I will be doing some teaching on this topic soon and would welcome comments about what you think this means.
Generally, I've found it to be affirmed by people who don't want to be formally affiliated with any institutional religion, and that for various reasons.
- some were hurt by a leader of members
- others just can't agree fully with the teachings
- scandals by institutional leaders
- don't want to put all their eggs in one basket
- don't want to make a commitment
And yet . . .
- they wish to pursue a pathway to higher meaning
- seek out healing options
- become more aware, loving, peaceful, etc.
What do you think?
Those of you who are Facebook friends can find an animated discussion of this topic going on at my Facebook home page. If you're not a Facebook friend, Message me and I'll invite you to be a friend.
54 comments on Facebook so far. Social media is where people hang out now.
Here are a few that I've posted. I won't post what others have written.
If one follows the "spiritual but not religious pathway," where does the understanding about God/higher power come from? Science cannot tell us anything about God, and neither can psychology or even philosophy. Do you draw your ideas from the teachings of established religious traditions? If not, do you rely on private revelations?
Religions provide a means for people who share common beliefs to form community, worship together, and embark on corporate service. How does one form and experience spiritual community without religion? What prevents spirituality from becoming a private, individualistic project?
Religions and their doctrines provide teachings that provide clarity concerning the nature and character of God, and what God expects of us. Without religious doctrine to hold one accountable, how does one avoid the pitfall of picking and choosing teachings that one likes while rejecting those that one doesn't like?
I don't think there's anything out there we can call "pure spirituality." Implicit in any spirituality are assumptions about reality, higher power, truth, goodness, etc. In your own case, you were raised Catholic, and that formation became part of the infrastructure of your consciousness. One can tweak it, for sure, but there's a sense in which we're never completely rid of it. Catholicism and its innate optimism concerning the goodness of creation and the reasonableness of reality seems to be alive and well in your worldview. That's not always the case, as the 20th C. existentialists elaborated.
- Just because there are lots of religions doesn't mean we can't sort things out. All Christian branches, for example, do proclaim a core teaching that is centered on the life, teaching, mission and resurrection of Jesus. Pondering who he is and what that all tells us about God is a good place to start. That's the "stuff" that religion is about, and it's way more than "rules and regulations" that keep people in a box. It points to truth, freedom, and is meant to inform our spirituality.
Some people are "religious but not spiritual," which usually means that they conform externally to the teachings of a religion, but have no inner sense of its meaning. What are they missing out on? How can people within a religious tradition be challenged to "wake up?"
If you plot Religion and Spiritual on a 4-quadrant table (like a Johari Window), you get the following:
RR - religious but not spiritual; someone totally caught up in the external aspects of a religious tradition.
RS - religious and spiritual; spirituality informed by a religious tradition (e.g., Christian spirituality).
SR - spiritual with no current affiliation with a religious tradition, but informed by one or more religious traditions; e.g., someone who believes core Christian teachings but doesn't belong to a church.
SS -- spiritual with no religious orientation; eclectic spirituality; maybe something like Eckhart Tolle fits here?
This approach is a little more nuanced in its identification of at least two different types of spiritual-but-not-religious attitudes. My sense is that SR and SS types are more different from each other than SR and RS types. RR types are a whole other ballgame!
Sr. Carla Mae Streeter, OP, an author and my spiritual director, contributed the following:
"Spiritual" means certain functions humans alone can do: like smile, wonder, be amazed, relate to mystery, both in nature and in the Divine. Everyone is spiritual by just being human, whether he or she admits it or not. "Religious" means you identify with a certain religious tradition to be your "coach" in growing spiritually, because it has a long track record of producing really top notch holy human beings.
There's a sense in which saying one is "spiritual, but not religious," is like saying one is "ethical, but not religious." Both statements presuppose that they have somehow pre-empted what religion is really all about, but they haven't.
A. Religion is about more than "being good" or ethical.
B. Religion is also about more than "being awake" or spiritual.
Both ethics and spirituality are core concerns of a healthy religious life, but they are not the sum of it.
The question arises, then: what are some of the unique concerns of religion -- issues that go beyond what personal spirituality and ethics are about?
- teachings on nature of God and character of God;
- teachings on human nature and our relationship with the world;
- guidance and means for deepening connection with God:
- wisdom for living;
- communities of encouragement and support;
- opportunities for worship -- public and private;
- inspirational examples of holy living;
- ethical and spiritual teaching in the light of religious revelation;
- corporate witness to values that promote peace and justice;
- opportunities for individual and corporate service;
- what else?
Religious institutions ought to be fundamentally oriented to promoting and supporting these kinds goals, and generally they are, though not perfectly, of course. Does anyone really think we'd know much about Jesus and the Gospel without the institutional church? This is not to excuse institutional abuses, of course, but such do not negate the unique place of religion in human affairs. All one needs to do is to look at countries where religion is outlawed to see how things go for an obvious contrast.
I recorded a 17 min. podcast on this topic last week, elaborating a bit more on some of the reflections above.
Greetings, old friends and new friends!
It has been a long time.
Just a brief question, tangential to the topic:
Perhaps a distinction also needs to be made between religion and religiosity?
In many cases I believe that what people are rejecting is not religion at all, but religiosity, which all too often is a surrogate for sincere, spiritually-infused religion.
Good to hear from you, HP. Most of the regulars have moved on to greener pastures like Facebook and Twitter. I frequent the former, but have no Twitter account.
I pretty much touch on the issue you raise in the podcast (link above) by positing a continuum of positions ranging from religious-but-not spiritual (what you might call religiosity) to spiritual-but-not religious. I also spend some time defining what I mean by these terms, as they are used in different ways by different writers.
Peace, and an early merry Christmas.
Thank you, Phil. Describing it as a continuum is an excellent idea! I shall listen to the podcast.
I don’t have a Twitter account, and I have never been on Facebook, being very skeptical to its practices as a data-mining operation.
So it looks like I will miss out on the discussions.
Peace and blessings.
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