The number of Americans who say they don’t identify with any religion is on the rise. Still, polls show that many of those unaffiliated people consider themselves spiritual in some way. On New Years Eve, we talk with Bay Area spiritual leaders about finding meaning and purpose and life. And we want to hear from you: Do you have spiritual goals or aspirations for 2013?

The Very Reverend Dr. Jane Shaw, dean at Grace Cathedral and former dean of divinity at New College, Oxford
Phillip Moffitt, Buddhist meditation teacher founder of the Marin-based Life Balance Institute; His new book is "Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life"
Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and co-founder and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley; he is author of "Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life"

  • Frank

    I can’t imagine finding meaning in religion, knowing that it’s based on lies and ridiculous stories. I’m not a child anymore. I require proof when people make outlandish claims, and if they don’t provide it then I don’t shower them with reverence or respect just because they’re “religious”, just as I don’t give respect to corrupt businessmen or political leaders when they lie.

    Religious nonsense is no basis for meaning or purpose in life.

    Whereas… knowing what is really happening in the world, even if it is as ugly as the military industrial complex extinguishing 3000 lives on 9/ll and blaming it on Muslïms, which has been proven by abundant evidence, this does provide meaning. Knowing that the US employed Näzi scientists after WWll rather than put them on trial provides meaning. Knowing that in the 1930s JP Morgan, the duPonts, Remingtons and other rich interests sought to overthrow FDR and replace him with a fascïst provides meaning. Etc.

    You have a choice: Get lost in made-up fantasies about “god” and other unproven nonsense, which renders you harmless to power, or educate yourself about real events and circumstances. It’s as simple as that.

    • Devil’s Advocate

      I would claim that the virtues of religion and the existence of a God are two separate issues. Whether or not a Creator exists cannot be determined by the validity of one religion or another. It is perfectly consistent to find complete contempt for “religion” while still acknowledging the possibility of a loving God.

  • Ed

    I think that non-religious people like me need to make a special effort to demonstrate by our example that we can be a moral force for good without requiring supernatural prodding.

  • deniselai

    Is it the case that “we are hardwired to care”? Or is it more accurate to say: “when we do care, we do better”?

    • JimmyOo

      Somewhere on TED Jeremy Rifkin has a whiteboard talk on empathy and the neuroscience behind it. I think we are hardwired for caring to varying degrees. I also think we can train to be empathic.

  • I hope to apply the discipline that I routinely apply to other areas of my life – work, health, social interaction – to my spiritual life with Jesus (yes, I claim a rather traditional view of such things). Somehow it seems so easy to brush my teeth every day but hard to take the time and effort to pray and meditate for a few minutes. I hope to do better in 2013.

  • Eric Bing

    I was very pleased with Joshua’s leading of the discussion – he did a great job of summarizing and synthesizing the points being made.

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