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Spirituality, Consciousness, God, Conscious Machines & the Atheist Mind.
Having decided to take back our spirituality, we can’t ignore that the overwhelmingly religious world around us believes that spirituality is in its exclusive domain and is utterly convinced of its absolute rightness of belief (and is often all too ready to define and malign atheists according to its own view of things). But still, it’s time we defined our own non-religious spiritual values and understood and stood by them. To make them understandable and acceptable to most atheists we probably have to disengage the religious talons stuck into it and peel off the ancient superstitions, and find out what’s at its core.
We don’t claim to have managed that in this article, insufficient hard data has been collected so far. Here we’re just aiming to discuss it in a way that makes it easier for an atheist to connect with, to consider where it came from, where it might be going, even if we have to explore those aspects usually associated with religion too. And because we wished to do the subject justice by going in depth where it led us, this article ended up being, perhaps, a wee bit longer than intended (hey! spiritual matters cover a lot of ground! In our own defense we DO have a lot of information tucked in to support our arguments), so we offer the suggestion that you read it over the course of several visits to this site, or pick and choose the parts that interest you most, or else download it for our own personal reading at leisure (please remember this is copyrighted material and may not be used in any way that violates the copyright). You probably won’t get the popups if you download the article though.
If imagined as something visible, we think spirituality would be an elastic thing that stretches and shrinks, it’s not an even continuum, maybe a balloon that has been scrunched and twisted and tied and the air in it puffed out in certain spots to give it the shape of something we recognize, rather than a rubber band. But it has extremes which at its furthest-apart extremes go from Pollyanna-ish notions of pure ecstasy to utter hopelessness and spiritual angst, with the whole spectrum of varieties imaginable between. The former suggests starry-eyed gazing into the unseen beyond, maybe supposedly communicating with dead spirits, as if dream states are the real reality and our lives here on Earth are irrelevant, a rather dangerous and naive way of approaching life, not to mention ridiculous - religious folk should consider that perhaps we atheists are right and there IS just this one life each with no “Heaven” afterwards, in which case they need to begin making the best of it (particularly those social misfits who think being suicide bombers will actually make a change and bring them great rewards in another dimension).
On the other hand the latter end of the continuum often deals with the dark and unresolved areas of our lives, almost like being stuck in an exaggerated and onerously negative joyless version of reality, one which brushes the deepest despair and depression. This latter is where spiritual exercises often prove to be the most help, although just in everyday life many people find them beneficial too, currently they have come into vogue but that doesn’t diminish their usefulness. Studies below show that yoga and meditation are very useful, they seem to clear out the fuzz and stress traces left by everyday life’s myriad minor crises and setbacks, as if they reset the inner clock to a calmer, more accepting but still reality-based sense of life. Watching fall-down-on-the-floor helpless with belly-laughter movies, listening to certain kinds of uplifting music , they can make you feel better too, persons of Asian descent and many in the western world find acupuncture helpful, although benefits from these latter examples seem of more superficial in their strength and duration, sort of like getting the time-out relief of drugs or alcohol but without any lingering dangerous or negative after effects, although this might be just the ticket for some.
But we decided to clarify by taking a minute here and illustrate how awful are some of the spiritual traumas we’re contemplating in the negative end of the spirituality continuum, they provide a good reason to get you to learn to deal with your spirituality (whether you have recognized them as spiritual crises or not). Some are life-changing, spiritual self-examination can do that. For some, tragically it begins with familial abuse, psychological, physical, sexual for example. For most of us though, our experience of major spiritual events start in earnest with our teenage years of angst, the raging hormones at puberty bring it on with a vengeance, dangerously and unfairly before we have the emotional equipment to deal with it. Some young people don’t survive the pissing contests of youth and trying to establish their place in society’s hierarchy, some survive with emotional scars that last a lifetime.
But once we emerge from those troubled times we’re mostly grateful to put them behind us, and just get on with our everyday lives. Although we should, we still don’t take it as a warning or bother taking the time to learn about our spirituality.
Then something happens to start a dissonance going, and you find yourself questioning your comfortable assumptions, your sustaining core beliefs. Perhaps your world fractures into rubble around you, maybe you can patch it back together or maybe you have to start from ground zero. If you’ve already encountered variations of these, how well have you survived? Were your feelings tangled up and twisted into pretzels and spun round and round? A battle-filled divorce and how could this person you once loved and opened up to and felt at one with and with whom you shared your most inside still-of-night secret thoughts (which was a good thing until it went bad) now betray you, slashing at every soft spot and hot button issue by turning that intimate knowledge against you as if you had never felt so deeply caring towards one another? Or else a person you deeply cherished and depended on died and left you, and now, trying to let go and say your final goodbye, there’s confusing anger (but where do you aim it?), with an uncomprehending emptiness and ache to know where the beloved animating spirit that made that dear irreversibly lifeless body into the person you knew has gone and the body laying there seems to all outward appearances much the same. Or perhaps you lost part of your identity when you lost the job where you found your self-respect, a forced retirement that left you on the outside of your accustomed place in the world where you could say to others, “I’m a carpenter” (or doctor or nurse or manager or musician or waitress or an actor or whatever) and they would immediately know certain human things about you and they could connect to this and know you were a somebody, you had a real skill or purpose in life. Or, if you’re military, just being in a war zone truly and really facing death and it’s not pretend any more and your loved ones are far away and trying to cope too, that can make you soberly take out and reexamine everything you ever believed; and how much more urgent if you have seen your buddies lose limbs or get blown apart or you have suffered injury yourself, or wondered about the humanity and family of that enemy you just killed who was trying to kill you, did you wonder if he was fighting for his own sincerely held belief and hopes for family and children, or just another grunt told he must fight the foreign demons, jagged black holes ripped into the internal picture you held as your personal universe with your friends all around, dealing with 4 a.m. tossing and turning wide-awake self-questioning and thoughts, peeling down into your own self to find what is at the core of your own being, is it your parents’ versions of their faith unexamined by you, or emptiness, uncertain despair, loneliness? Or true blue stolid head-in-the-ground belief in your country, yourself? Events like war make you feel your life more keenly and bond you deeply and at a cellular level to your buddies, you try to have each others’ backs, maybe for some it was a thrill-seeking experience until there were real deaths to rip you like a personal failure. And then what good are your central beliefs if you can’t find any reason or truth or comfort in them?
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