Humanists are often asked: Don’t you need religion/ God/ Gods to be spiritual?
I don’t think so, and neither does Andre Comte-Sponvile (“ACS”).
In his book, “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” ACS discusses this very question of atheism and spirituality. There are 4 main sections:
1. Can We Do Without Religion?
2. Does God Exist?
3. Can There be an Atheist Spirituality?
4. Conclusion: Love and Truth
Humanists are often uncomfortable with the word “spirituality”, since it is commonly used to describe new age beliefs and other kinds of superstition. Here, ACS reclaims the word “spiritual” to refer to the moral and emotional part of life.
Reading this book, I felt that ACS put into words beautifully what I had always known to be true. ACS states that people can do without religion, but they cannot do without communion, fidelity and love.
Throughout the book, ACS points out the (organised) religion is but one way in which people seek the company and support of a like-minded community. He also draws from various philosophers and cultures around the world to make his points, which means that this is not just an American- or European-centric work.
Growing up in an agnostic family, I rarely encountered organised religion and never felt the need for it. The question “Does God Exist?” never troubled me. But other readers may be interested in the arguments which ACS puts for and against the existence of a god.
For me, spirituality is the appreciation of life and nature; the understanding that we as humans are part of a vast universe. It is making the best out of your every day.
Each of us have a chance at this one life – and it is up to us to make the fullest use of it, hopefully in a way which also enriches the lives of others.
As Rudyard Kipling said: “[Fill] the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds worth of distance run!”
I’d recommend this book to everyone, it’s a small book at 200 pages but packed with meaning. I’ll be back for a re-read to better absorb various points.
Notes: Andre Comte-Sponvile is a French philosophy professor. The book was originally written in French, “L’esprit de la l’atheisme”.”The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” is available at the National Library, click here to find it at your nearest library branch.
This review was posted by Huifen, who is planning a HSS book/ discussion meetup about humanism and spirituality. Watch this space!