Secular Spirituality

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Secular Pagan" <>
Subject: Re: Secular Spirituality
Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000 11:42 PM


I checked it out: Interesting; very nice looking. If you have any original writings that you think might be interesting to put into the print edition, let me know.

We are always looking for allies who may not be considered atheistic. Thus, we are planning to change the name of the "Atheism" section in our Web Guide, so as to include theistic allies, but I have yet to decide what to call it. Since atheism exists only in the face of theistic claims, perhaps calling it "Religion" would be appropriate, but I'd have to do this in a way that would minimize confusion and objections among the readership. I will place a link to your site in this section for now, because if I placed you in the "And" section, you might get lost and stay there forever.

The word spirituality has always caused problems for me. As I tell all people who use this word, I don't know what spirituality means. If it does not mean "of or concerning the realm of the spirit," then what does it mean? An early expression of my confusion over this word (written long before I became an atheistic activist) lives in my 1991 article "Completely Realistic," which was published in the statewide Narcotics Anonymous journal for the region which includes most of Oregon. I think you'll get a kick out of it.

I have also contrasted the words religious and spiritual in commenting on the abuse of language popular within the Twelve Step movement, when they claim that the Program is "spiritual, not religious." I can dig out a more detailed contrast if you are interested.

Perhaps you would be willing to address this word, and explain what it means to your organization.

Meanwhile, please check out some of the letters in our section dated July, 2000. Several document our recent push to urge atheists to stop bickering about whether a god exists, and seek out allies of whatever persuasion so that we can unite to form forces powerful enough to enact change in our world. "The Semantic Dance of Pantheism," though long and tedious, marks a change in the philosophy of Positive Atheism to include that awe toward nature which moves some to become pantheists and others to become creationists.

"Atheists Of The Deep South: Stay In Your Closets!" documents some of these changes (albeit more briefly) and also shows us moving more quickly toward seeking out theistic allies (most notably The Center for Progressive Christianity).

"Your Style Of Atheism Could Reduce Atheists' Stigma" shows how we came to use what is called the "weak" definition for the word atheism (the simple lack of theism) to reduce the stigma of being an atheist. We think that if we can popularize this understanding of atheism, perhaps the shocking results from the recent Gallup poll described in the intro to the letter "Largest Catholic Country Has Atheist As President" and reiterated by Wendy Kaminer in "The Last Taboo: Why America Needs Atheism" (particularly the paragraphs starting here) will eventually change.

Finally, your links page has noted another aspect of the philosophy of Positive Atheism, saying that we go "beyond denouncing theism to emphasize promoting atheism as a positive, healthy outlook on life." People have been interpreting Positive Atheism this way for years. At first, I thought this amusing, as I had intended Positive Atheism to be a proactive ethic which makes truthfulness and integrity the highest virtues. Now, as seen in the final paragraphs of "Semantic Dance," I have come to accept this interpretation as one of the several things that Positive Atheism means. I say this out of gratitude for your links page's lucid expression of (part of) what we are about.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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