I read someone claim on Twitter that atheism is a tragic mistake as we are missing out on the reality of spirituality. Yes, the reality of spirituality.. synonyms of spirituality consist of immaterial, ethereal and supernatural, as in other words non–physical. Spirituality is generally about belief in a greater power than humanity, and relying on this greater power for guidance, but it can also describe a person’s love for themselves and others around them. It can be about forgiveness and acceptance, and choices you make that can add benefit to yourself and others around you.
Are we all in need of spirituality to some extent, or do we just need the reality we live in? The only type of spirituality I can see that makes any sense are Buddhism, Sikhism and Confucianism. All three are ethical relationships with learning, understanding and valuing humanity.
The tenets of Buddhism focus around the philosophical position of the ‘Four Noble Truths.’
• Duḥkha – Existence is suffering; causing pain and sadness
• Pratītyasamutpāda – Craving and desire is the cause of Duhkha
• Nirodha – Removing Pratītyasamutpāda from your life so that it doesn’t return
• Magga – The path to achieving Nirodha which is obtained by following ‘The Eightfold Noble Path‘
• Samma ditthi – Right understanding
• Samma sankappa – Right thought
• Samma vaca – Right speech
• Samma kammanta – Right action
• Samma ajiva – Right livelihood
• Samma vayama – Right effort
• Samma sati – Right mindfulness
• Samma samadhi – Right concentration
Buddhism originated around 400 BCE in India and started as a spiritual and philosophical ‘Śramaṇa‘ tradition that’s now the world’s fourth largest religion with 7% of the world’s population students of Buddha. Despite Buddhism being classed as a religion, there is no praying or worship to a deity, there’s just guidance from Buddha.
“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)
Sikh means seeker or learner, and despite being a monotheistic religion, its tenets are extremely different to Abrahamic religions in that Sikhism is about unity and equality for all (regardless of gender), giving selfless service and striving for justice for all humanity. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism, who promoted the idea of one God who lives within everything, and encourages virtue, and also unlike Abrahamic religions, Sikhism rejects claims from other religions that any religion has the monopoly of divine truth. Sikhism’s ultimate goal is to seek unity with God through meditation, and they follow the rules commonly known as ‘The Five Ks‘
• Kesh – uncut hair wrapped within a turban (Dastar)
• Kanga – Wooden comb stored inside the turban
• Katchera – cotton underwear to remind them of purity
• Kara – an iron bracelet to represent eternity
• Kirpan – a curved sword which is to defend the weak and oppressed
Like Buddhism, Sikhism was also founded in India, but is one of the world‘s newest religions at roughly 500 years old, and below is their interpretation of their God: Source
• There is only one God
- God is without form, or gender
- Everyone has direct access to God
- Everyone is equal before God
- A good life is lived as part of a community, by living honestly and caring for others
- Empty religious rituals and superstitions have no value
The ‘three duties‘ can be summed up in three words ‘Pray, Work, Give‘.
- Nam japna: Keeping God in mind at all times.
- Kirt Karna: Earning an honest living. Since God is truth, a Sikh seeks to live honestly. This doesn’t just mean avoiding crime; Sikhs avoid gambling, begging, or working in the alcohol or tobacco industries.
- Vand Chhakna: (Literally, sharing one’s earnings with others) Giving to charity and caring for others.
“Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living.” – Guru Nanak
Kǒng Fūzǐ (Master Kong) or Confucius as he’s known in the west was an ancient Chinese politician and philosopher who lived 551–479 BCE. Confucianism is an area of thinking that forms a construct of many inhabitants on China, and is essentially a way of learning, a source of values, and a social code of conduct. Theologians often claim that Confucianism is a religion, but it’s much closer to a philosophical ideology, and despite many Chinese being of faiths like Christianity, Shintoism, Muslims and Buddhists, they are often still Confucians.
There are ‘Five Constants‘ that followers of Confucianism should adhere to; they are as follows:
• Ren – humaneness and goodness. Treat others with respect
• Yi – the moral code do ensure justice and fairness
• Li – natural law
• Zhì – the acquisition of knowledge
• Xin – the heart-mind
Confucius believed that if you followed the Five Constants then happiness can be achieved.
“Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” – Confucius
Humanism isn’t too different a philosophy to either of the above three concepts as it’s about valuing humanity as a whole, the main difference is there’s no spirituality involved. Humanism is about putting humanity first and refusing to acknowledge the existence of a supreme being. We are each responsible for our actions, and are no way influenced by the supernatural. Whilst spirituality may be beneficial to some people, you can be ethical and a critical thinker just be using logic, reason and empathy.