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I'm getting hung up on words.

I don't like "spirituality" because I don't believe in supernatural spirits. But what else can I call the deep feeling I get from learning about cosmology or ecology?

I don't like "religion" because to me it implies belief in a personal, supernatural deity. But what else can I call the Humanist teachings that I try to follow?

Should I just knuckle under and say that I use these words but I have a different definition of them? Or are there better terms that I could adopt?

Please let me know your thoughts...

By Ragamuffin6
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I can't say what other people should do, but you asked for my thoughts, so I can say how I approach it for my own peace of mind.
My first instinct is to educate myself as broadly and deeply as is warranted by the relative importance of the issue.
I think of 'how we use words' (communication) as a pretty important issue.
I feel, if I can align my thinking and my behavior with the most well-established facts and the longest view of history, I don't care much about what less informed people think... even if that means the whole world thinks I'm something I'm not.
Nobody said sticking to the facts was going to be easy (if they did, they were mistaken).

To the best of my ability to determine (correct me please) even though a popular understanding of the word "spirit" includes a sense of the supernatural, a quick trip to the dictionary shows many, perfectly legitimate alternate uses; such as:

  1. an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action: the spirit of reform.

Not an ounce of woo there.
Or these:

  1. spirits, feelings or mood with regard to exaltation or depression: low spirits; good spirits.
  2. excellent disposition or attitude in terms of vigor, courage, firmness of intent, etc.; mettle: That's the spirit!
  3. temper or disposition: meek in spirit.
  4. an individual as characterized by a given attitude, disposition, character, action, etc.: A few brave spirits remained to face the danger.
  5. the dominant tendency or character of anything: the spirit of the age.
  6. vigorous sense of membership in a group: college spirit.
  7. the general meaning or intent of a statement, document, etc. (opposed to letter): the spirit of the law.
  8. to animate with fresh ardor or courage; inspirit.

Then I look at the origins of the word:
1200–50; Middle English (noun) < Latin spīritus orig., a breathing, equivalent to spīri-, combining form representing spīrāre to breathe + -tus suffix of v. action

Nothing Wooish about breathing.

Looks to me that the greater essence of the word spirit is really about the invisible (but real) qualities of life (air and attitude) and the use of the word in these contexts is probably at least as common as when it is abducted into the metaphorical world of fantasy.
If we let the ill-informed define our communication tools for us we'll soon find ourselves having turned over our rich linguistic heritage to them to drag through the mud and deposit unceremoniously in the landfill while we scramble to invent replacements that won't "offend" anybody.

I am a spirited soul, and my religion is simply whatever practice I use to maintain my attitudinal buoyancy (spirit) and if somebody thinks that means I believe in a fundamentalist/literalist interpretation of some ancient scribblings, then they can just sit on it!

Thanks for asking.



skado Level 8 Jan 7, 2019

Wow! Thanks for the research. I think I had heard that "spirit" and "respiration" were related. So maybe there's nothing wrong with saying spirituality.


I think we are way to hung up on words. As a writer, I get that, but sometimes while searching for the "best" word, I find that the most recognizable word works best.

I say, if a word 'resonates' with you, feels good to say, then say it. I still use spirituality because it's the only word resonates with me when talking about world beyond the world I see. If the word "spirituality" does hold too many negative connotations, than look for one that feels better when you say it. It may take a while (and a few thesauri) to find that word, but, maybe also consider "redeeming" that word, and reclaiming it for yourself.

I seldom see "thesauri" and was pleased to see it used.
nerd giggle


How about wonder

Stuttrboy Level 4 Jan 11, 2019

"Spiritual" and "religious" are solidly in the religion sector. When secular people use them to describe "wonderment, "astonishment," "awe," or "fascination" it is deferential to religion or at least to dualistic ideas. Unless you ARE religious or adhere to mystical concepts, you should definitely avoid describing yoursellf as "spiritual" or having "religious" experiences.


Wonderment? Fascination? Astoundment? Astonishment? Curiosity? Awe, as others have mentioned. Whatever words can capture the feeling that makes your heart leap in amazement of it all.

Perhaps there is some spirituality in the stars and the cosmos, but it hasn't made it to prime time. Perhaps there is a religion in the cosmos as well, but it hadn't been interpreted yet. For now, whatever human emotion that wells up in you when you are presented with the majesty of the night sky.

