Thursday, October 13, 2011

Never say "Spiritual"

I get a whole lot of garbage laid before me by loads of people out there.  Unsurprisingly, religious nutcases dominate.  Most all of them are certain that everybody else is just following some false religion and that their particular belief is really The Truthtm.  And then there are those who feign a position above all that, and say they have all the "strengths" of religious belief and none of the weaknesses.  I'm talking about those who refer to themselves as "Spiritual."  These people act as if they've found some sort of all-encompassing uber-nebulous philosophy which envelopes the body of comfort-inducing religious tomfoolery and still maintains the open-mindedness that is a categorical requirement of rationalists.

I find these people to be just another brand of fatuous nonsense breeders.

The problem isn't just that "spiritualism" deals in spirits, souls, dualism, karma, and other such nonsense.  It's that the condition that we call being "spiritual" is little more than a ham-handed mechanism by which to insert any sort of metaphysical claim you could possibly imagine and treat as equal to any other idea regardless of whether it falls under the categories of the rigorously supported or the moronic claptrap of the first degree.  Spirituality is one of the many manifestations of the price of open-mindedness that Mark Twain once quipped about.

... The kind where your mind is so open that your brain falls out.

People need to understand what being "open-minded" really means.  It simply means you're receptive to new ideas.  It does not mean you accept any and all new ideas without any mode of scrutiny.  It means you are willing to accept an idea so long as it meets certain standards that you hold ideas up to.  It does not mean you simply believe stuff uncritically.  That's much closer to gullibility.  Having sensible criteria by which you actually choose what ideas you accept does not make you closed-minded -- it means your open mind is actually empowered to be open to new ideas which are potentially good ones.

Spirituality does not involve that at all.  It's really made up of the same arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity which are intrinsic in religious belief and generalizing the end result into something which is insanely vague to the point of utter irrelevance to anything of substance.  Rather than go as far as to say that you have a soul which is infected with a sin induced by the trickery of a talking snake that has since been absolved by a divine Jewish zombie so long as you're in the club of those who bow their heads in deference to that zombie, else your soul is doomed to eternal torment...  spiritual people simply argue that you have a soul or a spirit or an astral essence or a connection to a universal oneness of consciousness or an intrinsic midichlorian infestation or something, whatever it is.  If any of that made any sense to you, then you might just be crazy.  Or your name is Deepak Chopra.  Oh, wait...  the latter is a subset of the former.

By being incredibly vague about the nature of the beliefs it espouses, being a merely "spiritual" person puts you in a position where you cannot possibly be proven wrong.  Unfortunately, you also cannot possibly be proven right.  While it is easy to conclusively disprove a very specific God concept like the literal interpretation of Yahweh, when you can't say anything specific about what you believe, word games can always be played to allow room for your ideas even if various other interpretations can have their intensely flawed logic exposed.  This in turn makes any of the mysticism that surrounds beliefs in other-worldly realms and dualist concepts completely meaningless.  In some ways, this makes the spiritualist somewhat more deluded than the religious.  On top of believing things for which there is no valid reason to believe, they take it in such an ill-defined form that it ceases to have any relevant meaning, and because of this poorly structured metaphysics in which they place their hopes is so generic, they pretend that it indicates a greater open-mindedness.

An open mind with no mechanism for filtering its ideas is very likely to let in a lot of garbage.  Saying that something is "spiritually" significant is one of those filters which is little more than a gaping hole that lets everything in.  I defy any "spiritual" person to even define to any degree of specificity what any of the things they speak of actually are.  What exactly is the soul?  What do they actually think consciousness is?  Why do they believe in any of these things in the first place?  You can't really get a clear answer on any of these things.  Oh sure, you'll get all sorts of loosely thrown about adjectives about what they think of these things.  When I ask things like what the soul is, I get descriptive qualities like "It's metaphysically simple and indivisible, non-physical and intangible"...  That doesn't really tell me what it is.  When pressed to describe why anyone thinks that any sort of spiritual realm or place or condition even exists at all, the response is always either an argument from ignorance or an argument from personal incredulity (or both).  You can never escape that basic foundational fallacy.

People like Deepak Chopra try to muddy the waters even further by colluding the mysticism and unfounded moronic ideas with scientific-sounding jargon.  You'll hear him try to draw analogies to quantum mechanics by speaking of thoughts as quantized packets of consciousness that can simultaneously occupy both astral (wave) and physical (particle) states.  It's a silly veneer created with the express intention of making all the nonsense they spout seem reasonable, when in the end, it's nothing more than the same idiotic nonsense which has no basis in reality as any other religious belief.  If you obfuscate your language enough so that nobody understands what you're talking about, you can make any claim sound reasonable and never have to pay any sort of price for the intense idiocy of the idea.

When I hear someone say they're "spiritual" in lieu of being "religious" or "a person of great faith," what they're really telling you is that they have no idea what they're talking about.  They just subscribe to a sort of melting pot of a wide variety of stupid, but technically comforting ideas.  When I look at how much interest there is in Western nations in philosophies of Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Shinto, etc...  what is blatantly apparent is that this is not the result of any thoroughly thought-out decision or analysis of the philosophies, but merely an intrigue over something which carries an exotic flair to it.  These philosophies and imagery and thought experiments which are, compared to what they are used to, quite unusual.  By any standard, this would not qualify as something that indicates any sort of rigor.  People aren't placing Ganesha statues on their desks because they've thought hard about the beliefs, but simply because the idea of a benevolent deity set aside for the express purpose of removing obstacles is a sort of security blanket.  But then, the same can be said of the very idea of a soul.  We believe in this sort of thing because it carries with it, a message that some element of our identity is eternal and is not subject to the finality of mortal death.  In the end, spiritual people are believing this stuff for the same reason religious people believe in their dogma -- it's nicer than the harshness of reality where things are not intrinsically fair, where people actually die, no mystical forces out there are helping you, and there is no hope whatsoever of peace through the melding of astral projections.  Being vague and mixing your beliefs together to make a sort of bullcrap stew is not much better than being specific and concentrating your bovine feces in a particular method -- especially not if you're trying to pretend you're standing on a higher pedestal of rationality.  Awwwww...  diddums widdle feewings get hurt?  Suck it up and leave the fantasy world.