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Met someone the other day who used the word “spiritual“… I think her intention was that I would be thrilled to hear she wasn’t religious.
Instead, I made funny faces at her… in my mind.
The wife search continues.
(via Atheist Cartoons)
Hope your wife search proves fruitful.
The comic strip amuses me.
have you heard this episode of the ‘point of inquiry’ podcast with ann druyan? a portion of the discussion is about the word ‘spirituality’:
there’s a nice transcript of this portion here:
dj grothe: so it’s not just strategic, but you’re saying it is strategic. an atheist or a humanist, a skeptic, a rationalist, can go to the grand canyon or go out under the stars and feel that sense of wonder. you’re saying it’s all right to use that word ‘spiritual’.
ann druyan: i think so, and i think we have to take it back, yes.
Don’t be too hard on the spiritualists. Many of them have such a broad conception of what constitutes spirituality that I believe they use it primarily as a kind of shorthand to distinguish people who are kind and thoughtful from the Lex Luthors of the world. A good friend told me, for example, that I must be spiritual, because I like nature. If I didn’t like nature, I imagine she would have found another way to include me.
I still use the word “spiritual.” This is a good video explaining why.
Thank you for this, Hemant. I am usually puzzled when people make the distinction, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” When carefully questioned, it can mean very different things for different people, or sometimes it turns out to mean nothing comprehensible.
For some it means that even though they are rationalists, they are trying to assure me that they are capable of feeling awe and wonder.
To them I say, “Oh, I see. I feel that stuff too, sometimes. I just don’t feel awe and wonder at the fact that I feel awe and wonder. No need to dream up some awesome and wonderful explanation for the human experience of awe and wonder, just enjoy it.”
For others it means that they believe in all sorts of miscellaneous woo, spooks and magic, but they want to assure me that they’re not associated with any established religion.
I tell them, “Oh, okay, have fun. I’ll be going now.”
The word “spiritual” comes from “spirit” which in the original Latin meant “breath.” So when somebody tells me they’re spiritual, I say,
“Good idea. I breathe too.”
Makes me wonder what an atheist porno would look like. Reminds me of the What Atheists Cry During Sex cartoon. 😮
I’ve referred to myself as a spiritual atheist before but that tends to confuse people. I think I feel something of the same thing deeply religious people feel about god when I am out looking through my telescope or watching a thunderstorm. A deep emotional feeling of wonder at how amazing the universe is.
It may be that some people who say “I am spiritual but not religious” are just not quite ready to “come out” and maybe have not even “come out” to themselves. It took me a long time to move away from that position.
But I do agree that “spiritual” can encompass a lot of woo…but I also agree with what Ann Druyan said (from link posted by tribbles).
Anyway, in your wife search don’t immediately write off the “spiritual but not religious” woman. (Although, I guess I don’t know if this “spiritual” woman was a potential mate but since you mentioned the wife search I assumed that was the case.)
Who cares? So she wants to use a word you don’t like. Grow the hell up.
@Chubbles: Dude, you seem pointlessly angry. Have a drink or something.
Hemant, about that wife search: Be careful what you wish for.
OK – time for Ron to play “devil’s advocate.” (Geez, as if I really believed in the “devil.”)
In my mind, (which is a rather strange place, btw) people who are spiritual appreciate the wonder of reality.
The fact that we ended up on a planet that happened to be just the right distance from the sun, that just happened to have the proper conditions to support life, that happened to have (after a few failed attempts) the ability to support life that is self aware enough to see the reality of its existence is actually pretty amazing.
The fact that were even here to have these discussions is actually so random as to be in my mind amazing.
Add to this all the mind bending hard to conceptualize realities of quantum physics and yeah you can call me spiritual.
As another example – do we even know that what we perceive is really reality? Quantum physics says that the very act of observing an event can change the outcome.
So, count me in the non-religious but very “spiritual” folks.
Anyway, I’m very comfortable in my little reality. As Adam from Mythbusters says, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
I think of “spirituality” in contrast to “solipsism”, which Hitchens pins to religiosity in god is not great.
You surprise me, Hemant: you once reviewed Andre Comte-Sponville’s book on the subject without dismissing atheist spirituality off-handedly. I wonder if your opinion has changed, or if it’s actually the context you find off-putting this time: “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual,” she said, as though she had started with religion, subtracted the bits she didn’t like, and called whatever was left over “spirituality”.
