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How to Be Spiritual without Religion, Faith, or God

By Tim Sledge ~

Today, the only way I can see religious faith is through a rear-view mirror. I don't think any God is listening to any of us or is involved in our lives in any personal way.

In Goodbye Jesus: An Evangelical Preacher’s Journey Beyond Faith, I shared my story of five decades of up-close involvement with churches, Christians, and ministers. I wrote of what it felt like to be a committed believer and a productive pastor. I did my best to journal my struggles and failures along with my accomplishments. But the heart of the story was my journey out of faith.

The breaking point occurred when I decided that no supernatural source was needed to explain the way of life I had witnessed for decades in one church after another. It all made more sense when I understood that church—as impressive as it could be at times—is just one more human organization. The end of my faith was not far behind.

It might seem surprising, but when my faith ended, I did not stop wanting to be spiritual. I just didn’t think it was possible.

Spirituality, in all the forms I’d known, focuses on things that are beyond the physical realm and beyond normal perception—invisible entities like God, Satan, heaven, hell, and the soul. And faith—not reason—is required to see this spiritual realm.

I would come up with my own concept of spirituality.With my new commitment to reason as the basis for my beliefs, I could no longer regard faith as a way to see anything. And since faith and spirituality seemed inseparable, I could not imagine how someone like me could be spiritual anymore.

Author David Richo enlightened me. I wasn’t looking for a new spirituality paradigm when I read his book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships, but that’s what I found.

Richo describes himself as “a psychotherapist on a Buddhist path,” and argues that the same attitudes and actions that enable the highest level of human relationships are also the keys to spirituality.

Richo’s presentation of spirituality was different enough from my former Christian view that I could relate. And while he pointed to a connection with some larger spiritual force, I felt no pressure to adopt this aspect of his teachings.

The important thing was that Richo’s approach gave me hope that I could still be a spiritual person—though in some different way than I had previously imagined. This realization became a launching pad.

The next step was thinking for myself about what spirituality could look like for me—with no belief in God, no buying into any otherworldly concepts, and no credence for some cosmic vibration with which we should all try to be in sync.

You might wonder if my desire to find some workable form of spirituality in my faithless state is a holdover from my past dependence on religion—a sort of methadone to get me through spiritual detox.

I don’t think that’s the case.

Spirituality continues to intrigue me because I’m still interested in searching for the deepest truths and the highest values in life. I’m still interested in developing my inner life. And I still want to be challenged to be my best self.

After years of following teachings that claimed to be from God, but were actually human in their origins, I decided I would build my own substitute for religious faith.

Why not?

I would come up with my own concept of spirituality.

I just wouldn’t claim it was divinely inspired or related to some magical invisible world, or to some mysterious cosmic energy, or to any deity. And I wouldn’t promise eternal life, healing, or rebirth.

I decided to use the term “meta-spirituality” to identify my approach as beyond any conventional concept of spirituality. I’m not the first person to use this term, and I’m not the first to attempt to define what meta-spirituality looks like. This book is my contribution to a larger, emerging view of secular spirituality.

In the following pages, when I state what meta-spirituality is and isn’t, I’m sharing my own opinions. I am writing as one person attempting to redefine spirituality in a way that works for me and hopefully, in a manner that makes sense to others who are seeking to live a meaningful life without God, faith, or religion.

My version of meta-spirituality holds that no existing religion has revealed unmistakable truth about any supreme being. My meta-spirituality rejects the concept of a personal God who is watching over each of us and listening to our prayers. My meta-spirituality also rejects pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo about connecting with the energy of the universe or getting on the same frequency as some cosmic tuning fork.

You may wonder why I do not abandon the concept of spirituality altogether, and simply pursue the attributes and experiences I seek without calling them spiritual in any way. There are two reasons I do not choose such a route.

First, I like the idea of reclaiming, renaming, and redefining the concept of spirituality. There’s something pleasing about the thought of being asked, “Are you a spiritual person?” and being able to reply, “No, I’m meta-spiritual.” This brings a smile to my face.

But it’s more than just giving a concise, thought-provoking description of my new way of living. This reclaiming, renaming, and redefining of spirituality has a higher purpose.

More and more individuals are moving away from religion and religious faith. The fastest growing category in religious preference surveys is “None.” This trend might lead us to assume that the topic of spirituality will become less and less relevant. But I don’t think that’s the case.

There are reasons to believe that many, if not most of us, have an innate interest in—perhaps even a need for—some kind of spirituality.

In this context, it makes sense to seek new options for how we can think of ourselves as spiritual, to redefine an old concept for a new era, and to consider what it can mean to be meta-spiritual.

-- Tim Sledge in
A Meta-Spiritual Handbook: How to Be Spiritual without Religion, Faith, or God © 2018 by Tim Sledge. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.