Julie808 Level 7 Jan 7, 2019

I always try to avoid the word spiritual. I have never heard a good definition and people often use it as a smoke screen, ie, "I'm not religious I'm spiritual". The word I like to use when I look at the universe is, "awe".

Marktzu Level 5 Jan 7, 2019

"Spiritual" is what I was on New Years with a bottle of Scotch! Lol


I see spiritual as the opposite of material. Or non physical if you like.
I accept there is most likely non physical shit going on we are unable to sense. This is how I see spirituality. No deities required.
The traits I have identified in humans that are spiritual (non physical) is our ability to create and love because they can't be defined, predicted, measured, replicated or sensed.

powder Level 8 Jan 7, 2019


I definitely like the connection between spirit and creativity because I'm into the Artist's Way and that is her take on spirituality for creative types.


I too, believe that "awe" is appropriate. But, if you need an alternative to "religion" try "belief system"

The Humanists say "live stance". But belief system is clearer I think.


Empathy, at-oneness, awe, affinity, love, congeniality, communion, fellowship, concordance, related, rapport, harmony, ethereal, constancy, comfort.

there are lots of words, above are just the first few that came to mind.

Thanks for brain storming!


I call it enlightenment

newt125 Level 3 Jan 10, 2019

The word spirit literally means to breathe. so when something takes yaur breath away... to me that's a spiritual moment. nothing supernatural about it.


You’re in wonder. There’s nothing wrong with not having handy labels. We all need to express more.

MJF6922 Level 4 Jan 8, 2019

Tattva, I like transcendence a lot. In fact I think I'll go with that. And instead of "religion" I'm going to go with "life stance" which is what Humanists used in their Amsterdam Declaration.


I used the word soul when speaking to my fundie brother in law. He remarked that at least I believed in the soul. I corrected him with "I only used soul for lack of a better word".

freeofgod Level 8 Jan 15, 2019

? Connection ... connectedness ... ?

Kali Level 3 Jan 15, 2019

IMO, I think understanding Spirituality is not concomitant with Spirits. Spirits are ghost, demons, etc. Spirituality is that connection one knows they have with the cosmos, universe or Nature.. I think theist hijacked the term Spirituality to included their holy ghost etc..

Blackmind Level 3 Jan 14, 2019

Theist hijack everything. The pagan holiday xmas for example. Now it's supposed to be about their skydaddy.



Ollied Level 4 Jan 13, 2019

"Transcendence" can be used to describe deep feelings of connection to the cosmos. "Spirituality" can be helpful as a term to approach subjects regarding values and moral principles without appealing to the supernatural. It does have many and varied meanings which can make it confusing. "Metaphysics" or "Ontology" are probably the most precise if you are trying to discuss the nature of reality and your beliefs. Context is always important, and sometimes nouns fail us. Occasionally I've heard "personal philosophy" but that always seemed strange to me as I think of philosophy as a collective endeavor.

Tattva Level 3 Jan 8, 2019

Thank you!!
I've had a sense of a universal something some connect to. It helps to get terminology in place to describe it. Have a wonderful day.



dokala Level 7 Jan 7, 2019

Awe? Wonder?

Those are the kind of things that pantheists use. I can say that I feel awe or wonder. But what is the term for feeling those things that would correspond with spirituality? Awesomeness? Wondrousness? Doesn't say yes to me.

@Ragamuffin It's all the same if you ask me.


Humanist teachings have nothing to do with religion.

jlynn37 Level 8 Jan 7, 2019

Then what word would you use to describe them?

@Ragamuffin Humanism.


My internal dialogue and with close friends is the ‘Something’. Words are futile at that level of perception. Thanks for raising it?


Rather than spiritual, perhaps use connection. Rather than religion, axiom may suffice. Is a Rose by any other name less fragrant? “Know thyself then, and presume not God to scan. For the proper study of mankind is man.” -Alexander Pope

publius65 Level 3 Jan 15, 2019


jeran0312 Level 4 Jan 13, 2019

Plain and simple. Good one!

The Bible talks about "joy unspeakable". It can still apply. Thanks for this one, it resonates.

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