Friday, January 14, 2011

Big Man in the Solar System

[Justin] Griffith[, a sergeant at Fort Bragg, N.C., who describes himself as a "foxhole atheist,"] finished the survey, pressed submit, and in a few moments, he received an assessment: "Spiritual fitness may be an area of difficulty."

It continued: "You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and to others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values."

It concluded: "Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal."
Army's 'Spiritual Fitness' Test Angers Some Soldiers
Outside of whether or not the Army should be pushing people into being more spiritual than they feel is warranted, what struck me about this story is the conflation of feeling "connected to something larger than yourself" with some sort of spirituality. I've been asked by incredulous believers how I could not believe in something greater than myself, and always found the question confusing.

Take, for instance, the Sun. Were the sun to suddenly go out one moment, in about eight minutes, it would get really dark, and it would really quickly start to become VERY cold. Let me assure you that I would be very cognizant of this, and quite put out - but only for as long as it took me to freeze to death while the Earth was on its way to becoming a lifeless iceberg. Now, were I to suddenly be snuffed like a candle flame, the Sun would be extremely unlikely to take notice, after eight minutes, or eight million years, for that matter. In fact, very few people, given the overall population of the Earth, would notice. Last I checked, that placed the Sun quite clearly in the "larger than Aaron" category, even if we somehow discount the fact that the Sun is about a million times the volume of the Earth (and thus likely several trillion times my own volume). And I most certainly feel connected to it, given that pretty much everything that keeps me alive relies on it, directly or indirectly.

But as far as the stereotypical religious calculation is concerned, since I don't have a shrine to Sol Invictus in my apartment, or spend the solstice at Stonehenge, that doesn't count as acknowledging it as "larger than myself."

And don't get me started on the appropriation of "making sense of what is happening to you and to others around you..."

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