- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

What the Heck is Spirituality?

Am I the only person who thinks spirituality is an overused word? I love the English language, so I hate to see when a word is applied so frequently it becomes vague and meaningless. Second, I dislike the connotation that spirituality is universally good.

Spirituality [1], according to Wikipedia, the most infallible of sources, is:

Spirituality is matters of the spirit, a concept tied to a spirit world, a multidimensional reality and one or more deities. … Spirituality implies the mind-body dichotomy, which indicates a separation between the body and soul.

However, the word spirituality is used frequently to mean: life purpose, meaning, a personal philosophy, ethics, deeper relationships and connection with nature. Often it is used without illustrating something specific, as a feel-good word.

Life Purpose and Laundry


One reason I dislike the concept of spirituality is that it creates an artificial division between so-called higher and lower pursuits in life. I don’t separate my life purpose from doing the laundry. Either everything works together or it doesn’t, so I object to creating an artificial category in your life where things are deemed more worthwhile than necessities of life.

For me, making money, folding laundry and consuming food are just as important to deriving meaning in my life as anything else. Without them, I would starve to death, broke and covered in dirty laundry. How is that supposed to contribute to the meaning I draw from life?

You can’t separate ends from means. That means you can’t be a spiritual person one day of the week and a greedy liar on the other six. If you don’t like how you make money, you can’t compensate for that by meditating in your off hours.

Either everything works together or it doesn’t. If it does work together, why use the category of spirituality at all, since every component is of a perfect machine? If it doesn’t work together, then creating a separate category only hides this fact.

Ghosts, Fairies and Other Beliefs

Spirituality implies a mind-body dichotomy, often implying forces and entities that exist outside the realm of scientific speculation. I’m not here to comment on those beliefs. Frankly, if you believe in them, my article isn’t going to change your mind, so I won’t try.

I simply dislike that belief in improbable entities is somehow more noble than disbelief. The word spirituality has positive connotation, which implies that strict materialists who believe Descartes was soundly defeated on the issue over 300 years ago, have a negative connotation. I completely disagree.

As I’ve tried arguing [2]: atheism is not a life philosophy devoid of meaning or intrinsic rewards. It’s simply a different philosophy. The word spirituality has become tied in with concepts of life meaning, appreciation of nature and staying present in the moment. However, all of those things are still available even if you don’t believe in angels and a collective consciousness.

Being Completely Unspiritual

If you do consider yourself a spiritual person, then do what works for you. I’m not really out to convert anyone, both because I think it’s a waste of time, and because I’m not arrogant enough to believe my life philosophy is for everyone.

However, if you’re like me, surrounded by people telling you to be more “spiritual” and it doesn’t feel right, just say no. Don’t apologize for a lack of faith. There are many approaches to life so don’t be bullied by a word with so many meanings it has become meaningless.