In my last post I began a series which lays out how I talk with people about loss of faith (You can see that post here). Thank you for posting your comments. One pastor sent me note expressing that it seemed most of the comments focused on doubt, and he wondered if there was a need to distinguish between having doubts and experiencing a loss of faith. As I’ve thought about this I’ve decided that maybe there is, but for now I’m going to let these two notions run alongside each other. On to part 2….
When clients express a loss of faith with me, I ask them if they’d be willing to explore that a bit. Usually they say, “Sure.”
I explain that it can sometimes be helpful to cut through all the religious fog and get back to some very basic concepts. I then ask something like this,
Do you think this physical reality is all there is? Or do you tend to believe that there is probably “something more” — something behind this material world that is, perhaps, even more “real?”
I don’t recall ever having anyone respond with, “Nope, I’m fairly convinced that reality is nothing more than molecules stuck together in the form of chairs, and cats, and brains, and barbecue grills.” If someone does believe that, it means the person is a Materialist. In my opinion, most of us, regardless of our religious education, live as though we are indeed mere materialists. I still find it unusual for the people who come to see me willing to settle for this view of creation.
If the person resonates with the idea of a deeper reality, I will ask something like this,
Are you okay with me calling whatever this other something is “spiritual?”
Again, you won’t be shocked to know that most folks are okay with the word “spiritual,” though I’m always aware that this word carries all sorts of interesting baggage. Sometimes we talk about that baggage — about how we’re taught early that “spiritual” is something one is supposed to be, and about all the confusing descriptions of spiritual that have been foisted upon us over the years. Sometimes a person will recall someone at church who was considered very spiritual, and yet was one of the meanest neighbors in town Monday through Saturday.
Often the word “spiritual” is used to describe people who are simply dedicated to practicing religious behaviors, like attending church regularly and memorizing scripture, and making a tasty broccoli-cheese casserole for the Wednesday evening church supper. If someone was exposed to such shallow definitions as a child, then it’s no wonder that the word may touch off ambivalent thoughts and feelings.
I believe its good for all of us to reconsider, from time to time, what we think we mean when we talk about the existence of a spiritual reality. Every time I revisit this concept, I realize how fluid my ideas are.
So, let me throw two questions at you:
- Do you believe there is a spiritual reality behind this physical reality?
- If so, apart from seeing you attend religious services, how would anyone know you believed in a spiritual reality?
I’ll value your responses in the comment section. (If you want your response to remain anonymous, just put something other than your name in the “name” field on the comment form).
Next time: Do you tend to believe that, if there is a spiritual reality, that it’s possible for us humans to connect to it? If so, do you think its probably good for us, perhaps even important, that we be connected to it?