Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » nature=church?


Display Avatars Sort By:
Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Re: nature=church? on 03/20/2012 11:13:03 MDT Print View

" I think someone who just flat out doesn't believe in any 'higher power' -- an atheist -- would not be asking or even thinking about whether "nature=church". So, IMO, the topic is set in a religious/spiritual context. "

Ben, I think you should leave room for the possibility that the OP or anyone responding could be an atheist. I am an atheist and I'm very interested in religion from a philosophical standpoint. In fact, I have thought about this very question before. On more than one occasion when asked if I go to church I responded with something along the lines of "the mountains are my church", which I think is the same underlying idea as this. I must have said this a few times before I ever stopped to think about what it meant.

Back to the original question for a second... how does nature/being outdoors make me a more spiritual person? It doesn't. Not in the traditional sense of the world "spiritual" as in reference to my soul (which I don't believe in) and therefore some feeling of closeness to god, a higher power, or the universe.

As to why I had said the outdoors are my church; after thinking about it a bit, I realized that I made a connection between celebrating life in the Christian church (my younger days) and celebrating life in the outdoors. To me the underlying feeling is still there, minus the religious aspect. Where someone else might say they had a spiritual experience, I would say I had an amazing experience. I've sat in awe of the power and beauty of nature. Setting out to have that experience is a great way to celebrate being alive.


...of course there are also plenty of times when it's simple enough as being out there having a good time, as Chad put it above :)

Edited by JacobD on 03/20/2012 11:13:50 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: nature=church? on 03/21/2012 13:23:01 MDT Print View

Do we worship nature? Since we are part of nature, would that be worshiping ourselves?

Is a church a place of contemplation; a place of solitude for one's thoughts?

If one's experience of solitude in nature, or the pleasure derived from observing the sights, sounds, and smells could cause one to stop and reflect. Is reflection spirituality?

Can anything make you more spiritual? What is spirituality -- is it an immaterial world? How can the material world make you more attuned to an immaterial world?

How do you know that an immaterial world exists?

For those who believe in spirituality, then being in nature could enhance your beliefs; so for those, perhaps being in nature could make you a more spiritual person.

robert mckay
(rahstin) - F

Locale: The Great Land
bourkreev on 03/21/2012 13:34:52 MDT Print View

"Mountains are cathedrals: grand and pure, the houses of my religion. I go to them as humans go to worship...From their lofty summits, I view my past, dream of the future, and with unusual acuity I am allowed to experience the present moment. My strength renewed, my vision cleared, in the mountains I celebrate creation. On each journey I am reborn." -Anatoli Boukreev

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: nature=church? on 03/21/2012 15:09:03 MDT Print View

@Jacob:

Can an atheist find peace and beauty and amazement in Nature? Of course!! Can an atheist have a deep curiosity or interest in the topic from a philosophical or educational viewpoint? Of course!!

But I doubt any professed atheist true to definition would look at Nature -- and feel spiritual or religious -- and associate that with a church. That makes no sense.

What 'might' make more sense Jacob, is that something else is still tugging at you -- besides atheism. Only you can tell.

Of course, if Leslie is indeed an atheist, then she will tell us.

Edited by ben2world on 03/21/2012 15:12:50 MDT.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Um, on 03/21/2012 15:18:56 MDT Print View

I don't believe in a god, gods, or God, but I find the wood to be very spiritual. My time in the wood refreshes my mind, brings me peace, and melts away the stress of my everyday, thus bringing a harmony to my life.

I feel more like who I am out of doors and released from the chore of modernity.

The essence of me is my spirit and resetting that essence is a spiritual event.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
nature=church? on 03/21/2012 15:19:54 MDT Print View

This is it !
If only he had God, then he could truly appreciate the world.

Sadly he is just left to wonder what it means.

Edited by redmonk on 03/21/2012 15:24:06 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 15:34:32 MDT Print View

Maybe we need a common definition for the word 'spiritual'. Per Webster:

1 of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : incorporeal
2a of or relating to sacred matters
2b ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal
3 concerned with religious values
4 related or joined in spirit
5a of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena
5b of, relating to, or involving spiritualism : spiritualistic

I am wondering if the feelings of peace and tranquility are what you atheists feel when in the woods? We who believe in a higher being feel exactly same as you -- peace and tranquility -- and we sometimes attribute those feelings to our spirits being moved, and we attribute that to a higher power (hence, the word spiritual).

