Spiritual AND Religious

Why does this “spiritual but not religious” lie get me so wound up? I think it is because there are so many levels of the lie packed into one little cliche.

The first lie is the idea that somebody can be “spiritual but not religious” at all. How does one go about being “spiritual”? The only way I can imagine is that you give yourself warm feelings about sunsets and puppies and little children and Jesus carrying a lamb on his shoulder. How does one become spiritual? By sitting still and thinking nice thoughts? Do you become spiritual by eating granola and riding your bike to work and re-cycling and all that nice stuff? Do you read books about spiritual things? What sort of books would these be? Self help books to help you unleash the giant within? No matter how you frame it, being spiritual without being religious can only ever be some sort of self hypnotic, self induced, wishful thinking mind game.

Hold on, maybe being spiritual without being religious means you dabble in lots of different religions…Read more

 

  • Scotty Ellis

    Interestingly enough, “Spiritual AND Religious” continues the trend of assuming that “religious” still means “Christian.” I believe that it is precisely this assumption that drives most of the arguments; the article would be better titled “Spiritual AND Christian.”

    After all, many ancient religions, as well as some modern ones, quite honestly welcome, or at least do not discourage, their practitioners from also being members of other religions. There is more than a hint of straw man in the use of the word “dabble” when referring to people who participate in various ways and to various degrees in a number of different religions. What is missed in this scarecrow is the idea that someone may believe reality to exceed the symbols, rites, and dogmas of any religion; that, indeed, each of them for all their glories (and in view of all their faults) is a language and one wishes to be a polyglot, rather than merely monolingual. Languages, like religions, have similarities and differences, and any languages have things they excel in doing and things that they are poor at doing.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      This post does not equate ‘religious’ with ‘Christian’. Read it closely. Catholicism does not rule out the truth that is expressed in other religions. Catholicism is not syncretistic, but it does recognize truth and goodness in all religions to a greater or lesser extent, and where there is truth and goodness in other religions, Catholicism endorses and embraces it. It can be shown that whatever truth or goodness exists in other religions–that same truth and goodness can be found in Catholicism–allowing that it may be expressed or defined in slightly different terms according to the Catholic perspective.

      • Scotty Ellis

        Father, your bio says you are a convert. There was a time in your life in which you had the same subjective assurance about your religious beliefs – even though some of them may have been even contradictory to your current beliefs – that you have now. You converted; you were willing at some time to recognize that truth and reality were not contained within your religion, and that reality instead exceeded the boundaries of your religion.

        Now, I am not saying you did not have reasons for this conversion. But to even entertain those reasons required you to see your spirituality – that is, your ultimate spiritual health – as in some way separable from the religion you currently held. Now, it is true that this path led you to embrace another religion. But I would hope that you see from this experience that the notion that someone might find spirituality as a concern separable from this or that religion – or, carrying that to a conclusion, as separable from devotion to any particular religion as such – is not utterly ridiculous or without merit.

        I assume, or rather hope, that you are honest enough to treat your current religion with the same integrity that you treated your last: that you believe it for reasons but also do not remain closed-minded towards reality as such. I am not suggesting that you will ever convert again, or anything like that; I am just suggesting that you take spirituality as such seriously, as many people do who have not settled down on a religion.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I do take spirituality seriously. I just don’t take it seriously separated from religion. To do so is like saying, I take music seriously, but I don’t have any time for printed music, composers, instruments, orchestras, conservatories of music etc.

          My book More Christianity explains how I did not reject the religion of my upbringing, but added to it by becoming first and Anglican and then a Catholic.

          • Scotty Ellis

            It’s more like saying I can exercise without being a member of a health club.

          • Everett

            Can you be religious without being spiritual? If you can, can you not also be spiritual without being religious?

        • savvy

          Fr. Longenecker, just does not think religion and spirituality are opposed to each other, the way you do. It’s like the first principle of philosophy is existence. Hence you first discover that A exists and then move from there.

          The point is nobody is spiritual without being religious.

          Does blood not beat in your veins? Are you only spirit and not matter?

          • Scotty Ellis

            I for one never spoke of religion and spirituality as being opposed in any way.

