F. Swemson

NewsReal Sunday: Secular Spirituality

Posted on January 3 2010 8:00 am
I'm an Objectivist, a disciple of Ayn Rand since I was 15. Graduate of NBI (Nathaniel Branden Institute) 1964 I was a philosophy major @ NYU & dropped out to join the Marine Corps Served as a Combat Photographer in late 60's I've been writing for over 20 years.
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One of the most common issues that I run up against with the NewsRealBlog community is my contention that spirituality is not the exclusive province of people of faith, but that secularists can experience the same feelings as well. On more than one occasion I’ve said that the feelings that I experience when looking at a Van Gogh painting, or listening to Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto, or reading a great piece of literature, are tantamount to what others describe to me as a state of religious ecstasy.

I just read a wonderful piece by Edward L. Hudgins published by The Atlas Society, entitled “Secular Spirituality” which I think would be both interesting and enlightening to many NRB readers, especially at this time of year, and I therefore present it for your consideration here:

The fall season ushers in Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and, this year, Ramadan as well. Winter brings Christmas and Hanukkah. Spring takes us to Passover and Easter. And those are just the highlights of the holy days marked by the Old Testament–based religions. Throw in their minor milestones (Purim, Pentecost); add Hindi, Buddhism, and a few other faiths to the mix; and you have a year-round sacred calendar.

Most people feel that the sacred and spiritual pertain to the soul or to things incorporeal and eternal—in contrast to the secular, which is thought to pertain to the material, worldly, physical, and temporal. On sacred days, we’re supposed to turn our attention from the low, mundane, and muddy, to things high, heavenly, and pure. But the fables and beliefs that give rise to the holy days of various religions conflict with each other, and no such belief can be shown to be more valid than the others. Therefore, they must be accepted on faith, which distinguishes such beliefs from those discovered by science or philosophy.

Where does that leave the rational, secular individualist? Those of us who wish to experience a sense of sacred meaning and inspiration will certainly not find it among days marking miraculous births, escapes from evil pharaohs, the receipt of holy books, or enlightenment under bodhi trees. And what sacred lessons can we draw from conflicting myths and dogmas that have stoked murderous human conflict among various faiths and sects throughout history?

Before we conclude that the quest for a secular spirituality is hopeless, perhaps we should ask: What, exactly, is the true nature of the spiritual or sacred? And do these elevated emotions necessarily conflict with reason, the secular, and the ordinary aspects of everyday life?

Read the entire article here.

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