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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Interactions between religion and spirituality

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I stumbled across an interesting essay on the Religion Dispatches website by Daniel C. Maguire, "David Brooks’ Rant on Emptiness of Secularism is Poppycock." 1

I love reading something from someone that agrees with my ideas on things!

I have met and interacted (online discussions) with religious folk that insist that Atheists aren’t only immoral but they suffer from despair, lack of hope or purpose. One man expressed it so eloquently in a recent Letter to the Editor of my local paper:

Atheism, in its truest form, produces moral chaos and is devoid of moral substance.”

The same man also states in that Letter to the Editor, and I agree with him here,

"Anything that has its origin in man, by the very nature of the case, is a subjective opinion."

He however, refuses to admit that his beliefs about God and the Bible and how it is to be understood are “subjective opinions” NOT objective facts!

AND he doesn’t accept the concept that “subjective” opinions aren’t necessarily bad, or that they can’t be tempered with “facts” or the wisdom of the ages! Wherever I might add that wisdom is found; in the Bible, the Upanishads, the Tao teh Ching, the I Ching, the Buddhist Sutras, the writings of the Greek Philosophers and our world’s great Thinkers.

There seems to be a common understanding among some religious folks that others who don’t believe what they believe aren’t “good” people. This need to denigrate, demean, belittle, demonize, others, those that aren’t just like you, has been one of if not the biggest failure (in my subjective opinion) of organized religions.

What really got me to thinking about Mr. Maguire’s essay was this:

"Religion is a response to the sacred -- whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture shaping powerhouses of moral idealism.”

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I once said to one gent that I have rejected Christianity for what is for me a higher level of Spirituality. He replied back I can’t possibly be Spiritual if I don’t believe in God.

I told him he doesn’t have a clue what “Spirituality” is all about.

Spirituality is your response to (understanding of) the Sacred and is a part of the essence, the core of who you are as a human being.

Many mistake the adrenaline rush and sexual flush that comes with ecstatic experience for Spirituality. In my subjective opinion, many Religions encourage this superficial, addictive “spirituality” -- this opiate of the masses -- with their music, fiery sermon, lights, incense, etc. Added to this are their threats of hellfire/damnation and promises of redemption/life everlasting if you believe the “right” beliefs. Once the music stops it is back to business as usual. The lies, pettiness, self-righteousness, hypocrisy show there has been no “real” Spiritual transformation.

Religion as Mr. Maguire points out developed as a response to the Sacred, whether or not the Sacred was seen in Theistic terms (God/s/ess) or in Atheistic, abstract/metaphorical terms (goodness, perfection, energy, animating force of the Universe, Nature, Peace, Oneness, Wholeness, Brahmin, the Tao) .

To gain wealth, political power and control over the masses, corporate, organized Religions, set/defined/placed limitations on the Sacred and in the process limited people’s Spirituality. First by insisting the Sacred refers only to their specific conception of God/s/ess, and only those that accept their beliefs and join their Church can become or be “Spiritual” people.

Second, by insisting God is a Perfect Being, then endowing God with their human imperfections/limitations/short comings: jealousy, narcissism, prejudices (racial, ethnic, homosexual), vindictive, judgmental, hypocritical, quick to anger, etc. Examples are claiming God is a loving Being then endowing God with unloving thoughts, words and actions, or claiming a loving God would demand a blood sacrifice in exchange for forgiveness/redemption.

A “Higher Level” of Spirituality moves beyond, transcends the limitations placed by Men on the Sacred and by extension on themselves -- so they can reach a fuller, more complete understanding of life, themselves, the world, and our Universe. It moves beyond tribalism, the “us (the good guys) versus them (you, the bad guys, those that aren’t just like me)” mentality that has torn and continues to tear our world apart. It moves beyond self-centeredness, a ME oriented view of life and the world towards a WE oriented view of things. It moves beyond Black and White thinking: where a believer's beliefs are 100% TRUE while other person's beliefs are 100% LIES. WE orientation embraces the great diversity of people, customs, beliefs, wisdom found in our world.

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Our day to day behavior, our words and actions, how we treat our fellow man (and ourselves), how we treat other living things (plants and animals), and how we treat our planet shows how far we have come and how far some still have to go. These things show the true nature (condition) of our “Spirit”, of our “Soul”, of our “Religion”, of who we are as human beings.

It isn’t what we believe that counts. Rather, it is whether our beliefs help us become better people or worse people. Becoming better people -- the best that we can be -- is what life is all about.

Why do many Religions encourage the superficial lower level of spirituality? Again this is my subjective opinion: People who have reached the higher level of Spirituality are in control (or have gained a measure of control) of their own Ego’s and baser instincts and can’t be manipulated or controlled by others!

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Daniel C. Maguire, "Rant on Emptiness of Secularism is Poppycock," Religion Dispatches, 2015-FEB-04, at: http://religiondispatches.org/

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Originally posted: 2015-MAR-13
Last updated 2015-MAR-13
Author: Susan Humphreys
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