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Atheist looking for Spiritual Path

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#1    Doctor Night

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 10:06 AM

Hi everyone! I just joined the board. I come to you with a question that bothers me so very badly. I am hoping that some of you will help me work some things out.  Thanks in advance to anyone who contributes. I will really appreciate it!

I am exploring spirituality.  I have rejected more traditional religions and have, up until now, considered myself to be an atheist.  I do not and will not believe in the tribal gods of the 'holy books',( I studied Christianity for many years)  but I am thinking there might be some other system of belief that may make sense to me. I condemn no one at all for what they believe. If any religion helps someone to make it on this earth, I fully appreciate this, as long as it does not hurt anyone.

Here is the thing that I find so difficult to come to terms with while I am exploring spirituality.  While I long to believe in something spiritual, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why we must have all the suffering we do on earth. When I think as an atheist, it is an easy answer, we are evolving (conscious) animals and the world is still in a mess because of the fact that we are still evolving.

I have dabbled in all kinds of spiritual theories as well as looking into, as I am able, physics that show us we are made from stardust and all the elements contained within the universe. I love the 'plank' theories. I read from some sources that we are 'light'. I love to read of NDEs, OBEs, reincarnation, etc. Even as an atheist, I find some of the theories fascinating.

Some of the spiritual material I have read and heard suggests that we choose our paths and come to earth to learn lessons?  The problem in my mind is that I cannot understand why a child would 'choose' to be raped in this life? Or why thousands would choose to starve to death. Suffering has always been the reason I question ''the gods''. Just take a walk through history!  Did people choose to be burned at the stake? Did people in history choose to be eaten alive by wild animals? Did the people in the Twin Towers agree to go to their deaths together? Plane crashes? Wars?  Humans have been a 'nasty' race for as long as I have studied human behavior.

Can someone help me with this? Is there hope for an atheist to be converted to some form of spirituality?

I welcome all opinions. Thank you again for any responses. Please remember that I am looking forward to a spiritual walk, but I need some help with these questions. Maybe someone out there can help me make sense of it all.

I look forward to any and all discussions.

Madman of the evening!

#2    libstaK


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 10:45 AM

Hi Madame Eve, welcome to UM.

I think your question is distinctly buddhist - I would start there as Buddha was a man whose specific goal in life was to understand why we suffer and his journey to discover the reasons is very illuminating, even from a purely psychological standpoint.

On a more religious level you might want to look at Jainism as it is distinctly focussed on inclusion, compassion and service to humanity to alleviate others sufferings.

I myself am catholic with gnostic leanings in my understanding of my christian faith - I do enjoy buddhist meditation practices however and don't see them as contradictory to my faith as they are about self illumination and self knowledge as to what makes me suffer in various life circumstances.

Ultimately, seek teachings that encourage self knowledge rather than blind belief or following dogmas, as the answers to all your questions truly do arise from within you.

As to the issue of "choice" and whether some may have chosen to suffer in this sphere ... there is no satisfactory answer that encompasses all but I have always treated those who suffer with the deepest respect as they have given us all an opportunity to move forward by understanding the suffering, it's causes and how to stop it from repeating - no life should be lived in vain, we have learned how to cure diseases, make laws that protect the vulnerable, what is and is not worth going to war and fighting for and how to create safe environments in our cities for ourselves and our children because of the sufferings of those that came before us, we owe them a great debt.  Is that why they felt it worth choosing to live and die as they did? (if they did), even if not, their life was extremely valuable to mankind if we allow it to evolve us to better ways.

I wish you good journeys.

Edited by libstaK, 29 May 2013 - 10:53 AM.

"I warn you, whoever you are, oh you who wish to probe the arcanes of nature, if you do not find within yourself that which you seek, neither shall you find it outside.
If you ignore the excellencies of your own house, how do you intend to find other excellencies?
In you is hidden the treasure of treasures, Oh man, know thyself and you shall know the Universe and the Gods."