Whenever I think of spirituality in the context of atheism, at some point I think of one of my favorite lines from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: “We are a way for the Universe to know itself.” Our sense of wonder at the universe reflects what I call spirit; as do our strongest and noblest passions (love, justice, etc.) We may know or find out what makes these things tick at a psychological and biological level, but that doesn’t detract from our concept of them, which is an abstract thing that we’ve created for ourselves. That very ability to recognize such weird collections of behaviors as abstract concepts is what I call “spirituality”. We all have it, and some people are experts at harnessing it.
Carl Sagan explained the word ‘spiritual’.
“‘Spirit’ comes from the Latin word ‘to breathe.’ What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word ‘spiritual’ that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science.”
I see others have heard this too. 🙂
If someone isn’t religious but claim to be spiritual then it is fair to assume that they have a naturalistic materialist outlook on existence but appreciate the emotional awe response to nature, the stars, the wonders of science, really big things and really tiny things, and the whole wonder of existence.
Reality is a fascinating place and more than enough to occupy the mind for many life times. There’s no point in giving up on reality and making up magical worlds and silly gods except for entertainment value.
I agree with Ann Druyan. We need to take back ‘spirituality’ and make it a meaningful word without all the nonsense that the religious have added to it.
Oh and Hemant, why are you searching for a wife? As I understand it about half of all women are ‘wives’. They can’t be that difficult to find.
Although I have what I call a spiritual component to my life (a la Comte-Sponville), I too dislike the phrase “spiritual but not religious”. In my experience, it is often code for New Age woo. I’ve even had hard core Christians say they aren’t “religious”.
At the same time, I’m equally as turned off by folks who have contempt for any kind of response to reality that isn’t purely intellectual. I agree with Loyal Rue that chronic skepticism is just as maladaptive as unquestioning faith. I prefer J. Stone’s conception of critical openness as a basis for spirituality…it works for me, anyway.
I think spiritual is a word that has no (widely understood) meaning nowadays, as everyone defines it for themselves. How can a word be defined with no societal consensus?
My husband is “spiritual” but technically an atheist too. We agree on most philosophical things, but we differ when it comes to “woo”. He does believe in chakras, life force/energy, and the like, which I think a good science education would end (I had one, he did not). This does not hurt our compatibility, though it makes for some funny conversations.
No Polyandry? Let me know if you change your mind, lol.
@Ron in Houston, you wrote, “The fact that we ended up on a planet that happened to be just the right distance from the sun, that just happened to have the proper conditions to support life, that happened to have (after a few failed attempts) the ability to support life that is self aware enough to see the reality of its existence is actually pretty amazing.”
This is a common argument used by creationists to support the BS commonly called intelligent design. At any rate, it wasn’t that this planet just happened to be the right distance, etc.,-life happened because, well,it just DID. It was most likely inevitable. Nothing wondrous about it. Somewhere else in this universe, some being that breathes poisonous (to us)gasses is marveling at how wondrous it is that his species was lucky enough to have come about on that particular planet.
Carl Sagan, Hitchens and Dawkins have all used the term ‘numinous’, which is essentially the same: a sense of the being in the presence of divinity.
Sagan as quoted by hoverfrog: “Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word ’spiritual’ that we are talking of anything other than matter”
Well, there you go. The supernatural connotations of “spiritual’ are not necessary, but they are not excluded either. The word is ambiguous. that’s why I tend to avoid the word. All the aspects of “spirituality” with which I can agree can be more clearly covered by other words, such as ’emotional.’
Oh Man! Don’t get me started.
A chapter in my book is about the “I’m not religious, I’m just spiritual.” crappola.
So, you’re not religious, your just a New Age Moon Doggie who can’t distinguish between understandable terms such as “Awe,” “Wonderment,” “appreciation of the esthetic or natural world,” which describe normal human emotion; and a meaningless religionist term that infers a “soul”?
Please… the fricken peytote smoking kumbya singing campfire is over there—->
As an unrelated aside: When I was a preteen, I had the hots for Tinker Bell.
[ shit, did I say that out loud?]
