‘spiritual, not religious’

Melanie retweeted a link to an article about a recently published book that seems intersting, Despirited by David Webster. It’s about the ‘spiritual, but not religious’. He argues that these popular, modern spiritualities risk ‘making us stupid, selfish, and unhappy’. I quote:

Finally, I argue that the dissembling regarding death in most contemporary spirituality—the refusal to face it as the total absolute annihilation of the person and all about them—leaves it ill-equipped to help us truly engage with the existential reality of our own mortality and finitude. In much contemporary spirituality there is an insistence of survival (and a matching vagueness about its form) whenever death is discussed. I argue that any denial of death (and I look at the longevity movements briefly too) is an obstacle to a full, rich life, with emotional integrity. Death is the thing to be faced if we are to really live. Spirituality seems to me to be a consolation that refuses this challenge, rather seeking to hide in the only-half-believed reassurances of ‘spirit’, ‘energy’, previous lives, and ‘soul’.

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70 thoughts on “‘spiritual, not religious’

  1. I’m hoping that David will come and talk to us at Skeptics in the Pub, the book sounds great, I think he’s tackling a very important subject.

  2. He says “in many ways this book was born in the beer gardens of Cheltenham pubs”. So of course he has to do a follow-up at yours. BTW do you have quizzes?

  3. ‘Siritual, not religious’ . Yes, it makes me want to scream, I hear it so often.
    This book will reinforce my prejudices admirably, I am looking forward to reading it.
    The ‘only half- believed reassurances’ are surely ones we are better off without, it is much less stifling to live without them.
    To say such beliefs are only important to oneself, a private matter, it’s just not true.

  4. Diana, I’m sorry, this Anonymous was me and I was too lazy to try to identify myself after ahrimanic forces hid my identity. Anyway, if I am spiritual or religious is a good question in this context! Until I read the article I had been playing with the idea to see or present myself as “spiritual” (religious isn’t even under consideration). In part because I enjoy and value experiences and phenomena which New Age movements and anthroposophy claims to be Spiritual. But I think it is better to let people with a “Higher Spiritual Agenda” use that trademark for their own purposes. I’ll stick with words like Art or Inspiration. Although I realize sthat there are spirits hiding in the latter word ;-)

  5. well if it’s you, Ulf, we should have a quiz! Or you could just come and talk to us, and that would be fun too :)

  6. Ha! I was wondering whether anonymous was someone anonymous or someone who’d been ahrimanically deprived of his or her identity. Sometimes you have a clue, from the comment itself, but this time, I didn’t.

    Is it the Dartington skeptics’ pub you’re talking about? That one seems so nice, but maybe it’s only because I’m slightly enamoured with that gnome https://twitter.com/#!/dartSITP. I’m ignorant about quizzes though.

    ‘Until I read the article I had been playing with the idea to see or present myself as “spiritual” (religious isn’t even under consideration). In part because I enjoy and value experiences and phenomena which New Age movements and anthroposophy claims to be Spiritual.’

    I, of course, started off with an aversion to the spiritual. Then realizing that it’s a concept that encompasses a hell of a lot of things, depending on who’s talking. But that’s also the problem — it’s sufficiently broad to be practically useless… even if you happen to enjoy some of the things some people might classify as spiritual.

    Good thing I have canineosophy to keep me on the right path.

  7. Yes, it is Dartington. We’ll have to see how the first event goes, and if anyone yells ‘denialists’ at us. Hopefully there won’t be any casualties.

  8. There is going to be a talk on rational mysticism in the pub, I think.
    Sam Harris has something to say on this -‘Criticizing religious irrationality is absolutely essential. But secularism, being nothing more than the totality of such criticism, can lead its practitioners to reject important features of human experience simply because they have been traditionally associated with religious practice.’
    I think he is talking about meditation. Something which I have discounted due to its religious associations.

  9. Yes, whilst also criticising irrational aspects.
    A waldorf student told us Stonehenge was probabably built using levitation and I think this comes in to anthroposophy somewhere.

