5 Non Religious Meditation Techniques For Atheists And Agnostics

Yes, there are non-religious meditations for atheists and agnostics.

And no matter what some hardcore religious people might try to tell you, you have just as much right to practice any exercise as anyone else has, whether you’re atheist, agnostic or, well, anyone else.

As a mindfulness teacher, I’ve taught non-religious meditation to atheists and agnostics for years. 

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Best non-religious meditations for Atheists  

In my big guide to different methods of meditation, I revealed all the top techniques in the world. 

There are five excellent non-religious meditation techniques atheists and agnostics will love.

I’ll share them in a sec.

But listen:

It’s shocking how many people think the practice is spiritual. It seems the world refuses to accept the idea of non-religious meditation.

And in the twenty-first century, that’s a truly ass-backwards mentality.

So let’s get this straight: anyone can meditate! Yes, that includes you! 

Try this non-spiritual technique for starters

If you want to do absolutely non-spiritual meditation, start with these 25 mindful habits.

Go ahead. They’re atheist-friendly.

Looked at that link?

Those mindful habits are great ways for atheists to start meditating.

Mindfulness simply means doing one thing at a time, and focusing on what you’re doing.

That’s what it is, in a nutshell, it’s doing one thing absolutely. And surely there can’t be anything religious about that. Surely mindfully doing one is just healthy.

As Wellness expert Olivia Rosewood says, “It’s merely the momentary pause of thought. It is as religious as the holding of breath as you dive underwater.” 

5 types of meditation for atheists and agnostics 

1: Just breathe

I know those church-goers think they own everything. But they can’t own your breath. So there’s no reason you shouldn’t do breathing methods.

Obviously, JUST BREATHING is a non-religious meditation, right? 

Just sit silently and focus on your breathing. This is an effortless practise that clearly is not remotely spiritual, and it is significantly beneficial for your health.

I’ve created a complete guide to breathing techniques (but it does contain a couple of spiritual terms, to give you a heads-up).

2:  Mantras

You might wonder what a mantra is? If so, read my Ultimate Guide To Mantras. Tells you all you need to know.

Mantras derive from Hinduism, but they do not need to be religious.

Mantras are simply words or sounds that are repeated. For instance, repeat the word “Calm.” There you go, that’s a mantra.

Buddhists would advise you to recite a mantra 108 times, but just recite the word “calm” until you feel calm. It’s ridiculously simple but also powerfully effective. You could even call Nike’s “Just Do It” a mantra. It evokes an emotional response and if you repeat it enough times you will feel like “Just doing it”. And surely Nike is not religious (even if their name is actually based on an old Greek god).

3: Acem 

You know when I said that mantras were originally religious, and that scientists don’t like religion? Well, as though to prove both points, scientists in Scandanavia have created a new type of mantra meditation for non-religious people. It’s called Acem  [7]. It involves reciting gibberish.  No joke. Apparently, it really works too.

4: Mindful Art

All forms of art can readily be made into excellent meditative technique.

Take singing, for example.

Simply pick your favourite song and sing it while focusing your mind 100% on the sensations of your voice and breath reverberating around your body.

Or painting.

Sit outside somewhere beautiful, overlooking a lake, or perhaps a waterfall or mountainside. Now draw or paint the landscape while focusing on that artistic activity. No matter what type of art you’re into, turn it into a meditation technique.

After all, all art can be done mindfully. For instance, why not try mindful writing.

5: Silence

Silence truly is golden.

One of the most beautiful meditations in the world is to focus on pure silence.

Silence is infinite. It expands across space and time.

When you meditate on silence, you expand your consciousness to stretch out across the cosmos. This really is a fantastic technique.

These five non-religious meditations for atheists are all incredibly effective, and there’s not an ounce of religiosity between the five of them.

If you’re an atheist and would like to learn how to meditate, you’ll love my new book Your Best Meditation.

The 3 Types Of Meditators: The devout, anti-, and, non-religious meditators who have open minds

There are three types of meditators in the world.

  1. The first is the devoutly religious individual. They believe in their one faith absolutely, and they’ll follow that religion no matter what, even if that religion causes harm. These guys will tell you that it is only for religious people.
  2. The second type of person is the strictly non-spiritual person. These people hate theology and spirituality. They believe theology and spirituality are for the brainwashed. This mentality helps them to avoid being consumed by any one belief. But it also prevents them from taking advantage of the positive aspects of spirituality. So they think they can’t meditate.
  3. The third type of person doesn’t force themselves to stick to one type of religion or spirituality. They’re not going to follow a book just because society tells them to. But at the same time, they’re open-minded enough to consider that some aspects of spirituality might actually be useful. So they can meditate without it being spiritual.

Which do you think is best? (Comment).

Are you the open minded-non-religious-meditator?

Which type of person are you?

I’m going to guess that you are in the third group, that you are not religious, nor even particularly spiritual, but that you are open-minded enough to believe that some meditative exercises could be helpful for you even though it did originate from a faith [that much is just historical fact].

If you are this type of person, great. You’re open-minded. And you’re smart enough to appreciate the importance of spirituality in life too

Science has proven that spirituality is very healthy (the link above shows why). And because of this, it is best to have an open mind to spirituality even if you’re not devoutly spiritual. 

