Spirituality naturalized

In Bioethics we’re taking a study-and-reflection day, between texts. We’ll recap Campbell’s Basics, look at some links, work on group reports, and get ready for next week’s commencement of Life at the Speed of Light. Sounds ambitious. Are we trying to play Craig Venter?

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Speaking of Godlessness, today in A&P we’ll put The Really Hard Problem of meaning for atheist-materialists behind us. There’s an excellent discussion of the issue in Julian Baggini’s very short introduction to Atheism, a very good little book we read two years ago inA&P.  His “heathen manifesto” echoes Owen Flanagan on many points. 

Many people do not understand that it is possible to lead a meaningful, happy life as a heathen, but we maintain that it is and can point to any number of atheist philosophers and thinkers who have explained why this is so. But such meaning and contentment does not inevitably follow from becoming a heathen. Ours is a universe without guarantees of redemption or salvation and sometimes people have terrible lives or do terrible things and thrive. On such occasions, we have no consolation. That is the dark side of accepting the truth, and we are prepared to acknowledge it. We are heathens because we value living in the truth. But that does not mean that we pretend that always makes life easy or us happy. If the evidence were to show that religious people are happier and healthier than us, we would not see that as any reason to give up our convictions.

Flanagan defends the expressive rights of the religious, but insists that assertion be more circumspect and evidence-driven. His final paragraph on naturalized spirituality and transcendence points us constructively towards our next texts, beginning with his fellow Blue Devil Alex Rosenberg’s Atheist’s Guide to Reality and proceeding to Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality and Carl Sagan’s Varieties of Scientific Experience. 

Happiness, flourishing, and meaning reside in the vicinity of embodying ideals of the human good that connect me to a goal beyond my own personal desires, and that are inclusive of all actual and future persons (possibly of all sentient beings)…

It’s a big, meaningful, natural cosmos, we’re at home in it, and that’s something to sing about. How much more spiritual do we need to get?
Well, we could pull up a pew at the School of Life or (closer to home) Sunday Assembly.

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