James Phil Oliver Department of Philosophy Middle Tennessee State University [email_address] " Delight Springs " - http://delightsprings.blogspot.com/ " [email_address] " - http://osopher.wordpress.com/ And follow me on Twitter @osopher * * but of course ( as Brian Cohen said ) you don't have to follow me, you don't have to follow anybody. "With few exceptions, there is no need to invent new values. What we need to invent, or rather reinvent, is a new fidelity to the values that have been handed down to us, which it is our responsibility to pass on. In effect, we have contracted a debt to the past that can be repaid only to the future." Andre Comte-Sponville, Little Book of Atheist Spirituality
New course, Spring 2010- Philosophy 4800.3 Readings in Philosophy: Atheism and Spirituality "I'm not religious. I'm spiritual." We've all heard people say that. Perhaps you've said it yourself. But what does it mean? Can an atheist say it? What, precisely, do atheists believe-- and believe in? What makes a non-religious person "spiritual?" This course will tackle these and many other questions drawn from reflection on philosophical texts from Epicurus , Pascal , David Hume , Kierkegaard , Nietzsche , Bertrand Russell , and John Dewey , (among others), as well as more recent writings and public polemics involving "New Atheists" Richard Dawkins , Christopher Hitchens , Sam Harris , and Daniel Dennett . We''ll hear from Julia Sweeney about "letting go of God" and gaining new spiritual perspective. We'll look at the humanistic and skeptical traditions of doubt, and we'll also consult the wisdom of the late Carl Sagan, whose posthumous Varieties of Scientific Experience echoes, honors, and complements William James's Varieties of Religious Experience . And we'll wonder if the Brights live up to their name. Contact Dr. James P. Oliver (firstname.lastname@example.org, 898-2050, 307B JUB) for information and further details.
Purpose of course . Our purpose, most simply stated, is to understand the concept of "spirituality" and how it may be invoked by those who renounce belief in a transcendent Deity. What does it mean to be "spiritual, not religious"? Specifically, what does it mean for an atheist (humanist, naturalist, secularist)? Required texts: *Comte-Sponville, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality (AS) *Solomon, Spirituality for the Skeptic (SS) *Hitchens, Portable Atheist (PA) *Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (UR) *Hecht, Doubt: A History (DH) Recommended : *Wright, Evolution of God (EG) *Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: a work of fiction (AE)
JAN 19 - "Varieties of experience," religious & scientific: William James, Carl Sagan , and the question of atheistic spirituality. TBA 21 - Humanists, Naturalists, Brights, New Atheists, and Julia Sweeney: spiritual conversions. TBA 26 - Unweaving the Rainbow, UR -37 28 - Atheist Spirituality & Spirituality for the Skeptic, AS -28, SS -27 FEB 2 - Portable Atheist & Doubt: A History, PA -xxvi, DH -xxi Happy Groundhog Day! 4 - Greek spirit. DH -44 9 - Jewish spirit. DH -85 11 - Asian spirit. DH -124 16 - Roman, Christian, Zen doubt, Hypatia. DH -215, PA: Lucretius 18 - Muslims, Jews, Christians. DH -263. PA: Omar Khayyam 23 - Renaissance, Inquisition, Reason. DH -370. PA: Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Boswell. Presentations begin. 25 - Freethinking & science. DH -427. PA: Shelley, Mill, Marx, Twain, Darwin. EXAM #1. Presentations continue.
