spiritual but not religious

Guest Author: 
Rev. Wilfredo Benitez

Photo copyright: (c) Wilfredo Benitez

Many of us in the postmodern world recognize a yearning for spirituality, a longing for something that gives meaning to life.  Perhaps like never before, we live in an age of brilliant psychological insights and openness to spirituality.  There is a growing convergence between psychology and spirituality, something I’m convinced is an unavoidable phenomenon when exploring the deeper meaning of human life.  Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, the father of analytical psychology, established the foundation for this intersection between psychology and spirituality, and although there remains a lingering distrust of organized religion, the wealth of spirituality and wisdom contained in the world’s great religions, cannot be denied.   Book stores are replete with titles on spirituality, and yet most of these have no direct connection to organized religion.  There is a yearning out there, a search for deeper meaning; and yet many of those searching have turned away from organized religion.  Why?

I few years ago I started a webpage: www.ReligionIsGarbage.com .  The webpage was inspired by a Sephardic Jewish car salesman who I once met while looking to buy my next car.  When he realized that I was a priest, he told me he had no use for religion; he said: “religion is garbage.”  He then shared how he was forced to flee from his native country Iran, for being a Jew.  I listened to his story with no intent of contradicting his statement, how could I?  I knew myself that too often religion turns into garbage - it becomes destructive, persecutory, it can cause great psychological emotional damage to individuals, suicide bombers sometimes kill in the name of God, and quite frankly, too often religion engages in destructive politics.  But, what about when religion is not garbage?  What about when religion moves us towards deeper truth, authenticity, and liberation from our false selves?  What about when religion moves us towards inclusion and community?

 

Guest Author: 
Dr. Bruce Tallman

 

God does not have to “intervene” in human affairs, as if God was swooping in from the outside, because God is everywhere and always has been. If anything, we humans are the interlopers, not God. As psychologist Carl Jung engraved in stone above his home’s entrance, “Summoned or not, God will be there.”

When Moses asked God what God’s name was, God said “I Am.” In other words, God is pure being, or “Being-Itself.” But God is also “Becoming-Itself.” God’s love is moving the whole evolutionary process forward toward God’s reign of wisdom, joy, justice, peace, and love.

This is evidenced by the fact that evolution has consistently moved in a spiritual direction: from rocks and water to plants and animals to humans and further to the spread of major religions around the world. So the direction is: matter to life to thought to spirit.

As a thought-experiment, let’s consider that possibly Jesus wanted to take things a further step, to a religion beyond religion — a meta-religion for everyone (“meta” means “beyond”).

His first major teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, starts with the Beatitudes, in which he outlines true happiness. In short: “Happy are the humble, the just, the pure in heart, and the peaceful.” He undoubtedly meant this for all human beings, not just his Jewish listeners.

We can resist his vision and the whole evolutionary process of course, and religious people have sometimes been the biggest resisters. The root of religion is “ligio” which means “to join” (same root as ligament), but religion can be used to hate and divide. Non-religious people can hate and divide people too, so the real problem is the human heart, rather than religion or atheism.

 “Are you becoming a wise and compassionate human being?”

I am not sure if it matters to God if you call yourself Christian, Jewish, Hindu, agnostic, or atheist if you are unkind. God’s key question is probably “Are you becoming a wise and compassionate human being?”

Along these lines, Aldous Huxley wrote The Perennial Philosophy in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, in which he noted that world peace should be possible because the same themes occur perennially in all religions: charity, peace, and kindness. All that is required is for believers to practise these values.

Brother Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic monk, more recently said the same thing in Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (1999). All the major religions in fact have more in common than our differences.

Christians regularly say that God is love, but maybe we could go beyond this and affirm that God is also wisdom, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. These are values everyone can agree on, whether they are religious or not.

Thus there may be a universal spirituality, not just for religious people, but for all human beings. If anyone, atheist or believer, experiences wisdom, joy, love, and peace, they are experiencing God working within them, urging them on to become fuller, more evolved human beings.

This is happening all the time because God is in all our lives, not only in those who are religious but also in the “spiritual but not religious,” and even in those who claim they are not spiritual. All of us want more happiness in our lives, so everyone is in fact spiritual and experiences God, whether they admit it or not.

This meta-religion of universal spirituality, this religion beyond religion, may be similar to what Jesus, Huxley, and Teasdale proposed. Hopefully, it is something we could all agree and work together on. The goal of all education, religious or otherwise, should be to produce more wise and compassionate human beings.

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