23 June 2009

The Frustration Materialist Have With Imprecise Spiritual Language

It is refreshing to hear a discussion of sincere agnostics discuss the prospects of spirituality and God in light of a scientific orientation. If you have the time definitely watch it:


I think for Baha'i's who start with a spiritual orientation, it is easy to accept science as a welcome complement. We have certain assumptions that make them easily compatible.

I am one of those people. I have always had an intuitive feeling about spirituality; it has always seemed second nature. So then, the language I used is couched in the assumption of spiritual reality, even in a scientific discussion.

I realize more now that many people do not contain any such intuition naturally. Nothing is assumed, and for them discussing spirituality with a believer of any religion can be very frustrating, because the language is different. The word "spirituality" is frustrating because it contains a metaphysical assumption, even before the discussion starts. To them "spirituality" is just a fancy word for moral inspiration predicated upon a belief in eternal purpose and accountability, the predisposition of which can be explained by biological and cultural evolution. How much more frustrating for somebody like a Baha'i to claim harmony of science and religion so easily, while using sloppy and imprecise language to justify it.

Part of the Baha'i belief in "progressive revelation" is that we must always reinterpret and refine our beliefs based upon evolving evolutionary capacity and scientific development. It is a pursuit that I hope to keep exploring and writing about in more detail. That is, wiping away the baggage of popular interpretation of the Baha'i writings, and understanding them again in a more detached and analytical manner. Of course this aproach has its limits; subjectivity and experience is indespensible to making any logical value judgement. And really in the end it is a matter of faith either for or against belief. In any case, I believe that faith in its true form, is the opposite of delusion.


  1. When I first became a Baha'i I had some trouble with the Baha'i teaching that truth is relative. Coming from a Christian background you are taught that truth is absolute. 'God exists' - this is absolutely true and of course Baha'is would agree with that (except maybe to note that since existence itself is dependent on God you can't really equate God and existence) if you are talking about practically anything else you run into problems due to the inherent limitations of language and logic in dealing with spiritual matters.

    I think the real problem in talking with nonbelievers in just this concept of 'spirit'. Nietzsche rejected it out-of-hand and most Western intellectuals followed his lead. So how do you establish the reality of spirit? I think Baha'u'llah says that it is the example of the true believer that demonstrates the reality of his beliefs better than anything. We believers must make the transforming power of the spirit readily apparent in our daily lives. Without that no amount of discussion will be of any avail. But once the power of the spirit gives a opening, then logic and language can be used to good effect.

  2. Marty,

    Thank you for your comment. You are right, the most success I have had with teaching is when I developed a trusting relationship with a person or small group of people, and we created a small transformative space. That trust is key I think, because only when both sides let down their guard can real discussion (as opposed to reaction) take place