So I wrote this for Mother Courant.
Winter says we’re “wired” for spirituality.
The first thing I say is: define spirituality.
Transformative spirituality, Winter says, is “rooted in the story of the universe. It helps people of faith, with or without a religious affiliation, to link their energies to Creator Spirit in ways that lead to a transformation of themselves and the world around them.”
(Really? Born again? Again?)
Then? Define wired. Psychology (science)? Or Neurotheology (snake oil)?
Because I don’t think my atheism is in any way an expression of religious spirituality…faith…transformative or otherwise. And I don’t think I’m in any way defective or deficient or somehow not quite as human as anybody else because I have no faith.
I don’t think you’re defective and I don’t think her definition meant an expression of religious spirituality, unless I’m reading it wrong. I think she’s talking about a connection to something bigger than us — whether that’s community with our fellows, or, in my case, a Big Ol’ God Up In Heaven. I think you’d like her, if you could meet her. I don’t think I did a great job describing her work and I’m not saying that to fish for a compliment.
What part of ” to link their energies to Creator Spirit in ways that lead to a transformation of themselves and the world around them” isn’t religious?
“[T]alking about a connection to something bigger than us” is psychology, which is science. “Wired” skates perilously close to neurotheology, which is a racket. Like phrenology. Or racialism.
I’ve listened to this argument, in one form or another, for so many decades…………
Wait. What argument? What does spirituality mean to you in your existence? And if the word, “spirituality” does not feel true to you, how about “love”? Whatever the word, it’s the intangible pull to move beyond the self, maybe? Maybe it’s the desire to be connected to one another and maybe to those who have passed, in ways that cannot be seen, but is sensed within and difficult to explain. Spirituality could be individually defined, meaningful in ways that resonate with the one who defines, no?
I met M.T. briefly a few weeks ago and we conversed for only about 5 minutes. All I can say is, she had a warmness about her that was from the soul. That’s what I remember about the interaction.
And, darn! I missed her talk yesterday? I would have enjoyed it.
I’m sorry this is late. My notifications aren’t working.
The argument I refer to is that “spirituality”…religion as described by Winter above… is “hard wired”…built into people like hair color…and by not succumbing to it one is either defective, deficient or subhuman.
The spirituality…the connection… that Winter talks about is religious in nature, not psychological…what you describe. It’s not scientific. It’s a presumption produced by religiosity and religious exceptionalism.
I’m sure she’s a perfectly marvelous person. But spend 50 years or so encountering reactions from Christians…or any religious person… of all kinds when you tell them you’re an atheist. The most common is: You poor dear. Pity. The next most common is revulsion: bigotry. And the most common thread amongst all the reactions is the firmly held belief that because I reject religiosity and religious exceptionalism and embrace reason, I am incapable of fully knowing and understanding the world around me. Incapable of morality. Incapable of compassion. Mentally deficient. The essence of neurotheology.
I’m sick of it. When I was on the other side of the poverty line I could deal with it because I didn’t have to slog through it ten days out of every month. Now…obviously…the slightest hint of it and I’m getting fitted for a fresh script of tranquilizers…that I can’t afford…and have to beg for from a religulous community that takes it upon themselves to decide how much healthcare I deserve…how much food I’m allowed to eat…where I can sleep…where I can sit down…even who I get to beg from. The biggest mistake I ever made in my life…and that’s a long fucking list…was being honest with these people. I should have just STFU and lied.
I’ve plenty of transformative spirituality right here. And it has absolutely nothing to do with a creator spirit.
I’m sick of it, too, though I am not living it in the same way as you. I’m sick of the hypocrisy that exists among many religious people, especially among Christians. I hear your complaint and f— those people who judge you for being atheist! I have family members who are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist. F— anyone who says any of them. or any of my friends including you, are less than for not being Christian.
As far as us being wired for spirituality, I found this interesting. Of course, we are individuals, and we experience things in our own way. Still, I am intrigued by this.
“What is the evolutionary purpose of belief?
A hint lies in the fact that it’s likely the repetition rather than the content of a ritual that makes it effective.”
I totally and completely reject neurotheology. It is fad science. Snake oil. It is prejudice ensconced in circular reasoning to provide cover for religious exceptionalism.
It’s bigotry…all dressed up in Sunday Go To Meetin’ rhetoric. But it is no more valid than phrenology or racialism.
I would like to explore this more, personally because I find the brain – neurology and psychology to be fascinating. I think I understand your point of view. I suppose I am looking at all of this from a scientific perspective rather than a religious perspective and have no problem accepting the possibility of being wired for spirituality (though not exclusively). I am wondering if there could be something like a placebo effect at play that, in a way, looks like we are wired to react. Whatever one’s belief may be, religious or not, if something feels spiritual or enlightening or it puts one in a position of faith in anything (even including effectiveness of a drug or placebo), couldn’t it actually produce neurotransmitters that produce an effect? So, for some, religious experience can produce effect, others maybe it’s awe in the beauty of nature or something more ordinary. In a sense, isn’t the brain open to suggestion/belief/you name it, with some people more open to suggestion than others? i.e. wired for this?
Neurotheology is not psychology.
There is no more evidence in neurology, psychology or the evolutionary sciences for proof that gods…or creator spirits…exist in our DNA than there is proof at Area 51 that aliens exist and are in control of our government.
How the brain responds to stimuli is one thing. Saying those processes prove humans are “hard wired” for religious spirituality is quite another.
Proof of religion and its effects on humans are as easy to see as proof of addiction and its effects. Both stimulate the brain. Both produce effects that can be mapped physiologically as well as psychologically. That doesn’t make gods real, heroin supernatural, or religious spirituality part of basic human genetic structure…hard wired.
Pointing to the effects of stimuli on the brain and concluding that religious spirituality is part of human genetic structure is not science. It’s Religion™.
It sounds like the genetic structure (“wiring”) allows religion (& other things) to have an effect, but there needs to be a learned and accepted belief, or a faith, in order for religion to produce the effect. The most faithful may actually benefit the most, merely because they have affected their own brain in this way (not neccessarily because there is a God). Is that in line with what you are saying?
Similarly, a placebo could have an effect if a medical provider tells a patient and that patient believes the medication will help. Even if the medication is something other than what the patient believes it to be, it could benefit the patient. So when the non-believer patient says to the believer patient, “The pill is not real”, the believer patient replies with, “Yes, it is because it helped me”, both are right. The placebo would not work for the non-believer because the brain is not expecting it to do anything. So, the brain is not wired for religion or spirituality, it’s wired to accept beliefs and strong faith in anything and then it will react.
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