Approaching a sentence that contains the words “atheism” and “spirituality,” or their synonyms, is a bit like approaching a pit of fighting cocks: blood (you expect) will soon flow.
Another Breed of Faith is for nonbelievers who want to develop a strong spiritual life without falling into spiritual nonsense. You’ll find these words like atheism and ritualism, science and faith, nihilism and pantheism, sharing sentences in productive harmony, article after article.
ABOF doesn’t take a New Age approach to spirituality. You won’t hear endless rhapsodies about how “love will heal the world” nor poor misunderstandings of Joseph Campbell’s phrase “follow your bliss.” There won’t be any references to an obscure and inexplicable “energy” that permeates the universe. Yes: Yoga is good. Meditation is wonderful. But there is more to spirituality than that.
And for those who like atheistic screeds, look elsewhere. While the writing on ABOF is based on an assumption of naturalism, religion gets due deference. For all their faults, Christianity and Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, etc., aren’t social pathologies. I believe our spiritual capacity is not just an extraneous and unnecessary growth—an appendix better removed lest it become a point of deadly infection. On the contrary, I think it’s one of our most important faculties—something that makes human existence more than merely living cradle-to-grave by way of a cubicle. Yes: Science is good. Reason is wonderful. But there is more to humanity than that.
I believe spirituality is not a supernatural phenomenon. Rather it’s what lies at the core of our most important experiences as human beings. We encounter it at the heart of music, art, poetry, theater, love, tranquility, ecstasy. We encounter it on the crests of glory and under the floorboards of humility. We feel it when we walk into the cathedrals of nature and into the reefs and cliffs of the human habitat. Spirituality shouldn’t be reduced to the belief in an unknowable mystery-world that rings our own, nor is it just faith in a world of light and eternal justice that streams in through the stars. Rather, spirituality is the simple experience of being human—just more so than on regular days.
1) Research-based knowledge: Interpretations of religion informed by recent research into the cognitive science of religion.
2) Fruit, without the spikes: Exciting ways to find value in the fruits of ancient wisdom traditions without the outdated beliefs in which they are enmeshed.
3) Spirituality for the future: Experimental new ideas about how our notions of spirituality can (and will) adapt to a rapidly changing world where the role religion once played is being replaced by civil institutions and where rapid technological change promises (or threatens) to alter the very meaning of what it is to be human—or divine.
As the number of nonbelievers in the world rises, so too rises the need for a vibrant secular spirituality.
Science, for all its explanatory power, provides us with no clear purpose in life. It does not tell us how to live in community, how to forgive, nor how to love. It does not provide solace in times of grief or ways to celebrate in times of triumph.
The literature and leadership of the atheist movement today champions rationality. But without a healthier emotional center, the atheist movement risks ostracizing many nonbelievers and becoming little more than a bloodless battering ram pointed at all other traditions of belief.
Nonbelievers today face a landscape of atheist thought that is jagged and powerful in its intellectual offenses, but on whose earth grows precious little fruit. ABOF instead deals with secular spirituality that aims to provide refreshingly sophisticated spiritual ideas left largely undeveloped in atheist discourse today.
The ultimate aim of ABOF is to seed the landscape of unbelief with ideas that will help sustain our inner life in this most scientific of centuries, and to find ways to speak of the sacred while believing the sky is empty of ears.