Inscription - Temple of Delphi

#3    232


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 11:34 AM

I never understood why people have always associated the presence of a god or higher power to require everything to be perfect.
If any such thing did exist, we would never be able to possibly comprehend anything about such entity/force and why things are the way they are.
Why does anything at all happen? Why does anything at all even exist? Whatever the answer is, it will have to be taken on faith during this existence (be it atheism or buddhism etc).
We're most likely all wrong anyways.

#4    shrooma


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 11:53 AM

id've said buddhism too eve.
being spiritual doesn't necessarily have to include god/gods. i'm a pagan, raised as a pagan, not to believe in gods, they're just names & faces we ascribe to different aspects of nature, but to worship the world around us, things we can see, and touch, and feel, to know that we're a part of the earth, to revel in the joys that nature brings, and to give thanks that we're ALL a part of something special & unique!
(plus, our gods literally DEMAND that we get drunk and party often, which is much more enjoyable than 'thou shalt not....')

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#5    BarnabasCollins


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 12:51 PM

Hi, Madame Eve,

I know what you mean about this search you are on.  There does seem to be more to this life than just the material.  I don't know what that something is, but perhaps it is in our very nature to search for it and try to understand it.

The issue you bring up about suffering is perhaps the one issue that is most baffling.  Why is there so much suffering?  There is something deep within me that says there is a good and fulfilling life that is possible for each and every individual on this earth of ours.  However, when I look around I see so much pain and suffering - people in debt, in pain, diseases, some starving, wars, killing, and the list goes on and on.

I, too, have read some of what you may be referring to about people "choosing" their paths perhaps at some point before they were born.  I find that explanation too difficult to accept.  My biggest objection to it is the practical implication of such a philosophy.  If that is true, then, if there is blame, the "blame" falls on the individual who is suffering because they chose to suffer.  I cannot find it in my heart when I see photos of starving children in Africa to accept that they chose that painful existence.  Additionally, if they did choose it because in their pre-birth state they felt they needed to learn the lesson of suffering, then wouldn't it be going against their choice and possibility of learning about pain and suffering for us to render assistance to them?  And that brings up my other objection to such a view.  It could be used as an excuse for us not helping them.  That lets us who are capable of helping but don't off the hook for doing what we could and should be doing.

I don't have the answers but like you I am searching.

Edited by BarnabasCollins, 29 May 2013 - 12:53 PM.

#6    White Crane Feather

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 12:56 PM

I'd give some suggestions but libstak already pretty much covered every thing id say.

I would add however  for a person like you to seek direct experience with psyco/spiritual forces. You mentioned OBEs. You can learn a lot about yourself and non dogmatic spirituality in altered states of conciousness. But it might take some effort.


As for suffering. Well you have to think long and hard about what kind of world you want to live in. Without suffering there can be no compassion. Without death the marginal utility of life drops to zero. All the good things about life require its oposite to exist. I would not want to live in a world with no heros, no compassion, no revelation, no lifting, no honor, and no passion.

I know what you mean. When I hear of children being murdered or a tornado drowning them in their own school, I get irrationally angry. I point my finger at the sky and shake it  vigorously. Then I look at my own children hug them close. What would happen to us without the risk of life? Would I hug them as close without the risk of loss? would I protect my children if they could not suffer and die? Would I appreciate seeing their little faces are running my hands through my wife's long black hair if I did not know that moments of beauty are scarce and it WILL end some day?  I have a degree in economic and I can show you graphically that we need scarcity to value things. It's called the law of diminishing marginal utility. You place much more value on a dollar if you only have $4. But if you have a million and you are out of toilet paper or a little cold... The dollar has more uses other than money.

I suspect heaven is a place that souls stay for a while to lick their wounds then gear up for another boxing match with life. And what is a boxing match without an oponant.

I think you should try the Tibetan death meditation. It will help you come to grips with Suffering and loss.

Happy seeking.

