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2002-06-27 | 3:48 a.m.

When I tell people I'm an atheist, sometimes they say, "Well, but are you a SPIRITUAL person?"

"No. Not really," I say, partly because I know it's not the answer they want to hear (and I'm petulant that way) and partly because I honestly don't know what they mean by 'spiritual.' I resent the implication that I find in the question, that spirituality would somehow mitigate my stubborn atheism. But what the hell is it they're talking about? 'Spirited' I'll admit to in a heartbeat. But 'spiritual' feels like claptrap.

I thought of this just now, at around three-fifteen in the morning, because I had to put the trash out by the curb. As I came back in the house, I noticed the beautiful, windy night around me and I felt grateful to be alive, to be part of the beautiful, windy night and the serenity I felt in it.

Is that spirituality? No, of course not. That is ordinary emotion. When you are an atheist, you can feel grateful without having to send the feeling anywhere in particular. One is merely grateful, happy, mindful.

Having said that, I think it is my duty to find out more about Buddhism and the like. Not because I want to become a Buddhist, but because I want to learn strategies for quieting my mind.

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