  10. Oh dear!

    (Everyone knows, of course, that it was built to honour Dog. Something magnificent to pee on ;-) How it was built is another matter. Canine magic, I assume. Don’t tell anyone. But this is the truth.)

  11. Have you read this now?
    It is interesting but short.
    One of the conclusions is that we are talking here instead of sitting in church, and forming a virtual community to make up for the lack of ritual in modern life.

  12. Davis Webster says, ‘any denial of death’ and ‘ rather seeking to hide in the only-half-believed reassurances…’

    As regards the first, anthroposophists do not deny death – we celebrate it as a transition from one way of being to another. There is in no sense a denial of death.

    As regards the second phrase, I wonder how he knows that the reassurances are only ‘half-believed’. I wonder how one could securely demonstrate such a thing?

  13. David Webster is refering to a denial of death as final. Ceasing to exist.
    If spiritual people really believed in life after death , rather than only half believed in it, there would be no fear or dread of death for them. It would not be a big deal at all.

  14. ‘If spiritual people really believed in life after death , rather than only half believed in it, there would be no fear or dread of death for them. It would not be a big deal at all.’
    Most spiritual people I know, Catholics, Buddhists, Anthros, and those who do not give a name to their spirituality, are not afraid of death. What they may be afraid of is the pain and suffering associated with a terminal illness, leaving their children or other vulnerable people they love to manage without them, not being able to finish what they feel to be their life’s work etc.
    No-one has answered my question about how one can know that someone only ‘half-believes’ something. My problem is that this phrase seems to be doubting the integrity and good faith (in the sense that Sartre spoke of ‘good faith’) of people who hold certain beliefs. Perhaps someone can explain it to me differently.
    What is it like when we turn it round? ‘David Webster only half-believes what he says…..’

  15. Falk – The author uses the term ‘Faith-Lite’ and this is how I see ‘spiritual not religious’. It is a rejection of some of the more demanding aspects of traditional religion, but a reluctance to completely let go of a belief in the supernatural.
    If we separate those who call themselves religious, presumably your Catholic, and maybe Buddhist aquaintances, do you say spiritual people are certain about their beliefs?
    People I know who say they are spiritual usually just say ‘death is not the end’ or ‘there is a God of some kind’. It is very nebulous.
    Perhaps they would find it difficult to affirm their belief in ‘energy’ or ‘soul’ . That’s where a formal church environment has the advantage, it is easy to openly stick by your beliefs as part of a crowd.
    If you cannot specifically identify what you believe, how can you say you wholly believe it?

  16. I haven’t read the book, but I do enjoy the thought of the internet as a replacement for church. Especially the ethereal kiosk.

    falk — ‘As regards the first, anthroposophists do not deny death – we celebrate it as a transition from one way of being to another. There is in no sense a denial of death.’

    It’s certainly a kind of denial of the finality of death, isn’t it? A denial of a complete ceasing to exist — body, soul, spirit, I, whatever, *poof* gone. It’s a denial of that.

    For me, that is a big deal so I probably should go religious ;-) But I’m not sure to what extent religious/spiritual people differ from non-religious/non-spiritual people in this regard. It frankly freaks me out that you can come into existence and then stop existing. I’m not afraid of pain — mental, physical, spiritual or any other kind — associated with being dead, obviously. But this *not existing* is such an interesting thing. Freaky interesting. The fear, however, pertains more to the things *in life* that falk mentioned. To be ill, to suffer, to be alone, to be ill or dying in horrible circumstances. Fear of what happens in this life, not after death. But I’m not sure it’s so easy for my human mind to separate one kind of fear for the other. I always wonder what it must be like to be conscious and to know you have only days left. And things like that. To know that life is over and will never return. No more. Anyway, I shall not bore you.

    ‘As regards the second phrase, I wonder how he knows that the reassurances are only ‘half-believed’. I wonder how one could securely demonstrate such a thing?’

