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Spiritual but not humble? Meet the “spiritual atheists”

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St. John of the Cross
John of the Cross

In “Scientists Think Spirituality Is Congruent With Scientific Discovery, Religion Is Not” Medical News Today (06 May 2011), we

More than 20 percent of atheist scientists are spiritual, according to new research from Rice University. Though the general public marries spirituality and religion, the study found that spirituality is a separate idea – one that more closely aligns with scientific discovery – for “spiritual atheist” scientists.

[ … ]

For example, these scientists see both science and spirituality as “meaning-making without faith” and as an individual quest for meaning that can never be final. According to the research, they find spirituality congruent with science and separate from religion, because of that quest; where spirituality is open to a scientific journey, religion requires buying into an absolute “absence of empirical evidence.”

This story encapsulates the cleverest riff that materialist atheists have ever constructed to deny the reality of the mind and substitute the notion that apes r’ us: Getting everyone to accept that  “faith is based on buying into an absolute ‘absence of empirical evidence.’” Countless Christian academics play house with materialist atheists, constructing “existential” theories about faith that gut the traditional “show me a sign” demand for evidence.

For years, I laboured as co-author of a book that fruitfully assumed the exact opposite. We found that:

– Most traditionally religious people believe what they do based on evidence – from their own lives. They count that evidence over surveys, polls, studies, and theories because they are in the best position to assess the outcome of their own experience.

– Many people have spiritual experiences, but because there is no common vocabulary, they describe them in different ways, with different degrees of success. This fact is commonly used by materialist atheists to cast doubt on the reality that underlies them.

– The traditional method of evaluating claims about such experiences is not a colourful account but: Did it change the person’s words and actions over the long term?

Indeed, traditional spiritual directors quickly  stamp out “spiritual excitement” because

… Freud did not “discover” that unconscious desires can fool people into believing that they see or hear things. Spiritual directors have known that all too well for centuries! Walter Hilton, writing in the early fifteenth century, advised the mystic who experiences any type of vision to “refuse it and assent not thereto.” John of the Cross later offered the same advice, explaining, “That which properly and generally comes from God is a purely spiritual communication.” Stace follows this up, noting that “a genuine mystical experience is nonsensuous. It is formless, shapeless, colorless, odorless, soundless.”

The Spiritual Brain, p. 194.

Which brings us to …

Ecklund and Long noted that the spiritual scientists saw boundaries between themselves and their nonspiritual colleagues because their spirituality facilitated engagement with the world around them. Such engagement, according to the spiritual scientists, generated a different approach to research and teaching: While nonspiritual colleagues might focus on their own research at the expense of student interaction, spiritual scientists’ sense of spirituality provides nonnegotiable reasons for making sure that they help struggling students succeed.

Now, if there was a charitable way of saying this, I would: These scientists’ claims are nothing more than a display of “I’m better than them.”

John of the Cross would tell them to stuff their self-congratulation: It is a highway spanning pixelboard for inauthentic spirituality. No one who really knows the unseen world talks that way, so they are merely advertising the presumptuous falsity of their imaginings.

The best they can ever hope to be is forgiven – but fortunately, that’s all it takes.

one more try: http://vimeo.com/21230371 bornagain77
corrected link: Bill Wiese on Sid Roth http://vimeo.com/?21230371 bornagain77
semi-OT; This guy had a 'spiritual' experience, when he was a atheist, that was so deep that he now feels compelled to share it with as many people who will listen: Near Death Experience Testimony - To Outer Darkness (Hell) and Back - Matthew Botsford - video http://vimeo.com/19297257 ---------- As far as 'scientific evidence' for a afterlife in a 'eternal dimension', I would have to say that nowadays we have it in spades!!! And that it is really the Atheists themselves who have to maintain their 'blind faith' with absolutely no credible evidence at all save for their own unwillingness to look at the evidence and/or deal honestly with it. Bill Wiese on Sid Roth - Reality of 'Eternal Dimension' discussed in Description vimeo.com/?21230371 bornagain77
Denyse: Charles, the link is usually at the site you should go to to read the whole thing, Ok, I had done that and all I saw re the paper itself was:
The research will be published in the June issue of Sociology of Religion.
I even searched the webpage source in case it was hidden in some comment or script, but there are no other references to that journal. Did you see a title of the paper or a link to it somewhere? If so, could you kindly copy it this once so that I might see how I missed it. Charles
Charles, the link is usually at the site you should go to to read the whole thing, if you want to follow up or comment. We try not to swipe stories, only point to them :) O'Leary
it seems to be a diet of Erich Fromm-age on a Robert Pirsig cracker. MedsRex
I notice that articles like the ones linked to inevitably take a very distant look at spirituality - basically saying "20% of atheist scientists are spiritual" on the grounds that 20% of atheist scientists say that they consider themselves to be spiritual. But just what "being spiritual" means is hardly defined. I get the impression that, if it were inspected more closely, "spirituality" would either add up to a religion that's personally constructed, or little more than certain feelings given a more dramatic sounding name. nullasalus
“According to the research, they find spirituality congruent with science and separate from religion, because of that quest; where spirituality is open to a scientific journey, religion requires buying into an absolute “absence of empirical evidence.” According to materialist atheists, nothing exists that cannot be empirically tested and experimented on. The definition of “spiritual”, however, is “of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.” How does something not tangible become open to scientific inquiry or a scientific journey? Is their spirituality purely theoretical? Biblical faith is based on evidence, proofs, and references, as noted many times by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. It’s not blind faith or credulity. Why on earth do these atheists not understand this simple point? I became convinced of the truthfulness of Christianity from studying the Bible and from seeing how biblical accounts intersected with history as well as findings from archaeology. If that’s not evidence, then what is it? Conjecture? Barb
Denyse, why is it that in most (dare I say nearly all) news articles and even press releases about some research recently, or soon to be, published in some journal, the name of the research paper is rarely mentioned? One would think articles about research papers or findings would always mention the name of the paper. Is there some reason that science writers and science news publishers, seem to deliberately withhold the name of paper? Its almost as if they want to prevent an interested reader from having the source material for the article. What's up with that? Charles
But then atheists/agnostics have always been a pretty conflicted lot: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/128-americans-describe-their-views-about-life-after-death
Half of all atheists and agnostics say that every person has a soul, that Heaven and Hell exist, and that there is life after death. One out of every eight atheists and agnostics even believe that accepting Jesus Christ as savior probably makes life after death possible.
Spiritual scientists are obviously not gnu atheists. Charles
...religion requires buying into an absolute “absence of empirical evidence.” It was the absolute presence of empirical evidence, of the fine-tuning of the universe for life and the information-based nature of life, that convinced me that atheism is rationally untenable, and that an immensely powerful, creative super-intelligence must be behind it all. GilDodgen

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