Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Missionary Position

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  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I always suspect that people who say stuff like "I'm not religious but I am very spiritual" are basically trying to have it both ways and see themselves as superior to both theists and atheists.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    was New Zealand on maps back then?
    seems implausible because, well, it was before we became blessed with the Reserve Bank Act.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 645 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    atheism is not a religious belief any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    Like.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    seems implausible because, well, it was before we became blessed with the Reserve Bank Act.

    Well played.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    I suppose "spiritual" is in the eye of the beholder. But to me it is the pleasure usually, one gets from a starry night or a kiss, or wax-eye tring to retrieve a fallen nestling and so on, and refusing to believe that a being has organised it all. Therefore Emma's :"A friend of mine put it like this: atheism is not a religious belief any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby." means that my spiritualism is not connecting to a god. I think I know what I mean???

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    But 'church' also has connotations which 'community' does not, and which members of the PA community might find offensive or simply discomforting. So why use it?

    If my use of that word has offended anybody I sincerely apologise. That was never my intent. My use of the word is more as " a place where people gather". And I used it, rather than community, because people choose to gather here. Admittedly you can also choose to be part of a community and, in hindsight, that may have been a better choice of word on my part.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I always suspect that people who say stuff like "I'm not religious but I am very spiritual" are basically trying to have it both ways and see themselves as superior to both theists and atheists.

    I can't remember where I read this, but anyway:

    "I don't believe in organised religion but I am spiritual" is an odd position. It's all of the baggage of superstition, without any of the benefits of community.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Do you have to be "spiritual" to derive pleasure from beauty or to experience wonder? Usually "spirituality" implies an awareness of something more than what can be experienced through the senses whether that be the hand of a deity or some sort of undefined magic.

    I wonder if, possibly because of our cultural history, we have a shortage of non-religious words to describe those breath-catching moments - I know I'll often describe something as "transcendental" or "good for the soul" or "making my spirit soar" because those phrases are the closest I can get even if not all the connotations fit exactly.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I think in the context of "I'm not religious but...", people are pre-emptively defending their claim to be a good and moral person with finer feelings.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    If my use of that word has offended anybody I sincerely apologise. That was never my intent.

    Sorry Stuart, I was explaining the reasoning for my own choice rather than trying to imply the reasoning behind yours. I've worked with administering web communities for scarily close to a decade now, and so I tend to think in those sorts of terms. When you're guiding a community or laying out guidelines for it, it pays to be very careful with language.

    Likewise, I guess I'd avoid the word 'spirituality' because it means such different things to different people. I once tried to use it to distinguish between religion (external, imposed from without) and beliefs or feelings that come from within, and ended up just offending everyone. When I say that something 'lifts my spirits' I don't mean it as in any way religious or mystical. But when people say 'oh, but you MUST be spiritual, everyone is', that's getting perilously close to religion IMO - imposing from without.

    "A friend of mine put it like this: atheism is not a religious belief any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby." means that my spiritualism is not connecting to a god. I think I know what I mean???

    That's not what I mean by it, or what the originator means by it. It's a statement about religion not spirituality. But I have no objection to it meaning that for you.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville,

    Once when moving into a new flat, my extremely tall flatmate found a pile of Watchtower mags hidden away in a top cupboard. We left them by the front door for a while, and the next time the JW's came calling it went something like:

    JW: "Can I offer you some interesting and informative literature?"

    Kev: "Nope. But have I got some for you!" <dump> <slam>

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 199 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    I can't remember where I read this, but anyway:

    "I don't believe in organised religion but I am spiritual" is an odd position. It's all of the baggage of superstition, without any of the benefits of community.

    Sounds kind of like William James in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience, where there is the distinction of the form of organised religion versus the human response of "spiritual" (which does mean different things to different people, a la Emma)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I know the word 'church' had a wider meaning than the strictly religious, as when people say things like 'feminism is a very broad church'. But 'church' also has connotations which 'community' does not, and which members of the PA community might find offensive or simply discomforting. So why use it?

    There are other metaphors I'd use for PA, but I have in the past described, to take one example, the dear old Windsor Castle pub as "our church".

    We used to go there for the things folks go to church for -- music, community and transcendence. Although our methods for transcendence probably wouldn't have pleased the vicar ...

    But people get that in various ways anyway. It's a great feeling to be part of a big match sports crowd, for example. You shout and sing and jump up and down and to some extent you lose yourself. And it turns out there are demonstrable benefits to that.

    This of course sometimes winds up in the disturbing spectacle of the "rave church" ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    I was going to clarify that it was the word spiritual that means different things to different people; not that Emma means different things to different people, but if the hat fits...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    I think the ODT once rather cruelly asked Helen Clark and Brian Turner about their belief in God. Turner waxed lyrical for several column-inches on the magic of the human experience as a kind of post-theological religion and the PM's office replied "the Prime Minister has not religious beliefs".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    but if the hat fits...

    ...I can leave it on?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    I studied - and practised- religion for nearly 30 years. And, quite literally one morning when I woke up, I thought- "There's nothing there. There's just humans striving to make a kind of sense of life, and order their own societies." And promptly became an atheist rather than an earnest seeker.

