Why Haven't I Written More About Secular Spirituality?

Meditation calm above the city

Spirituality is a topic I haven't written much about. This might seem odd because I do have some interest in secular spirituality. I've thought of writing about it many times but always seem to pull back. Of all the posts I've started and abandoned before finishing, most relate to this topic.

There are a few reasons for my reluctance, but I'm not sure any of them are good reasons. I'm also not sure I'm willing to let any of them hold me back much longer. In this post, I'll take a look at three of these reasons and see if I can set them aside.

Spirituality Is Hard to Define

The first reason I haven't written more about spirituality is that it isn't easy to define. I have seen definitions of secular (vs. religious) spirituality that resonated with me. They emphasize things like awe, transcendence, and interconnectedness. They often center around the belief that there is something greater than oneself. This doesn't imply gods; the vastness of the universe works as well.

I find that most of these definitions fit well within humanism. The concept of interconnectedness is a great example. If we're all interconnected, empathy, compassion, and kindness seem like good ideas.

Still, consensus has been elusive. Two people could refer to "spirituality" or "spiritual" experiences and mean different things. Since writing relies on shared meaning, this presents a problem.

As something we experience, spirituality seems so subjective. You and I could have very different experiences and both consider them spiritual. Can we both be right? The boundaries around whatever we want to call spirituality are quite fuzzy. Where does it turn into something else?

But why should definitional confusion, subjectivity, or unclear boundaries be a deterrent? Love suffers from all the same problems, and that hasn't stopped anyone from writing about it! And of course, none of these things stop other people from writing about spirituality. If I want to write about it, I need to learn how to push through this.

I Am Detached From Spirituality

The second reason is a more personal one. There was a time in my life when I thought about spirituality often. I thought about it when I was a believing Christian, and I didn't stop when I realized I no longer believed in gods. I'd lost the religion, but I wasn't sure about the spirituality. Did I have to lose that too, or could I salvage something? Was spirituality relevant to atheists? Did I want it to be relevant to me?

The problem is that this was a very long time ago. I haven't written more about spirituality because it hasn't seemed as relevant. I abandoned my quest to understand it. I grew up and got busy. I had too many things competing for my attention. I pushed spirituality into the background without being aware I was doing so.

To write about it now could mean returning to an earlier time in my life to pick up where I left off. This wouldn't be easy, but I could do it. I have to admit that I am still curious about where it could lead.

Then again, I'm not sure it would have to mean any of this. I could focus on the here and now, not worry about the past, and see what I could make of it. Once again, this doesn't seem like a good reason not to write about spirituality.

My Fear of Negative Reactions

Now we come to the worst reason, and the one I'm embarrassed to admit. I have been reluctant to write about spirituality because I expect negative reactions. All I can say in my defense is that this expectation derives from experience.

Plenty of atheists have strong negative reactions to the topic of spirituality. Some look up simplistic definitions online and pounce on any mention of religion. They ignore my use of the "secular" specifier. Religious spirituality is out there, but that's not what I'm writing about.

Other atheists can't get past the word. They believe "spirituality" implies the existence of spirits, which they reject. I can understand this because I don't like the word either. I wish there was a better one. I don't believe in spirits either, but I don't view secular spirituality as relying on them.

Many skeptics equate spirituality with woo. I can't say I blame them. Much of it is woo. "Spiritual" is often used as an umbrella label for all sorts of New Age woo. That is bound to happen with fuzzy concepts.

That's enough about atheists and skeptics. What of religious believers? How many of them will have any interest in what an atheist thinks about spirituality? Some will think I'm encroaching on their territory. Others will assume I'm ignorant on the subject (which may be accurate).

Negative reactions present a challenge for me because I'm ambivalent about the topic. If I was more certain that secular spirituality had value to me, I'd dismiss the negative reactions. But I'm still trying to sort out whether it has any relevance. Isn't that a good reason to write about it?

Besides, it isn't like I don't write about controversial subjects. I get plenty of negative reactions, and I know how not to let them bother me. In fact, I'm pretty good at it most of the time. As far as reasons for not writing about something, this one is quite pathetic. And so, I'll not let it deter me.

For more on secular spirituality, see Awe of Nature is One Component of My Secular Spirituality.

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay