Episode 109 :: José Angel Lopez :: Atheist Meditation Community

| March 25, 2012 | 18 Comments

Jose Lopez

José Angel Lopez talks with us about Atheist Meditation on FaceBook.

Many of us either did not grow up with the practices of a religious tradition, or if we did, we’ve since moved away from them. We wear the scarlet letter for what is often viewed as a dirty word in our society, Atheist. Sometimes we wear that letter proudly, and other times our stance is more private.

We see groups of atheists forming, both online and face-to-face. They can provide a haven and encouragement that yes, it’s okay to not believe simply because the others around us do.

Sometimes, though, we bring with us the habits of dogma from which we’re escaping. We associate any religious practice with the ones we have, not positively, in our background. The result is that we may be dismissing certain helpful and practical, perfectly natural and scientific practices along with the supernatural stuff we don’t like, or has harmed us. Unfortunately, the pragmatic training of the mind that Buddhism has is often thrown out upon hearing the first chant. Technology — and critical thinking — can help us avoid this trap.

José Angel Lopez grew up in Switzerland, and has been interested in Buddhism and meditation since his 30’s, finding it in accorance with his atheist approach. Though he considered becoming a monastic, José found that a full experience of life while practicing meditation and Buddhist principles was a better fit for his life. He has started a FaceBook community about meditation for atheists.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl.

:: Discuss this episode ::

Web Links

Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations

Shakuhachi Meditations

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez’s CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Cross of Light

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Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the host of the podcast Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. He has been a meditator since the early 90’s, has been interviewed for Books and Ideas, Mindful Lives, and The Whole Leader podcasts, spoken about mindfulness with various groups including Harvard Humanist Hub, and has written for Elephant Journal and The International Journal of Whole Person Care. He is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA’s official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Ted’s background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture. Ted teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, where he is the Manager of Online Programming and Community Development.

Comments (18)

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  1. Tom Alan says:

    I applaud Jose Angel Lopez for calling himself an atheist, not concealing his belief with with erroneous or deceptive language.

  2. Candol says:

    Its not an issue in many/some countries. I think its a bigger issue in USA than elsewhere. Its not an issue in Australia.

    Before i listen to the podcast, i wanted to say to jose that Alain de botton’s book has also the same underlying notion that we shouldn’t throw out everything with religion. but he takes quite a different approach to you no doubt. However, i will be interested to listen to your ideas too and i can highly recommend Alain de Botton’s book from the perspective of culture and community rather than private practice and self development.

  3. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Great podcast! I particularly liked what Jose had to say about the need atheist mediators have for community, and how often the online communities serve as well or better because of the convenience of them.

    I’m really glad to see meditation and mindfulness becoming more popular throughout the atheist population, and I agree with Jose that atheists need it as much as anyone else. We need good coping mechanisms, and meditation is one of them.

    • Candol says:

      No think he said online communities are not a replacement for real life communities. I think an online community can never be as good as a real life community but as you say they are useful and certainly serve a need.

      • JALopez says:

        I don’t see online communities replacing real life communities. Online communites are great to get started, to exchange opinions, to pass information, talk about literature, inform about events, socializing etc.

  4. JALopez says:

    Hi, I’m Jose from the podcast. My motivation is simply to get people with an aversion to religion, which many do have in the Atheist community, towards anything that sounds or looks religious, to try to explain to them that insight meditation can be practiced by anyone. It doesn’t require any beliefs in the supernatural. Also, we have plenty of science to back up the benefits of meditation. We should spread the word.
    The social aspect, the community, the Sangha is where we discuss and share our ideas and thoughts with others. It’s essential, and Atheist will have to find a way to get organized if they want to be heard as a group. I don’t think we should call that physical place a temple though as de Botten has suggested.

    • Candol says:

      Hi Jose, i certainly agree with you that atheists or secular buddhist need to organise if they want to have any impact or endurance.

      But i don’t think that de botton said we had to gather in a temple. With regards to the temple, i thought he was suggesting that its a place we could go to find get in touch with certain parts of ourselves that need healing. His little temples i thought were more solitary places to go.

      In my idea about meditation temples, i would like to use them as a place to gather to meditate together. Certainly not for group worship. The reason why i think they’d be useful is because there aren’t any public places with any beauty where a group can go.And all the existing options where a group can go, cost money and are austere and lack heart. Of course people can gather in private homes. In my case, it is not possible so i can’t invite anyone. People often feel constrained about inviting strangers – even buddhist ones- into their home and most often any sizeable group would not fit.

