Spirituality can be a very vague term and has many unique definitions depending on who you ask. It is often assumed to be connected to religions, but some might disagree. Spiritual atheists aren’t religious at all but instead, believe in “spirit” by another definition.
To put it simply, a spiritual person is someone who is not concerned with material matters. They are concerned about the universe itself and use this feeling to navigate their days. This can be called an “energy”. We all have our own energy, as does the universe. Energy can be a feeling, an emotion, or just a “vibe”.
What Is a Spiritual Atheist?
A spiritual atheist is someone who, unlike a religious person, does not believe in any “God”. Instead, they believe in a higher consciousness that cannot be represented as a physical being. They believe the universe governs itself through actions and intentions.
This spirit flows amongst us all and connects everyone and everything on every scale, from minor coincidences to major global changes. Spiritual atheists believe each person has a soul that should be tended to, and a hard to define spirit which flows amongst us, similar to the energy, but more personal and unique to the individual.
Spiritual atheists believe in ideas like Karma, which govern us through consequences equal to our actions. If you put good into the universe, you will have a good life in return. This contrasts with the religious idea that God decides our fate.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson considers himself a spiritual atheist and in one famous quote, explains why the universe connects us all and why our lives are more meaningful than they might seem at times.
He says: “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. And to the rest of the universe, atomically.”
In our modern times, religion is becoming less popular, especially among young people. The advances in science can make religion seem unappealing, and yet still, we crave meaning. Spiritual atheists find meaning in their lives through devotion to the universe, others and themselves. Their purpose is to improve, nurture and learn in order to reach their true path.
The Butterfly Effect
Spiritual Atheism can be linked to the Butterfly Effect – both a spiritual and physics-based theory. Spirituality and science are becoming more linked, and this is no exception.
The butterfly effect tells us that the tiniest of actions, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, can have massive impacts. It may be far in the future or far away, but every action has a reaction.
In spiritual terms, this means a spiritual atheist is more compassionate and considerate of the world around them as well as themselves. They are aware of their actions and behave intentionally to influence the world in their chosen way.
How Does a Spiritual Atheist Think?
Spiritual atheists are more aware of their thoughts and mental state than others. They may practice meditation to help them understand themselves and discover their true purpose.
They are deep thinkers and often philosophers. It means that they seek to answer the most important questions in life without relying on the idea of a physical God. Instead, they take responsibility for their own lives.
Spiritual atheists govern their own lives using their own rules, which typically develop around their core values and priorities. These tend to include matters such as kindness and compassion for other beings.
These values dictate their behavior in order to create positive karma for themselves and add positivity to the world around them. This differs greatly from religion, where the rules they must live by are dictated in scripture.
The beliefs of spiritual atheists are similar to those of the Buddhists. Buddhism is a path to enlightenment and living life well. It is often misunderstood as worshiping Buddha, but true believers will note that the intention is to follow in his path, not pray and devote themselves to him.
Why Spiritual Atheism Makes Sense
Ultimately, being a spiritual atheist is a way to add meaning and value to your life without relying on the structure of religion and debating the rules it sets. For matters such as the clothes we wear and even the food we eat, religion can feel outdated. Spirituality allows us to stay connected to the universe and each other without the obstacle’s religion brings.
The issue of an all-powerful and almost supernatural “god” choosing who lives or dies or suffers and succeeds is widely debated. With spirituality, we understand that we are in charge of what happens to us.
Through matters like Karma, the butterfly effect and responsibility, we dictate what happens to us. It also brings comfort to the suffering we don’t feel we deserve, by explaining that the universe cannot always be predicted.
We put faith in the idea that everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t see it yet. Each moment of our lives is connected, and one tragedy could change our lives for the better eventually.
Why It Encourages Self-Improvement
Spiritual atheism encourages self-betterment, while some complain that religion does not. Instead of reliance on an external God to “guide us”, we take responsibility for our own actions and the consequences involved. This encourages compassion for our fellow beings, the desire to work on ourselves and more self-awareness.
Spiritual atheism can seem to be a complicated concept and may differ in the mind of each person, but it is simple at heart. It is the belief that the universe is connected and that our actions, thoughts, and intentions have an impact on ourselves, others and the world around us.
Spiritual atheists believe in being positive influences on all scales to better themselves and the way they live. They work towards enlightenment, which will allow them to discover their true purpose on this Earth.
Between this and their values and morals, a spiritual atheist will devote their lives to achieving these goals and living as fully and as well as possible.
