My wife and I had a pleasant Easter Sunday. We didn't celebrate it. Being non-religious, this was just another day for us. We simply lived it.
I got several yard chores done. Spread bark and organic fertilizer. Laurel sprayed poison oak, then walked dogs at the Humane Society. Meaningful stuff. Pleasingly real.
Many other people spent part of their day worshipping a God, and Jesus, we don't believe in.
A good share of those Christians consider that folks like us are missing out on the most important part of being human: believing in a divine other-worldly side to reality. Well, we heartily disagree.
We take issue with religious believers who view being "spiritual" as requiring a belief in the supernatural and religious dogma.
So though we didn't go to church today, Laurel and I did enjoy a sermon of sorts: Tim Urban's entertaining and thoughtful post, "How Religion Got in the Way."
Well worth reading. Here's some excerpts.
There’s almost no word ickier than spirituality. It’s vague, amorphous, somehow very annoying, and it manages to turn off both the religious and the non-religious. And if you gather five people who all say they’re actually fond of spirituality, they’ll be defining the term in five different ways.
So what exactly is spirituality, as we’re using the word today, and what do we need from it?
Ever since the human species began opening its eyes into consciousness, it has been an aggressively curious child, hungry to figure it all out. What was this world it was living in, and what did it all mean?
The first part of that question—What was this world?—became the job of science. The second part—What does it all mean?—is the job of spirituality.
Science is what we know, and spirituality is how we coexist philosophically, psychologically and emotionally with that knowledge. Science gives us the information; spirituality helps us wrap our heads around it.
The two lead us as a tag team, each taking care of their critical halves of the “figuring it all out” puzzle—when science tells us something shocking, like “The Earth is revolving around the sun and not vice versa!” we turn, wide-eyed, to spirituality and ask, “How does that change things? How does that transform the way we should think about ourselves, about the world, and about life?”
Under this definition, spirituality is a secular concept, and the idea that spirituality and science are diametrically opposed to each other is incorrect—they’re two halves of the same quest. As usual, Carl Sagan says it best:
“Spirit” comes from the Latin word “to breathe.” What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word “spiritual” that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science.
…Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
In another post, "A Religion for the Non-Religious," Urban does a great job describing a state of unfogged awareness that my wife and I also aspire to, and even experience from time to time. Is this spiritual? For sure.
I like Urban's notion of the big purple blog -- Everything We Don't Know -- which is vastly larger than Everything We Know. He writes:
The fact is, any discussion of our full reality—of the truth of the universe or our existence—is a complete delusion without acknowledging that big purple blob that makes up almost all of that reality.
But you know humans—they don’t like that purple blob one bit. Never have. The blob frightens and humiliates humans, and we have a rich history of denying its existence entirely, which is like living on the beach and pretending the ocean isn’t there.
Instead, we just stamp our foot and claim that now we’ve finally figured it all out.
On the religious side, we invent myths and proclaim them as truth—and even a devout religious believer reading this who stands by the truth of their particular book would agree with me about the fabrication of the other few thousand books out there. On the science front, we’ve managed to be consistently gullible in believing that “realizing you’ve been horribly wrong about reality” is a phenomenon only of the past.
So spirituality, for him, is simply seeking truth.
Yes, I’m an atheist, but atheism isn’t a growth model any more than “I don’t like rollerblading” is a workout strategy.
So I’m making up a term for what I am—I’m a Truthist. In my framework, truth is what I’m always looking for, truth is what I worship, and learning to see truth more easily and more often is what leads to growth.
In Truthism, the goal is to grow wiser over time, and wisdom falls into your lap whenever you’re conscious enough to see the truth about people, situations, the world, or the universe. The fog is what stands in your way, making you unconscious, delusional, and small-minded, so the key day-to-day growth strategy is staying cognizant of the fog and training your mind to try to see the full truth in any situation.
Over time, you want your [Time on Step 2] / [Time on Step 1] ratio to go up a little bit each year, and you want to get better and better at inducing Step 3 Whoa moments and reminding yourself of the Step 4 purple blob. If you do those things, I think you’re evolving in the best possible way, and it will have profound effects on all aspects of your life.
That’s it. That’s Truthism.
(Via the Great God Google, I found this image from Urban's web site, Wait But Why. Here the purple blob is black, and round rather than blob'ish, but the point is the same: a big part of understanding the truth about reality is realizing how little we know, compared to what remains to be known.)