Thursday, December 17, 2009

Religion v. Spirituality

Well, I just spent the past half hour composing only to lose it all when Finale decided to go crazy and close. When will I learn to save?! Oh well...

I have been reading a bit lately, and it seems that questions that have been coming to my mind lately have also been coming to the mind of many others. They are, are religion and spirituality the same thing? If not, is one part of the other? If so, why the distinction? There are many others that come to mind, but these are sufficient to begin discussion.

I believe that Religion and Spirituality are different, but for many people (such as myself) they are so intertwined that they become almost synonymous. According to Jay Michaelson, Aurora Mendelsohn and Alan Krinsky in an article entitled "Religion is actually Spirituality," they argue mostly the opposite point. However, they make an important generalization on religion (in this case Judaism), "Judaism has historically been more interested in deeds, not thoughts, creeds or specific mind-states." Since spirituality is the search for a mindset (according to these authors), and religion is about deeds, there is no way the two could be one and the same.

While I believe that these last points are quite large generalizations, they still serve to show some distinction in these terms that have plagued so-called "New Age" spirituality. Keep in mind, I understand the bad reputation religion gets, some deserved and much not deserved, and I know that this can color our outlook. However, keep a clear mind. I will try now, through my own experiences, to show how religion and spirituality can be intertwined in a life and still serve both "purposes."

I was "raised" Methodist in Northern Austin, Texas. I use quotes because my parents were never really serious about it. It was more that society says children should go to church. I see that. Regardless of belief, children learn many ethical and cooperation lessons while in Sunday School situations. In this way I believe I was able to solidify the "deeds" portion religion is supposed to be based on. However, slowly but surely my parents, void of any Christian belief, regressed away from church and took my sister and I with them. It was not until Junior year of High School that I joined the Southern Baptist Church.

I know what people say about the Baptist Church and a lot of it is very true. The fire and brimstone sermons are a little much, and the music is a little cheesy, but the deeply rooted, internal connection with God that they taught is something I would never give up. There is a greater sense of connection with community and God when the congregation is more involved with the service. Since then I have been working in various Episcopal Churches and have loved it. The liturgy of the Episcopal Church is so beautiful and intense that I immediately fell for it. This and the teachings of acceptance and community led me to lead a better life and have legitimate hope for humanity.

However, it was about this time I began to explore other religions, faiths, and paths to God. It was in this search that I came upon such things as chakra healing, meditation and its infinite techniques, introductions to The Qur'an and the Vedas (I will at some point go into my feelings on the sacred texts). Through this, I have crafted and sculpted my own path to the Divine which everyday grows and matures.

What all this is an attempt to say is, religion, for me, was the gateway into the soul of spirituality. It was through religion that I was able to discover my own true path for God. I am in no way insinuating that everyone's path to God need lie through religion, but that for many it must (no matter what that religion is).

In conclusion, yes, religion and spirituality are different things, and they mean different things for everyone. However, I believe that the battle between which is "right" is pointless. They are simply two paths to the same Source.

God Bless!