    But I learned a very great deal of history, and how people & societies can behave. It wasnt wasted effort or time at all.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    but I have in the past described, to take one example, the dear old Windsor Castle pub as "our church".
    We used to go there for the things folks go to church for -- music, community and transcendence. Although our methods for transcendence probably wouldn't have pleased the vicar ...

    Like the transcendental guy who sprang up from the dance floor at what was probably the second-to-last Toy Love gig at the Windsor and grabbed hold of one of those bloody great baronial wagon wheels suspended from chains, with three faux flaming torch light fittings, and brought the lot crashing down. A bona fide miracle that no-one got clipped. And the security guy ambled around afterwards, asking "Juicy who pulled that light down?" Even more miraculous, the same guy was back there the following night, unmolested by security and pogoing his arse off.

    Once when moving into a new flat, my extremely tall flatmate found a pile of Watchtower mags hidden away in a top cupboard.

    While I wouldn't be quite as hardline as Islander about the nature of the void/whatever, the notion of spending eternity in the badly art directed version of Switzerland that passes for paradise in Watchtower magazines is pretty resistable.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    ...I can leave it on?

    But not the packet o crisps..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    I find a simple, fierce 'PISS OFF' will suffice.

    Yeah, 'cos there's nothing people COLLECTING FOR CHARITY deserve more than a good shouting at.

    I find that telling people I'm not interested tends to work pretty well, without any raging or barking required. You know, acting with civility, and letting people keep their dignity, even if they have disrupted my peaceful enjoyment.

    But whatever works for you.

    What don't these people get about the concept of spirit being intangible?

    Science agrees.

    haha The best illustration of the human minds ability to compartmentalise I've seen in a long time. Neuroscience would have a feild day with your thoughts, I suggest submitting yourself for study.

    Jesus didn't have all that much to say about The Gays, perhaps that makes a difference to him.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 313 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Isobel - I have been coming back to your very insightful query all this evening and I'll keep on working on it. Because- it is a matter of language isnt it?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    My take on this is that religion is very interesting, but the people (particularly strangers) who bring it up are often not.

    I like to learn about other people's considered religious views and their spiritual experiences. It all goes into a big pot marked 'who knows' from which no conclusions need be drawn.

    I was recently reading Stephen Jay Gould's essay on non overlapping magisteria, and was struck by his polite and thoughtful treatment of the viewpoint from which he was dissenting.

    Since Nov 2006 • 785 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    To sort of reply to Andrew and andin's comments,

    Oh, Im a pussy cat I rarely snap at strangers especially in person.
    And usually when "spiritually" comes up I shut up and just enquiry politely about the brand. I dont eat old ladies for breakfast, am very selfless (Well I think I am) will help friends, strangers not with any idea that this will gain me some reward in an afterlife, but as an act of common humanity.
    The Golden Rule (do unto others) is a great principle regardless of its origin. And the fact that 2000 yrs ago such an idea should be a guiding ideal to be preserved and passed on, in the face the sheer brutality prevalent at the time, by anyone, is testament to their courage.
    And maybe the thought/idea that this is what their god wanted them to do so they did it, was all they had as the positive reinforcement in the face of terrifying odds they faced.
    But we dont live in those times (unless you're in range of Sharia law). And this really is a time when we as a species with a large brain capable of practicing empathy and compassion at a distance and on a large scale, purely because it is the right thing to do, should be doing just that.
    If we owe our ancestors anything it is to show we can mature as a species because we have the capacity to do so. We dont need any spurious supernatural reasons to do so, as perhaps they did.

    Emma you mum sounds like a lovely person(a product of her time and era as we all are I guess), but even nice people do things for maybe the wrong reason, and it doesnt do much harm.

    I just think self delusion is the wrong approach considering the times in which we now live. Truth and honesty in all things must be what we live by. For that reason I cant buy into any statements like spiritually means different things to different people( I just think relativism) Which is, I think, a product of the millenia of divisive tribalism that has dominated our recent past. And I will argue this point with people who are robust enough to hold a decent argument.

    Oh dear I can go on cant I. Sorry.

    Morgan says

    Science agrees.

    References please

    Jesus didn't have all that much to say about The Gays, perhaps that makes a difference to him.

    Your point being? I dont remember much about gays in Taoist or Buddhist philosophy either.
    Or are you just stroking your beard?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Jesus didn't have all that much to say about The Gays, perhaps that makes a difference to him.

    Your point being? I dont remember much about gays in Taoist or Buddhist philosophy either.
    Or are you just stroking your beard?

    That was a response to a supposed incompatibility between homosexuality and Catholicism, which is why Jesus' total lack of pronouncements on homosexuality might possibly be relevant.

    Buddhism, however, has plenty to say:

    Buddhist sexual proscriptions ban homosexual sexual activity and heterosexual sex through orifices other than the vagina, including masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand. Buddhist proscriptions also forbid sex at certain times - such as during full and half moon days, the daytime, and during a wife's menstrual period or pregnancy - or near shrines or temples. Adultery is considered sexual misconduct, but the hiring of a female prostitute for penile-vaginal sex is not, unless one pays a third party to procure the person.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    andin: I think Morgan was making the observation that science agrees that spirit is intangible. Which is literally true. A scientific observation of "spirit" of any kind would be earth-shattering.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

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