Often associated with religious motives, pilgrimage is the long, arduous journey meant to enlighten one about his or herself and faith. Yet, pilgrimage extends beyond its religious roots and is used by many as a break from the norm or to overcome inner struggles. A mindless vacation to a beach is by no means a pilgrimage, but hiking amongst the beauty of nature, taking in the rise and set of the sun, with the intention to reach peace of mind is no different than a pilgrimage through the Holy land.
Many people do not feel the need to embark on such a journey because they lack faith and/or religious devotions, however pilgrimage can be used as a tool to free the mind and release tensions and stress in daily life. In a post from The Guardian, Jessica Reed describes her motives for pilgrimage, despite being an atheist, stating “the idea of travelling inwards while simultaneously conquering vast outside spaces intrigues me,” proving that pilgrimage is not merely for religious enlightenment, but is sparked by interest and desire to feel nature’s destinations wash away stresses and worries (Reed).
In Alain de Botton’s article, he argues “if inner change is difficult, then we may need a commensurately difficult outer journey to inspire and goad us,” emphasizing that a pilgrimage can motivate one beyond the expansion of faith, but can also influence the changes we make to our lifestyle and the perspectives we take away from such journey (de Botton). Furthering more than just one’s faith, pilgrimage allows for re-evaluation of one’s life, stimulating personal realizations that slouching at home does not provide.
Pilgrimage is a way to expand our knowledge about ourselves and can help us overcome obstacles in day to day life, not just in our faith. A description of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, an embarking atheist “only thought about where to put [his] foot next,” taking a moment to realize “that this was the mental break [he] was looking for” (Jeffrey). Non-religious pilgrimage clears our minds of the troubles going on in our life, and causes one to pause and reflect on the health of their mind and their body. A journey through a sacred land or a wonder of the world brings us to terms with our mind and body, allowing us to check our mental and physical well-being without influence from outside stressors.
Pilgrimage extends far beyond learning more about God or furthering one’s faith, but can bring about peace of mind and physical awareness that the stresses of day to day life suppress. Immersing oneself in nature clears the mind and causes one to focus on him or herself for once rather than the tasks sitting at a desk or unfinished chores. Pilgrimage with non-religious motives ease tension and can spark much needed change in one’s life, whether that be easing the pain of loss or seeing life from a new perspective.
de Botton, Alain. “Spiritual Travel for Atheists: Do Pilgrimages Have a Place in Modern Society?” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 3 Feb. 2012, www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/spiritual-travel-atheists-do-pilgrimages-have-place-modern-society-6350955.html.
Jeffrey, James. “The Making of a Modern Pilgrim.” The Humanist, The American Humanist Association, 20 Dec. 2017, thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2018/features/making-modern-pilgrim.
Reed, Jessica. “Should Only Those Following God Embark on a Pilgrimage?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Sept. 2012, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/05/god-pilgrimage-camino-santiago-atheist-dilemma.Tags: pilgrimage RHS