Can a nonbeliever have a spiritual journey? You bet as long as you accept that spirituality and religion are not synonymous. The confusion comes in the use of the words “believer” and “nonbeliever.” These words are commonly associated with religion, but many people live rich spiritual lives independent of religious dogma and church membership.
I’ve sampled various belief systems over the years, and each of them has contributed to my understanding of human spirituality.
In summary, I have no idea if any gods exist, although I doubt it. Perhaps humankind will one day prove the existence of god beyond leaps of faith. In the meantime, I’ve made peace with not knowing the mysteries of life including our origin and destiny beyond birth and death. This perspective gives me freedom to experience spiritual journeys everyday.
My secular spirituality comes from my reflective nature and the way I relate to other people. I too feel a connection with the magnificence of life, but it’s not supernatural. Can I explain the complex nature of nature or the vastness of space? Of course not, but that doesn’t compel me to accept that an unseen god is producing miracles for my benefit.
Even though I understand the allure of an all-knowing divine presence and the prospect of eternal bliss in the afterlife, these ideas don’t compel me to join the proverbial flock. I feel the same way about the devil and the notion of eternal damnation for nonbelievers. I also don’t believe in ghosts, angels, demons, dragons, gnomes, fairies or trolls. All of these entities are figments of our imagination in my opinion. Their greatest potential is enhancing our self-awareness.
My knowledge of history, psychology and social science has made me skeptical of precise definitions of god, his intentions or the motivations of his self-appointed human spokespersons. Of course there are millions of earnest believers, but their personal and cultural zeal doesn’t make any dogma more real than others.
The best part of conventional religion is the hope and sense of peace it offers to many people.
That’s important in a world with so much economic pressure, social inequities, personal struggles, and disharmony in many forms.
Being a nonbeliever of religion and prescribed notions of god doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the wonders of life such as the beauty of nature or the inspiration of human compassion. I simply don’t attribute these experiences to a divine source. I’ve made peace with knowing there are many unanswered questions about life and the universe. These questions are likely to persist long after today’s religions are reconstituted into new belief systems.
Spirituality has become its own form of religion for some people.
I’ve attended several non-traditional churches over the past few decades. Most incorporate tenants from various belief systems. Being a spiritualist doesn’t necessarily mean the end of dogma. Literal-minded fundamentalism can be applied to all human belief systems.
I recall a Presbyterian minister referring to unaffiliated church-goers as “lost souls.” His bias is a reminder that human projections have consequences. Consider the impact of more fervent zealots projecting their superiority over nonbelievers. The pretense of having irreducible beliefs reinforced by intolerance has led to extraordinary horrors.
I recently listened to a radio talk show host telling his audience it wasn’t possible for a secular person to be moral. He said morality required a religious foundation. What he was really saying is HIS morality requires a religious foundation. His comments remind us why it’s important to keep religion separate from governance. Religion is a free choice and so is the decision to have nothing to do with religion.
The U.S. Constitution contains no references to any religion. Many of our founding fathers were deists and not Bible-believing Christians. Deism was a philosophical belief that a supreme power removed itself from the universe after creating it. Deists like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin didn’t believe in the virgin birth or the resurrection of Jesus. They were more influenced by reason and the laws of nature.
These leaders were also aware that Christian governments in Europe crushed human freedom at every turn. It’s the reason why the First Amendment of the Constitution bars all laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” Most Americans don’t know there was an effort in the 1860s to rewrite the constitution to make specific references to God and “Jesus as the Ruler of the World.” The effort to edit the Constitution failed in Congress in 1874. The advocates for a Christian-based government had better luck adding “In God We Trust” to coins during the Civil War.
Some of my friends are devoted Christians and it’s easy to respect their views and aspirations. Other friends are atheists and agnostic. None of these belief systems undermine the quality or our interactions or my sensibilities about spiritual matters. Will I eventually change my view about religion or god? Some of my friends believe the finality of death will prompt a conversion, but I doubt it. I harbor no illusions about eternal bliss or endless suffering in the afterlife. I’m more interested in being here now.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing. He’s a long term advocate for positive change, having owned community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at email@example.com.