            Just because two things are not identical or can be thought of as having independent integrity does not mean they are opposed.

            That being said, spirituality is a broader term than religion. It is actually quite simple to find examples of people engaged in sorts of non-religious spiritualism – including, for example, folk magic (which often includes an element of spiritualism), divining, or, to be less esoteric, simply reading a book one believes has guidance in becoming a better person, finding truth, or developing one’s will. Any of these activities could very easily be understood as spiritual in nature, none of them require any particular religious commitment.

          • Everett

            Following is a list of people in Scripture who were obviously spiritual, but for most or all of their lives were not part of any organized religion: Noah, Job, the patriarchs (Abraham, Issac, Jacob), Joseph, Elijah, Elisha, Esther, Ruth, Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abendago, John the Baptist. It would appear that most of the prophets ministered apart from organized religion. I think we should include those believers, including the apostle Paul, who languished for years in prison with no acces to organized religion and yet remained and even became more spiritual.

          • Scotty Ellis

            Everett: don’t forget Melchizedek, who seems to stand as a kind of “religion-less priest” whose spiritual authority comes from his direct blessing by God, rather than through an institutional middle man.

      • Everett

        What do you mean by spiritual, and what do you mean by religious?

  • kenneth

    “How does one go about being “spiritual”? The only way I can imagine is that you give yourself warm feelings about sunsets and puppies and little children and Jesus carrying a lamb on his shoulder……”

    That reveals your own lack of imagination, not the reality of what spiritual people actually do.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      So enlighten me. What do ‘spiritual’ people do?

      • Scotty Ellis

        Look at the life and writings of Walter Kaufmann, a man who did not believe any religion had a monopoly on truth yet spent his life investigating them with an integrity seldom found even among the religious.

        • http://www.savingourparish.com Gretchen

          So instead of actually giving examples, you direct us to go investigate the writings of someone else. Is this gentleman the exception to the rule? The “spiritual but not religious” mantra is quite prevalent today, as many people testify to. I find it oftenest among the under 40 group, who have vague notions of what it means to be spiritual. Most of it is predicated around avoiding an actual religion but having good feelings about the universe, or having a very insipid view of Jesus Christ, or mixing together all kinds of theological and philosophical perspectives. They have designed their own faith, so to speak, which can change with their whims. Fr. hit the nail on the head.

          • Scotty Ellis

            Walter Kaufmann was my example. His writings and work embodies a type of “spirituality without religion,” or as he calls it, “faith of a heretic.” He studies religious texts with an open, probing, honest mind; he sees if they are justified; he takes whatever is useful and good from a religion and assimilates it without feeling the need to bind himself to what is unjustifiable or false.

      • kenneth

        They do the full range of human experience as do their religious counterparts. Some use their religion and/or spirituality to justify what they felt like doing anyway. Others take a lifelong serious journey of discovery and growth. Many fall somewhere in the middle where some days they fail to try at all, other days they fall short and once in a while they knock one out of the park…

  • Zillionaire

    Father, all religions are man-made. Religions are systems of belief, not statements of fact, which are human attempts to explain the unexplainable.

    You may believe that God revealed Himself as three persons. According to history, God revealed Himself, then Tertullian developed trinitarian theology, around the year 200 A.D., to explain Him.

    You may believe that God revealed Himself through Tertullian. According to history, Tertullian was orthodox in his trinitarianism, but heretical in his Montanism and some of his other beliefs.

    You may believe God is best understood by your religion. Brigham Young and Jim Jones and Daviod Koresh and Mohammed believed that, much like Pope Benedict believes that today.

    We agree that it is reasonable to explain God in three persons. I believe that it is also reasonable to explain God as one yet many, as immanent yet transcendent, as a person yet not a person.

    Maybe both of us are “right” or one of us is “right” or neither of us is “right.” We cannot know.

    If something as foundational to Chrisitianity as the trinity is a human conception, rather than a divine revelation, then there is not much about our religion (or any religion) that we really know.

    But, you might say, if we cannot assume that all or part of Catholicism (or any religion) are “right,” then we all must become historians and theologians and figure life out for ourselves. Exactly.