My nephew describes himself as “spiritual, but not religious”. Meh. I don’t really see the point, but then I’ve never been very spiritual either. Not for lack of trying when I was younger, but it never seemed to take. I’m ok with that. More than, actually.
Are spiritual but not religious people protected by the first amendment’s freedom of religion? I have nothing against non-dogmatic believers who don’t belong to an organized religion but I don’t see why the word religion is somehow more negative than the word spiritual.
falterer — I didn’t mind Comte-Sponville’s version of “spirituality” and that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about “spiritual” as a vague way to hide the fact that you’re religious — you believe in a god — but you’re trying to avoid the stigma of any one particular faith.
I’m 100% on board with Hemant on this. So many folks out there throw the term spiritual around like so much anti-missile chaff or flares hoping to avoid detection…it’s irritating.
Good luck on the wife thing.
Reginald Selkirk wrote:
The word is ambiguous. that’s why I tend to avoid the word. All the aspects of “spirituality” with which I can agree can be more clearly covered by other words, such as ‘emotional.’
Exactly. Someone on another board posted this quote by Christopher Hitchens and asked ‘is Hitchens religious in spite of himself?’:
““It’s what you might call ‘the x-factor’—I don’t have a satisfactory term for it—it’s what I mean by the element of us that isn’t entirely materialistic: the numinous, the transcendent, the innocence of children (even though we know from Freud that childhood isn’t as innocent as all that), the existence of love (which is, likewise, unquantifiable but that anyone would be a fool who said it wasn’t a powerful force), and so forth. I don’t think the soul is immortal, or at least not immortal in individuals, but it may be immortal as an aspect of the human personality because when I talk about what literature nourishes, it would be silly of me or reductionist to say that it nourishes the brain.”
To me, all of the above can be described in terms of the emotional/psychological, without the need for the ambiguous term ‘spiritual’.
Mmmmm, Tinkerbell is hot.
Since “spiritual” can mean very different things to different people, it would be a mistake (and a shame) to pre-judge anyone on hearing that they are “spiritual”. For example, it might just mean someone holding a distinction between being human and being some kind of machine or computer like a future “Pentium 100”. For them “spirituality” simply means they are human and have feelings. Others may simply want a term that won’t cause them to be the recipients of discrimination by religious people although they are really functional agnostics (or even atheists). Of course it could mean that they are almost exactly like their fundamentalist parents, but they just don’t believe in Hell (but believe the rest of the stuff). Most “spiritual people” are probably somewhere in-between. The fun part is finding out where they are.
Although I don’t personally use the term “spiritual”, if I did, it would just be a poetic short-hand for saying the following:
“I believe that nature has secrets yet to be discovered and understood by mankind. I also believe that nature has secrets that may lie beyond the ability of the human mind to recognize and understand. This isn’t a belief in the supernatural. It is just a belief in the limits of human understanding. We are merely the most intelligent primate on the planet. There is no guarantee that our minds can understand everything there is to understand. Poetically, one could call this unknowable component of the natural world “spirit” but there is no need to worship it, no need to make up stories about it, and certainly no need to make absurd claims about reward and punishment concerning believing the made up stories about it.”
Religion has killed the term ‘spiritual’ for me. Anyone willing to use such a charged word to describe themselves is not my cup of tea. I would be willing to befriend them, but I understand Hemant, his search for a life partner must continue.
I am human, therefore able to feel all those wonderful feelings people try to define with the term ‘spiritual’. I just assume since we are all* kind, intelligent people, that we know the majority of folks who inhabit Earth with us, are capable of feeling the same things. I love science, I love wonder, I love my family, I love my fellow humans, but I am not ‘spiritual’. I don’t look up to the sky when I am faced with a problem and whisper little promises. I did happen to tear up when my little girl got to milk a goat for the first time though. (Emotional, I know.)
We all have to remember that the English language is a breathing, living thing. So maybe she said ‘spiritual’ in the tone of Tim Minchin’s “Storm”. Run, Hemant, Run!!
*okay, okay, not all.
I’m wondering what’s wrong with the words awe, wonder, amazing, etc. that we feel obliged to enlarge upon them to give some supernatural like spirit to make them complete. No, we don’t.
Fills me with a sense of awe and wonder or amazing when I’m appreciating the utter magnificence of nature suit me just fine. I think they describe it completely.
