How Spiritual Can You Be Without Religion?

Sam Harris‘ new book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion will be released in a couple of weeks:

The book is all about topics like meditation and spirituality, all without a religious basis, and Harris just published the first chapter on his website:

Authors who attempt to build a bridge between science and spirituality tend to make one of two mistakes: Scientists generally start with an impoverished view of spiritual experience, assuming that it must be a grandiose way of describing ordinary states of mind — parental love, artistic inspiration, awe at the beauty of the night sky. In this vein, one finds Einstein’s amazement at the intelligibility of Nature’s laws described as though it were a kind of mystical insight.

New Age thinkers usually enter the ditch on the other side of the road: They idealize altered states of consciousness and draw specious connections between subjective experience and the spookier theories at the frontiers of physics. Here we are told that the Buddha and other contemplatives anticipated modern cosmology or quantum mechanics and that by transcending the sense of self, a person can realize his identity with the One Mind that gave birth to the cosmos.

In the end, we are left to choose between pseudo-spirituality and pseudo-science.

Spirituality must be distinguished from religion — because people of every faith, and of none, have had the same sorts of spiritual experiences. While these states of mind are usually interpreted through the lens of one or another religious doctrine, we know that this is a mistake. Nothing that a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu can experience — self-transcending love, ecstasy, bliss, inner light — constitutes evidence in support of their traditional beliefs, because their beliefs are logically incompatible with one another. A deeper principle must be at work.

Check out the rest of the chapter on his site. Does it leave you wanting more?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X