A few days ago I was talking with somebody about finding "spiritual" uplift without believing in God or any other supernatural entity.
I put that word, spiritual, in quotation marks because I no longer consider that there's some sort of other-worldly spirit or soul. Not in me. Not in anybody else. Not in the cosmos.
Yet I'm still attracted to the notion of spirituality. In a thoroughly secular sense.
Meaning, well... it's all about meaning.
Whatever inspires us to carry on through tough times; whatever propels us forward on our life journey when we're not sure if we can take another step; whatever makes us willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than our self; that is what I talking about when I speak of spirituality these days.
It's the eff in ineffable. We recognize it in ourselves because it's at the core of our being. But it's damn tough to describe to someone else, being so intimately related to our wordless sense of purpose.
When this thing I'm calling spirituality is missing, life seems pointless.
So it's important for everyone, atheists as well as religious believers, to cultivate the seeds of spirituality so we aren't left with barren psychological soil that leaves us feeling dry, despairing, desolate, deserted.
Having experienced both religiosity and atheism at different times in my 68 years, I think believers in God have a somewhat easier time of it when it comes to spiritual uplift. After all, they can simply imagine their chosen divinity smiling down upon them, urging them on to embrace their religious practices with more fervor.
This is what a revival is all about -- being spurred to pursue a divine goal with increased energy and effort.
So how can an atheist feel the same sort of spiritual uplift? What inspires a secular mind to pursue a godless life with the passion akin to a religious zealot?
Tough questions, for sure.
I can only speak for myself, since there are more varieties of atheism than religiosity, given that each and every atheist finds meaning in a unique way. All Christians find satisfaction in a belief in Jesus, whereas each atheist seemingly roots their life in something different.
Ah, but there's a common denominator underlying the wild diversity of atheist spirituality: reality.
By which I mean, really real reality. The reality of this universe, this galaxy, this planet. The physical reality that not only surrounds us, but is us. The reality we live and breathe every moment from our first breath to our last expiration.
It is here that I find spiritual inspiration.
When I deeply commit to embracing reality as it is, or at least as best I can understand it, that is when I feel the same kind of spiritual uplift that used to enervate me when I was a religious believer. In both cases -- secular and religious -- I felt a strong drive to expand my capacity to grasp reality.
However, I now realize that in my true believing days I was driven toward an imaginary supernatural reality, not anything demonstrably genuine. My feeling of inspiration was real; the godly goal I was pursuing was false.
So, yes, it is indeed possible for atheists to find spiritual inspiration. The source of that inspiration isn't difficult to find. It isn't far away. In fact, there is no distance between the inspired person and what inspires.
It is both what we seek and what is seeking. Pretty damn simple. And wonderfully inspiring.