I often get asked what “spirituality” means to me now, as an ex-Mormon atheist. Here’s my answer.

It is working to discern between our true nature and the ideas and behaviors we’ve had socially conditioned into us, for better or for worse.

It is expanding and strengthening our compassion for ourselves and others, and understanding the interconnectedness of all things more deeply.

It is growing in humility by recognizing how much we don’t know.

It is connecting with nature like our 200,000-year-old DNA is designed to do. It is deepening our understanding and appreciation for the natural world we’re all an intrinsic part of, and the journey our species has gone on to arrive where we are now.

It is being able to observe people and things without labeling or judging so much. It is being able to appreciate things for the fullness of what they are – not just the categories they fall into.

Real spirituality is so, so much MORE than Mormonism. It is richer, more peaceful, more awe-inspiring, more exponentially expanding, and MUCH less dogmatic. Joseph Smith may have tapped into some truths but even they have been lost through authoritarianism and rigidity and correlation and the human ego.

Anybody trying to have any sort of power over you spiritually is a joke. That includes people claiming to be able to receive any sort of revelation for you (like what you should drink or wear or do), claiming there’s someone (or a small number of people) you need to go through to properly connect to a higher power, claiming they know things you can’t know, and a whole lot more.

Many spiritual leaders throughout history have taught these concepts, including Jesus. But most people were unable to grasp the concept of the ego, and the importance of not letting it run the show. So they created rules to try and make it a “tick all the right boxes and you’ll be spiritual/free/reborn” thing.

Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. Plenty of more educated people have shared the same messages he shared since then, without all the weird dogma that got tacked on by Christianity.

You alone should be driving your “spiritual journey”. Letting anyone take the wheel for you renders your effort meaningless.

Samantha Shelley
Samantha Shelley
Samantha is a freelance writer from England, known in the Mormon blogosphere for co-founding Millennial Mormons and Whatsoever is Good. She has guest blogged for LDS Living and Mormon Women Stand, and worked as a social media intern for Deseret Book. She hated writing all of that in this bio. You can Venmo her money for sandwiches using @Samantha-Shelley-1, and follow her on Twitter @TheSamspo for half-assed jokes and opinions.

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