    Haven’t followed this, so maybe I’m stepping beside the path now, but doesn’t all doubt mean one does not fully believe? And how would one go about these things without doubt? I’m not sure — now, not knowing what this is really about — it doubts the integrity of the belief, rather that it says something that is perhaps self-evident. Helen’s question about people not really knowing what they believe is perhaps relevant though.

    ‘That’s where a formal church environment has the advantage, it is easy to openly stick by your beliefs as part of a crowd.’

    It may have been, earlier in history. Not sure it is for many people today. Being part of a crowd is not sufficient in a society which places a lot of focus on the individual, more than on group things.

  17. We can think of death as a consequence of life. And humans as just another species. This fact makes sense of life and death to me. I don’t mean to sound trite, I really do find our mortality is easier to accept in this context.

  18. It certainly is a consequence of life! I still find it as enigmatic — the not-existing business. The not being. I can’t even say if it makes sense of life and death to me — it’s somewhere beyond sense, I find. It’s like the universe and where it ends. I still can’t figure that one out. I’m not sure whether not figuring it out is comforting or not.

    (Btw, re the annoying comment box — I have investigated the issue again — it still works a little better if you place your marker inside the box and click enter many times so that the box is already large before you start writing, it then stays large. It doesn’t auto-collapse, which is at least better than before when it collapsed back to tiny all the time. If knowing this helps…! I hope it does.)

  19. I’m sure it doesn’t pay — but I’m not sure there’s a choice in this either, it’s basically nothing but childish thoughts from when I was tiny, lay in my crib bed at night, sleepless, watching and counting the patterns on the walls. I was beyond rescue even back then ;-)

    I guess one can focus on earthly things like putting food on the table for one’s children. And stuff like that. I’m utterly incapable of all these things. As you can tell.

    And I think one keeps thinking there’s a parallel life out there somewhere, a parallel life where you could have lived like a human and not an alien, and you feel that, perhaps, in order to have that kind of normality and the happiness of normality you really need one more life-time. I suppose it does exist, that happiness of everyday life. And I suppose it does offer some kind of ordinary life refuge from weird thoughts. But let’s say you can’t have that. Let’s say all you can do is watch other people live?

    Dear dog. I don’t believe in reincarnation. I’m just saying I find the belief in it quite plausible, and explainable even disregarding a factor of fear of death itself. It’s the feeling of wanting one more existance because this one was fucked up. Obviously, I don’t really want reincarnation. I’d hate to have to go through childhood again. Can’t understand why anyone idealises childhood. Awful thing to go through. Being among dreadful people and alternately wondering about the scope of the universe. Gets you nowhere, I tell you. Doesn’t make you competent at being a human.

  20. I wrote a different reply but I can’t be as generous as you.
    It is easy to imagine there is a competent or normal way of being a human, when in reality we all have to just struggle as best we can.
    Like the pliocene bloke stomping about in his cave.

  21. ‘I wrote a different reply’

    post it!

    ‘but I can’t be as generous as you.’

    I’m not generous, I’m egotistical. At least as far as my feelings about reincarnation go!

    I see competent human beings everywhere! ;-) No, but it’s true. Maybe they struggle — in some ways I think they struggle hard, much harder than I do, with their lives –, but they don’t put themselves outside life itself.

  22. Helen says, ‘People I know who say they are spiritual usually just say ‘death is not the end’ or ‘there is a God of some kind’. It is very nebulous.’ I do agree there are a lot of people with very nebulous beliefs. But that includes people who do not lay any claim to spirituality as well.

    Very few people indeed have the consistency and logic in their thinking of a Mr. Spock.

    Alicia says, ‘It’s certainly a kind of denial of the finality of death,’.
    Yes I would agree for many it is. But even for anthros, there is a finality in that nothing of what one was as a personality is carried over, maybe only the karmic intentions, and one isn’t always conscious of these in daily life
    One might love a friend who dies very dearly and believe they will be re-incarnated. They may have been a very gentle, kind person, maybe female, maybe intelligent and talented, but in the next life it is unlikely, (but not impossible) that they will be female. They may lack all the charm and talents that they had. They may be a very coarse and macho kind of man. Someone who you, as you are now, would find very difficult to like, let alone love. How would one even recognise the person one knew? The person one knew is gone. There is finality in death, even for people who believe in reincarnation.

