Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Spirituality, the 'new' religion?

I realise that its been a very long time since my last blog post. A lot has happened in the last few months. We moved from our old house out of town and we have purchased our first house, which is closer to the city centre. I have also acquired a new job since we last spoke, so Dale and I have been so busy cleaning, getting the new place in order and I've been preparing to start my new job that I haven’t had time to do anything, let alone find time to write a few hundred words.

At least all of this brought me to the topic of the next post. While chatting at the fence with our new (very nice, very quiet) neighbours the other day, I heard some stories about the old owners of the house. My neighbour informed me that they were somewhat 'alternative.' This information instantly struck a chord, as we had some inkling of their mindset after coming across some interesting items. The colour scheme that they had picked throughout the house is quite odd, and the wheelie bin is covered in hand prints with 'THANK' written on the front. Not to mention the home made wind chimes made out of marbles, knives, forks and spoons hanging in the trees. These things together start to form a picture in ones head. According to said neighbours, the lady of the house used to have ceremonies outside worshipping the universe. She, in my mind, is a hardcore hippie. This, to me, is completely crazy and I want to tell you why. It seems the new craze lately instead of calling yourself religious, is calling yourself spiritual. There are a few different forms of this so called spirituality. One comes from a religious stand point. Using spiritual as a way to say 'Yes, I believe in god, but I do not follow religion, I'm just spiritual' or this new type of spirituality I’ve been seeing which is 'No I don't believe in god, but the universe is looking out for me, I'm very spiritual.' If you break it down though, its all the same bullshit, just wrapped in different paper.

Both promote distancing yourself from any responsibility for your own actions. Religions claim that you have no control over your own fate because 'god' will decide for you. Spirituality says that fate/destiny and trust in the 'universe' will make things go your way. This idea of the supernatural, and also that of Karma – the notion everything you do will come back to you double is a concept I just don't or can't buy into personally. What I understand are choices. If you make a bad choice, you will suffer the consequences. That is a fact of life. Many of the websites I’ve visited in an attempt to understand this better have argued that spirituality fills the voids between religion and atheism. One website Anti-Religion posted this explaination.  

Spirituality is introspective. It is immediate. It lives in the here and now and looks to the ground at our feet, to the sky over our heads. Spirituality is a personal connection with the divine presence. It comes from within, and it bows not to authorities and past traditions. Spirituality is not the echo of our dead ancestors and is not inherited from anyone. Spirituality wells up from the deepest part of your own essence and is as individual to you as your own fingerprint. Spirituality is authentic, organic, and true. To be spiritual is merely to listen to the voice of nature, to the voice of the universe, to the voice of your own intuition, to the voice of your own god. 

Spirituality is not cliquish or regional. Spirituality is open, accepting, and non-biased. It is merely found in those who feel the great divinity within nature and within themselves but do not wish to infect that indefinable thing with dogma, hierarchy, patriarchy, and the lust for power. Spirituality fills the void between Atheism and Religion. Because spirituality is absent of all rules, laws, proclamations, and structure, there is no chance for indoctrination by culture and group-think. The proselytizer’s tool bag is empty.

I beg to differ with this theory of 'needing' something more in this life. Yes I am an atheist. But that does not mean I am void of all feeling. However the idea that a 'god' OR that nature and the universe are all looking out for you is absurd. I believe in myself, and I believe in the good of the (majority) of the human race. I take responsibility for my own actions. If I make a mistake, I realise that I will have to deal with those consequences that arise. People need to stop taking themselves 'out' of their own lives and see the beauty and wonder of the world around them, without the superstition that often goes with it. To me, it really just sounds like people cannot stand the thought that 'this world' is enough for them. Or they cannot fathom being 'alone' in this vast wide world without being told what to do. I don't understand this, or maybe my reason and logic form a barrier to such mind numbing ignorance. But shouldn't you be the one in control of your own life, and where it leads? There are scientific explanations to almost every facet of life these days, and with access to the internet and countless credible sources of this information, it boggles me that anyone can ignore the reality of the world.

What makes it worse, this the blatant denial of this information. These 'spiritual' people also tend to have 'faith' in so called natural medicine. I have a huge problem with this also. I understand how in aromatherapy some scents can cause relaxation and how some 'natural products may be beneficial to general well-being, but what I don't get is people taking ONLY natural supplements to cure diseases that the medical community have already worked out a way to fight. That is just dangerous. The medical profession have relied quite heavily on substances from nature to create our common medications. Take Asprin for instance - It comes from the bark of a willow tree but has been refined with modern science over the years. On just one website

Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid, is a derivative of salicylic acid that is a mild, nonnarcotic analgesic useful in the relief of headache and muscle and joint aches. The drug works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, body chemicals that are necessary for blood clotting and which also sensitize nerve endings to pain. 

The father of modern medicine was Hippocrates, who lived sometime between 460 B.C and 377 B.C. Hippocrates was left historical records of pain relief treatments, including the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to help heal headaches, pains and fevers. 

There is a massive database of medications that have derived from plants found here if you would like to have a look.

Coming from a quite liberal stand point, I feel that everyone has the right to believe whatever they want. However if this interferes with anyone else, or endangers your own life, someone should be able to step in. There is a fantastic quote from Tim Minchin, which was also taken on by Neil Degrasse Tyson on twitter last week, which basically says  

"By definition ... alternative medicine ... has either not been proved to work, or has been proved not to work. You know what they call alternative medicine that's been proved to work? Medicine."

And herein lies the message. Question everything, even what I have just said. Don't stop digging for information. Knowledge is power, don't just settle for something that 'feels' right. I can tell you now, if I get proven wrong (meaning I can see empirically tested and peer reviewed evidence of a topic) about any of my claims, I will change my mind. The same cannot be said of those who blindly believe.


Monday, January 09, 2012

Help DPR get to Reason Rally

So, Seth from The Thinking Atheist brought to my attention that YouTube atheist AronRa is trying to get DPR Jones from The Magic Sandwich Show in the UK to Washington for Reason Rally 2012. So i thought I'd help out by posting the widget on my Blog. If you can, spare a couple of dollars. I think its a good cause.