I wasn’t sure about this, but mainly because I didn’t know what “spirituality” meant. Wikipedia offers the following definition:
I don’t think many atheists would agree that they need to teach their children about “matters of the spirit” (whatever that means), much less to believe in transcendent reality and gods. But I suspect that Maoman had a different concept in mind, as do most people who use the term “spirituality.” But what that concept is, I’m having trouble figuring out.
Can anyone offer a better definition for spirituality?
Subud, the AMORC Rosicrucians, and the Association for Research and Enlightenment (Edgar Cayce) all deny that they are religions. But they all agree they are spiritual organizations. Why? What’s the difference?
As far as I can tell, “spiritual” here means the same thing as “religious”–only they’re uncomfortable with being called “religious” (either because they don’t like what they think of as “religions,” or don’t want prospective members to think they would have to leave their “religion” in order to join this group). Another way to read it is that whereas “religion” includes many things–good and bad, transcendent and mundane–“spirituality” sounds better, and suggests the highest aspect of religion.
In San Francisco, the school district got sued for promoting Waldorf Education (created by mystic Rudolf Steiner), on the grounds that this violated the Establishment clause of th Constitution. Waldorf people argued that the Constitution only protects / restricts “religions,” whereas they are an educational philosophy with certain spiritual assumptions. The judge found that for purposes of the Constitution, “spirituality” meant the same thing as “religion,” and that Waldorf Education is too religious for use in public schools.
Thought about those things which lie outside the practical, day-to-day matters of our existence. I see it encompassing appreciation of art, nature, and all such things, as well as the supernatural and questions of our origins and the reasons for our existence.
Of course atheists like myself are not going to teach them to believe in gods. But if teaching children about “spirituality” means helping them understand that many other people believe in things that I don’t believe in (and the reasons I don’t believe), that those beliefs are important to the personal and social lives of others, and that they are the source of both positive and negative forces in our world, then yes, this atheist would teach his children about spirituality. I would certainly also want to help them learn to understand and appreciate the beauty and awesomeness of nature, the beauty and expressive power of art, and the place of humankind on Earth and in the universe. As they became old enough, I would want to help them to think and talk about our imagination, our feelings, our sense of mystery, our sense of wonder, our search for identity, and our search for answers to the fears which I believe drive the invention of superstitions and religions. If all of that is “spirituality”, then yes, I think those are things we need to teach children about, even if we ourselves are not religious.
Why do I have the ability to wonder why? Where did the universe come from? Are there questions that cannot be answered? I think these are spiritual questions. The spiritual is something more than flesh and bone. It is more than neurons firing in any particular structured order. It is when the sum of the parts exceed the whole.