    But, you might say, if we are all “self-taught,” then we will all be wandering around in circles. Well, some of us may wander, but we can study religion and spirituality as we can study music, and some of our best musicians are self-taught, no better or worse than those who were taught.

    Just my opinion, in the same way that everything that you seem so certain about is your opinion.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      In my post I acknowledge that there are elements of all religions that are man made. However, there are some religions that claim that they are revealed specifically by God to human beings. It is up to us therefore to consider this claim, first of all to see if it might be true, then compare the different religions that make such a claim to see which of them might be most authentic. The one which proves to be most authentic is the one we should commit to.

      Just because David Koresh, Brigham Young, Jim Jones and the Pope all claim their religions are the correct ones does not mean they are all equally invalid. One would need to evaluate those claims to see if one is more authentic than the others. One might take four lunatics–all who claim to be the Queen of England and one person who is the Queen of England. The four lunatics (or four hundred) who claim to be the Queen of England do not invalidate the rightful claims of the real Queen of England.

  • NM

    Be still and know that I am God…

    :~)

    So you allow absolutely no room for God to act as He chooses, then? There is no way for God to speak to us but through self-appointed religious leaders?

    Why do you have to be so demeaning and snarky about people who don’t buy into your religion or your idea of what a dialogue with God should look like? I realize you have a vested interest in promoting organized religion — it’s your livelihood, after all — but do you honestly think sneering at people and ridiculing them is the best way to share your perspective?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I nowhere said that God does not work outside organized religion. Indeed I believe he does reveal himself through his mighty works for all to see. However, this general revelation can only take us so far. Why should I not ridicule what is ridiculous?

      • NM

        Because ridicule is not the language of God.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Really? Jesus was God he ridiculed people. So did the Old Testament prophets who spoke for God

          • NM

            The tone is different. There is no arrogance or pride in Christ’s tone, nor is there in the OT prophets’ words.

          • kenneth

            If your study of the New Testament led you to believe Jesus motivated primarily or even regularly through snark and condescension, you ought to have spent your tuition at a party school rather than seminary. He reserved ridicule primarily for those who believed that their own status or money or legal scrupulosity gave them a monopoly on authentic spiritual experience.

            Your penchant for ridicule and the bitterness this topic inspires in you undermines your core argument far, far more effectively than anything I or anyone else could muster. People judge a religion and/or spirituality not by its claims, but by its results. What fruit does the tree bear?

            I have met people who I consider to be spiritually alive – those who have had a deep personal experience of the divine, and those who are not. Both sorts come from every spectrum of belief. I have met the “alive” folks from every corner – Buddhists, Pagan, Bahai, and yes, even folks who are also highly religious – devout Catholics, for example. There are also very many who are “spiritual but not religious.” Some forswear organized religion altogether, others nominally or unconventionally identify with one or another religion, still others accept all religions as repositories of truth.

            Every last one of them shares one common trait, in my experience: An unbounded sense of joy and an acknowledgement that the mystery of the divine is much bigger than their own experience of it. Many of them will maintain that their religion or system is a very good road to that source, but I’ve never met one who got angry because someone else decided not to follow their footsteps. Nor have I met any who were quick to pronounce someone else’s experience to be inauthentic. Those who have directly glimpsed divinity even a little know that its something far bigger than the crude constructs called religion created by such incredibly limited beings as ourselves. People who are spiritual – religious, non-religious or anywhere in between, generally are happy FOR other people. They want them to find their peace and joy and wisdom on whatever road they’re travelling, even if it makes no sense to them.

            So on the one hand, you assert that your religion is the only valid path to spirituality. At the same time, your own travel along that path seems to have led you to a place of bitterness and smallness of heart. Why do you suppose any of us would want to even sample such a bitter fruit, let alone make it the sole source of our sustenance?

    • Nathan

      NM,

      And if God decides to found a Church and speak to the world through that Church, would you not allow God that freedom?

      • NM

        Sure! I’m not mocking people who have found that organized religion is the path they’re meant to be on. I’m saying it’s not the path I’m meant to be on, is all.