I don’t have to excuse my emotion of having my breath taken away by abscribing it to a mythical spirit.
Hemant, still too bad you’re in Chicago and my daughter’s in NY. 😉
Dromedary and Dreamdevil, Tink’s a Disney whore.
I used to be this way. For me, though, it was a gateway word from pagan to atheist. When I lost my beliefs, I fell back on “spiritual”. It helped me feel less like an outcast when talking to religious people– so it was like a crutch to me. When people made the gaspy face at me “you’re not RELIGIOUS!?” I could stutter.. “but…but.. I’m spiritual”.
A terrible reason, I know, but eventually I found my ground and my voice and learned to speak up for myself. Maybe some of the other “spiritual” people are that way, too.
Communication is a fine art. If a word is as nebulous as the word “spirituality” has become, it is sloppy and confusing to use it. It’s the very essence of the metaphor about nailing Jello to the wall. If you mean awe or wonderment at the amazing universe we live in, and that you mean it without any supernatural connotations, you might as well just use the words that work instead of using a word that’s like a train wreck. Between the historical application and the myriad of private definitions, it’s pointless. I refuse to use a word that has an entirely different meaning depending on the person you are talking to, and it is difficult for me to respect someone (enough to have a potential relationship with, anyway) who uses such a word. So I can’t say that I blame Hemant either.
It sounds like the reverse of the religious nuts who want to leech off the credibility of science without actually doing any science. Very few people would hear the word “spritual” and not attach it to some form of woo, like ghosts or psychics or gods or “higher powers”, which in turn is automatically attached to being a “better person”. When I see someone atheist claiming to be spiritual, I can’t help but feel that they are atheists but also want the default social respect that comes from being associated with woo, so they use a traditionally woo-soaked word and give it their own definition, one no one else shares.
Seriously, does any spritual atheist explain this to the people who attach supernatural connotations to the word, or do they just use the word and let the other person define it how they will? And do you really think that any believer or woo-fanatic is going to believe you when you use the word spiritual, or are they more likely to think that you are in denial about your own faith? I’d rather simply make it clear from the start that I have little to no respect for supernatural beliefs and then use straightforward language about my awe and wonder and love of science that doesn’t give the believer any “outs” so they can assure themselves that I “secretly” believe (and by extension, might someday “regain my faith”, thus encouraging them to continue any efforts to “help” me with that and ignore any of my arguments or protestations as further evidence of my denial.)
Here is a simple example of what I mean:
My mom uses the N-word to describe black people she finds trashy, and gets bent out of shape if anyone calls her a racist. She doesn’t consider herself a racist, she’s just using a traditionally racist word to describe the “bad” black people, and she sees it as no different than calling someone “white trash”, and she feels her efforts have the effect of redefining the word. She has bestowed her own personal definition on a word that already has some volatile connotations in the surrounding world and she expects others to understand and adopt her definition. (She does this with a lot of words, which is why I tend to get rather…well, intense when talking to her. She thinks I’m just crazy. Who wouldn’t be when talking to someone who keeps up a steady gish gallop of fallacious arguments, moves the goalposts all over the board, and then creates personal definitions of words and acts like you are the stupid one for not knowing the “true definition” of her terminology?)
“Spiritual but not religious” sounds exactly the same to me. Too much is historically attached to the word “spiritual”, and at this point there are too many people trying to lay claim to the word for it have any practical use whatsoever. Just as it is highly unlikely that my mother will be seen as anything other than racist for using the N-word, it is highly unlikely that you can use the word spiritual without being associated in some way with some kind of supernatural belief. All protestations to the contrary make no difference.
I’m reminded of the atheist in the movie Witchboard, which was a very interesting depiction of an atheist. He is in the beginning of the movie using Hume’s refutation of the First Cause argument against a fellow party guest, and then whips out a Ouja board and starts talking bout reincarnation and ghosts and the afterlife–completely devoid of God-belief. When I think of spritual atheistm, that is the image I get in my head–someone with just as mnay kooky beliefs, but without a “higher power” having created any of it.
Besides, it sounds like the word game Christians tend to use to have their cake and eat it too: “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!” Sounds to me very much like “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”.
“Makes me wonder what an atheist porno would look like.”
You mean I’ve been watching theist porno all this time? That makes me feel dirty and I think I like it.