      Of course having to pay a little bit to meditate together in a group is not really a big deal. I jsut think it would be lovely if people could do it in a beautiful spot. But perhaps more importantly if a place became known for this type of activity, it would become an advertisement in itself. People might feel easier to rock up and see what’s going on. It would certainly be easier to track down a meditation group if one were skeptical about religion. Also it would be easier to find than any other private meditation groups. So still think the idea has a lot of merit.

      Thanks for your talk Jose. Its always great to hear of individuals taking the initiative. I think you have definitely hit upon something worthy by combining the two concepts. Good luck with it.

      • Tom Alan says:

        A pi day? What then, a pi month? A pi year?

        • JALopez says:

          I started reading De Botton’s book today. We, humans, are social beings, therefore it’s only a matter of time for atheist temples to emerge. It’s inevitable, we need to share with others what we think or know. We can’t help it. It’s healthy too. Personally I think the word temple has a negativ connotation to many secular/agnostic/atheist people. I think we could come up with a better name.
          I can envision a place like a community center with a awesome library, nice meditation hall/dojo, good restaurant and café.

        • Candol says:

          The point of a temple is not to drink coffee, read books, look at exhibits but for introspection, self-reflection, quietness, stillness and so on. Its about focussing on your inner self not on things out there that can entertain your mind and distract you from who you are and what’s going on in your head. That said, yes perhaps the word temple will put many people off. I thought of “haven” just now. We already have libraries and museums. You don’t need what you’ve already got for this purpose. There are no public spaces specifically for mediation, reflection etc. that are secular. You can go to a park, but what about if the weather is cold. And you can’t really meditate that well in a park. At least i can’t. It helps to be shut off from all sensory distractions. I only discovered this recently when on a retreat. it makes a big difference.

  5. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Jose, I’m really excited and grateful you are doing this for the atheist community. I will help you promote the Atheist meditation page. And thank you for welcoming our content on your page. We do cover important issues for atheists in addition to meditation, such as developing mindfulness for ethics and compassion. I have found since we are secular atheist respond to our content very positively.

  6. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Jose, I’m really excited and grateful you are doing this for the atheist community. I will help you promote the Atheist meditation page. And thank you for welcoming our content on your page. We do cover important issues for atheists in addition to meditation, such as developing mindfulness for ethics and compassion. I have found since we are secular atheist respond to our content very positively.

  7. Candol says:

    No think he said online communities are not a replacement for real life communities. I think an online community can never be as good as a real life community but as you say they are useful and certainly serve a need.

  8. Candol says:

    Hi Jose, i certainly agree with you that atheists or secular buddhist need to organise if they want to have any impact or endurance.

    But i don’t think that de botton said we had to gather in a temple. With regards to the temple, i thought he was suggesting that its a place we could go to find get in touch with certain parts of ourselves that need healing. His little temples i thought were more solitary places to go.

    In my idea about meditation temples, i would like to use them as a place to gather to meditate together. Certainly not for group worship. The reason why i think they’d be useful is because there aren’t any public places with any beauty where a group can go.And all the existing options where a group can go, cost money and are austere and lack heart. Of course people can gather in private homes. In my case, it is not possible so i can’t invite anyone. People often feel constrained about inviting strangers – even buddhist ones- into their home and most often any sizeable group would not fit.

    Of course having to pay a little bit to meditate together in a group is not really a big deal. I jsut think it would be lovely if people could do it in a beautiful spot. But perhaps more importantly if a place became known for this type of activity, it would become an advertisement in itself. People might feel easier to rock up and see what’s going on. It would certainly be easier to track down a meditation group if one were skeptical about religion. Also it would be easier to find than any other private meditation groups. So still think the idea has a lot of merit.

    Thanks for your talk Jose. Its always great to hear of individuals taking the initiative. I think you have definitely hit upon something worthy by combining the two concepts. Good luck with it.

    • stoky says:

      Actually, I’d love to have “science temples” 😉

      Something like a building with a museum of science, a hackerspace and a meditation hall, where we also could celebrate pi day. That’d be awesome ^^

  9. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    Hehe, Tom. PI Day can only happen 3.14, March 14th. So it has a day and month:-) In fact, I have a Happy PI day t-shirt. We atheists are often science geeks. BTW, there is also a PHI day, but not as popular as PI.

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