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.