        • Nathan

          But that isn’t what I asked. I’m asking are you dogmatically ruling out the possibility of God establishing ONE path – ONE Church which contains the Full Truth? Are you absolutely claiming there is no one absolute path?

          • NM

            I do not believe God established one path, no. I do not believe there is one, true church that contains the full truth. I am claiming there is no one absolute path.

          • Nathan

            A few questions come to mind.
            1) Can God establish one path? Is it possible for God to do this? If so how do you know he didn’t?
            2) Are you claiming it is absolutely true there is no absolute true path? That seems to be a contradiction.
            3) Do all religions lead to God? In other words, are there any absolutely false religions?

          • NM

            Sure, there are “false” religions, or people who use religion for wrong purposes.

            God can do whatever He wants, but that doesn’t mean He has to do what you want Him to do. He’s not created in our image. ;~)

            I don’t deal in absolutes. I’m claiming that I do not believe that God has created one true church that contains the full truth (by which, I suppose, you mean “the fullness of truth as we are able to understand it” ).

            God has established one path in a sense, IMO. He created us with a yearning for Himself. He created us with a desire to know Him. However, we don’t all have to march in lockstep on our way towards Him.

          • Nathan

            But that is the dilemma, isn’t it? The statement “I don’t deal in absolutes” is itself an absolute statement. As, for that matter, are “He created us with a yearning for Himself”, and “we don’t all have to march in lockstep on our way towards Him.”

          • NM

            Not making absolute statements is not an absolute in itself. I just don’t think that way. I believe in God, and I believe He created us with a desire to know Him. That’s not “absolute” in the sense that I believe we all sense this the same way, or can only find Him along the same path.

            I don’t think we’re using “absolute” in the same way. I’m speaking of a rigidity in thinking, an inability to see anything outside of one’s own perception and understanding.

            I allow for you to find your way to God your way. You do not allow me to find my way to God my way (or the way that God has chosen for me — essentially, you’re not allowing God to draw me towards Him as He chooses). That’s a form of absolutism I cannot agree with.

    • savvy

      St. Augustine said, “Many whom God has, the Church does not have”? We are already objectively saved by what happened some 2,000 years ago. It is up to us to accept that redemption according to our circumstances.

      Hence, this is where religion meets spirituality.

  • Nathan

    Father,
    Nice post and a rather courageous stand against an extremely prevalent religious opinion today. Not long ago I was making the same kind of arguments as Scotty Ellis and the others above (as most of my relations still do), so I see where they are coming from. A stumbling block to these arguments is Jesus himself. He claims to be God. If he is right, all other religions are essentially false (even if they might contain elements of the truth). If he is wrong, Christianity is essentially false (even if it contains elements of the truth). Either way at least one religion is essentially false, therefore the idea that all religions are true is reduced to absurdity. The modernist can try to salvage his position by claiming (as Mr. Ellis does above) that while all religions are essentially false, they are symbolically true. But this raises the question, what is the “symbolic” truth of Christianity? It can only be a Christianity so devoid of Christ that it is no longer Christianity at all, thus it is the modernist’s reconstruction not Christianity itself that is symbolically true. This, of course, leaves us with real, historic Christianity still being false, which still negates the basic premise of the modernist – namely all religions are true. Oh, and can someone please explain the law of non-contradiction to Zillionaire? Please. It would probably qualify as a Spiritual Act of Mercy.

    • Scotty Ellis

      A long time ago, the majority of educated people held to the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. They had taken careful observations over thousands of years and had come up with a vast system to explain and predict these observations. Over time, the system became more complex, but the crux of the system was absolute geocentrism: the notion that the earth was the immobile center of the solar system.

      When new, more rigorous observations eventually led (after much guffawing) to the discarding of the Ptolemaic system’s primary belief that the earth is the immobile center of the universe, scientists and educated people everywhere realized that the whole “solar system” idea was simply false.

