There has been plenty of discussion of matters of spirituality here of late, most of which has been framed around the perspective of atheism. Rightfully, those who identify as atheist sometimes feel persecuted, ostracized, and most importantly, under-represented by our elected officials.
You are not alone.
There is another group which gets even less airplay than either those claiming to have religion or the atheist.
Simply put: "Other".
Not all non-atheists are religious.
I am indeed posting in part because of the recent flurry of posts on the topic, but believe it or not, I have no qualms with any of those diaries and am not calling anyone out. If you've missed these posts, perhaps a quick glance at a few of them is in order.
Just a bit more background before getting to the point...
Atheists and agnostics comprise 12% of adults nationwide. (2004)
11% of the US population identify with a faith other than Christianity (2004)
Wiki, that beloved "source" of "info" suggests:
the non-religious make up about 12-15% of the world's population, with actual atheists comprising about one quarter of that number.
What I find intriguing about that statement (in the header, BTW) is that non-religious & atheist are grouped together, but the former outnumber the latter 3 to 1.
There's a wide array of people in that 75% of 15% of the world (that's only 731,250,000 people).
To attempt to break down that number in this forum would be both unwieldy and unwise & that is not my goal today. To say there are millions who fit into a "none of the above" category is obviously an understatement.
Instead, I hope to simply shed a bit of light on the fact that some people believe in something, but do not ascribe a label of any kind to their beliefs. It is a personal thing that should be more respected, just as someone's choice to be atheist should be.
We sometimes like to alternately tease or own the "DFH" label around here in a jovial & playful manner, but plenty of the folks who really fit that shoe are very spiritual people. They are likely to use ritual, religious or otherwise, in part of their daily lives.
These habits include but are not limited to:
* Flower arranging
* Martial arts
* Writing of poetry
* Smudging with sage
* etc. (please expand this list in the comments)
Plenty of non-religious people cull heavily from sacred texts. Although it could be considered blasphemous to some more orthodox members of the various faiths, assimilating a hybrid of beliefs from several of the world's religions is very common among the circle of DFHs with whom I cavort.
When traveling, I always try to adopt the finer points of the faith of the local people and disregard the dogma & unpalatable aspects. Call this the Take what you want & leave the rest philosophy.
One thing many people find offensive about religion is the proselytizing, but some religions, like Hinduism, wouldn't have you as a member even if you wanted to call yourself one. Sure, maybe some hippie types might also be preachy, but not in the May I just leave you some literature? kind of way.
Lastly but not leastly, there has been lots of great discussion of late about obesity, quitting smoking, and other life-or-death problems people are having with their lives. I've found it's much easier to be an effective political voice when I am both healthy and alive.
For a wide array of afflictions, there is a solution that has proven effective for millions of people over the 7+ decades that it has existed. Before this concept was elucidated and put into words, there was literally no effective treatment for people who had addictions and/or behavioral problems that affected & consumed their lives.
Many of you may already know the method of which I speak, as it has become more accepted and well-known around the world in recent years. I am of course speaking of the 12-steps. The mere mention of the term might elicit a negative knee-jerk response from those who may not have had good first or second-hand experience with it in the past. Even more people who know little about it may dismiss the idea as quackery & the like. I was once one of these people. But I have come to have great respect for people who have successfully used the steps to heal what had ailed them in their lives. Many very close people in my family have used 12-step programs to lead healthier, happier lives.
To anyone who equate the steps with religion I can say only this: The original members were indeed mostly Christian, but the concepts were open to all and has since broadened to be even more inclusive to any and all who need them.
Fellowships modeled in the mold of Alcoholics Anonymous include but are not limited to:
* Al-Anon/Alateen, for friends and family members of alcoholics
* CA - Cocaine Anonymous
* CLA - Clutterers Anonymous
* CMA - Crystal Meth Anonymous
* CoDA - Co-Dependents Anonymous
* Co-Anon, for friends and family of addicts
* COSA - Codependents of Sex Addicts
* COSLAA - CoSex and Love Addicts Anonymous
* DA - Debtors Anonymous
* EA - Emotions Anonymous
* EHA - Emotional Health Anonymous
* FA - Families Anonymous
* GA - Gamblers Anonymous
* Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen, for friends and family members of problem gamblers
* MA - Marijuana Anonymous
* NA - Narcotics Anonymous
* NAIL - Neurotics Anonymous
* Nar-Anon, for friends and family members of addicts
* NicA - Nicotine Anonymous
* OA - Overeaters Anonymous
* OLGA - Online Gamers Anonymous
* SA - Sexaholics Anonymous
* SAA - Sex Addicts Anonymous
* SCA - Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
* SA - Smokers Anonymous
* SLAA - Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
* SIA - Survivors of Incest Anonymous
* WA - Workaholics Anonymous
These groups may be of no help whatsoever to you or those you love. But the fact that they might help, and that they have literally saved the lives of millions of people cannot be denied. Without any amount of proselytizing or the like, I list the above fellowships so that anyone who would care to know more can look into them on their own.
The only quote I will offer from the literature of these groups is a statement about the belief in what many choose to call a "higher power" for lack of another term in lieu of "God". From the chapter entitled "We Agnostics":
In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness and sense of direction flowed into them.
Those who have found this path helpful do so because of a failure of their will on some front. The desire to change compels some people to try a totally new way of living. Just as many people eschew the doctrine "shoved down their throats" by their parents and choose not to follow a certain belief system, others must overcome their objection to belief of any kind if they hope to recover from a hopeless state of mind and/or body.
I hope we can continue as a species to become more accepting of all those around us who either believe or choose not to believe. Our world is enhanced by its diversity. Respecting others and truly seeing them as equals regardless of their ethos can only help make this an even better place.