point. An atheist does not believe in the spiritual. In this case you use the word belligerently, in order to belittle its meaning, as an aggressive part of your atheism, a put down. much of this thread has been about defining atheism, while the definition of spirituality is more to the point. You wish to be spiritual while rubbishing the idea of spirituality.
    As spirituality is not part of your world you do not know what it is, but determine to tell everyone what it is, and that it does not exist and that you experience it.
    If you simply said “I experience a behavioural reaction when I walk on to a marae”, there would be no argument, but there is no romance in that. As an atheist you have no romance, you have rationalised it out of existence, which is why you have to borrow then redefine words used by romantics. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too, be an atheist and be spiritual at the same time.

  93. My last post overlapped yours. To put it simply, having decided your experience is behavioural rather than spiritual, you should call it that, and leave the use of the word “spiritual,to those who believe in the spiritual.
    This is the basis of this discussion.

  94. Dum de dum…

    Sapient: The experience often attributed to spirits is experienced by both those whom perceive spirits to exist and those whom do not. This is a fact. So while the phenomena itself may not be of a spiritual origin, the word still describes the actual experience.

    Lets presume the experience is of a spiritual nature, the atheist just does not think it is spiritual in the true sense of the word even if he says it is “spiritual”. He rationalises spirituality away with pretext and ideology. Magnets do not feel like spiritual essence Sapient, that is a fact. Learnt behaviour does not account for feeling truly spiritual and in such cases where somebodies makeup tricks them into believing so, does not make it a truly spiritual experience, even if they believe it to be. That is the crux of the debate as to whether Spiritual Atheism exists, it might exist in the mind of somebody who is programmed and they might use the word spiritual, but again; they would be wrong if they have renounced the spiritual in the true meaning of the word and call themselves Atheist.

    However true spiritual connection cannot be synthesized. It is more than just sensation to stimulus and it is infinitely superior to respondent and operant conditioning. Being an Atheist, I presume you have not experienced anything spiritual in the true sense of the word that you cannot reason away. You are therefore speaking about something you know little of. Whereas I accept you have more knowledge on Atheism, I bet you don’t accept that I have more knowledge of spiritualism. That is because you’re arrogant Sapient. Also the spiritual does not need spirits as such to be in effect just as it does not need religion. The spirit of something is its essence, not only the atomic structure that holds it together with atoms. To reason away the spiritual with pretentious logic and science is to accept that Spiritual Atheism does not exist. You cannot have it both ways. The definition of the word spiritual remains, you cannot rewrite the dictionaries and widely accepted understanding of what the word spiritual means. Atheist don’t get to ride the bike, and then say there are no wheels.

    Mr Tom: This is a weird way to justify the use of the word spiritual while denying its meaning. You should call your experiences what you actually think they are. You don’t actually think they are spiritual at all. You think they are behavioural.

    Yes! The Atheists should say: “I feel strangely behaviourally impaired in a magnet induced coma kind of way”. Perhaps then we would understand their philosophy.

    What I don’t understand about these Atheists, is that they are more vehement than most Christians in the pursuit of changing peoples minds. If the case was: ‘I don’t know if God exists’ then they presumably wouldn’t care if others believed God does exist. However if the case was: ‘God does not exist’ then I could understand them not accepting others beliefs as seems to be apparent here. But then Sapient claims to be a Pearlist, which I have little interest in exploring further, considering the negativity expressed by him.

    Dum de do!

  95. There are two separate threads of thought here.

    First, is the use of the word ‘spiritual’ to describe the sensation experienced by both atheists and theists; that referred to by Dawkins and the like. My argument here is that the application of the word is correct even if the belief that it is not caused by spirits is there. This is really a response to the claims by theists that atheists can not experience the sense of awe that the theists define as spiritual.

    The second is the possibility of atheists believing in actual spirits and thus being spiritual in the original use of the word. My argument here is that not believing in gods does not need to entail not believing in spirits. There was a tool in one of my block courses whom was confident gods do not exist but was confident he had seen ghosts; he would be an atheist but also spiritual in some limited sense.

  96. “This is really a response to the claims by theists that atheists can not experience the sense of awe that the theists define as spiritual.”
    As I said, belligerent, aggressive. If you think it is behavioural, call it behavioural, not spiritual.
    “There was a tool in one of my block courses whom was confident gods do not exist but was confident he had seen ghosts”. So you are saying that this guy was an idiot, that spiritual atheism is stupid. Exactly.

  97. It is stupid but that does not mean it is not possible. Theism is stupid but it exists none-the-less.

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