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Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:22 PM

Question regarding "spiritual" texts for atheists/agnostics

My SO is agnostic, and like myself grew up in a childhood steeped in the catholic mythos.

She is on a "spiritual quest, recognizing fully that she is agnostic, but feels a compelling drive to seek out some sort of non-god, non-religious "spiritual" connection, whether it be a connection with humanity or the universe in general. Not woo woo style, but in a way that just makes her feel connected. This is really about her feeling connected with people on a deeper level I think.

I'm not sure if that sounds woo to anyone here, but after many many lengthy discussions with her on this subject several nights a week for weeks now I completely understand what she means. The question is this though, she runs into the problem that most texts dealing with anything of this nature whatsoever always tends to lean towards - religion. It's just an unfortunate crossroads so it seems.

Is anyone aware of any serious, non woo, "spiritual" (for lack of a better word) texts that relate to this subject for an atheist leaning agnostic?

As I am a self-proclaimed "militant" atheist I find it hard to search for anything because as soon as I read anything I come across I am instantly repelled, even with the deep understanding I have of her predicament.

If anyone has any recommendations please share, as I would be greatly appreciative of any direction I may be pointed to.
Thank you!

18 replies, 1413 views

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Arrow 18 replies Author Time Post
Reply Question regarding "spiritual" texts for atheists/agnostics (Original post)
Soylent Brice Jan 2013 OP
Warpy Jan 2013 #1
Curmudgeoness Jan 2013 #2
Phillip McCleod Jan 2013 #3
dimbear Jan 2013 #4
Phillip McCleod Feb 2013 #6
dimbear Feb 2013 #7
Phillip McCleod Feb 2013 #10
dimbear Feb 2013 #11
Soylent Brice Jan 2013 #5
amuse bouche Feb 2013 #8
struggle4progress Feb 2013 #9
TM99 Feb 2013 #18
meeshrox Feb 2013 #12
Soylent Brice Feb 2013 #13
cleanhippie Feb 2013 #14
Soylent Brice Feb 2013 #15
onager Feb 2013 #16
progressoid Feb 2013 #17

Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:27 PM

1. John Campbell, Alan Watts, and Thomas Merton all come to mind

and all are decent reads. My ex was a closet Deist who loathed organized religion and found them helpful. I found them all very interesting.

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:51 PM

2. I don't care enough to read spiritual texts,

but in a search for "something" to believe in, I found the outlet for my spiritual side in books related to simplification of life and bonds with nature. I prefer to read books on walking in the woods or not read at all and find a "spiritual" experience by putting a kayak in the water. She may be trying too hard.

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:58 PM

3. i have always found jorge luis borges to be.. compelling.

 

his religious beliefs are hard to ferret if he had any at all but his mania for kafka, kabbalah and all things self-referential and complicated and beautiful had me on the first page. in fact i'd recommend literature in general as opposed to self-help or philosophy or non-fiction. at least fiction is honest about its fictional nature it can reflect on any facet of experience and take a walk in someone's shoes enjoying a view of high-level abstractions along the way. i have always found russian novelists to be the most moving and humanistic.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 10:41 PM

4. And maybe Umberto Eco in the same vein.....

BTW, Borges has an interesting life history, worth checking into.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 01:40 AM

6. UBERTO ECO!!!!

 

because caps lock is cruise control for cool.

another most very excellent recommendation imo if you can't tell. which is your fav dimbear? mine is prob'ly 'foucault's pendulum' though 'name of the rose' was an entertaining romp, the movie too.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 02:36 AM

7. Name of the Rose by default, I secretly haven't read Foucault's Pendulum.

Then comes Italo Calvino.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #7)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 05:53 PM

10. calvino has been suggested to me more than once after chatting

 

about borges and eco. one of these days i will have to pick something up. any recs?

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #10)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 08:12 PM

11. Invisible Cities. Don't read it straight through, tho. n/t

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 10:51 PM

5. thank you all, and

please keep the suggestions coming.

: D

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 06:25 AM

8. I have no suggestions, but

just wanted to say and

"As I am a self-proclaimed "militant" atheist I find it hard to search for anything because as soon as I read anything I come across I am instantly repelled,"

Yes, I am finding myself falling into the militant category, because the 'believers' are so vile. It's a huge turn off.

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 07:04 AM

9. She might look at some Buddhist texts. Reincarnation usually strikes me as woo, but

not all Buddhists take reincarnation literally: in some schools, the notion of reincarnation and of karma is not understood as "what you do in this life affects what happens to you in the next life" but rather as a metaphor for the succession of thoughts -- one thought passes away, the next thought arises, and the prior thought tends to leave a trace that determines the succeeding one

Buddhist psychology frequently strikes me as quite profound, and (depending on what you read, of course) it often comes with practical advice

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:21 AM

18. I would have to agree on Buddhism

Last edited Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:42 AM - Edit history (1)

however, with definite caveats.

Avoid most of the Tibetan Buddhist and Pure Land works unless they are specifically geared towards a secular audience as those two schools are the most heavily laden with 'woo' - reincarnation, heavenly afterlife, deities, etc. Now to be fair, I have always discussed such topics with Tibetan and Pure Land monks and they completely agree with me that such topics are metaphors and teaching aides not to be taken literally. But, I really don't enjoy having to sift through such 'metaphors' for useful information.