  23. ‘How would one even recognise the person one knew?’

    That’s where karma comes in, again! To bring these people together. Not in their conscious decisions or awareness, of course.

    ‘nothing of what one was as a personality is carried over’

    Now, this is complicated. I assumed there was some kind of continuity, that the spirit (work upon which affects personality?) shone through, as it were, in some way. That the circumstances change, though, to challenge and so forth. Even if the challenge is to be another kind of personality, there’s something to the core of it that is the same.

    (Clearly, though, anthroposophy doesn’t offer the reincarnation I need — I must continue my window shopping in the spiritual market street ;-))

    But, anyway, I still think, with your picture, sure there’s a kind of finality — but certainly not the finality of *everything* being *completely* over. It’s the finality of this life and everything we know (being here, in life). But it’s not about complete, total finality. Something continues. And the difference is between nothing and something (no matter how incomprehensible and different that something is from what we can encompass with our minds now).

  24. ‘Now, this is complicated. I assumed there was some kind of continuity, that the spirit (work upon which affects personality?) shone through, as it were, in some way. That the circumstances change, though, to challenge and so forth. Even if the challenge is to be another kind of personality, there’s something to the core of it that is the same.’

    Yes! I could not have expressed it better myself. Something is the same, we call it the higher being. But it is not the same as the personality.

    And yes, with this personality, by grappling with all the difficulties associated with being me – all the selfishness, nastiness, creepiness – whatever it is that it is a challenge for me to transform – through that my higher self is strengthened. And when it incarnates again it is subtly different because of what I achieved in this life.

  25. In my rather sleepy state last night i refered to the higher being, Alicia uses the word spirit, you could also say the essence. Rudolf Steiner says in essence we are fire-spirits . These different words may help or they may not help at all!

  26. Well, exactly, the higher being or the reincarnating spirit. Or the essence or the core.

    Fire-spirits? Where does he say that? I thought fire-spirits were separate from human spirits? Though I have to admit that Steiner’s zoo of beings is still overwhelmingly confusing to me…

  27. It is a challenge to change ourselves for the better, whether it’s for a so-called higher purpose or just because we can see our faults and want to be nicer people.
    If someone wants to change in order to somehow make a difference after death, that is when it becomes religious, I would say.

  28. I’m not sure — but I think you ought to be able to choose! I’d rather be a fire spirit, I’m such a bad swimmer and a bit afraid of water and drowning.

    But, anyway, if it’s too late to live your life again, *in this life*? I just want some kind of life, and I think if you mess it up and place yourself outside life too early then it’s simply too late. You don’t get to start over. You can’t be a social 5 year old or even 15 year old who cares about *living* because you’re 35 and it’s TOO LATE!! You’ve missed the train. The only hope there is, is for there to be another life-time.

    Obviously, though, I’m not getting exactly that from anthroposophy anyway ;-)

    I’m not saying I believe it could happen. I’m only saying I can understand wanting it, and I understand wanting it for quite egotistical reasons. Not to correct my faults or be nicer, exactly, but just because this existence didn’t quite pan out, to be honest. I need a refund. I wonder where all the lost years went. Disappeared down the drain, it seems. Into a black hole. Darn.

    That feeling of watching life, not being or feeling part of it. It’s getting to me. It’s only because I’m quite happy. Oddly. When you aren’t, you don’t want life anyway.

    No, I don’t think once is enough when it comes to life.

