Sam Harris‘ next book will take a scientific look at spirituality.
His first task might be convincing atheists to come along for the ride despite their shortcomings about the “S” word. He writes this in defense:
We must reclaim good words and put them to good use — and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.
Of course, “spiritual” and its cognates have some unfortunate associations unrelated to their etymology — and I will do my best to cut those ties as well. But there seems to be no other term (apart from the even more problematic “mystical” or the more restrictive “contemplative”) with which to discuss the deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness — through meditation, psychedelics, or other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. And I find neologisms pretentious and annoying. Hence, I appear to have no choice: “Spiritual” it is.