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Spirituality vs Religion

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Every once in a while when getting into a discussion with the strongly devout, they'll insist that they're spiritual, but not religious.  I pretty much understand them wanting to make such a distinction.  It's very similar to my desire for precision in calling myself a skeptical agnostic instead of an atheist.

My suspicion is that most of them are trying to distance themselves from the Catholic church in particular.  That the dogma and trappings of that religion seems largely a construct of mankind.  That a "real Bible church" (as one person put it to me) is somehow less tainted by man.

But when I did the above search, one of the most succinct and generic descriptions I found was:

...defining spirituality as "our search for purpose and meaning involving both transcendence (the experience of existence beyond the physical/psychological) and immanence (the discovery of the transcendent in the physical/psychological). He defines religion as "the organized attempt to facilitate and interpret that search."

So, spirituality is essentially a feeling that there's something more.  Religion is a codification of that feeling, used to guide others.

Given that true spirituality is pretty amorphous and freewheeling, I think it's pretty ironic how adamant some of the most devout, who insist just as adamantly that they're not religious, are about insisting that the Bible is perfect.  That one must accept and follow the Bible (well, the parts they agree with) or else suffer eternal peril.

Ironic because the Bible is, pretty much by definition, a codification of spirituality.  After all, Christianity is a religion.

Sure, there are people who follow religious doctrines without really understanding them and/or without much feeling.  Those people are indeed best described as religious but not spiritual.  They're pretty easy to find.  They tend to practice their religion in a very inconsistent fashion.

I know people who are spiritual but not religious within the previous definition.  They feel certain there's something more than just this physical world.  But they aren't sure what it is.

But one thing they are pretty sure of is that they are unable to accept the Bible as entirely literal.  Possibly, it includes some useful clues to help them find the answers which they seek.

But they're still searching.

Maybe that's the difference between spirituality vs religion.  Spiritual people are searching.  Religious people are studying.  There are sure to be some facets of religious study that do encompass a spiritual search.  But the search must be confined to remain within the code that is already laid out.  And that makes it religion.

But the people trying to distance themselves from the established Christian sects don't see it that way.  They have The Word all spelled out in front of them.

But, no way, don't dare call them religious.

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Last modified: May 19, 2006
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