  29. Which German filmmaker wouldn’t allow actors to do a scene again? As I remember, there was only one chance. But of course you could do another movie. If you have enough money. With enough effort you can perhaps also start a new life. Or perhaps a new chapter. I find the thread about the benefits of imperfection interesting in connection with this: http://bit.ly/MhYQcy And the wrongologist Kathryn Schulz TED talk about regret: http://bit.ly/st3i93

  30. That bit about changing/transforming oneself was really in reply to falk- not just spiritual people try to change.

    Everything I write back to you sounds wrong alicia so I won’t do it.
    But I love to read what you write.

  31. Helen — Perhaps I’m the one who should consider not to write blog comments. I mean it. I mess up. Because I always have to talk back. I’m compulsively defiant. And hopelessly egotistical. No, you didn’t write anything that sounded wrong to me. You wrote about an other aspect of it, and that is not wrong. It’s me. Really. I’m experimenting, with whatever, I don’t know, and am using and abusing the blog in the process.

    Ulf — I can’t find the next chapter because I’ve misplaced the book!! ;-)

    The imperfection thing got me thinking, though, it’s really good as far as spiritual outlook goes — far more interesting than many of its competitors. And as for regrets, one would think regrets would help stop oneself from wasting one more day, but unfortunately that’s not the case. And there aren’t lives lying about that you can just occupy. Unfortunately again. Wouldn’t that be great. Or perhaps not. It’s that effort thing, and you don’t really know change until it’s already happened. Which makes for imperfect strategies and imperfect efforts.

    By the way, and for no particular reason, I’m now reading Harry Martinson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowering_Nettle). It’s fantastic.

  32. Oh, good!! I’m relieved! My readers worry me, I often feel you take me more seriously than I deserve.

    This blog is sometimes just such an extravagance for me. It’s my ice-cream parlour, a champagne bar and an esoteric opium den — all in one. With gnomes.

  33. Falk wrote: “How would one even recognise the person one knew?”

    Sorry I have not read all this so I hope I am not picking up the wrong end of the stick here, but just as an aside, didn’t Steiner say that faces on the street all look familiar to us because they are all actually people we once knew? (Wouldn’t work for Alicia, I guess, or others who have trouble recognizing faces …) Just sayin’.

    I used to puzzle over that. People DO all look familiar once you start looking. I think it’s actually because we simply all look more alike than different. There aren’t really so many different facial types – at least, not in one geographic locale, though that’s changing. Steiner’s explanation is certainly more interesting.

  34. Alicia, says, ‘‘How would one even recognise the person one knew?’

    That’s where karma comes in, again! To bring these people together. Not in their conscious decisions or awareness, of course.’

    Yes, absolutely.
    If I am confronted with someone difficult I have to work that out in the here and now, I have to learn how to love that person out of the resources I find in myself as I am now, not as what I once was, which is why we usually have no remembrance of what we once were.
    Notice I said ‘love’ not necessarily ‘like’ – its different. I maybe being given a second chance to deal honourably with someone I once mistreated.
    Martin Luther King is terrific on the difference between loving and liking one’s enemies.

  35. It’s true, I’m bad with faces. Better with hair. But I constantly think I see people who are dead. It’s very odd. This, of course, is about people I’ve met in this incarnation…

    Maybe I’ve incarnated so many times I’ve met everyone already. Or so few times I’ve met almost noone ;-)

    Scary thought — you’ll never get rid of these people who are nuisances. On the other hand, the majority of people aren’t.

    And, of course, next time mr Dog will be the one walking me on a leash.

  36. I personally really dislike the religious exhortation to “Love your enemies,” Martin Luther King notwithstanding. There’s lots better advice than that for working out conflicts. If someone is truly an “enemy” the advice makes no sense whatsoever, and will merely rationalize abuse or masochism – or worse – people do all kinds of terrible things to people the supposedly “love.” But it’s better in a general (daily-life) sense to avoid imagining that one has “enemies” anyway, and work on conflict resolution or practical problem solving instead. I see little value to the “Love your enemies” advice there.

