March 26, 2013

Religious, but not spiritual

I'm not alone in feeling a bit jaded by recent attempts to engage the topic of religion over at the SpecTrib. First, there's the tired "Theist vs Atheist" debate, which is as unproductive and boring as it's ever been; then there are several worthwhile editorials on conservative Mennonites in Manitoba; and, finally, there's this piece, which nicely illustrates nearly everything that I find unconvincing and moronic about the "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR) identity-marker. Perhaps it's becoming increasingly popular to adopt this kind of apolitical view, but it's nothing new or profound, or even interesting (that is, unless you were totally into Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love!). You know the routine: religion is exclusive and repressive but spirituality is for everybody.
When we look at most religions, we see they are often defined by their institutions and the specific beliefs taught there within. In order to be a part of a religion, one is encouraged to accept those beliefs as the one and only truth. This is where religion tends to breed separation – “this religion vs. that religion” or “my God is the only real God”. Spirituality on the other hand, is allowing oneself to define their own truth and understanding that everyone else’s truth may be different. By contrast, spirituality breeds unification as there is an understanding that we are all in this together and we all have the ability to discover our authentic selves.
Whoa. Consider my mind blown.

What we have here is something that's not so far off from right-wing evangelicalism, where religious experience is socially isolated and defined by an intensely personal relationship with God (not to mention the fact that these SBNR things usually come in a testimonial, my-life-is-so-important, format). As much as I love having "an intimate relationship with [my] own unique reality," auto-affection gets boring pretty fast.

Meanwhile, religion, with all its institutional strictures and rituals, seems more attractive than ever.

1 comment:

  1. They seem to have offered their 'counter-point' with Rob Galston's piece that just went up. Can't say I am big fan of the piece or this pattern of 'dialogue' they are establishing.