It seems both religious people and atheists misunderstand, and misinterpret, spirituality.
Spirituality – How Everyone Gets It Wrong – Thinking Michael
First, I will cover how religious people get it wrong. Put simply: If God is beyond human understanding, then no one can claim to know anything about God. This is particularly true if no one was present when their preferred holy book was written, or even alive at the time or places the stories in the holy books may have taken place.
When I have made this point to my best friend, a devout Christian, he typically counters by stating, “God is beyond our understanding, but through the Bible, we know some things about him.” This is a prime example of my meaning in that no one can claim to know anything about God; anything at all.
Holy books, such as the Bible and the Quran, are merely words on paper. They possess no characteristics apart from that, let alone any characteristics that prove divinity. Additionally, any holy book could be a trick by the people who wrote them, or (I’ll be generous) a trick by the Devil himself. The translations could be inaccurate. The original manuscripts could have been secretly replaced shortly after they were written, leaving the original manuscripts lost to time.
The possibilities of what could be wrong with any holy book is endless.
Point is, saying any holy book is true, simply because it says it’s true, is foolish no matter how devout a believer is. A physical book, written by humans, can have every potential flaw that any other book can have, and to pretend otherwise is foolish delusion.
If I were religious, I wouldn’t put any spiritual faith into works created by humans, period. It wouldn’t matter how many times a book claims itself to be true. For all my best friend knows, the Bible could be a trick by the Devil to make sure nobody knows what they ought to know, and his stubbornness on the matter is only guaranteeing he will get everything wrong for his entire life.
Everything I’ve explained in this section applies to every religion, whether it has a holy book or not. Bottom line: No one can claim to understand anything which they also claim cannot be understood.
Now, atheists, on the other hand, get it wrong because, put simply: Atheists are foolishly obsessed on the literal authenticity of religious teachings.
Spirituality may be the only subject in which it does not matter what the literal truth is, because spirituality is individual, not literal. Spirituality is beyond explanation.
For example, when it comes to the people we love, whether it is our child, our partner, our parents, or our friends, to whom does it matter what is causing us to love them? A scientist could tell you that love is a series of biochemical reactions that drive social animals, like humans, to reproduce and ensure their offspring survive long enough to reproduce…, but what would that matter to you? Would the scientist be correct? Most likely, but that would be irrelevant on an individual, spiritual basis.
An explanation for something is not the experience itself.
I am not strictly speaking of feelings here, although that is an important aspect of spirituality. Spirituality includes a person’s reason for living; their purpose for being alive at all. These are things that cannot be explained, regardless if there exists a scientific explanation.
No religion can tell you what to live for, and no atheist can tell you existence is meaningless. No religion or atheist can tell you what you live for, what you love, what you find beautiful, or what brings you joy and fulfillment.
This brings me to what I call the “One Rule.” When it comes to spirituality: Keep it to yourself. You must keep it to yourself, because that’s all it is anyway. Spirituality is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of a person’s soul. Even if spirituality was a matter of belief, you cannot force anyone to believe as you do; they either agree with you, or they don’t. Even Jesus himself would agree with me here. In the same vein, you cannot change what someone finds beautiful, what things they find fulfillment in, or what they live for. If you wish to change someone, you can only be present in their life. You can only show them your own spiritual truth, and merely hope they agree. Jesus would agree with me on that as well.
Spiritual truth differs between all people, even those who share identical views and similar pleasures. It is no accident that religions have various sects, such as papists and protestants within Christianity, or Sunnis and Shiites within Islam.
When it comes to what is literally true, no one has all the answers. No one. Never trust anyone who claims they do. So, in the meantime, we ought to coexist peacefully, and search for answers together.