What does that phrase, “spiritual but not religious,” even mean? And has SBNR become a religion of its own?
Religion can be defined as a way for people to make sense of their world. Human beings seem driven to find that sense of meaning, especially once our basic needs for shelter, food and safety are met. I believe it’s important to distinguish between faith and religion, with faith being “the conviction of things not seen” and religion a human-made (and therefore flawed) attempt to connect with the Divine.
While we’re playing with words, let’s throw spirituality into the mix. For some this sounds new-agey, with overtones of navel-gazing and granola. Those within a religious tradition who talk of spirituality may be viewed askance, as if they’re coloring outside the lines of dogma and no longer true believers. But for others, spirituality is the best context for talking about their deepest fears, needs and joys.
Truth be told, I believe we’re all religious. Some find meaning in the staunch belief that no Higher Power exists; their religion is Atheism. Others believe, though they’d never confess it, that the almighty dollar will save them. Thus, their spiritual practice becomes “retail therapy.” Many turn to organized religion out of their longing for meaning, only to be betrayed by fallible human practitioners of that religion. Sadly, these seekers can then become alienated from their Maker. See “Atheism…”
I chose the title “Boulder Spirituality Examiner” because I’m passionate about our relationship with Our Heart’s Desire, or God. I’m excited about examining that relationship from various angles. My own tradition — how I was raised and what I know best — is Christian. I don’t pretend to vast knowledge of various religions. But I do profess belief in a loving force far greater than myself, One whom I call by various names in hopes of keeping minds and hearts open.
Because I’m a Christian, Jesus Christ is my path towards the heart of God. But I have seen Christian brothers and sisters commit idol-worship, turning the Bible or Jesus himself into as much of a golden calf as did our Jewish forebearers in the desert. (Actually, some Jewish scholars now cast that whole story in an entirely different light!) Jesus never commanded that we worship him or create giant stone and stained glass edifices to demonstrate our devotion. Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments: love God and love others.” Is one any “less Christian” when worshipping in nature rather than in a cathedral? Might Atheists who give directly to the poor be more faithful “Christians” than those who donate only towards altar flowers?
The organization “Spiritual But Not Religious” has its own website. Its motto is “All religions contain some wisdom. But no one religion contains all wisdom.” Another tagline states “Love is the answer. You are the question.” I’ve enjoyed exploring this website and its “hope quotes.” But I have to wonder: have we witnessed the birth of a new religion?!
Humans, by nature, congregate. We thrive in community; communities function best when there’s a well-understood structure and set of rules. Before you know it, you’ve got an intuitive pecking order, then organizational charts…even a Catechism and then a website. And pretty soon you have people who don’t follow the rules, because they seem to contradict the very foundation of the community. In this post-modern world, do religions need to re-invent themselves? Is “religion” itself an out-dated concept?
The Dalai Lama said “My religion is kindness.” What’s YOURS?