In condemnation of “spiritual” atheism

 
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By Ena Grozdanic

Atheists do not “pray” and are not “spiritual”. I urge my fellow non-believers to halt the creeping spiritualisation of our creed. 

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Wednesday 9 December 2015

If religion is the opium of the masses, the phrase “but I’m spiritual” must be the e-cigarette. Let me get this straight. So you want to smoke but you don’t want to smoke? You begin to realise ours is the era of nonsense when your agnostic pal, in all seriousness, affirms their faith in “destiny” or when your non-Hindu friend imparts chakra advice. You catch a glimpse of the nonsense when God is referenced as She (give up, the Abrahamic Patriarchy club doesn’t want you) or when your Muslim pal drinks/smokes/has sex yet will not touch pork.

It’s a tough world for a non-believer to navigate when the Stop sign separating religion from non-religion seems to be in hiding. Every day, my ears are impaled by hollow statements. There are your garden-variety types:

  • “I don’t believe in heaven or hell but I believe in some kind of afterlife.” (Do you journey through the underworld to reach Osiris and plead entry?)
  • “I don’t like organised religion but there’s a divine force.” (Residing on Mount Olympus?)
  • “Something connects us all.” (Bacteria?)
  • “God is within us.”

Let us examine a little closer this last exhibit, “God is within us.” As a religious sentiment, it’s fine. It’s at the top of the heap. If I were living in a theocracy, I’d rather be ruled by “God is within us” than “God is sitting on a cloud”. However, originating in the mouth of a non-religious person, the statement transforms from religious fluff to airy-fairy nonsense – New-Age babble, intellectual sloth, idolatry of the Hollow.

And here we approach the sum of all nonsense, contained in one single statement. This sentence is the doll to my voodoo: “Pray for *insert location of latest tragedy*”

A short disclaimer: I write this not out of disbelief in the value of interdependence or in the Good of human beings (Alain Badiou, rather than Jesus, has enforced this feeling in me). However, I correspondingly believe that one should not sprout Biblical/Koranic/Veda concepts if one is not religious. This might be the great cause Dawkins has ignored, as he’s too busy prepping his gingerbread house to ensnare Muslim children, so I’ll pick up the arms. Repeat after me, non-religious friends: “I shall not utter quasi-religious nonsense!”

If you do not subscribe to one of the world’s many, many religions (Baha’ism/Islam/Christianity/Voodoo/Hinduism/Buddhism/Animism etc.) please do us all a favour and stop with the religious signifiers.

Returning to the hashtag prayer, the cynical among us might suggest that it is prayer that got us into this mess in the first place. The new atheist clique will scream, “All religions are bad, but some are worse than others” from high up in their rebel tower. (After all, only they have the courage to rail against Islam and its cohorts in the ‘regressive left’). The crux of my gripe with #prayforparis is not the statement itself, but when it is proselytised by the keyboards of those who do not pray.

Rather than a whimsical “prayer” you float across to Paris via the energy that connects us all, how about you utilise a more practical vehicle for expressing your grief/outrage?  Rather than pray why not:

  • Plant a tree? #treeforparis
  • Recognise that other tragedies have too taken place, where the victim city does not happen to be the playground of your imagination? #intersectionalityforparis

All of these acts would be much more useful to humanity than your electronic, keyboard prayer.

I mourn the days when it was easy to separate the clerical masses from the anti-clerical: the anti-clerical were usually of a very high intellectual calibre. As Abu al-Ala’ al-Maari, an atheist living in 8th century Syria, attested: “The world is divided in two: those with brains but no religion, and those with religion but no brains.’ Old mate al-Maari fought the good fight of atheism into old age. Unfortunately, the line seems to have blurred just a little. Nowadays you have very Christian Cornel West sprouting very intelligent thoughts, very Muslim Waleed Aly making very much sense, and gamer boys with no religion and apparently no respect for females.

I urge my fellow non-believers to halt the creeping spiritualisation of our creed. We need to take our ‘Stop’ sign back from the hijackers.

 

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