Maybe this statement seems paradoxical to you: I feel more genuinely spiritual now that I've stopped believing in God.
But it makes good sense to me. Here's the main reason why.
I no longer feel special.
Virtually every religion and spiritual path considers that its adherents have a special relationship with God or whatever other supernatural entity they believe in.
There are so many chosen people on Earth, they vastly outnumber the unchosen, the non-special group I'm pleased to be a part of.
I understand that feeling special has its own delights.
In my case, I was a member of an India-based spiritual organization which taught that those approved for initiation by the guru had been "marked" to return to God/heaven after a karma-cleansing meditation process.
For about 35 years I embraced the enjoyable belief that, out of all the billions of people on this planet, I was one of a relative few who were the special beloveds of the supreme being.
Of course, devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims feel the same way, along with countless believers in other theological belief systems.
Eventually I started to realize that all the talk I was hearing about being "humble servants of the Lord and the guru" was, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit. Genuine humility wasn't much to be seen among devotees of my spiritual organization.
Since members of this group were told over and over that they've been singled out by a higher power to learn cosmic truths and experience realms of reality not available to other human beings, naturally a pervading sense of "tribal" pride was evident throughout the organization.
We were the cool kids in the spiritual lunch room. Other faiths were inferior, since they didn't have the direct connection to God we did.
I'm happy that this form of egotism has been discarded.
Sure, I've still got lots of other self-centered tendencies rattling around in my psyche, as we all do. But to get rid of The Big One, a belief that God had chosen me to be his best buddy for eternity, whereas my infidel wife wasn't going to get the same afterlife prize -- this increased my humility quotient by a lot.
Now I don't expect that I'm going to have any different sort of afterlife anyone else does. Namely, I strongly suspect, none at all.
I also don't expect that there is any power guiding my life which isn't also directing the lives of every other entity on Earth.
Thus I've embraced a sort of "index fund" approach to spirituality.
Meaning, I don't try to beat the market. I don't assume that I have any special knowledge, any special talent, any special relationship with reality. Whatever laws of nature apply to everybody else, I'm content with.
Back in 2005 I wrote about this in Spiritual diversification, a sound investment strategy. My views have changed since then, but much of what I said in that blog post still rings true to me.
Here's some excerpts:
In financial investing, it’s well accepted that attempting to beat the market is a fool’s game. This is why index funds are so popular (and lucrative). You don’t bet on particular stocks or bonds. Instead, you put your money in the entire universe of investments represented by an index fund, such as the U.S. Total Stock Market or the U.S. Total Bond Market.
Wise financial professionals advise that if you want to save money for retirement, it’s best to invest in index funds. Increasingly, people do. But when it comes to saving their souls for eternity, most of those same people will put all of their spiritual nest egg into one basket—a single religion that they expect will support them both here and hereafter.
We here at the Church of the Churchless say, “that’s foolish.” Spiritual diversification makes as much sense as financial diversification. No, even more sense. For sometimes savvy (or lucky) investors do beat the market by buying stock in a single company. And they can prove it by having their CPAs work up a statement of net worth.
But no such proof exists in the sphere of spirituality. No religious figure can show you how his or her investment in a particular spiritual practice has paid off in terms of salvation. The claims made in supposedly holy scriptures such as the Bible, Koran, Talmud, Dhammapada, Adi Granth, Vedas, and so on are just that, claims. Unsubstantiated, unproven, unbelievable.
...I no longer believe that I am among the blessed few who know the truth about God and will reap the corresponding spiritual rewards. I came to embrace a “nothing special” philosophy. I don’t consider that my spiritual practice is anything special, just as I don’t consider that my index fund investment practice is anything special.
Yet, I’m confident that both work. I know that I haven’t lost any money by giving up trying to beat the market. Instead, I’ve watched our index funds outperform most actively managed funds. It’s more difficult to assess my soulful net worth, but my self-assessment is that I haven’t lost any spirituality by giving up my previous faith in a path that claimed to occupy a special exalted position among all of the world’s religions.
In short, I’ve become spiritually diversified. I try not to set rigid boundaries around what I believe and what I do. I try to look for inspiration in lots of different places, people, and writings. I try to become aware of all that is real about both physical existence and whatever metaphysical realities exist beyond the world I know now. I try to be content with what the cosmos brings me rather than considering that I’m entitled to unique dispensations.