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This Post Has 7 Comments
Thank you for distinguishing between spiritual and natural atheists, those who believe in spiritual things and those who do not (physical nature alone). The same can be done with religious people and theists, those who believe in reality and those who do not. I have not met anyone who can prove or disprove God, or explain how everything came into existence, so it is at least reasonable to believe in the possibility of a creator, and their continued involvement in our world. But when that belief contradicts reality as we experience it, some religious people chose to believe it anyway…what might be considered ‘unrealistic religion…’ analogous to what Spiritual Atheists would call non-spiritual atheists. But like Spiritual Atheists, Realistically Religious people recognize there’s something more to this universe than physical science can explain, but they do not believe in things that are impossible.
As for religion in general, a commonly recognized definition for it today is, “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,” which can be said for most of the Spiritual Atheists you mentioned…so they are actually religious too. That is why it is so important to clarify what you mean by ‘religious;’ there are many atheists that are religious too. So you might consider any combination of the following terms: Realistic/Unrealistic, Spiritual/Natural, Theist/Atheist and Religious/Secular. In that respect, there are several logical combinations, from Religious Buddhists who are typically Spiritually Realistic Atheists, to cultural/non-religious Jews who can be Realistic, Secular, Natural Atheists. I myself am a Christian that is a Realistically Religious, Spiritual Theist, but I am aware of a lot of professing Christians that seem like Unrealistically Religious Natural Theists…which I think your article might have only labeled, ‘religious.’
Excellent article. I am very glad that I came across this post. This article just describes me in all aspects.
Enjoyed the reading. I often ask people with a somewhat open mind how is it any life form doesn’t have a “battery.” How is it that zillions of atoms not only hold together but allow such a life form like humans? I could keep going but just want to share that the LORD has a great gift for atheists – agnostics – anyone with a somewhat open mind to look at the now open book of truth, described in Daniel11truth. It was promised not so much of the religious establishment (they tortured and nailed HIM to a cross), but for
anyone in these final day to read verse by verse coming true right before our eyes. I hope and pray that anyone even slightly moved will take a look as we are at the final passage before the abomination of desolation which is at the 6th seal and the rapture. Why would HE give us this gift? “So HIS house will be full. Days afterwards will not be enjoyable. Thanks for allowing this post.
the spiritual path, as the path it is has many different landscapes along all the different steps.
the wideness of the spirit allows all of us to walk different paths, different ways to achieve the same objective.
We all belong to the same source.
When the way gets closer to the end, everyone at a given point is revealed.
This is the personal meeting with the truth.
Many brothers have already reach this place, all of them already meet the creator.
Many brothers, not.
This is already written and explained in all the different sacred books of any effort of religious or mystic approach to the mystery of consciousness.
Then, faith it’s just a tool we have. And we can use for mystical purposes or for life purposes. You apply faith on uncertainty. That is why who already know the truth, doesn’t need faith on a god or on something religious. Still need the faith to continue, as “to know” is not the end of the way.
The end of the way, surely doesn’t rely on the current experience, but on the attitude of a vast record of actions, together with the nature of the “self”, the evolutionary unit assuming the experience of existence.
Every spiritual atheist is in the path for sure, the mystery is at which stage of this path you are?
The best is to release the weight of assumptions, remove programs installed by the miss-use of tools like “I am” or “I think that”, slowly detach from permanent connections of personal inter-dependency, and learn for sure what is “to give”.
You say that a spiritual atheist doesn’t believe in any God but what you describe suggests otherwise. You write of a higher consciousness that cannot be represented as a physical being. That exactly describes God – except when he entered his world in the form of one of us 2,000 years ago. You also say the universe governs itself through actions and intentions. Only a mind or consciousness – i.e. God – can have intentions, who carries out actions such as creating our universe and us. You say a spirit flows amongst us all and connects everyone and everything on every scale. That’s exactly what Christianity teaches – we are all interconnected, and the good and bad actions of individuals positively or negatively affects everyone else. You say spiritual atheists believe each person has a soul. So does Christianity. You say if you do good, you’ll have a good life in return. This, again, is exactly what Christianity teaches – both a good earthly life and a good afterlife.
So you’re essentially describing God and Christianity, but you don’t want to abide by the ethical and moral teachings, rules, and commandments that God laid down.
Christianity also is the only belief system for which there is good, hard evidence. (See or read Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.) Ignore that evidence at your peril.
This sounds like pantheism
“A spiritual atheist is someone who, unlike a religious person, does not believe in any “God”. Instead, they believe in a higher consciousness that cannot be represented as a physical being.” All this tells me is that you believe in God, but don’t like using the word God. Also ideas like Karma and meditating to discover your true nature are from Dharmic religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. So what exactly is “spiritual atheism” again?