This is why the third type of person (above) is the best. They’re not forcing themselves to believe anything and, equally important, they’re not forcing themselves not to believe anything. They are the ones with open minds.

So if that’s you, good news: yes you can meditate without being religious or spiritual.

It’s about science, bro

As Stephen Batchelor says in Confessions Of A Buddhist Atheists,

“[Mindfulness] is not concerned with anything transcendent or divine. It serves as an antidote to theism, a cure for sentimental piety, a scalpel for excising the tumor of metaphysical belief. (130)”

confessions of a buddhist atheist

GET IT ON AMAZON

It is a little bit spiritual though…

There are many non-religious meditation techniques that don’t even go anywhere near belief (like binaural beats) but the majority of methods do have their roots in Buddhist philosophy

So it’s hard to ignore the fact that it is a little bit spiritual.

Stop sweating.

Spirituality is NOT what you think it is.

I challenge you to read this actual definition of spirituality and then tell me whether you are spiritual or not (You will be surprised. Everyone I explain spirituality to says “Really?! That’s what it actually mean to be spiritual?!”)

So yeah, click that link.

And if you are still not spiritual, no biggie.

Maybe a little bit metaphysical

Even if you hate everything spiritual, you can just ignore the spiritual parts.

Sounds crazy?

Listen.

If you stop yourself from doing anything remotely spiritual or religious, you will be severely limiting your life.

Here’s a list of things that started out spiritual, as meditation did:

  • Reiki  
  • Tai Chi  
  • Qigong 
  • Yoga 
  • A lot of martial arts 

Reason is this: practically everyone in the world used to be religious or spiritual. So, any ancient practice will invariably be tied to a religion, including meditation.

In the West, the church was ubiquitous into the 1800s. It’s only recently that religion and spirituality have become less popular. [6]

So inevitably, any practice that is more than 100 years old will likely be tied to some spirituality.

It’s not a big deal.

People recognise the real-world health benefits of yoga, tai chi, etc., so those things are no longer considered spiritual. They’re just health

And listen:

Listen:

You’d be stupid not to meditate.

Why?

Because there are more than 100 health benefits of meditation.

Seriously, take a look at that list and then tell me whether the minor spiritual aspect means F-all compared to how good it is for you.

A Scientific practice 

Spirituality and science don’t agree on much. Tell the National Institute of Science that praying or meditating on God will change your life, and you’ll be met with a few stiffly raised eyebrows. But say to them “Meditation makes me healthy, happy, and a better human being” and those same scientists will nod approvingly and say, “Yes, it does, we just finished proving that in the lab.”

That’s because meditation is now a scientific practice. And the fact that science approves of it proves the point I want to make today: you can do it if you’re non-religious and non-spiritual.

So. Say this loud and clear with me…

Is meditation religious and spiritual? It can be, based on the individual. It can also be purely a health thing. And if you are interested in trying it without being spiritual, then I would like to help you. There are many different types of non-religious meditations that non-spiritualists can use. I shared many of them above. Take a look and try a few. It will be worth it.

Meditation has nothing to do with religious beliefs

No matter what some devout people might try to tell you, you can meditate. Meditation is for atheists. Non religious meditation is every bit as important as religious techniques.   

Let’s face it; science is the number one form of atheism.

Scientists don’t do belief. They objectively study and measure everything. They don’t believe in God. Sure, some might not disbelieve, but they don’t believe either, because you can’t measure God. You can’t quantify God. You can’t put a label on God and say, “Here is God.” Scientists are the biggest atheists of us all. And if they tell you to meditate, then clearly meditation is for atheists too.

But if meditation is for atheists, then a new question presents itself.

What if you’re an atheist who wants to stay away from any of the religious or spiritual connotations? Because the practice is still widely perceived as a religious and spiritual practice.

Practicing without being a spiritualist

Even if you go around with the atheist logo tattooed on your body people will still ask questions if you’re meditating.

If you tell someone you meditate, they’ll presume you are religious or at least somewhat spiritual. That’s because modern society hasn’t quite caught up with the changing views on the practice .

Believe it or not, some people still think it is evil and satanic, which is what most people in the West thought up to the 1960s (when the Beatles started meditating). Four thousand years has left a stain. Now anytime people see someone meditating, they instantly think “Religious person.”

We’re heading towards a point when meditation will not be seen as a religious practice, but we’re not quite there yet.

As neurological scientist Sam Harris says, “There’s going to come a time when we’re not talking about “Buddhist meditation”… we’re just talking about turning consciousness upon itself and what can be discovered by that process.”

We’re getting close to that point, but we’re not quite there yet.

So how do you stop other people from thinking you’re spiritual?

Just call meditation “mindfulness”.

The terms are interchangeable, but the first conveys religious overtones where the second is the same practice without religiosity.

Even though this is absolutely stupid because mindfulness actually came from Zen Buddhism.

But, to cut a long story short, when the term “mindfulness” came to the West it came as a scientific practise, not a religious one. So people tend to think of ‘mindfulness” as being a science.

So if you do want to tell people you meditate without having them say “You’re spiritual?!” just say “I practice mindfulness” instead.

So yes, atheist, do meditate.

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation. You can read his books on Amazon

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