According to a recent Belief.netstory, roughly one-fifth of Americans describe themselves as “Spiritual but not Religious.” The story also says:
A group of social scientists studied 346 people representing a wide range of religious backgrounds in an attempt to clarify what is implied when individuals describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Religiousness, they found, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs. Spirituality, in contrast, was associated with higher levels of interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches.
I think that sums up the general perception of the distinction between these two words quite accurately.
A Congregational Minister, Lillian Daniel, finds the statement “I’m spiritual but not religious” to be nothing short of annoying, as she explains in this blunt statement:
On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is “spiritual but not religious.” Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.
Next thing you know, he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. …
Like people who go to church don’t see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.
Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.
If being “spiritual but not religious” means being self-centered and complacent, I would have to agree with her. As she says, “You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”
My own wish is that people would come to see that spirituality is the very essence of religion. But this has, indeed , been lost and forgotten as our commercial scientific culture moves farther and farther into the general assumption that only the literal, material aspects of life, those that can be ‘observed, ‘weighed’ and ‘measured’, are of any real consequence. When we read the Bible this way (or the Qur’an, the Greek Myths, or any of the great legends and stories), we end up with nothing but a fundamentalist interpretation of religion that mainly relies on silly and fantastic assumptions about an ‘invisible friend in the sky’.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, to say that ‘God is the highest level of creation’ doesn’t mean “some guy up in a cloud.”“Highest” is a condition, not a location.
When Ramakrishna, or Meister Eckart, or Buddha, communed with the divine, they weren’t “talking to some invisible guy in the sky”. They had achievedsomething internally, somethingSpiritual.
The ancient religions aren’t dull, as many “spiritual but not religious” people suggest. But they have certainly been literalized to the point of absurdity, and they certainly sound hollow and empty when their scriptures are read that way. My challenge to readers of this blog and my books is to look deeper, to find the inner symbolic, spiritual essence that still remains vibrant and alive within the western tradition.
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO LEAVE A COMMENT!
*** If you enjoy my Blog, please consider buying a book today.And let me know what you think! Andrew@AndrewCort.com
“THE DOOR IS OPEN”$7.95
or order from Amazon