I’m a humanist; I hold no supernatural beliefs. In my view, what some people insist on calling “supernatural” are merely those elements of the natural order we do not yet comprehend. I know that’s a vast arena, but there seems to be no good reason to assume the elements of our universe currently beyond our ken are populated with spirits, gods, devils or ghosts. While I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, an atmospheric supernatural movie, and even the occasional deus ex machina in literature, the line between reality and fiction seems clearly defined.
That being said, I’m a huge fan of the numinous, the mysterious, and the transcendent. For non-theists and humanists, the fact that we don’t see the evidence for gods, spirits, and life after death by no means consigns us to lives of an arid, intellectual sterility. Music, literature, art, love, and friendship: these all comprise a deeply spiritual aspect of life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that one of the great projects available to humanists is liberating the realm of the numinous and transcendent from supernatural religion, which has long claimed hegemony in this domain. Considering the profusion of great art, music and literature in the world, this is hardly a daunting task.
I was a believer for many years; in fact, I made my living by directing music and drama at churches and teaching at religious private schools. My transformation into a thoroughgoing secularist was long and arduous–both privately and socially–but ultimately proved to be the greatest emancipation of my life. No longer did I have to struggle to square the many circles that the enormous gap between religious dogma and observable reality presented. Deconversion, for me, was a thoroughly liberating experience. A radical shift from the faith-based living to a complete embrace of a reality-based way of life.
I realize, however, that my experience is far from universal. For some, leaving faith in the supernatural behind represents a grievous loss. For them, some kind of church-like community may be an absolute requirement as they make the transition to secularism. This is where the yoga and meditation community can provide a real service to people in transition. We’re all spiritual beings, whether we subscribe to supernatural beliefs or not. Spirituality is a matter of connectedness, relationships, and a self-awareness. These are all attributes that are ideally communicated and celebrated by those who have chosen the holistic spirituality path.