But spirit is not a reality to atheists. So by definition, you cannot be an atheist and have any sort of spiritual feelings. You feelings are just as real, obviously, but you ought to think through and attribute those feelings to their proper sources -- and not to anything that you already profess to be 'not real'.

Perhaps in all honesty, some of you are atheists intellectually, but agnostics at heart??

Edited by ben2world on 03/21/2012 16:06:45 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 16:59:52 MDT Print View

"So by definition, you cannot be an atheist and have any sort of spiritual feelings. You feelings are just as real, obviously, but you ought to think through and attribute those feelings to their proper sources -- and not to anything that you already profess to be 'not real'."

One cannot deny that which stirs within them in the presence of nature's beauty. What, if anything, one chooses to call it, is up to the the individual.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 17:05:40 MDT Print View

Tom:

Just where did you read any sort of denial of feelings? On a different subject, we do need to be careful with our words. It's why we have standard vocabulary -- and dictionaries. Else communication can break down completely.

Edited by ben2world on 03/21/2012 17:07:59 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 17:24:16 MDT Print View

" see that differently. It's why we have standard vocabulary -- and dictionaries."

Not everyone fits into the standard vocabulary, Ben. Humans experience things in an infinite variety of way, far too nuanced to be encompassed in one word. That is one reason why real communication is so difficult. Words simply do not suffice in many situations, and we seem to have lost the art of really paying attention to another person when trying to communicate with them. Russians will tell you that the eyes are windows into the sould; how many of us really watch a person's eyes? Ditto their body language and vocal cues? One need only look at the seeming endless variations on Christianity to understand what I am getting at as an obvious example that relies primarily on words. It would be very difficult to find a single word to describe me, for instance, and yet the individuals who have occasionally accompanied me seem to have no trouble understanding what I am about. For them it is mostly a combination of where I choose to go and how I go about getting there, with a few verbal interchanges thrown when it suits the occasion. I doubt very much if you asked any one of them what I am that they would answer with one word. Nor would my wife of 36 years. We are still learning about each other, and words are a small part of the process. I also doubt very much whether I am unique in that regard.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 17:33:04 MDT Print View

You wrote earlier, "What, if anything, one chooses to call it, is up to the individual". Tell me if I misunderstand, but I take that to mean "words mean whatever an individual chooses them to mean". That to me is both nonsensical and unrealistic.

But back to using 'spirituality'. Our feelings are independent of the labels of whether we are religious or not. What separates religious/spiritual versus atheists are how we attribute those same or similar feelings to different sources! Spiritual has to do with the source of a higher power. Not right, not wrong, no values assigned at all... but simply, that very definition does not fit the beliefs of atheists who honestly and genuinely recognize no higher power!

Edited by ben2world on 03/21/2012 17:45:54 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Describe or identify? on 03/21/2012 17:36:16 MDT Print View

Not a single word to describe you, but only to words two identify you: Tom Kirchner! Single words don't normally describe things, but rather combine into a description. Single words identify things, actions, characteristics in languages. So a possible description of "Tom Kirchner" might be, "He's a guy who writes interesting posts on BackpackingLight.com forums." Obviously that's not a complete description, but it's an accurate one!

Edited by grampa on 03/21/2012 18:28:09 MDT.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Describe or identify? on 03/21/2012 17:38:45 MDT Print View

@ Stephen.
Nice! All around.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Tools in a Toolbox on 03/21/2012 17:41:45 MDT Print View

"Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1953) is an inquiry into the relation between meaning and the practical uses of language, and is also an examination of the relation between meaning and the rules of language. Wittgenstein explains how vague or unclear uses of language may be the source of philosophical problems, and describes how philosophy may resolve these problems by providing a clear view of the uses of language.

According to Wittgenstein, words are like tools in a toolbox. Words are instruments of language which may have varying uses, according to the purposes for which language may be used. The varying ways in which words may be used help to structure our concepts of reality."

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Describe or identify? on 03/21/2012 18:06:45 MDT Print View

"Single words don't normally describe things, but rather combine into a description. Single words identify things, actions, characteristics in languages."

