I can certainly empathise with #14. If denial of spiritualism means that our world views and actions should be based on cerebral / rational thought alone, then we are stuffed bigtime.

In fact, unbridled ‘Faith’ in science and technology has arisen as one of the main barriers to the urgent culture change we need right now. Too many people think we can get away with changing our power stations and light bulbs, and then live happily ever after, whereas it is our heads that need the really urgent seismic shift. Science has become Magic in our collective consciousness, and what is that if it is not faith?

Exemplifying this problem like nothing else is the Australian Association of Sceptics, a hard core smattering of men-of-science who are so offended by intuitive reasoning they run a national magazine devoted to debunking such things as alternative medicine, Gaia, astrology or religious beliefs – i.e. anything that can’t be manifestly proven by hard core science.

That aside, the usual atheist-versus-religious dialectic is far too simplistic. There is a mile wide difference between our monotheistic modern day religions and the multi-theistic beliefs of earlier times. The Greeks and Romans and Phoenicians had multiple Gods but generally accepted the validity of other people’s cultural beliefs. To quote the father of history, Herodotus: “Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best”. What an extremely perceptive remark from somebody who died some 2,500 years ago! Belief coupled to an acceptance of diversity.

Yes, we do need to split religion from spirituality, because if we deny the validity, or cultural role, of mythological beliefs then, if we are to be consistent, then we would have to rant against such things as the Aboriginal Dreamtime, the Aztec ruins, our own historic fables and all of the other such cultural manifestations that have given meaning to various societies, present and past. With all the rich tapestry they have left behind.

To some extent, absence of belief in something other than ourselves has given rise to the crass consumer culture we now live in. If our world view is not to be pivoted around new things to buy, what sort of world views can fill their place? The plural is deliberate, a single, monopoly world view is unlikely to survive a nanosecond.

We do need to celebrate (harmless) diversity and to be bonded spiritually in some way with the planet we depend upon for our very survival. That seems to be a bottom line.

Atheists perhaps do need to prove that a secular belief system can, in fact, be a moral one. We were often told in school that a secular society can not be moral. It would, by definition, have to be selfish, because there is no ‘other’ to build a moral code around other than ourselves.

This challenge defies my own experiences, the majority of the most caring people I know of are simply humanists and ecologists at heart, people who believe in fairness for all, including the entire biosphere. This world view certainly borders on being spiritual, it is a underlying feeling of one-ness and connectedness, the ownership of which that does not necessarily need scientific backing.

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