I’m writing this, not because I am a spiritual atheist; I actually think that the two words are contradictory, therefore that the term is an oxymoron. My title is rather a reference to a book by André Comte-Sponville called The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality¹.
I am grateful to Isak Dinesen on Medium.com for introducing me to it. The correspondence leading up to that was interesting. I had read an article by Harry J. Stead on the theme of Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity. I then noticed her response: “Thank you for this cogent erudite piece. As an atheist scientist I am fully participatory in Jung’s synchronicity. It is one of the most transcendent gifts I receive; being open to serendipity, vast vistas with gratitude for the insatiable curiosity to forge connections”.
I found this fascinating. For me, synchronicity is powerful evidence against materialism, since it suggests that there are mysterious, hidden intelligences organising extraordinary, often life-changing, coincidences. In other words, it is evidence of something supernatural going on, and I thought that one of atheism’s main preoccupations is to deny the existence of anything supernatural. Ms. Dinesen had herself called synchronicity transcendent!
I therefore responded: “How do you accommodate synchronicity within an atheistic worldview?”
She replied: “We cannot give orders to the wind, but we must leave the windows open. The Absolute is the wind; our spirit is the window”, which is a quote from Krishnamurti, contained in André Comte-Sponville’s book.
This was intriguing. I felt compelled to buy the book, to see what this was all about. So this is the first in a series of brief articles, some random thoughts as I work my way through it.
Here is the first one. Atheism is a denial of the existence of God. Yet a quote intended to support this position contains the words “The Absolute”. What is God if not the Absolute? The quote continues: “The Absolute is the wind”. Now Genesis 1.2 says “…a wind from God swept over the face of the waters”. So how is this quote meant to demonstrate atheism? It could just as easily be an argument for theism. Of course, it all depends on how you define ‘God’. More of that later.
1. Viking, 2007