  37. Me neither. It’s healthier, I hope, to accept there are people you can’t love or even like, and that it’s bette to avoid them if you can or resist them if you can’t avoid them. To love seems to be to accept their actions. That said, it’s probably not a bad thing to get over seeing people as enemies too easily. Unless they actually are. The world is full of people, you don’t need to love the idiots; you can’t even love all the other billions of people. Ignoring them helps. Or they’ll help suck your life away.

    Anyway, there is something to be said for dealing with wrongs people have done and for realizing that sometimes, or even often, they weren’t ill-intended, just mistaken (or whatever).

  38. I’m pretty sure my enemies don’t love me nearly as much as I love them… well, to be more accurate, I love it when they cry…

  39. ‘To love seems to be to accept their actions.’

    Martin Luther King certainly did not accept the actions of those who opposed reform in the deep south of America. They were his enemies. By loving them he meant a number of things. He meant recognising that someone who does evil is not wholly defined by their evil actions. He meant recognising that people may genuinely see things differently even while resisting with all the fibres of one’s being the imposition of the opponents point of view.
    He certainly didn’t like the racists who oppressed the black people in America but he recognised their humanity and said that when the battle is won it is important not to try and humiliate those against whom one has struggled.

  40. It certainly depends on how you define this love. Of course nobody who does evil is *wholly* evil. But then… It also depends on how you define and determine evil. The acts are what we have to go on. The rest is virtually unknown.

  41. ” It’s healthier, I hope, to accept there are people you can’t love or even like”

    I think so. For me, when I hear smarmy platitudes such as “Love your enemies,” I think first of the effect of such junk imposed on small children. It’s a VERY bad idea to teach children to love their enemies. Shudder …. surely, I don’t need to paint you a picture, as to the potential wrong done here, and the mess this makes of a kid’s psyche.

    Indeed, it is much healthier to be able to recognize your feelings toward someone, whether it’s love, like, hate, or indifference, and realize that your feelings do not need to determine how you deal with them. It’s possible to deal perfectly well, on a regular basis, with people we don’t like at all, not one little bit. Anyone who’s ever had a job knows this. At the same time, it’s very easy to behave in a truly awful fashion toward someone you love dearly. Anyone who’s ALIVE knows this.

  42. Well, Falk, maybe this is semantics, then. I don’t consider the definition of “love” to include “understanding that someone who does evil may not be entirely evil” or “recognizing that other people may see things differently.” That’s not love, that’s just trying to get along with people. I think it’s a mystification, to insist that if we recognize that someone else sees something differently, we must “love” that person. It’s simply untrue. Or if it’s true, boy, I sure love a lot of people, and a lot of people love me!!

  43. Oh, and P.S., I don’t know what I’m talking about, either … nothing to see here, folks, move along, LOL

  44. I love a lot of quite dreadful people too. Using that definition! It makes it a bit complicated to say the least. There are so many other words to use for that; accepting, understanding, et c.

  45. To me it seems that there is not a trace of sentimentality in King’s use of the word love.

  46. It’s just trying to make the word “love” do too much work. In your interpretation, it’s a shorthand for “Respect people and try to accept and understand people and get along with them even when you disagree with them and realize that even if they do evil things, they are not entirely evil and … and … as I just demonstrated, we already have words for all those things. Mixing “love” into it is just a mystification; it’s usually a way to try to control people – children, in particular.

  47. I don’t recall that Martin Luther King ever concerned himself with speaking to children.
    In his writings and recorded speeches he was nearly always addressing civil rights issues and directing his comments to those struggling for freedom and equality, whether they be white or black.
    In the texts I have been referring to he is concerned to explicate what he thought the Christ meant when He said, ‘Love your enemies’. I don’t understand how that would be an attempt at mystification, rather the opposite.
    All religious utterances need ‘unpacking’ and that is what he was trying to do.

  48. But doesn’t Diana have a point in that a definition of love that encompasses so much makes love into the swiss army knife of feelings? It’s a tool that can do everything decently — and nothing well.