There isn’t any neccesary connection between spirit, as in ghosts, and spirit, as in “Smells like team spirit”. Spirituality isn’t neccesarily about believing in the supernatural. It can be about the feeling all people get early in the morning walking with the sun on your face and the red wing blackbirds calling.
… and by the way there is nothing incompatible with being a complete wack job ghost hunter and not beliving in god.
I suggest a new term…something like “spiritual naturalist”. “Spaturalist”?…ok maybe not, but you get the idea.
While I don’t think I would necessarily refuse to continue dating someone that used this term until I had a better understanding of what they meant (I got lucky and found a fiance that has no such woo beliefs and identifies herself simply as an atheist) I have to admit that I do sympathize with you Hemant, as I tend to roll my eyes when I hear the whole “spiritual but not religious” pap.
As many have pointed out, it sounds vague and disingenuous–like you’re attempting to legitimize a belief in woo–to not sound ridiculous believing in something both of us know is ridiculous.
I used this term a few times, when I was an agnostic, to define my take on life–It felt like a poorly fitting suit that screamed “look at me!” and I felt like an asshole wearing it.
The word “spiritual” comes from “spirit” which in the original Latin meant “breath.” So when somebody tells me they’re spiritual, I say,
“Good idea. I breathe too.”
The word “spiritual” comes from “spirit” which in the original Latin meant “breath.” So when somebody tells me they’re spiritual, I say,
That’s just awesome. Hope you don’t mind if I snag that saying from you.
While I’m not against atheists reclaiming or using the word, it does seem likely to cause confusion. In my experience, 99% of the people who say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” are into in all manner of woo. For me, the word brings to mind the kind of warm-fuzzy theists who believe in things like eternal souls, guardian angels, astrology, auras, etc.
I agree that “spiritual” can mean completely different things to different people–and especially agree with the suggestion to not prejudge these individuals as people who are not believers but haven’t “come out” to themselves yet or who use the label to sheild themselves from their inner atheist. The “middle road” criticism has been applied to agnosticism, which angers me as well.
My take (which some of you have communicated already) is that either “spirituality” should be reclaimed by the non-religious (if we ever had it in the first place) or we should just come up with an entirely new term all together to describe this “We are the way for the cosmos to know itself” rush of emotion that I actually think a lot of people are referring to when they say “spiritual”. Hell, I too experience this emotional rush when sitting silently in nature or observing the stars–and it has nothing to do with owning magical crystals, doing yoga or a belief in a higher power. Because we are not going to live forever (but are “awake,” unlike the religious) I simply have a deeper gratitude for what the religious often take for granted–because it is so fleeting, whereas to them it will just always be here, even in “heaven”.
It is my contention that “spiritual” is overused for lack of a better term to describe an individual’s precise viewpoint–it is just too broad, which is why there is a lot of variance in who uses the term, but the general population isn’t aware of a lot of other options, either.
So how should we describe this viewpoint, then, if spirituality so poorly fits the bill?
I notice several people talking about “reclaiming” the word spiritual. If it were me, I’d consider other options. Altering the perceptions of words is a pretty tough thing to do consciously. Example: I could accurately be described as happy and a little odd. Technically, I could be described as gay or queer. However, I am in fact straight, and those two terms would likely mislead someone hearing me described as such. As an atheist could you be described as spiritual? Technically, probably so…but don’t be upset if someone misunderstands the meaning that you’re utilizing.
Can terms be reclaimed? Truthfully, I have no idea…but I’m fairly sure that it’s not worth the effort.
Cheers and Excelsior!
I wouldn’t be so hard on the “spiritual” types. I am a pantheist (I don’t even want to get into that here), vaguely spiritual but am married to a very staunch atheist. We get along great.
Hemant—thanks for the clarification.
Some really interesting points here, especially people’s differing opinions on what’s meant by “spirituality”.
“Reclaimed”? I don’t think that’s quite right. It’d be interesting to survey definitions of spirituality from eloquent but conservative Supers of various faiths. There would be differences in the details, but there would be common themes: when describing how spirituality feels, people say things like “a closeness to God”, “a connection with the Spirit (supernatural) realm”, “a oneness with the all”. That last phrase harmonizes with Sagan’s famous line about us being a way for the Universe to know itself, and I think the theme of an emotional reaching out to something broad, vague, or incorporeal, is the same rush of emotion JJ’s talking about.