Two glaring exceptions to this are Tarthang Tulku of the Nyingma Institute and the late Chögyam Trumpa of the Naropa Institute. I recommend Trumpa's Cutting through Spiritual Materialism and Shambhala - The Sacred Path of the Warrior. I recommend Tulku's works on Skillful Means (having to do with mindfulness and work), Kum Nye (a type of movement/yogic meditation), and the Time/Space series which are wonderful philosophical texts on time, space, physics, mind, and consciousness.

I would also recommend Theravadic and Zen schools. Some of the books I have read that may be of interest to her include the following:

B. Allan Wallace - The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taboo-Subjectivity-Science-Consciousness/dp/0195173104

Tarthang Tulku -

Dynamics of Time & Space: Transcending Limits on Knowledge

http://www.amazon.com/Dynamics-Time-Space-Transcending-knowledge/dp/0898002664/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_8

Time, Space & Knowledge: A New Vision of Reality

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Space-Knowledge-Reality-Psychology/dp/0913546089/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

Love of Knowledge

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Knowledge-Time-Space-Series/dp/0898001382/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4

Sacred Dimensions of Time & Space

http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Dimensions-Time-Space-Perspectives/dp/0898003601/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

Stephen Batchelor - Buddhism without Beliefs and The Psychology of Awakening.

James H. Austin MD - Zen and the Brain & Zen-Brain Reflections

I also highly recommend any work on Mindfulness by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana and all Insight Meditation works by Joseph Goldstein, Larry Rosenberg, and Jack Kornfield.

All of these are heavy on psychology, philosophy, ethics, physics, life-sciences, consciousness, etc. and are quite devoid of fluff, woo, and supernaturalism.

Enjoy!

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 12:46 AM

12. Carl Sagan

Deep connections to humanity and the cosmos, always helps center my brain! Pale Blue Dot may be a good starting point and certainly no woo there!

Best of luck to you and your friend!

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Response to meeshrox (Reply #12)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 11:52 AM

13. i've recommended sagan as well.

I finally got her to watch cosmos recently.

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 12:15 PM

14. I read Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution by Steve McIntosh.

And right up until the last 1/5th of the book, it had some very compelling and eye opening stuff, then it went into the religious aspect, which turned me off.

The integral worldview represents the next crucial step in the development of our civilization. Through its enlarged understanding of the evolution of consciousness and culture, the emerging perspective known as integral consciousness provides realistic and pragmatic solutions to our growing global problems, both environmental and political. As McIntosh convincingly demonstrates, the integral worldview's transformational potential provides a way to literally become the change we want to see in the world.
http://www.amazon.com/Integral-Consciousness-Future-Evolution-McIntosh/dp/1557788677


I have found that by understanding ourselves and how we ARE all connected, or at least how/why we behave is dependent on the way others behave and how our brains actually work, has given me a "spiritual" understanding.

Books on Consciousness may be a good place for your SO to start. Good luck.

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #14)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 12:29 PM

15. thank you! i just forwarded the link to her.



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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 07:11 PM

16. I always recommend this one...

And good luck to your SO! We unbelievers really do think about our unbelief, no matter what the opposition says about us.

Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Hecht proves that disbelief has a history every bit as long, rich and interesting as religion. It's a fascinating story.

http://www.amazon.com/Doubt-Doubters-Innovation-Jefferson-Dickinson/dp/0060097957

Here's a link to an interview with Hecht. She had the same problem as you and your SO - many books discussing disbelief approach it from a religious POV:

When I was trying to do general research on atheist groups through history, I found I really couldn’t trust any of the books that were out there. Most of them were from the religious side, and they argued that there were no atheists anywhere. The few that were from the atheist side, I’m afraid, were also a little bit too skewed to be of real use.

So it seemed straightforward to me to go through history and put together the atheism that I knew was there, because if you’re an atheist you notice it when you’re reading these little monographs of history. Throughout all these different cultures, there it is. But then when you look at the surveys, it disappears. I guess people just don’t want to take it on.

What amazed me when I started doing the research for Doubt was that not only was there atheism through all of known history, but it was a very cohesive movement — a movement that knew about itself in all these different periods, so that the early heroes were the heroes century after century.

Epicurus was one of the great ones. Ecclesiastes and Job, two books that are in the bible, were both taken as atheist tracts that could be read, and were read, and were reinterpreted to argue this point throughout history.

The earliest atheism I found that was clear and as straightforward as you could want were the Carvaka, the ancient Carvaka in 600 B.C. in India. They were before the Buddha, and we think the Buddha was influenced by them.


http://ffrf.org/publications/freethought-today/item/13493-jennifer-michael-hecht-my-atheist-paradise-leaving-our-bodies-to-art

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Response to Soylent Brice (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 09:20 PM

17. Just picked this one up from our local library...

Religion for Atheists
by Alain de Botton

What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense? Alain de Botton’s bold and provocative book argues that we can benefit from the wisdom and power of religion—without having to believe in any of it.

He suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it—because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. De Botton looks to religion for insights into how to build a sense of community, make relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel, get more out of art, and reconnect with the natural world. For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between swallowing lots of peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. Religion for Atheists offers a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.


http://www.amazon.com/Religion-Atheists-Non-believers-Guide-Vintage/dp/0307476820/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359857797&sr=1-1&keywords=religion+for+atheists

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