Atheism + Spirituality

I was brought up by an atheist father and a spiritual new-age Christian type mother. But despite the fact that my father is atheist, he periodically spoke about eastern philosophy and even had things like buddhas, prayer beads and a prayer wheel dotted around the house as ornamentation. He also had a small tapestry of green Tara – a buddhist meditation deity – hanging on the wall. So the idea of atheism and spirituality having the ability to be interlinked was never much of a far-fetched idea for me. What’s a shame is that my father rarely practiced the Buddhist teachings he found so interesting and I put this down to mental illness  My mother was a bit more traditional. My siblings and I all have biblical names because of her and she has had an altar in her room for as long as I can remember with a picture of a depiction of Jesus and crystals and stones laid out on satin.

 

prayer wheel

Tibetan Prayer wheel containing a scroll of meditation prayers or chants.

 

Although I prayed from time to time as a child, I realised at a fairly young age that I didn’t believe in God. My classmates and I used to make fun of our conservative Christian religious education teacher. I found the dogmatic depiction of a disciplinarian God ridiculous, the idea of Heaven and Hell and good and bad people…I liked philosophy as a teenager and probably as a child as well, so this just didn’t add up for me. But the older I got, the more I accepted that spirituality didn’t have to mean religion.

My mother has been a great influence for me, educating me about great spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Teal Swan. I remember watching a talk that Eckhart Tolle did about the present moment and people’s perpetual desire to escape it. The way I waited in queues changed after I heard that talk when I realised that impatience doesn’t benefit anyone and that there’s no point stressing over that which you have no control (easy when you’re in a queue, not so easy when you’re in the middle of a crisis!). Teal Swan fascinated me because her wisdom was born out of an absolutely horrendous childhood full of abuse and abandonment and it made me realise that almost anyone can take a terrible situation and turn it into a positive and prosperous future.

I dipped in and out of spiritual and self-help books in adolescence but didn’t have the discipline or maturity to really stick with it but the older I get, the more dedicated to spiritual reading and practice I become. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is one of my favourite books and it taught me a lot. What’s interesting is that the protagonist gains his wisdom and spiritual experience from indulgence and going against traditional buddhist practices. I’ve already mentioned Pema Chödrön’s The Places That Scare You multiple times on this blog and at the moment, I’m reading Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch – a book my mother got me. It contains conversations the writer has had with God upon asking questions he thought would go unanswered. It’s as if he’s channeled this wisdom somehow and it’s really interesting. Reading this book as an atheist is a bit funny because it all still makes sense to me for the most part. A lot of the time when I hear quotes that contain the word “God”, I substitute that for “higher self” or “the universe” in my head.

But the further I go into the book, the more I’m questioning what God actually means. Near the beginning of the book, God explains why the universe came about. God already existed but because it was all that was, it divided itself into multiple pieces to be able to truly experience and, hence, know itself. For a few years, I’ve believed that the purpose of life is to be a unique representation of the universe’s experience of itself so the fact that this description fitted in perfectly with what was written in the book left me stupefied. God explains that God is in all of us but that the only way to truly know this was for us to forget who we are and then remember. I view my life, in part, as being a spiritual journey. So I guess it fits that I’ll spend my whole life remembering who I am. We cannot know unless we experience what it is to not know. We cannot know love without fear, light without dark etc. Much of the book resonates with me deeply.

It’s made me wonder what people mean now when they say they believe in God. Is it possible they believe the same as I do? That God is everywhere, in everyone, is our higher selves, is the epitome of love? I like to keep an open mind. I subscribe to a couple of Christian YouTubers because I too have faith, just a slightly different kind. I also subscribe to Angel Souls on YouTube. Michelle does weekly angel card readings and also offers personal readings on her page. She’s so sincere and down to earth. I don’t know if I believe in angels but I do know that every video I watch of hers has a positive takeaway message and gives me inspiration to better myself and my life. Her most recent video for this week was so helpful for me because I am going through a breakup and trying to make positive change in my life.

 

 

The messages I took from this video are forming the framework for how I will cope this week now I am back in Edinburgh and single again. The past couple of days, a fog has clouded my brain, and I’ve felt blocked with black energy – I could barely get out of bed this morning to get ready to go to the airport. I’m hoping I can nip depression in the bud through spiritual practice and growth. Videos like these and the book I’m reading will facilitate that, which I’m so grateful for.

So am I actually an atheist? I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really matter. I think there are things which cannot be explained with words, they can only be felt. I believe in the soul, I believe in intuition. Heck, I might even believe in astrology and chakras if I’m in the right mood! I saw an interview with Stephen Fry once and he was asked lots of questions, primarily about God and religion which he seems to denounce. When asked about his opinions on spirituality, he said something along the lines of: “If you want to mess with crystals and stuff, that’s up to you.” I couldn’t understand how someone so obviously intelligent and insightful could dismiss the whole realm of spirituality with a wave of his hand, especially when there are so many gems of truth and wonder to be found that have the power to enrich the lives of so many. I actually had an argument about it with my boyfriend at the time, which was pointless.

“Don’t waste your time with explanations; people only hear what they want to hear.” – Paulo Coelho

It is near impossible to bring someone out of a spiritual stupor but I believe knowledge comes to you when you are ready for it and that these things can’t be forced. I remember how horrified I was when my mother told me years ago that she believed all physical ailments stemmed from the mind. I took this to mean that all illness is self-inflicted, from colds to cancer. Now I’m beginning to see the link between mental state and physical health but I don’t necessarily believe all physical illness falls into this bracket. I used to be very cynical and closed-off but the older I get, the more I remember who I really am – a source of love and compassion slowly becoming reacquainted with itself.

Thanks so much for reading! Do you practice spiritual teachings in any way? Or have you read any great spiritual books? Let me know!

– SMUT. ❤ xxxx

 

13 thoughts on “Atheism + Spirituality

  1. sadiewolf2014 says:

    Hi. I love this so much. I believe the same things you do, that we came down here to have a human experience and needed to forget who we were and then remember who we are, ‘spiritual beings’ or God. I have written stuff about this earlier in my blog, I could send you some links to my posts if you were interested.
    Have you read Journey to the East?
    Best wishes
    Rachel xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. oneblacktree says:

    Ah, reading this made me so happy! And then reading Sadiewolf’s comments too. 😍 You perfectly put into words what I believe. This is beautiful: “a source of love and compassion slowly becoming reacquainted with itself.” ❤️

    Here are some of my favorite spiritual books, all with similar ideas to Eckart Tolle, Pema Chödrön and Neale Donald Walsch:

    The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
    Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer
    Awareness by Anthony de Mello
    Radical Accepatance by Tara Brach
    A Course in Miracles Made Easy by Alan Cohen
    A Religion of One’s Own by Thomas Moore
    The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
    The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyhal Rinpoche

    Liked by 1 person

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