Even in the details that differ, there would be a great deal of overlap: whether the spirit is a supernatural substance or a natural function, whether we share it with animals, whether it elevates us or unifies us, etc.
Well, my mother calls herself spiritual to mean that she believes Christ died for her sins, but isn’t a member of any church*. My father describes himself as spiritual to mean that he doesn’t believe in god, but instead believes all sorts of woo. My sister describes herself as spiritual and means simply that she’s an atheist, but not nihilistic.
Since it means so many different things to different people, I always have to check to see which one people mean when they use it. As far as I’m concerned, it has so many meanings as to be meaningless.
*Oddly, my mother also describes herself as an agnostic so as not to weird out the rest of us. It inevitably weirds us out.
@littlejohn: I think that Chubbles has a point. It seemed rather childish for Richard Wade to say when he found out that someone was spiritual, his reaction was to dismiss them as not even worth talking to. Why does everyone have to believe what you do to be of any worth? Would you dismiss someone like Nelson Mandela so childishly? Like it or not, spiritual people are all around you, friend, and always will be. Grow up indeed.
My girlfriend is Baptist. I almost broke up with her since she seemed to want me to be, then she kinda freaked out and said “No that’s not what I want” and she doesn’t bring it up much anymore.
I became agnostic? I guess about 7 years ago but only really embraced atheism last year. Since then I’ve felt at times like a new convert or evangelist. I tell people being agnostic is not enough, it is still embracing the supernatural.
But then lately I think sure I could be a stickler for that and drive away a great woman, or just try to relax and be happy. (we are old enough we are not going to have kids which WOULD be a problem). I try to think about it as the fight for science and reason instead of fighting for atheism, that helps some. But yeah, it’s tough.
… “spirituality” should be reclaimed by the non-religious (if we ever had it in the first place)…
You can’t ever take it back. (Link NSFW)
Spirituality means being starry-eyed in the face of one’s own ignorance.
Just FYI, some members of Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups use the term “spiritual” to describe their reliance on a “higher power” that they refuse to identify as the Judeo-Christian “God.”
Muggle said :
” Dromedary and Dreamdevil, Tink’s a Disney whore. ”
YOU TAKE THAT BACK, DAMNIT!!!
Why must you judge someone based on their personal belief. Just as you have nothing, she has something that perhaps brings her joy life, and although it is perhaps not based on any empirical evidence, it may be the spark that makes her the happy person one could love. It may not even constitute anything beyond a moral philosophy that serves to make others smile.
I don’t have any context outside of what you have stated, but it sounds to me that you acted out very self-righteously.
Can’t we leave that attitude to the religious?
Besides, by turning away all women based on religious or spiritual beliefs is not only bigoted and discriminatory, but almost ensures that said women will continue to breed with other like (and potentially closed) minded folk.
That’s not being a very dutiful atheist, now is it?
Anthony said: “Why must you judge someone based on their personal belief.”
But we judge people based on their “personal beliefs” all the time.
I judge 911 conspiracy theorists to be deluded obsessive nuts. I judge the anti-Obama “birthers” to be rascist reality denying asshats. I judge suicide bombers for Allah to be misguided tools.
Maybe you respect people’s beliefs because “beliefs are due respect.” Horsehockey! Beliefs are do no respect. Reality, reason, creativity, contribution to society, science, these are due respect.
Anthony said: “…she has something that perhaps brings her joy life,…”
That someone’s mystical imaginary and essoteric beliefs make them happy is no more of an endorsement for spirituality as booze making one happy is an endorsement for alcoholism.
I’m going to go waaay out on a limb here and proffer that Hemant wants a life mate who shares his respect for reality and reason… and finds happiness in it.
I was also using the word spiritual, but then a friend asked me if I believe in spirits. I said no. From then I just used other explicable words such as enlightenment, humanism, naturalism, etc.
If you don’t like spirituality, you probably make spiritual mistakes.
The simplest way to understand the matter-spirit duality is by thinking it as a gross-subtle duality.
Gross, meaning matter, hardware, senses, “real”, the “matrix”, maya.
And Subtle, meaning consciousness, software, gestalt, theory (theos), in principle, abstract, symbolic.