Edited by Seeker79, 29 May 2013 - 12:57 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#7    Purplos


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:15 PM

Some parts of existence are just bad.
Some are really great.

That's just the way it is in my mind, and it has nothing to do with a god(dess) waving a magic wand and making things as they "should" be, or punishing us for some sins.

I do believe in a god of sorts - one that makes sense to my own mind and perceptions.

Anyone else can do the same thing: just figure out what makes sense to you.  I'm sure plenty of atheists adopt religions or come up with their own spiritual beliefs over time. Besides, it doesn't matter if others did it before or not. If it feels right to you, go for it.

Embrace the impossible.

#8    GreenmansGod


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 07:34 PM

My roommate is an atheist Buddhist. It seems to be working for him.  I am a Pantheistic Pagan, Gods whether there or not are irrelevant and can be a trap.  I agree with shrooma it all just different aspects of nature or the Universe.

Hail and welcome, m'Lady.

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#9    Doug1o29


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Posted 29 May 2013 - 07:47 PM

View PostMadame Eve, on 29 May 2013 - 10:06 AM, said:

Can someone help me with this? Is there hope for an atheist to be converted to some form of spirituality?
I am an agnostic.  I have attended a Quaker meeting for the past 36 years, but never joined. I have held every office they have except Clerk of the Meeting.

One does not have to believe in god to attend Quaker meetings.  That is bolded because Quaker churches and Quaker meetings are two different beasts.  The churches tend to be more fundamentalist, while the meetings seem to attract a lot of free thinkers.

Meetings are conducted in silence.  Each person alone with his/her thoughts.  Occasionally, someone rises to speak to a spiritual concern, but otherwise, silence is maintained.  There is a great deal of difference in how silent a "silent" meeting is.  In Durango, there were two speakers in an entire year.  Boulder, on the other hand, is known as a "popcorn" meeting.  If you want to practice your own spirituality apart from any given religious dogma, this might be a place for you.

Two slogans from Quakers might be of interest:
1.  If you're tired of organized religion, try a disorganized one - Quakers.
2.  My karma ran over my dogma.
I think both apply.

Welcome to UM.
P.S.:  I like the picture you chose for your heading.

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The beginning of knowledge is the realization that one doesn't and cannot know everything.
Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance. --Hippocrates
Ignorance is not an opinion. --Adam Scott

#10    aquatus1


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Posted 30 May 2013 - 02:42 AM

I think you are mistaking spirituality with philosophy.

#11    Jessica Christ

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 03:34 AM

Secular humanism is a wonderful path for atheists.

#12    Beany


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Posted 30 May 2013 - 04:11 AM

Every tradition I've explored has eventually fallen apart for me because at some point it requires that I suspend my critical thinking skills and have faith that what I'm hearing/reading/believing is true. So I've whittled down my spiritual  beliefs to just a handful, based on what I know to be true for myself, the most important of which is it is what I DO that counts, not what I think or believe. And maybe in my doing, in consciously choosing my actions, I will find some grace, some hope, some divinity, some spirituality, some compassion, some understanding, some forgiveness, some serenity.

#13    aquatus1


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Posted 30 May 2013 - 07:02 AM

Yep, you are definitely confusing philosophy and spirituality.

Try this:

Godless Spirituality

#14    Doug1o29


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Posted 31 May 2013 - 02:22 PM

View PostThe world needs you, on 30 May 2013 - 03:34 AM, said:

Secular humanism is a wonderful path for atheists.
I recommend "The Philosophy of Humanism" by Corliss Lamont.  Very well written.

If I have seen farther than other men, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants. --Bernard de Chartres
The beginning of knowledge is the realization that one doesn't and cannot know everything.
Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance. --Hippocrates
Ignorance is not an opinion. --Adam Scott

#15    spacecowboy342


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Posted 23 August 2013 - 12:24 AM

It has already been said but zen Buddhism requires no belief in any God. The Buddha said, "All life is sorrowful. The key to happiness is joyful participation in the sorrow."

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