      Wait….they didn’t. You see, they recognized that there was much in the Ptolemaic system that had been right; relative positions of the planets, orbits, so forth and so on. They didn’t feel the need, just because they believed that one tenant – even a central tenant – was wrong that they had to throw the baby out with the bathwater (or, perhaps, the bathwater out with the baby). So, too, just because someone does not believe that Jesus is God does not mean that someone has to believe that Christianity is essentially false in a way that invalidates Christian insight into the world or even Christian practice. It doesn’t even mean one has to discard Christianity any more than the rejection of geocentrism means I must reject the solar system.

      By the way, a symbol is anything that is meant to represent something else. Symbols can be more or less true – that is, they can do a better or worse job at representing what they intend to represent, or there might not even be a referent in reality that corresponds to what the symbol is meant to represent. Christianity, like all religions, is composed of symbols: written, spoken, and bodily actions or rites. Just because some of these symbols might be false does not mean they all are.

      The Eucharist, if it is what it is, is the symbol par excellence, the most perfect symbol, because it exactly represents the reality it symbolizes by being the reality it symbolizes. Catholicism is the religion of the Word and is thus an irreducibly symbolic religion.

      • savvy

        Your post proves that no human being can be spiritual without being religious. We live in a physical world where signs and symbols point to a greater reality that exists independent of what we think.

        We need both. For example we know that water is a symbol for washing in a way that sand is not. Suppose a person says, that this does not count, since they personally believe that sand can do the job too. I think you would call such a person crazy.

        A spiritualist dismisses the existence of physical reality.

        • Scotty Ellis

          “Your post proves that no human being can be spiritual without being religious. We live in a physical world where signs and symbols point to a greater reality that exists independent of what we think.”

          This is a complete non sequitor. I believe the non sequitor is due to your mistaken belief that:

          “A spiritualist dismisses the existence of physical reality.”

          The term “spirituality” that we are dealing with here simply means “having to do with a spirit or spirits,” such as the spirit of man. More culturally defined, it is interest in man’s non-physical components, however that is defined. This is not the same as denying physical reality. If you are interested in philosophies that deny physical reality, try Bishop Berkeley.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            It’s spelled non sequitur

          • Scotty Ellis

            Good reply, Fr. Longenecker! However, do you have anything to say about the substance, rather than the spelling?

            By the way, you forgot your period, a symbol typically used in the written English language to indicate the end of a declarative sentence.

          • savvy

            I merely said, man is BOTH matter and spirit. Hence, need both.

      • Nathan

        Well, it is irreducibly a Sacramental religion, which isn’t exactly the same as a “symbolic religion.” A Sacrament contains a symbolic element, but is essentially realistic, or to be more precise it is an efficacious symbol. To use your example of the Eucharist, the remaining accidents of bread and wine have a symbolic value, which is one reason why only red wine is valid matter, but the reality is substantially changed into the very thing symbolized (in this case the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ). A mere symbol (think of a painting of Christ) does not contain this Sacramental element and is ONLY symbolic. Catholicism, thus is not a “symbolic” religion, if we are using your above definition of symbol.

        I can’t resist quoting Flanery O’Connor on the Eucharist “if it is just a symbol, to hell with it!” You can see O’Connor isn’t rejecting a symbolic element to the Eucharist, but is rejecting the contention that it is “just a symbol.”

        • Scotty Ellis

          You’ll note that I state explicitly that the symbol of the Eucharist is believed to become identical with the reality it represents.

          It remains a symbol even as a sacrament; it just happens that this symbol is also the thing symbolized.

          • Nathan

            You state the symbol is “believed” to be the thing symbolized which leaves us only 2 possibilities. 1) This symbol IS the thing symbolized (i.e. the Body, Blood, Soul, and DIVINITY of Jesus) and thus, by logical necessity, Christ is God and Catholicism is the true religion. 2) This symbol IS NOT the thing symbolized and we are right back where we started with “to hell with it!”

          • Scotty Ellis

            I have no evidence to make a statement one way or another on the matter, Nathan, so I leave it at a simple description of belief. But even were it not, as I have mentioned to others, this does not justify a “to hell with it” attitude towards Christianity.

          • Nathan

            Well, it justifies “to hell with” historic Christianity. Christianity as it has been taught for 2,000 yrs. would be false. You may be free to construct a new religion with the remaining pieces of what was once Christianity, but you still would have proved at least one religion false, and in the process disproved your starting theory that “all religions are true.”

