A Way Back to Soul – Part 3

An observation: As a part of my last entry I asked, “…apart from seeing you attend religious services, how would anyone know you believed in a spiritual reality? I noticed that no one offered a response to this question in their comments.  Why do you suppose that is?   On to part 3…

Great religion seeks utter awareness and full consciousness, so that we can, in fact, receive all, even the sadness and tragedy of the world.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs…..

I’ve been describing the way I talk with people about their struggles with religion and spirituality. Often when people tell me they aren’t sure they still believe in God, I’ve found that often they mean that they no longer believe what they were taught about God and spiritual things.  When this comes up, I invite them to explore the topic by returning to some very fundamental questions.

If a person is open to this possibility of a “spiritual” reality, then I invite a response to these two questions,

  1. Do you tend to believe that, if there is a spiritual reality, it is possible for us humans to connect to it?
  2. If so, do you think it is probably good for us, perhaps even important, that we be connected to it?

Just as with the question about the existence of a spiritual reality, I find that most people think that it probably is possible, even important, to establish some sort of connection to this spiritual world.  Now things start getting dicey, because leads us in the direction of religion.

A religion is, simply put, a system for getting a person connected to this spiritual reality.  Every religion out there exists to offer you a sure-fire method for tapping into the spiritual world.  If there actually is a spiritual world, and if it actually is important for us to be connected to it, religion becomes rather important business — not to mention very confusing business.  You can repeat the common mantra, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” all you want, but if you are doing anything whatsoever to develop your spirituality, then you are religious.  You may not be conventionally religious, but you are religious nonetheless (at least according my definition).  If, you claim to be spiritual, but aren’t doing anything to foster that dimension of your being, then I’d say the whole concept is pretty meaningless for you, but we’ll get back to that somewhere down the road.

In the next post I will continue this discussion of religion, but this is a good place to pause and ask for your thoughts.  I’d appreciate your reflections on the following questions:

  1. If someone were able to observer your actions closely for a week, would he or she conclude you were religious?… spiritual?
  2. If you are religious, how have your religious practices changed over time?
  3. What are your current thoughts about the connection between spirituality and religion?

More on this confusing mess we call religion in the next post….

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About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
This entry was posted in Spiritual Formation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Way Back to Soul – Part 3

  1. MPHorne says:

    Love the quote of Rohr; it ties in nicely with my last post on spirituality as attentiveness. However, here I’d like to recommend a book by Stanley Tambiah (I’m teaching it right now) entitled, “Magic, science, religion and the scope of rationality.” Instead of “spiritual reality,” Tambiah speaks of two modes of orientation toward reality, the participatory and the causal. The latter is characterized by the activities we have currently come to define as “scientific”. The former are much more intuitive, symbolic, relational, etc. And, the two are not totally unrelated to each other. My interest is in distinguishing religion (and its so-called legitimate spirituality) and magic (and its so-called illegitimate spirituality). There really seems to be not much difference.

  2. If someone were able to observe your actions closely for a week, would he or she conclude you were religious?… spiritual?

    You ask an interesting question, Wes; one based upon perception. What actions constitute spirituality?

    A previous responder asked a question concerning the difference between religion and magic…again, another perception question.

    If we were to have observed a week in the life of Jesus from the perspective of a devout Jew of that time, would Jesus’ actions have seemed spiritual or magical or heretical?

    From the extremely conservative Southern Baptist perspective I was exposed to growing up, spiritual actions are prayer, reading of Scripture, tithing, attending church, evangelizing, etc. Yet, I have seen non-Christians perform more spiritual acts than most Baptists by living with the homeless, helping a complete stranger, or simply taking the time to acknowledge the value of another person’s existence.

    Jesus’ acts were heretical to the religious/spiritual of his time. Yet, i don’t take the stance that we should all be acting heretical, just to make a point and be different.

    I believe all actions begin in the soul…there is a motivator/motivation behind every action. So maybe a better question is what is the true motivation behind the acts that we participate in weekly? Are these motivations to “connect with this spiritual reality”? If so, is that religion? Are these acts considered religious?

    Thanks for the thoughts, Wes. Never a disappointment.

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