A mistake that many people make is to imagine that atheists are shallow materialists, because, logically, if you don't believe that an old man in the sky sees your every misdemeanour and punishes you accordingly, then why would you adhere to any moral code all? St Paul said, quoting Ecclesiastes: 'If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."' In fact, many of the atheists I've met are thoughtful, moral and even spiritual people; a real force for good.
I've heard spirituality defined as 'the need to connect with something greater than ourselves'. For some people, that greater thing is nature, for others, community, and for a third group, it is personified as a deity. Jedi Knights (390,000 in the 2001 census there were; data for 2011, find I cannot) would presumably call it the Force.
It seems to me that every religion has two major strands: a pile of aggregated mythology that is cult-specific and reaches from creation myths to the ultimate fate of the 'soul'; and a core of compassionate altruism and self-knowledge that helps us live with each other and with ourselves. The second strand I count as spirituality and I am all for it. I've learnt a little bit of it from other people, from my own reading, from management courses and psychometric tests, from reading Buddhist texts and books by Karen Armstrong... all sorts of sources, and I am still a beginner. I'm not saying that I apply compassion and self-knowledge easily or well.
I make mistakes, although nobody punishes me but myself. But I have seen many committed Christians whose morals, attitudes, words and actions are so far from their avowed ideals that they have made me disbelieve in their God, who obviously is not helping them to live any kind of good life. I suspect many other people in this country feel the same, which is a partial explanation for a quarter of us having no religion.
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