MAR 2 - Cosmopolitanism. DH -494. PA: Conrad, Hardy, Goldman, Lovecraft. Presentations continue. 4 - PA: Van Doren-Einstein-Russell-Gardner. Presentations conclude. Essay #1 due from non-presenters. Happy Spring Break! 16 - PA: Sagan-Shermer-Dennett 18 - PA: Anderson-Weinberg-Warraq 23 - PA: Harris-Grayling-Ali 25 - Unweaving the Rainbow, UR -65 30 - UR -144, EXAM #2 APR 1 - UR - 257-313 (Recommended: 145-256) 6 - Spirituality for the Skeptic:Passion, Cosmic Trust, Rationality. SS -73 8 - Tragedy, Fate, Death, Transformation. SS -140 13 - Atheist Spirituality: God? AS -133 15 - Love, Truth. AS -206
Parade Magazine 's recent poll on religion and spirituality in America seems to confirm the increase of “spiritual, not religious” folk... 1. Which of the following best describes you? I consider myself a religious person 45% I'm not religious but I observe the holidays/traditions of my religion 17% I'm not religious but I am a spiritual person 24% I'm neither religious nor spiritual 14% Whatever they call themselves, though, Americans in great numbers continue to attest a belief in a God, a transcendent supernatural creator, or some other higher unseen power. 8. Which best represents your personal belief? I believe in God 69% I believe there is some unexplained higher power 12% I believe there are many different gods 4% I believe God exists only in our hearts 4% I’m not sure if there’s a God 7% I do not believe in God 5%
And yet, 59% said that “all religions have validity.” Really? All??
But... Atheism is on the rise in America and other "Western" nations. A recent poll indicated that the "non-affiliated" went from 8% to 16%. These are not all atheists and include others that may have an "I don't care" type of religious belief. Traditional faiths are declining and the non-religious are rising. PEW survey http://religions.pewforum.org/reports American Humanist Association Some people find that small statistical shift very threatening. Sickening, even...
Before we go any further, we need to clarify our terms. My starting-point here is the philosophy of William James, who defined as religious “the feelings, acts, & experiences of individuals in their solitude...” Spiritual - “susceptibility to ideals, but with a certain freedom to indulge in imagination about them...” Religious experience - “any moment of life that brings the reality of spiritual things more home to one...” Spirituality is the link of continuity between every human breath, every moment, and every epoch. It is what binds the personal, the social, and the philosophical. Life, as James says, is a chain: a flowing stream of succession to which we may contribute, not only through the spires of our genes but more overtly in our voluntary devotions and ideals. The living breath that measures our moments and days also marks the distance between an attentive present, coveted futures, and life's remote denouement. Respiration, inspiration, and aspiration are entwined aspects of the vision of life as a chain.
This book is about the centrality for life of personal enthusiasms and habitual "delights" and their power to make our days meaningful, delightful, spiritual, and even transcendent. Such enthusiasms, or subjective ways of reacting to life and upon it, are natural for us. They are at the heart of a vision of life at once spiritual and deeply rooted in "the open air and possibilities of nature." When our days become pale, tedious, or abstract, they sponsor our "return to life" in all its rich, robust, and personal concreteness. The natural provenance of such enthusiasms distinguishes them from the putatively supernatural incursions of convulsive "Enthusiasm" that Harold Bloom finds at the core of "the American Religion ." This approach finds nothing incongruous about nature and spirit in harness together. In fact, "the conception of spirit, as we mortals hitherto have framed it, is itself too gross to cover the exquisite tenuity of nature's facts." We, in our teeming subjective particularity, are nature's most exquisite natural fact. We personalize nature...
The Late paleo-biologist Stephen Jay Gould's “NOMA” Non-overlapping majisteria view has inspired contention and ridicule...
“Child abuse” is a harsh phrase, “childhood indoctrination” only slightly less so...
Plato's dialogue Euthyphro raises classic questions about free-thinking and loyalty to received traditions and authorities...
Some think a “paradigm” is a good insulator from criticism.
Sam Harris says “moderation” gives cover to extremists.
My definition of spirituality : whatever sense of attachment or relatedness gives you-- you in particular-- a feeling of being at home in your world. For me, in particular : it's a feeling of continuity with the long chain of life, stretching far into the pre-human past and projected to stretch far into the remote, unimaginably long future.
John Dewey 's “natural piety” “ The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received, that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.” A Common Faith
Future of the future – cosmic calendar Long Now Foundation Michael Chabon on the clock of the long now