I have been spending time listening to recordings of Jack Kornfield, a leading Buddhist teacher, over at D.I.Y. Dharma. There's a lot there - hours and hours of listening.
I have never considered myself a spiritual person, and generally consider myself an Atheist, a Discordian, and a libertine. I remember when I first understood that I did not believe in a God; that what people learned was more often than not used to control them. I was riding my bike with a friend and he suggested that the Devil was the person who made you fall off and get hurt. The rational side of my brain suggested that this idea of Satan was there to give people an easy out; that people did not have to be responsible for their pain if some outside force had exerted itself upon them. So I said that I didn't believe in a Devil and shortly thereafter didn't believe in God either.
In my later experience, there appeared to be just as much hypocrisy as benevolence with those of faith. Gang members would return from prison having been baptized born-again Christians, often to repeat their crimes but now forgiven; religion would be used as a means of social exclusion; wars fought mindlessly; religious leaders would suggest ideas that I found disgusting and their followers would simply nod their heads and follow the party line.
That's no different with mainstream Atheism. I'm really bothered that significant Atheists can be so disrespectful to those with other belief systems. I understand where this anger comes from, but I don't feel that it helps in any real discussion. Maybe it helps some folks feel a bit more empowered. I don't know.
I'm neither a fan of the hyper-rational memes being suggested - for instance that the only things that exist are the things that you can see and touch. I've been an irrational Atheist for as long as I've known and that works for me. I feel that the God-meme is a device that can be used in many ways. However, it is fine enough for me to act in kindness and to understand when people don't believe or behave the way I would.
Let's not suggest that I fault people for their spirituality. In fact I applaud the search for meaning in a person's life. There are problems in the application to my reckoning, but it's also kind of beautiful.
I've spent at least a little time studying Robert Anton Wilson and Aleister Crowley, the Kabbalah and the I Ching. I've read the Bhagavad Gita and now I'm listening to Jack Kornfield.
I hadn't seen this video before writing this post, but the song has always moved me:
Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space