Thursday, December 06, 2007

A few thoghts about being spiritual but not religious

I heard on the Busted Halo Podcast #30 a few people help me to understand with greater clarity the distinction people make between being spiritual and being religious. I have always thought someone who was religious was committed to belief in God while someone who was spiritual was rather uncommitted. In fact, I thought someone who was "spiritual" rather than "religious" was one step away from being "agnostic" because, if you don't practice something and keep thinking about it, you will abandon what you have already learned.

But, according to the people they interviewed, being spiritual is more about making your own path to God while being religious is more communal but also more possible to be corrupted. They cited all kinds of rules that get in the way of their spirituality as an example of religion being corrupted. And, while this is very possibly true, I would think there is just as much corruption in personal spirituality as there is with communal. Perhaps one could argue that personal spirituality has less potential for large acts of aggression as a more communal, religious attitude.

The easy response that I have is that this presumes both are dependant on human creation of the religion and don't take into account the presence of God. I mean, if faith is faithful than it demands that God be more than a passive agent. God is the author of faith, after all. If God plays anything more than a passive role in faith, then it should involve more than just the two of us. Healthy relationships are ones that involve more than just two people. The relationships that scare the heck out of me for marriage prep are when a couple think that they'll get married and won't need others to be part of their relationship. That basically means that everyone else becomes either an obstacle or a compartmentalized component of life, both attitudes which are problematic.

Religion should be a more open experience in common with God. It means that God is not simply a passive component to my life nor a compartmentalized component that has nothing to do with the rest of my life. God is not your imaginary friend. Religion gives us the space to bring the integral relationship we should have with into conversation with the rest of our relationships.


Domini Sumus said...

I have come to consider spiritual but not religious to mean that they want God on their terms.

They have a tendency to want God to conform to them, rather than them conform to God.

Fr.Dennis said...

good point

Hillary said...

I don't think it's an either/or. Being religious without being spiritual is farcical. Being spiritual without being somewhat religious is possibly misdirected.

But it's very easy to see why people would consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Throughout history, religion has been responsible for a ridiculous amount of violence. Religion creates rules for people to obey and doctrines for people to believe. And some ardently religious folk demand that you follow it all to the letter, or you cannot be a true Catholic/Muslim/whatever. Maybe the "spiritual only" people are just being honest that they are not able to live to a certain ideal or cannot agree with a certain decree, but they recognize that being human means being spiritual, and that they strive to become the most loving person they can become.

Whether they believe in our God or know it, by acting out Love, they already are conforming themselves to God.