I feel like I should apologize to any beings from off planet. We humans start with a simple concept and we nuance it (though that’s not a verb–see, a case in point.) until the original idea is only tangentially related to our present pearl of wisdom. Need some evidence? There are no end of examples in the dictionary. How many words have a meaning that has evolved into something else over time? How many that now have so many shades of meaning different from the original concept? New iterations, alien to those who were intimate friends of the original thought?
But I come not to quibble over words. Well, maybe just a bit more yet. Take “spiritual” as it is linked to “spirituality.” Overworked word, if ever there was one. In one sense of the word, religious people mean something of the soul is affected by something of the divine. Then I come along and tell you that we are predisposed genetically (not to my credit–see all the scientists, philosophers, and thinkers mentioned in Religion is God’s Way of showing us it’s earlier in Human Evolution than we Thought) to be “spiritual” in the sense of religiousness, similar to the neutral connotation of religiosity.
The general thesis that our brains are hardwired to reward us for religious–nay–spiritual thoughts, beliefs, inspired concepts, visions in order to enthrall us to rapturous heights has been argued before. And, thus, the spiritual urge, by several other names (as mentioned), helps shape our behavior toward the religious. And the religious benefit each other within their communities, and the stronger the religous community, the greater the survival chances of the individual (thinking of survival in the evolutionary sense).
It’s not quite that direction we want to go however. But it does set us up to understand that the spiritual experience takes place at the spirit within (though we know this in the sense of the human spirit rather than a soul). The believer thinks s/he’s spiritually inspired by the divine from without. We have learned, though, that the equipage is within.
Though the New Atheist (and, admittedly, I’m not too far from one) might enjoy it if Lancelot’s steed stumbles and his lance crumples on impacting into the dirt, I think we should revive that spiritual steed. Many of us have that aforementioned equipage–a certain spiritual need and a very real feeling of spiritual accomplishment. Without some outlet and some experience of the reward that neurochemically validates it, we seem to suffer.
What we need is to find the literal truths (believe what’s true rather than insisting that what we want to believe is true) that satisfy our spritual need and that stimulates and allows our neurochemical reward. Is that possible? That is the challenge.
It would seem that life affirming stories come close. Events of celebration have an intent that is more or less in that direction. Naturalism, especially, evolutionary naturalism finds inspiration in the world and the universe. Humanism (is there evolutionary humanism?) champions humanity and celebrates its nobility.
I’m saying there is a secular side to evolutionary theology and that through recognizing that rising of humankind in our singular ascent, perhaps combines with evolutionary naturalism and humanism to help us know, appreciate, and celebrate the reality of our past, present, and future.