It used to bother me when people merely called themselves "spiritual" rather than admitting to an association with some particular sect of Christianity (and I say Christianity rather than organized religion because the passage of my life from northern Minnesota to a Jesuit university in eastern Washington has generally kept me in closest proximity to and contact with people of that religious background). It seemed like a more socially acceptable answer than agnosticism or struck me as an excuse for not regularly attending any organized service. In my more charitable moods, when I was not suspecting the other of implied dishonesty or laziness, spirituality felt like a cop-out, an intentional vagary to avoid insulting anyone. Spirituality, to me, was the refuge of those educated enough to be aware of other religions and not hold them in seething hatred for taking grape juice instead of wine or believing that it was a symbol of Jesus' presence at the service rather than the Blood itself. They were aware of the great diversity even within the Christian tradition alone and did not want to risk causing offense by suggesting in the smallest manner that their tradition was superior, especially differences seem so insignificant.
But I write this because my views have changed. This post is to mark the evolution in my thought, as well as describe it. The more I read, the more I learn, the more I speak with other people on such things, the more I believe that it is perfectly possible to be a truly spiritual person, one who does not believe that any particular tradition exactly captures their experience of that which lies beyond the material world. Questions of religion and spirituality are big deals and should not be decided upon carelessly. If what there is does not work for you, they should be abstained from. If you cannot accept that all dualities are illusions or that all is one, bloody well stay from Buddhism in all its incarnations.
Still, though my tolerance has increased, this seems like an awfully difficult position to maintain. Now spirituality comes across to me as the religion of the academic who has not resorted to agnosticism or atheism. It is the choice of one has read their Lewis, Smith, Tillich, Chesterton and the apologists for every other faith and can not come to a decision as to which one is theirs yet they remain ensconced in the ivory tower. It pains me to write this because I do rather like the rationalism of Descartes and attendant optimism, but reason, and as important as that is to faith, can only take one so far. The experiential needs to be their as well. After every holy writing is read and discussed, religion must be dived into headfirst, too. Religion does not exist merely in the catechism or vedas or whatever other holy writings but in the mitzahs and Hajj as well.
I wrote this only a short paragraph ago, but I must reiterate it. Absolutely, I believe, it is possible to be a good spiritual person (spiritualist?) after having moving outside of the academic faith to the practical and still not finding that connection, but I keep my reservations that spirituality may too often be taken as the easy way out for those too timid to experience what the great faiths of the world have to offer.
2 years ago