Friday, March 04, 2005

My most recent response to "Spiritual, but not religious"

I am not a big fan of this whole religion is bad, spirituality is good point of view. Like many things it is an issue of social location.

Where I live, lots of upper middle class people buy spiritual products, read spiritual books and go on spiritual retreats, effectively insulating themselves from the struggles of most people in the world. They do not want to hear about current events, poverty or other problems because they are too busy being spiritual.

Sometimes, as a way of mixing up people's expectations I say "I am religious but not spiritual." Ultimately, I am a rationalist and don't really believe in supernatural dualism. In as much as religion is ethics, dedication and committment while spirituality is private individual experiences(which are oten mixed up with products and services that people purchase) I will often choose religion over spirituality. I will choose making a difference over mysticism any day.

Of course it is actually more complicated than this. WIthout spirituality, religion can decay into meaningless ritual (or a meaningless activism of gestures for that matter). I like to call it the knowledge of the spritiual fact of human solidarity versus the fiction of nations, races, classes and creeds. (even UUs tend to have difficulty with the nations part of this) All of us, human and nonhuman animals and all things come from the same source. This knowledge permeates and serves to inform all that we do. If this knowledge does not serve to bind us back together (look at the prefix re and the stem lig in the word religion) spirituality becomes just as shallow as meaningless ritual

What ever makes you feel whole, I support. But whatever helps you take your wholeness to the task of helping others be whole, I support even more.


At 7:44 AM, Blogger Will said...

This is the first time I've ever heard it discussed in just this way... nicely done. I am more of the spiritual, rather than religious bent.. but I think the main thing here is in definitions and perceptions. I look at spirituality as a personal belief system, ethics... and religion as being more a buearacracy.. leaders setting their own rules for compliance based on their human understanding of what they perceive to be divine. Obviously, I am working from my own jaded world-view. And just as obviously, absolutes are not correct. Being spiritual.. believing in your own system, is fine but perhaps impractical, because what if you're wrong? how do you grow without others to help you on your journey? just as not supporting religious organization is also impractical... if you have no organization, you cannot leverage great works into even greater works. Many hands make light work, as it were.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

Hi Jfield, thanks for your writing on this. I have in some ways blindly blundered into the work of a religious person for political and social justice reasons. Blind in that my sense of "religion" as a life long Untiarian Universalist is of a different paradigm than the common American understanding, at least from my worldview. I am in the business of building the systems and structures that help "bind us together" and I believe ultimately our rituals and traditions that exist and evolve serve as not only the backbone of our faith (UU or otherwise) but also are the primary message those outside our faith community experience and identify us as. I hope that more Unitarian Universalist congregations go the way of investing heavily and with serious thought and reflection into making worship consistent, accessible, diverse and not just on Sunday mornings (although this needs to be equally vibrant and awesome!). Where are you at seminary? In peace - Joseph, from Harvard Divinity School.


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