May 3, 2011

This atheist's spirituality

I used to say that spirituality was a word without meaning. And in most senses, I still stick by this statement. There really is no such thing. But there are feelings that seem spiritual.

I realized this when I was helping my sister raise my nephews. Protecting them, caring for them, even feeding them -- was a spiritual experience. When I gave the children water, it quenched my thirst. And when I saw them sleeping, I was less tired. Giving to them fortified me and that experience seemed spiritual. Something came over me, a role defined by evolution, and I slipped into this comfortable, ancient garment with ease. We all do (or most of us, anyway) when the time comes. So in a sense, parenting is a spiritual thing.

But it's not supernatural; nothing is. These feelings are the result of chemicals being produced within our bodies, and genes being switched on in response to a birth in our proximity. Evolution came up with this "spiritual" gambit to get us to rear our young. (Not really, of course; evolution has no intentions or goals, but in effect this statement is true.) These feelings are nothing more than a tool of nature, and it's a tool that works. Just look around you at all the defenseless children who manage to survive in this odd world of ours. This parenting/spirituality must be some strong juju.

But the kind of spirituality I hear people talking about all the time? Nonsense. They're looking at paintings inside their heads. The only spirituality in this world is the sort that nature provides. And you know what? It's enough.


Artichoke Annie said...

I think this definition of spirituality fits your post quite well:

"Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live."

writenow said...

You're right. It's a good match.