A prominent social researcher Hugh McKay was recently discussing the topic “Spirituality in a secular age” and claiming for the word spiritual a whole lot of stuff that I think surely belongs to chemistry, biology and various other specialist branches of science.
At one point McKay acknowledged that to some people (he must have been thinking of me!) the word “spirituality” has become as debased and meaningless as the word “organic” today. I do agree.
Is not our propensity to find meaning in “something bigger than ourselves” an extension of the contingencies of our very social nature. I doubt too many would consider our sense of identity with our families, local communities, ethnicity, gender, various other groupings (military, workplace, school, sports teams, political party), our nation, our species ….. as “spiritual”. But no, I’m jumping ahead here. Some people really do use “spirituality” to describe a person’s sense of one-ness with humanity.
When asked about my “spirituality” I used to say I believe in poetry, in metaphors, to describe very “physical” feelings of awe and wonder. Why not? No doubt the most “awesome” emotional experiences can all be identified via a CT scan.
If I wished I suppose I could go over the top and accuse the Hugh McKays of this world of ontological imperialism, of imposing their own belief constructs on others in a way that denies them their own identities. But nah. Too little time. Life’s too important. (Besides, I do respect Hugh McKay himself since he knows well the boundaries between his own assumptions and those of others, etc.)
It’s just one of those things that pushes the button that causes my eyes to roll.