Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spirituality and Religion

Religion is not just spirituality.  These days, it is customary to contrast spirituality with religion.  Spirituality is personal -- the soul's relations.  Religion is communal.  We call it "organized religion" (even UU's) and most people think "organized religion" is icky.  It's institutions.  It's traditions.  It's a particular point of view passed down from generation to generation, from teacher to learner, from parents to children.  It's teachings.

So when people are saying that they are spiritual but not religious, they are saying that they do not connect what they feel and think about their soul's relations from the point of view of institutions and history.  And most people who take this approach do so because they are unaware of organized religious institutions that they can agree with or trust.

But while so many have disconnected spirituality from history and institutions, the society as a whole has taken to mass incarceration, war, torture, the grinding of the poor under the heels of the wealthy, usurious debt and atavistic patriarchy.  People calling themselves Christians have followed wealth and power, while those calling themselves "spiritual but not religious" have followed their bliss.

I am a religious liberal -- I am part of an organized religion -- a religious tradition whose teachings are all about freedom and liberty and the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.  It's a religion that believes that freedom and liberty and justice are historical factors.  Human history is a two-way street and one way leads to human solidarity and justice the other away.  Our religion makes us disciples of human freedom.

Liberal religion is our religion -- it teaches and learns;  it is institutional.

But there is no difference in content between our religion and our spirituality.  Our understanding of the human soul, and it's relations with the cosmos, with God, with other creatures and other people is the basis of the social, political and historical roles that we intend to enact and embody.

As we pray, we believe.  As we believe, we act.  It is one package.  It is a way of living.  It can be apprehended intuitively -- who has not grasped the oneness and benevolence of the Great All In All, and known that to bring that knowledge within oneself would change one's life forever?  But it is also taught and shared and celebrated in worship in community.  It has a history that can be learned and thought to be analyze, and experience to learn from.  It is organized and a part of history.

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