Spirituality - from a Skeptical Believer's Point of View
Leitner, Gloria J., The Humanist
The typical humanist's view of spirituality astutely (and sometimes mockingly) pokes holes in the New Age nostrums that are only too prevalent nowadays.
Such disparagement is certainly merited when spiritual belief becomes an ideology that blocks scientific and rational judgment. When spirituality is wedded to dogmatic belief in "alternative" healing and equally dogmatic rejection of proven medical methods, a healthy skepticism is truly urgent in terms of both saving money and (at times) saving lives.
However, too often an forms of spirituality are automatically regarded in a thoroughly negative light--with the unspoken attitude of "how can an intelligent person in the twentieth century believe any of that spiritual hogwash?" The underlying assumption seems to be that all spiritual believers are fools, duped by the tricks of their own psyche or the brainwashing tactics of a blind circle of guru-worshippers.
Indeed, the Japanese subway gas attacks by the Om Shinrikyo cult seem to lend credence to the wisdom of such a radically skeptical point of view. One doesn't have to go that far to find more pervasive (if less fatal) examples of New Age nonsense in the United States and Europe.
And yet, the humanist must come to terms with the scientifically oriented person who also embraces spirituality (not an oxymoron, I assure you). A humanistic stance of socio-psychological debunking (and often unintentional condescension) doesn't begin to meet the real issue at hand. It doesn't deal with the question of what the content of the spiritual experience is or why it's so sought after in apparently every country on earth and in every era in history.
An inner experience of great magnitude, depth, and joy should not be dismissed by the rationalist as completely without basis in reality. Granted, the interpretation of such an experience is often couched in miraculous religious terms or, in the case of New Age spirituality, in paranormal lingo. Angels, channeled entities, divinities from the astral plane, cosmic knowledge--all of these can be scoffed at as superstitions. They can be dismissed as ridiculous explanations from a scientific point of view.
But something does occur inside many people during spiritual and religious experiences--something that profoundly buoys the soul and brings beauty and a feeling of sanctity and harmony into one's life. To those humanists who cannot fathom such an experience, I would like to convey a taste of the subjective validity, the profound ecstasy of spirituality (for example, in meditation or devotional singing). I would like to communicate a taste of the rich inner world of transcendence to those so enamored of the intellect as the sole arbiter of reality that the very existence of spiritual experiences is doubted or denied--or else explained away psychologically, neurologically, or culturally as something inferior and indeed delusionary.
Avoiding an either/or philosophy about spirituality is indeed difficult in today's divisive world. It seems that, if you're not a spiritual believer, you're a spiritual skeptic, and each one cannot admit the other into his or her world.
This is the same kind of rigid blindness that infected the church in medieval days, when pioneers in astronomy and biology were viewed as practically envoys of the Antichrist. Today's radical humanists, in asserting categorically that there is no such spiritual realm of soulful, heart,felt uplifting, are in effect; blotting out much of humanity's inner wealth and motivation.
No wonder there is a religious fundamentalist revival as well as a large upswing in New Age spiritual beliefs. When the intellectual elite (in many people's minds, identical with technocrats, scientists, and "secular humanists") habitually and acerbically down, grades the inner nonrational world, then spiritual believers become alienated from technology and science. They become polarized into an anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-western medicine point of view, which in turn becomes identified with spiritual traditions and practices. …