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Religious is not the same as spiritual
Posted: 19 September 2007 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi,

I just came to this idea reading the ‘salesman thread’, but then I thought it might be a topic of its own.

There seems to be a certain religious kind which sees religion as a kind of business: if you live a good life, you will be rewarded, at least in your afterlife. So being a moral person is a profit calculation. In the end, you are only interested in your own well being. The only difference with a ‘real egoist’, is that you postpone your reward.

To be genuine spiritual, I think, you should do the right thing without thinking about a reward. Something like a potential Hitler assasin who is warned that by killing a human being he will burn in hell eternally, answers: ‘OK, then, if that is price’. Think about the Muslim suicide killers: they know they will be rewarded with 95 (what is the exact number?) virgins when they die for Allah. And so they do it just for themselves. And they are not loyal to their wives.

I am not a native English speaker, so I hope I use the words in the right way: I would say that having faith is something else then believing. Believing means you trust on some reward you think you will get, faith that whatever the outcome, it is OK. So agnosticism seems to be the best ‘metaphysics’ for having faith.

Writing this, I remember a categorisation of Averroes: behaving morally correct can be induced by three kinds of argumentation:
1. Threaten with heaven and hell (this is good for the ‘normal’ people)
2. Make some nice stories about God and your relationship with him (this is for theologians)
3. Have real insight (much too complicated, only for philosophers)

In category 1 it is impossible to be spiritual. In category 2 it might be possible, but on the wrong grounds. Only in 3 it is really possible. But who has the ‘real insight’ in these? The Brights?

GdB

[ Edited: 19 September 2007 05:26 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 19 September 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I sincerely hope that more people have insight into 3 than they profess.

Liberal christians might be spiritual because of 3, but explain this as 2. Even certain fundies that do not take their fundamentalism too seriously might have some insight into 3, but ignore it because of 1.


A good test to check if a person agrees with 3, is to ask him whether morals would still hold if not god. What do you think liberals would answer to this?


With regards to spiritual, it depends on the definition. If to use ‘spiritual’ as ‘the good quality’, then definitely religion is not the spiritual. Art is spiritual, science was for sagan, philosophy can be spiritual. But it seems the religious are somehow binding this term tightly with the supernaturals. Again, I am not sure about the liberals - any help?

[ Edited: 19 September 2007 05:38 AM by wandering ]
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Posted: 19 September 2007 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I always thought the idea of being “moral” just because you expected a tangible reward for it from god was actually sort of “immoral”.

Terry Pratchett wrote a funny novel, “Small Gods”, about the idea of faith and belief.  A monk named Brutha has always believed in the Great God Om, until Om actually appears to him one day in the form of a small tortoise.  Suddenly he finds it much more difficult to have faith, with his god constantly talking to him (it doesn’t help that no one else can hear him)!

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Posted: 19 September 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s brilliant, thanks!

What would happen if god would really reveal himself? All the poor religious people could not have faith in him, since he would really exist. I guess that they would invent another god to have faith in.

[ Edited: 19 September 2007 11:31 AM by wandering ]
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Posted: 11 June 2008 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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‘Spiritual’  doesn’t exist. It is a very loose definition for a feeling. To say someone is more spiritual or is spiritual is like saying they are seeing a different red than you. You can’t know since the red doesn’t really exist.

In that sense religion is just the next level where people have organized around this fact.

They are the same as a group of people saying they all see the ‘real’ red.

There is no red!

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Posted: 12 June 2008 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Following description of spirituality from Dennett, Breaking the spell (page 303):

What these people have realized is one of the best secrets in life: let you self go. If you can approach the world’s complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen , you have just scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will be indeed a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul, or in anything supernatural.

(Italics in the original)

It is the best description of spirutuality I have seen so far.

GdB

Edit: corrected some typos

[ Edited: 12 June 2008 11:10 PM by GdB ]
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Posted: 12 June 2008 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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GdB - 19 September 2007 05:24 AM

Writing this, I remember a categorisation of Averroes: behaving morally correct can be induced by three kinds of argumentation:
1. Threaten with heaven and hell (this is good for the ‘normal’ people)
2. Make some nice stories about God and your relationship with him (this is for theologians)
3. Have real insight (much too complicated, only for philosophers)

In category 1 it is impossible to be spiritual. In category 2 it might be possible, but on the wrong grounds. Only in 3 it is really possible. But who has the ‘real insight’ in these? The Brights?

1. Behaving this way is not moral, but prudential egoism and I agree this is the morality that Abrahamic religions mostly seem to present. Even atheistic religions have karma instead of god, this is still prudential egoism.

2. Seems to have nothing to do with behaving morally, how does this alter what theologians do?

3. Real insight - it is misleading to use the term “spiritual” I prefer “wisdom”  both (a) being able to see things as they really are, not as you wish it to be (b) acting accordingly, because one wants to, not because should for ulterior motives.

Indeed I when I hear anyone is called spiritual I think they more likely lack such wisdom (there are exceptions of course)

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Posted: 12 June 2008 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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YouDontSay - 11 June 2008 01:18 PM

‘Spiritual’  doesn’t exist. It is a very loose definition for a feeling. To say someone is more spiritual or is spiritual is like saying they are seeing a different red than you. You can’t know since the red doesn’t really exist.

In that sense religion is just the next level where people have organized around this fact.

They are the same as a group of people saying they all see the ‘real’ red.

There is no red!

But that’s not helpful. There is a distinction of color that we call red. We know where it is on a prism of light. Artists can work with it in a mainly objective way, and so can computer programmers.

In the same sense, there is a distinction that people call spirituality. It includes feeling, but can also incorporate thought and action. I have a particular definition for it, consisting of three parts: a powerful sense of vitality (sometimes called a sense of awareness), a sense of connectedness (external integration) and a sense of wholeness (internal integration). I believe these are sufficiently recognizable by the average person to be useful.

You can argue that spirituality doesn’t exist, and if you define your terms in certain ways you may be right, but that’s not helpful and it’s quite dogmatic. Meanwhile, the experience is extremely helpful, and meaningful, to those of us who have experienced it.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yes, Paul, I agree that it’s a term that describes something real and subject to examination. And also something of importance, for better or worse, which you can’t just pretend doesn’t exist because nonsense is soften associated with it.  Also, I happen to like your definition of it quite a bit.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If something is an emotion, then it does exist.  Emotions are real, but not necessarily easy to put into words.  We can’t ignore emotions and say they don’t exist.  Denying emotions is not helpful, as others have pointed out, however, it is one’s perception also.  Just because it is not a shared emotion/perception does not mean it is not real.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 11:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hi faithlessgod,

That is interesting: what do you think is the difference between wisdom and spirituality?

GdB

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Posted: 13 June 2008 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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GdB - 12 June 2008 11:14 PM

Hi faithlessgod,

That is interesting: what do you think is the difference between wisdom and spirituality?

As others noted “spiritual” mostly refers to a set of subjective feelings and experiences, wisdom does not it is about being more rather than less objective about the real world. One can be wise and not spiritual, spiritual and not wise, or both. When I am told someone is spiritual they usually mean that (thin) they are wise but that is the question I ask “are they wise”? which seems off puting to some newagers grin

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Posted: 13 June 2008 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Hi Faithlessgod,

What do you think then of the description of Dennett of spirituality that I cited in my posting 5 in this thread? Is it ‘just’ a description of wisdom?

GdB

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Posted: 13 June 2008 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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GdB - 13 June 2008 06:10 AM

What do you think then of the description of Dennett of spirituality that I cited in my posting 5 in this thread? Is it ‘just’ a description of wisdom?

Hmm interesting “let your self go”. Well I think wisdom is about transcending one’s own perceptions, prejudices and preferences to see the world as it is - a form of pragmatic epistemic objectivity - coupled with deciding and acting impartially. This is an ongoing challenge and is a matter of degree not absolute or final. Dennet’s spirituality is not far off this but not the same, but why use one misleading term when we have already have a perfectly adequate one?

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Posted: 13 June 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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faithlessgod - 13 June 2008 05:09 AM
GdB - 12 June 2008 11:14 PM

Hi faithlessgod,

That is interesting: what do you think is the difference between wisdom and spirituality?

As others noted “spiritual” mostly refers to a set of subjective feelings and experiences, wisdom does not it is about being more rather than less objective about the real world. One can be wise and not spiritual, spiritual and not wise, or both. When I am told someone is spiritual they usually mean that (thin) they are wise but that is the question I ask “are they wise”? which seems off puting to some newagers grin

For me, if spirituality lacks wisdom, then it is incomplete. A spiritual master, by definition, is wise. Thich Nhat Hanh, for example, and the current Dalai Lama, exhibit a well-developed spirituality that is recognizable as such.

Many people who aspire to a spiritual life never get far “along the path.” So we have work with the limited tools we have. Still, the goal remains the same. For that reason, I don’t put so much distance between spirituality and wisdom.

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Posted: 13 June 2008 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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GdB - 19 September 2007 05:24 AM

Hi,

I just came to this idea reading the ‘salesman thread’, but then I thought it might be a topic of its own.

There seems to be a certain religious kind which sees religion as a kind of business: if you live a good life, you will be rewarded, at least in your afterlife. So being a moral person is a profit calculation. In the end, you are only interested in your own well being. The only difference with a ‘real egoist’, is that you postpone your reward.

To be genuine spiritual, I think, you should do the right thing without thinking about a reward. Something like a potential Hitler assasin who is warned that by killing a human being he will burn in hell eternally, answers: ‘OK, then, if that is price’. Think about the Muslim suicide killers: they know they will be rewarded with 95 (what is the exact number?) virgins when they die for Allah. And so they do it just for themselves. And they are not loyal to their wives.

I am not a native English speaker, so I hope I use the words in the right way: I would say that having faith is something else then believing. Believing means you trust on some reward you think you will get, faith that whatever the outcome, it is OK. So agnosticism seems to be the best ‘metaphysics’ for having faith.

Writing this, I remember a categorisation of Averroes: behaving morally correct can be induced by three kinds of argumentation:
1. Threaten with heaven and hell (this is good for the ‘normal’ people)
2. Make some nice stories about God and your relationship with him (this is for theologians)
3. Have real insight (much too complicated, only for philosophers)

In category 1 it is impossible to be spiritual. In category 2 it might be possible, but on the wrong grounds. Only in 3 it is really possible. But who has the ‘real insight’ in these? The Brights?

GdB

I believe that the same can be said of religion as of spirituality: to be genuinely religious, we should seek to do the right thing without thinking about a reward. This follows from the view of religion as an attempt to bind all things together into a coherent and harmonious whole.

What you’re describing, GdB, are corruptions of religion. Unfortunately, that is mainly what religion has come to be.

Definitions depend in large measure on whether we’re describing religion/spirituality as we aspire to them or as they are usually presented in our community, our culture or the world generally. People who see these terms as they aspire to them will tend to define them more as they might be than as they often are.

[ Edited: 13 June 2008 09:45 AM by PLaClair ]
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