Being an atheist means that I specifically do not believe in the existence of spirits. I don’t have one, you don’t have one, there aren’t a bunch of body-less spirits roaming around doing un-physical things in our world, and there isn’t a “holy spirit” manifesting the truth of things to you or guiding you from moment to moment.
I gave up my belief in things of a spiritual nature around the same time I lost interest in glam metal. You may wonder why that’s important. Well, you see, I had observed that the emotional high and general euphoria I experienced when listening intensely to my favorite music was remarkably similar to the spiritual high and ontological euphoria I felt when doing “spiritual” things, bearing testimony, reading inspiring scripture, praying intently, and so on. In fact, as I tried to distinguish between them, I found that I couldn’t, and more than that, neither could anyone else! Yet I was asked to believe that in churchy matters, when I felt this feeling, it meant something, and when I was listening to popular music, the exact same feeling didn’t mean anything. (This from the same group of people who think it’s okay to say “crap” but not okay to say “shit.” Hmm.) This is not logical.
So, rather than accept that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to the truth of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits, I let go of my belief that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to anything.
It’s emotions; it’s chemistry. The brain is a big place where we don’t understand most of what goes on, and I find it much more believable to think that certain combinations of input produce certain chemicals that lend themselves to a feeling of oneness with the universe (some hallucinogens produce this feeling on-demand) than to think that there’s an invisible, unmeasurable, non-incarnated being twiddling bits between my ears to let me know in the most obfuscated way possible that this doctrine or that belief is correct, and by the way, it bears witness to different and even contradictory beliefs depending on which part of the world you’re in.
And consider this: how different are twenty thousand adoring fans, lighters drawn, swaying in time to an anthem they know by heart sung by their favorite rock band, from twenty thousand true believers in uniform, prostrate and attentive as they’re led in prayer by their dear leader? It makes perfect sense that a mammalian species that evolved to thrive in groups would desire the transcendent experience of belonging to something larger than itself, and not really care where it got the feeling as long as everyone around is feeling it too.
So I changed my mind, and let go of my belief in things spiritual, and not long thereafter, I discovered I don’t like hair metal anymore.
I’m okay with using the word “spiritual” to describe an experience as long as we have the understanding in place that we’re not talking about spirits: we’re talking about a fairly specific chemical and emotional reaction that humans have to certain sets of stimulus. I’m okay with acknowledging a need for “spiritual” stimulation–in fact, that’s why I’m writing this post. Giving up religious spiritual pursuit and glam metal at the same time has had an impact on me that I’ve only this week begun to realize. I need “spirituality.” I need that stimulation.
I guess I needed to say all that about the reason for my unbelief, because I said it, but the actual point of the post–the reason I started writing it–is to acknowledge that I need “spiritual” stimulation and I haven’t been getting it for a while.
That "spiritual" euphoria you describe, I believe it to be a psychosomatic reaction to a stimulus that your body and mind recognize as positive to your emotional and mental well being. It is indeed different for different people, for the reason that we are all different. For you, it's Glam Metal Music. For someone else it may come from performing a Tarot Reading, for another it can come from Cooking! Whatever activity it is that brings about this positive feeling that many claim to be the "holy ghost" is no doubt positive for the development or maintenance for your emotional and mental well being. I would like to make mention about how very very common it is that Music of some kind is a source. Music is huge. Singing in a Choir always provided that feeling for me, but so do other things, like cuddling with a nice guy, or playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. When that "spiritual" euphoria is absent, anger, irritability, and other signs of mental/emotional distress become more prevalent. I know they have in me.
Don't fight it. Find what it is that brings that feeling back, and let yourself enjoy it. Maybe listen to your favorite band again. Join a choir, or go on a date with a good friend. Play around with it. You know how it works, you don't believe in spirits, but you believe in the value of people and of health. Let yourself enjoy people again. Enjoy yourself.
Be It Harm None, Do As Thou Will.
Remember that causation and correlation are two different things. Just because giving up religion and your like for hair metal happened at the same time, does not mean that they are interrelated. I go through many changes musically, including 'losing' the euphoria I've previously felt for particular pieces of music. I've gone back and listened to music from 10-15-20 years ago and thought to myself, "Why did I ever have a connection with this?"
The euphoria that we get from things like religion are more often than not because of A) 'new' and B) as previously mentioned, groups. I know that I get a sense of euphoria from having deep philosophical discussions with my friends (including you). Does this equate to spirituality? It doesn't have to. My ex-mother-in-law tells me, in fact, tries to convince me that when she saw me get confirmed into a certain here unmentioned church that she saw the spirit in me, and on my face. When I think back, this event was may have been greater than some other events, but is overshadowed by many other events (oh, lets say the first weeks I was with your sister).
Honestly, if you look for these events, I'm sad to say, you'll probably be disappointed. Finding a song that connects with you is a 'uncommon' event. Finding a connection with someone that gives you that 'walking on sunshine' feeling is rare. But, don't let that put you off, these things will happen to you, and they will happen for the rest of your life.
Now envision me giving some serious devil horns in response to some grooving metal. 😉