Back when I was a religious person, I considered me and my family spiritual. This was, and still is, a sort of an out. It is that last ditch effort by the liberal minded to escape a lot of the stuff we just don’t like about religion. Turns out I fell the rest of the way out, but there are a lot of people out there who have taken on this ‘spiritual’ point of view.
It isn’t bad when you really consider it. I mean, most of us are not science minded. I grew up taking only a few science classes, and then my time at university was spent nose-deep in books about fantastical gods and witty Brits insulting each other. Even though I believe I understand evolution, anti-theist arguments, string theory, I really don’t. I take what I can, and I draw connections for the rest. It would be just as easy for me to drop those concepts and live my life without ‘atheism’ or religion.
Religion is hard. It is an easy mental escape, but it requires a ton of mental space to remember rituals, sayings, mythology. On top of that there are the social obligations that are nearly impossible for someone like me. No, I don’t want to go to the church BBQ, there have been four of those this month, stop!
On the other hand, atheism is a mental struggle with little to no social obligations. It takes on the opposite space within our culture. Atheism requires first and foremost the admittance of mortality and oblivion. There is no do over, no second life, no after-party.
Why deal with either of them? The world is full of so much in between. We have believed in gods, spirits, aliens, karma, mojo, curses, hexes, magic, all without needing the overbearing religions we have today. Some of these things feel good to think about, the idea that doing good will echo good in your life, that a terrible accident wasn’t your fault but instead a curse from some harmless action. It is all the mental escape of religion without the social weight. These terms and ideas have become so ubiquitous that you can mention them without any follow up questions.
“That must have been bad karma.”
“That is some good mojo.”
“Thank god we made it.”
Done, no background needed, everyone understands what you mean. Whether you truly believe in the details or not, that isn’t important to the conversation.
This sort of ‘spiritualism’ doesn’t mean the person doesn’t consider themselves Christian, or any other faith. Far from that, it allows them to mix their knowledge of their faith with other concepts that they come across. The christian that believes in karma has an easy answer to the problem that doesn’t require questioning the motivation and frequency of divine intervention.
This is fueled by our history, and the power of the unknown. There are things that we don’t question because it allows us to pad what we just don’t know. If you don’t know how probability functions, recurring bad luck can seem like fate instead of odds that just didn’t go your way. All of my knowledge of probability comes from rolling 1s when I need my little plastic soldiers to win me battles against other nerds. I know the sting of probability, and even I cry out in anguish to the dice gods. It is that easy to get swept up in what seems hard to explain, even if it actually is simple.
Even with education on the topic, it is easy for people to still believe in the supernatural solution. Knowledge of evolution hasn’t stopped millions from believing in a god, they just rewrite god’s process. That is good though. I would rather have someone rewrite their idea of mojo to account for odds, than have to deal with someone who thinks god plays dice.