You Don’t Need God to Experience Spirituality August 31, 2014

You Don’t Need God to Experience Spirituality

In today’s edition of the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni raves about Sam Harris‘ new book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion because it offers a secular explanation of experiences people commonly attribute to a higher power:

Harris’s book, which will be published by Simon and Schuster in early September, caught my eye because it’s so entirely of this moment, so keenly in touch with the growing number of Americans who are willing to say that they do not find the succor they crave, or a truth that makes sense to them, in organized religion.

I’m not casting a vote for godlessness at large or in my own spiritual life, which is muddled with unanswered and unanswerable questions. I’m advocating unfettered discussion, ample room for doubt and a respect for science commensurate with the fealty to any supposedly divine word. We hear the highest-ranking politicians mention God at every turn and with little or no fear of negative repercussion. When’s the last time you heard one of them wrestle publicly with agnosticism?

The idea that spirituality isn’t reserved only for the religious must be a dangerous one for many theists. At one point, religion held all the answers (albeit false ones). Then science began slowly chipping away at the solutions that could be discovered through evidence… and religion lost some of its luster. If it loses the idea of transcendence, too, what does it have left?

I’m glad to see Harris offering his perspective on secular spirituality. It’s not the first stab at it and it surely won’t be the last. And every one of them makes religion a little less necessary for some people.


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