Godless Living

Living a fulfilled life without God

Mysticism and Atheism – Can They Coexist?

As a godless individual, I still have wonder.  I’m still in awe of our existence and the mystery of consciousness.  I still wonder if there’s more to all of this than meets the eye.  However, none of this leads me to accept religious beliefs created by men or an idea that there is a supreme being behind all of this.  I sometimes wonder if I’m different from a lot of atheists in this respect.  I think there is a certain portion of atheists that feel pretty certain that there is absolutely nothing more than what one can see.  While I agree that we shouldn’t cling to beliefs about things without proof, I don’t necessarily assume that just because I can’t see something that nothing else exists.  As an example, I recently heard a statistic that only 4% of our universe is made up of matter… the subject of much of our scientific knowledge.  The rest of the universe is made up of dark matter, dark energy, etc. of which we know very little.  There’s just so much we still don’t know about our universe.  I think this sense of wonder contributed to the formation of many of our religious beliefs, but it doesn’t do that for me.  Rather than trying to explain it in terms of religious belief, I just let it be what it is… wonder… awe… mystery.  I’m perfectly content without making it more than what it is.

I’m finding that this isn’t something many atheists talk about since it seems to speak about things we don’t know.  I think what often goes unsaid in atheism is what we don’t know.  Our focus is usually around showing everyone why we think their religion is false and all that we do know.  It may be an easier message for people if we’re quicker to admit that there are still many things unknown and much mystery around our existence… we just don’t think the religions do a very good job at explaining this.

Am I alone in these thoughts or can any of you reading this relate?  I still find myself enjoying things like meditation, mindfulness, and other things some people would call spiritual (even though I don’t call it that).  There’s a part of me that is still somewhat of a mystic.  I still enjoy some practices and teachings of eastern religions.  The difference between me and a religious person is that I don’t make claims of things I don’t know.  As an example if  during meditation I’m overwhelmed by a sense of peace, I just say, “I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace” rather than “God gave me a sense of peace.”  Does that make sense?  I just say what it is without adding to it.  I don’t imagine that many atheists find themselves here, but part of who I am and who I have always been includes this deep-thinking, somewhat mystical aspect of myself that really hasn’t gone away.  I don’t see where this really conflicts with atheism.  I still don’t hold a belief in a God… I just still often find myself with a large sense of wonder.  Can anyone else relate to this?

After writing this, I found this link where Sam Harris discusses what he refers to as “rational mysticism”.  Here’s the link:  http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=harris_25_6&section=library

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4 comments on “Mysticism and Atheism – Can They Coexist?

  1. Cecelia
    February 6, 2012

    That’s a very interesting question. I actually enjoy Buddhist meditations without the mysticism while practicing secular humanist values. 🙂 I usually feel the overwhelming sense of peace at the right time…it’s way better than using “god” in the equation. LOL

  2. Kathryn
    February 7, 2012

    I definitely agree. While I do not dispute that most if not all biblical and religious stories have some historical groundings, and this world is certainly full of unexplainable phenomena I do not believe that this is solid grounding for an omniscient god creating and defining our lives for some as yet unknown greater purpose. Further while religion has undoubtedly given hope and a chance for renewal to many people through teaching values which essentially are basic human morals, it has also been in the name of religion that the greatest attrocities our world has seen have been in the name of God.

    Modern research into consciousness has begun to undercover some of the mysteries of human thought however it has simply further opened the questions for the reasons for sentience and intelligence at the levels that we have. On a simplistic level our thoughts and personalities literally work and are created through a variety of electronic messages wizzing around the brain fighting for forefront attention. Our thought process work upon importance of those messages. If you look at your computer in front of you, the messages to see the computer and to comprehend the words you are reading become the most important messages and thus the forefront of your consciousness. It is believed that all our thoughts are simply just comprehending the world and making the best decisions to survive in it. Research has shown that if you spark electrodes on certain areas of the brain at certain frequencies, people think they are having experiences such as smelling coffee or tasting chocolate. If it is purely through electronic sparks that we have experiences and thoughts – which we define as our consciousness does this prove that our consciousness is purely a scientific fluke of evolutional development that has come about simply through greater needs for survival?
    It is a theory which in itself still has a lot of unanswered gaps which lead us inevitably back to religion. Questions like Why does consciousness exist in the way that we experience it how do we know that our experience is like others experience or why does it exist at all. While it is undoubtable we need a certain level of awareness what is the necessity of such an extended consciousness beyond our subconsciouss needs such as breathing need to eat need to drink. Furthermore in a purely scientific world how do we explain unexplainable phenomena in this world which do not fall within the realms of current scientific understanding.
    Through meditation, faith and hope people have overcome unbelievable odds, overcoming illnesses and life threatening situations which logically they should not have been able to survive. There is also scientific evidence that the manifestations of our thoughts physically affect the world around us in ways we do not yet understand and are often not aware of. Thus there is still much evidence to suggest there are greater forces out there which through various means humans have tapped into or at least experienced.
    Not to mention that acts such as meditation greatly increase wellbeing.

    While I don’t know what the truth is I am sure that there is more than what we currently understand, Moreso there is clearly evidence of greater forces which until they are scientifically explained will be used as evidence and justification for the religions of the world. We may never know why we are here or what is beyond our physcial world but I dont think it is naive either to believe there is more out there than we are aware of.
    Keep searching and do not underestimate the more mystical elements of life they may hold more answers than we know.
    By the way try reading this article from TIME magazine it discusses consciousness further

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580394-1,00.html

    • godlessliving
      February 7, 2012

      Thanks for the comment… this was great. I’ll have to also check out the article. Thanks for reading!

  3. Beth Aylard
    March 8, 2014

    I agree wholeheartedly . I sometimes refer to myself as a spiritual atheist or a mystical atheist—though I have no belief in any god or gods or ghosts or spirits. But there is a deep sense of being that is profound and boundless. I am in touch with this without having to call it anything other than stillness or spaciousness.

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This entry was posted on February 5, 2012 by in Agnosticism, Atheism, Freethought, Humanism, Mysticism, Secularism and tagged , , , , .
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