Nones and Mystics

Nones and Mystics November 17, 2015

Nones or mystics

There have been nuns who have been mystics. But that’s not what this is about. It has been common for religious freethinkers of various types to be labeled atheists by their religious opponents, and then claimed as such by atheists as well. But in many instances, these individuals are spiritual and may not sit comfortably in the “atheists” category.

I’ve mentioned this before in relation to the labeling of mystics as “atheists” in Hume’s dialogues.

It is interesting to see that Diana Butler Bass has suggested that this might in fact be typical of the category of “nones” in our own time.

For more, see Bob Cornwall’s review of Bass’ latest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution.

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  • Gakusei Don

    Sam Harris defends his use of the word “spiritual” here:

    Harris starts: “In writing my next book, I will have to confront the animosity that many people feel for the term “spiritual.” Whenever I use the word—as in referring to meditation as a “spiritual practice”—I inevitably hear from fellow skeptics and atheists who think that I have committed a grievous error.”

  • Hemant Mehta, an atheist whom you frequently cite, tends to be very specific about what can and cannot be derived from the Pew research:

    Nones are more likely all over the map. The percentage of “nones” who identify as atheist and agnostic has grown from 25% to 31% in seven years. The remaining 69% identify as “nothing in particular”, which breaks down further into 30% for whom “religion is important” and 39% for whom “religion is not important”.

    Are there mystics among the nones? Some, perhaps. I’m sure that there are mystics who would say that “religion is not important” to them. Maybe even a few “atheist mystics”. But on the other end of the spectrum, I am an atheist who is not a mystic, yet I would say that “religion is important” to me because of how much I am affected by religion in society. People self-identify in myriad ways.

    • charlesburchfield

      yes they do and that changes a lot over a period of a lifetime IMO! */8•0

  • charlesburchfield

    dunno but what mystic is just another label.
    what is it like to be a mystic?
    what is it like to be on a mystic’s quest?
    does being a mystic confer any kind of improvement of social status or pie? */:D

  • arcseconds

    ‘Atheist’ technically means ‘denies the existence of a God’ or ‘disbelieves in a God’.
    But what this means in practice is something more than that. If someone says they’re an atheist, what they frequently mean by that is that they’re a scientific materialist or something close to that. This is particularly likely if they’re anything of a ‘movement atheist’ or also identify as a ‘sceptic’ or participate in atheist social institutions — comment on atheist blogs etc.

    So while atheism technically encompasses these:

    *) someone who’s a mystic but doesn’t believe in anything they’re prepared to call God
    *) someone who believes in astrology, cartomancy, reiki and out-of-body experiences, but doesn’t believe in God.
    *) someone who doesn’t really know anything about science and vaguely believes there could be ghosts but hasn’t really thought about it, but dropped out of church because they couldn’t marry a divorcée and found themselves not believing in God after a few years.

    and there’s nothing exactly stopping them identifying as atheists, it’s also the case that as piece of self-identification, it seems a little strained. It’s not what we expect, and they’re not on the same page as atheist community atheists. If they know anything about the widespread, sceptical, high-profile scientific materialist sort of atheism, they might feel the term doesn’t suit them well.