I'd have to disagree, Stephen. How about Christianity, to use a timely example? It implies all sorts of things, but there is much disagreement about what those things are. And even if you used a million words to describe it, you still wouldn't have a description universally acceptable. The problem is magnified by how words are strung together. It is very difficult to write or speak in a way that conveys the same meaning to everyone in your immediate audience, never mind when your audience is spread across thousands of miles and potentialy dozens of cultures and/or languages which require translation. I would agree that codified definitions of words, as they appear in dictionaries are useful, but I don't think they are sufficient to the task at hand in many cases. That is where the art of communicating I was referring to comes in handy. It is one that I wish received more emphasis in our homes, schools, and society at large. Even if that art did receive more emphasis, I guess I feel that we are a long, long way from evolving to a point where our words will accurately convey the full meaning of what we are trying to communicate, simply because each person at this point in time has a slightly different understanding of so many words, and there are no standardized ways of sequencing words to express complex thoughts.

"So a possible description of "Tom Kirchner" might be, "He's a guy who writes interesting posts on BackpackingLight.com forums." Obviously that's not a complete description, but it's an accurate one!"

While I am gratified, and humbled, by your words, I can only agree that the first part is accurate, in that it is not a compl;ete description. On the latter, I am fairly certain you would not find universal agreement. ;)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 18:16:11 MDT Print View

"Just where did you read any sort of denial of feelings?"

It was implicit in your "by definition" statement, which labeled feelings an atheist might experience as spiritual. The dictionary definition of spiritual is one they might not be able to accept and use, yet the underlying feelings they are experiencing might very well be ones that would be called spiritual by those who accept the dictionary definition. Thus they would either have to deny the feelings were spiritual or find another word or words. In either case they would risk being misunderstood by those who accept the dictionary definition.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 18:25:57 MDT Print View

Tom:

The definition in the Webster dictionary that they might not be able to accept? And thus implies a denial of feelings? Are there not other words people can use? Isn't that what vocabulary is about? I think now, you are just being difficult. Our exchange for this time has come to its useful end.

Till next time. :)

Edited by ben2world on 03/21/2012 18:27:50 MDT.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 18:32:31 MDT Print View

Tom and Ben, this is the case in point. Folks are using the same words (i.e. spirituality) but do not have the same context and connotation. Dictionaries, like Websters, are only useful as far as establishing some basis upon which to attempt to use and understand widely accepted language to a certain extent. This extent is often breached and exceeded when emotional or nonlinear concepts are cited. Again, like spirituality, faith, infinity, etc.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Language lecture on 03/21/2012 18:44:09 MDT Print View

Tom: "How about Christianity, to use a timely example? It implies all sorts of things, but there is much disagreement about what those things are. And even if you used a million words to describe it, you still wouldn't have a description universally acceptable. The problem is magnified by how words are strung together. It is very difficult to write or speak in a way that conveys the same meaning to everyone in your immediate audience, never mind when your audience is spread across thousands of miles and potentialy dozens of cultures and/or languages which require translation."

Christianity: A big part of the problem there is that there are so many different varieties of Christianity. I was working with a guy who wanted to do a world-wide survey of how different Christian churches used/interacted with the bible, and he had a list of some 4,000 different types of Christian churches! I couldn't imagine the N needed for good stats on something like that! And to accurately identify, describe and catalog all those you'd need some sort of Linnaeun system such as that used to deal with different types birds, lizards or oak trees! Then you'd have to make sure you had agreement on your categorization of all the Christian species....

Conveying meaning: Always a problem, which shows the value of standardized word meanings. One of the big problems I have with Critical Theory writings is not that power is always an issue, but they way Critical theorists seem to change the meaning of their words every nine pages! Drives me nuts! But in any language, word meanings change with time and social environment. Complicating things yet more is that while a message originates in the mind/mouth/keyboard of the "speaker", the message communicated blossoms in the mind of the receptor - and there is NEVER a 100% correlation between the speaker's intended message and the receptors received message.


And I'm going to stop here, because, as a professor of applied linguistics, I'm getting dangerously close to lecturing about language on backpackinglight, and that just seems wrong!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Um, on 03/21/2012 18:52:32 MDT Print View

But Evan, a dictionary establishes a common starting point -- which is of critical importance in any discussion -- esp. one that is both complicated and contentious.

Expanding a bit... one thing that bothers me is when a group tries to be something that it is not -- to "co opt" the opposition. Two examples:

1. Christian Scientists
2. Spiritual atheists

Each party stretches the term (in this case science and spiritual) to grotesque contortions that isn't even recognizable by the other! And when challenged, you get a retort like -- hey, we can call it whatever we want to... But to what purpose, except for an invitation to ridicule?