What is spirituality, as compared to religiosity? (I of III)
(Originally posted October 2004)
First a few quick notes I’m very happy about. This is my One Year Anniversary Firestarter article — yay! I’m very excited about that. Also, October is my birthday month, which is another reason I’m happy, as I really enjoy celebrating birthdays and holidays — wish me a wonderful upcoming year, eh? Finally, I’ve got a big public and official Collie thank you to all the wonderful folks who’ve given me feedback over the last year!
The past year has been full of interesting people giving me much-appreciated feedback and editorial commentary on my Firestarter articles and book reviews. I can’t tell you how much that means to me — you’re all wonderful. However, I’d like to take a moment to thank two people in particular, who commented faithfully on nearly every single thing I wrote — wow!
Lou & George, you’re both champs! Any published author would be proud to have editorial help like yours, which means I count myself incredibly fortunate to have you both helping out. A big hug and a cheer to both of you — I hope you enjoyed the thank you gift from me! You deserve it, and I wish I could do more to show you how great you’ve been.
So, on to the spirituality/religiosity question! Let’s start with a nice definition of religiosity, so we have some idea of what we’re talking about here:
Religiosity: exaggerated or affected piety, which is: righteousness by virtue of being pious, which defines as: having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity, devoutly religious
Someone I know once asked me why I disliked Christians so much. It took me a while to answer, since I didn’t feel it was really an accurate question regarding my true dislikes. Furthermore, my feelings on religion have been changing and refining throughout my entire life. I finally answered by stating a version of the following, which I’ve cribbed from my final Firestarter article for the eZine Interregnum:
Succinctly, it is not Christians I don’t care for. I know several intelligent and thoughtful Christians, just as I know several believers in Wicca, Buddhism, and Islam whom I find interesting, mentally challenging, and/or inspiring. What bothers me is people who either expect or allow others to think for them. I have no respect for people like that, regardless of whether their parameter of mental laziness is ivory tower elitism, religiosity, or any other speculative framework designed to assign responsibility for their lives to anyone but themselves.
A little bit of history repeating
To be quite frank, I thought the original incarnations of Christianity, like most early versions of the “great” religions of today, initially showed fantastic potential in their promotion of tolerance and kindness to minorities, independent thought, and women.
Unfortunately in every major religion I know of, somewhere between the religion’s creators and today, each of them took a sharp turn away from the original teachings and devolved into something unsurprisingly reflective of the extant status quo, and unpleasantly hostile to independent thought, women, and minorities:
A long-standing fascination for me has been how religion is frequently used to justify a society’s institutions. Specifically I find myself… curiously examining how religion is often applied within a culture to justify objectivisation and oppression of women…
…how a culture’s religion, as interpreted by men, is used to keep women from power and to maintain the status quo, … [I try] to discern if it is religion alone which is societally manipulated in this fashion, or if religion is perhaps manipulating society.
That’s why I don’t really care for any of the big religions of today, including (not just) Christianity. I don’t like what all these formerly thoughtful, kind, reflective religions have become. For lack of a better term I refer to them as “organized religions.”
What is an organized religion? It’s when a religious sect or cult grows enough to become part of the power structure of a culture, and thus invested in helping maintain the status quo — even if its initial charter was to change an unfair balance of power in that very culture.
It is an originally-sincere spiritual quest appropriated over time by society’s leaders and twisted into something rigid and unforgiving, often hypocritically secular — so that religious dogma must be slavishly followed even in defiance of common sense or integrity. It demands the sacrifice of personal honesty for public proclamations of, or tithes to, blind, thoughtless faith.
In sum, it is when a religion has become more a pillar of the status quo than an aid in the quest for individual enlightenment. For a clearer explanation of this societal trend, see my paper on Women & the Early Christian Church, which traces this unfortunate progression in Christianity.