What is spirituality, as compared to religiosity? (II of III)
Two modern-day examples of the secularity of organized religion: President Bush recently asked the Pope (the leader of another nation) to put pressure on Catholic bishops in the United States to support Bush’s presidential campaign by speaking out against same-sex marriage and encouraging a Constitutional amendment on marriage.
Will Bush be asking the leaders of the various European countries to try coercing Americans of European descent to vote for him too?!
At about the same time, some American archbishops tried scaring their parishioners into not voting for pro-choice politicians by stating (as the archbishop of St. Louis so clearly put it), “Catholics cannot vote for candidates or policies in support of abortion and be worthy to receive Communion.” How disingenuous of the archbishop of St. Louis to claim he was not trying to influence the election in Missouri, but rather was just “teaching the faith.”
What were these people thinking? Were they thinking at all?! Thank goodness there’s at least someone saying this is a bad idea. The Reverend James Halstead (theologian and head of religious studies at DePaul University) should be commended for noting such behavior can only be called, “poor pastoring, counterproductive, and questionable theology.”
I don’t know of a more clear mockery of Jesus’ words than actions like these, which painfully demonstrate secular lust for power pimping religion for its own purposes.
Making god in man’s image
For that matter, let’s think about the religions themselves objectively: the deities of most organized religions are nothing more than romanticized versions of what the society idealizes. Worse, most deities have the manners of spoilt children. What does that say about us and our societies?
Now there’s an interesting means to select a truly healthy, kind society for us to try emulating: we should examine how the society’s deities treat each other and their worshippers. Those deities which allow no competition; which have no real need of their worshippers; or who crush millions without care or remorse (it’s for their own good, really!), are probably ugly reflections of painful, vicious, or damaging hierarchies existing within the society itself.
All right, if religiosity bothers me so much, how do I see spirituality? Do I have a fluffy New Age definition, or something which excludes all the “great” religions?
Well, no. For me, spirituality is what all the organized religions started out as. It’s trying to find honest Truth and personal integrity in your life, no matter how long the journey. It’s actually searching for the divine, the inner Light, one’s personal Truth, or whatever you want to call it; and doing so alone if necessary.
What religion you are part of is not as important as that you seek the path of enlightenment — however you may define that personal search for apotheosis.
1) Exaltation to divine rank or stature; deification
2) Elevation to a preeminent or transcendent position; glorification
3) An exalted or glorified example
I suspect this particular search is a path less taken, but I also suspect the recompense can be far more rewarding. Almost every religion I know has some element or sect within it which allows one to individually and honestly seek enlightenment. Admittedly, it’s viewed as heresy in places, but I suspect that small personal inner voice won’t be denied forever, no matter how draconian the restrictions of dogmatic ritual and obsessive clergy.
Spirituality is something I have trouble with, myself. Do I respect it more than I do organized religion? Whole bunches. But the whole notion of apotheosis sort of gets under my gut.
I’m all about searching for truth. I even think that truth can be found in mythologies, as it’s only by exploring most forms of thought that the search for truth can actually happen. But what is the need to exalt or deify anything? How is that satisfying or make things any different? It may have made a difference, back during a time when there was less of us, when life was more confusing, when there was still so much we didn’t understand about how the world works. Back when it made sense that earth, air, fire, and water were the four elements.
Am I suggesting that we know everything now? of course not. And according to some eastern thought, there’s value in transcending thought, and moving towards soemthing purer that others seem to have reached. But why bring gods or spirits or whatever into it now? Aren’t those icons that have outlived their usefuless, except through the teaching of the ways people used to think?