  49. I don’t think so. Even in the most ordinary context there is a difference between doing almost anything with love and doing it without love. Love can be a moral quality (not simply a powerful sentiment as I pointed out earlier), and it is this moral quality that Martin Luther King was talking about. All the things I mentioned as being within King’s definition of ‘love’ reference a moral stance in relation to one’s ‘enemy’ –

    ‘recognising that someone who does evil is not wholly defined by their evil actions.’ ‘recognising that people may genuinely see things differently’.
    ‘recognised their humanity’ ‘not to try and humiliate those against whom one has struggled.’

    Without the moral quality of ‘love’, why bother to do any of these things? Why would any of those things matter so long as you won the battle? Does anyone imagine such things mattered to a Ratko Mladic or a Radovan Karadzic?

  50. I don’t agree at all. I don’t think anyone does things such as “recognizing that people may see things differently” out of some mysterious, ineffable extra undefinable thing out there called “love.” That’s just bafflegab.

    If a person typically behaves with respect toward others, attempts to understand their differences, always attempts to get along, etc., that person has probably been raised that way. They have internalized ways of dealing with others as a result of how they have been dealt with themselves (i.e., by parents and teachers). They have strategies at their disposal for handling difficult interpersonal situations; they probably have inner reserves of patience, confidence, self-esteem etc., that permit them to react thoughtfully, rather than reacting instantly out of fear of punishment. They know the sorts of things to say and do in such a situation to defuse it. They know how to back away from a fight when necessary, or firmly stand their ground when necessary. They know how to manage anger, or fear, internally. They know things to say and do to calm down someone else who is reacting to a threat.

    Those are just a few possible mechanisms whereby someone might typically behave this way with others. They don’t do it because someone told them, “Love your enemies.”

    “Love” in that context, like so many other religious exhortations, is just an extra layer of rhetoric, and its main function is manipulative. I’d grant you that sometimes this is just semantics, and a person behaving this way might also have been taught, “Love your enemies,” but in that case, the word “love” is functioning as a sort of shorthand for a whole complex of behaviors and attitudes

  51. “Without the moral quality of ‘love’, why bother to do any of these things? ”

    This reminds me of the karma discussions, where anthroposophists lamely insist that karma doesn’t mean you can’t help someone who needs help; maybe “it’s your karma” to help them. Maybe! Go for it then! But so if you believed it WASN’T your karma … what then .. you wouldn’t help? What was the point of karma, again?

    This seems similar. So I’m having a conflict with someone, and I need to recognize that the other person may genuinely see things differently. Why would I do this? I would probably do it because I am capable of understanding that another person sees things differently, and I have tools and skills to work with the person despite these misunderstandings. I’m capable of taking a certain attitude in this situation; I’m capable of managing my own negative emotions or thoughts in a difficult situation.

    Do I need to tell myself I should do it because I “love” this person? Then I ask you, what if I DON’T love this person? Should I not do those things anyway? If not, then what use is this “love”? And if yes, then … what were you saying about the importance of “loving my enemies”?

    I can tell you the answer – no, you definitely don’t need to “love” anyone to be capable of sorting out a quarrel, learning to deal fairly and peacably with people who are different and whom you don’t even like, etc.

  52. altruistic behaviour is a strong human trait, also in chimpanzees. It’s evolution! Love not essential. Nice, sometimes – though sometimes manifesting as repulsively sentimental. In fact in that case insincere. And exhausting.

  53. ‘no, you definitely don’t need to “love” anyone to be capable of sorting out a quarrel, learning to deal fairly and peacably with people who are different and whom you don’t even like, etc.’

    Might it not even complicate things…? Love, I mean. Even if we’re going with a very broad definition — one which I still think becomes… watered down. Or rather: there are other words that better describes the attitudes that are involved.

    Well, I realized I forgot to get back to these comments because I searched for this thread for a reason. I remembered we talked about the word spiritual earlier in the thread. Now I found this new blog post by Sam Harris.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/a-plea-for-spirituality

    ‘We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.’

    Worth reading!

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