          • Scotty Ellis

            Do you mind pointing out where I said “all religions are true?” I never said it. I certainly don’t believe it, or I would likely have a shrine to Zeus and Baal in my bedroom!

            What never ceases to amaze me is the way people put words in my mouth. They see that I do not believe what they believe, and they feel free to assume they know everything about me. Nothing I have said possibly can be taken as the statement “all religions are true.”

            In any case, there are already versions of Christianity that do not believe the validity of the Eucharist and do not believe that Jesus Christ is divine, and they’ve been around almost as long as the rubber-stamp-approved orthodox version! So, if I did have interest in doing what you suggest, which I don’t, it wouldn’t be novel.

          • Nathan

            I hate to disappoint you Scotty, but nothing you’ve said is novel – it’s all been said before by the Modernists in the Nineteenth Century. You are correct in that there are versions of Christianity that don’t have the same understanding as Catholicism, but your logic derails when you claim it invalidates each and every version.

          • Scotty Ellis

            I make no pretenses to novelty.

            And, yet again, you have put words in my mouth. I never claimed, and nothing that I have said claims, that all versions of Christianity are invalid. Please stick to what I say, rather than what I do not say.

      • MT

        What shall we say about someone who still rejects heliocentrism? If Christ is not the “heliocentrism” of human existence, the irrefutable, fundamental Truth that He claimed to be, then what is Christ? What is Christianity? What is Catholicism? Why are you Catholic? If one rejects the claims of Christ, one is rejecting “heliocentrism” and then attempting to build a science on something false, like geocentrism. Perhaps the “more rigorous observations” about human existence have been made (though the world and many “Christians” seem to still be guffawing) and have revealed an irrefutable truth that, if rejected, results in falling into falsehood. Or is truth only allowed for empirical science and not for the claims of Christ?

        • Scotty Ellis

          Actually, as an interesting note that may or may not have analogical implications, heliocentrism is also incorrect: it is not an absolute truth that the sun is the center of the solar system. Because any relative frame of reference has equal validity to any other, once could with equal scientific validity choose any point as the “center’ or “origin” and describe the solar system in reference to that point. Of course, we typically find the sun to be most convenient in certain sorts of contexts, but actually considering the earth as the center has contextual advantages as well. In any case, if you were trying to find, say, the center of mass of the solar system, you would find that it does not correspond with the center of the sun; the sun actually has its own “orbit” as well, as it is influenced by the gravity of its satellite planets.

          That all beings aid, if there is any analogical validity to the system, it would seem to support the notion that the claims of particular religions are important contextually rather than absolutely. I suspect you would strongly reject this, so I suggest you “put down that analogy before you hurt yourself.”

          • Nathan

            Interestingly, your solar system analogy works perfectly as a refutation of your argument. As you correctly point out both Geocentrism and Heliocentrism are wrong as our current science clearly shows. Geocentrism and Heliocentrism are not equally true paths to understanding the reality of the universe. They are not “symbolically true.” They are simply false. They contain some elements of the truth, but are not true systems themselves and are superseded by our current understanding. To extend the analogy, Catholicism represents the perfect model of the universe (one which we don’t have scientifically). Other religious systems are Ptolemy’s model of the universe, true as far as it aligns with the reality shown in the perfect model, but false in and of themselves.

          • Scotty Ellis

            “As you correctly point out both Geocentrism and Heliocentrism are wrong as our current science clearly shows. ”

            Not exactly; taken as decontextualized absolute models, yes, they are correct. However, relativism affirms the validity of both as contextualized models.

            “Geocentrism and Heliocentrism are not equally true paths to understanding the reality of the universe. ”

            Actually, they are equally valid frames of reference, as long as they are detached from a special claim of absolute truth or validity.

            “They are not “symbolically true.” They are simply false.”

            That is not what I said, except insofar as you refer to the absolutist version of these frames of reference, in which case they are not simply false but only false insofar as they are considered absolute. I don’t throw away whole things because of one mistake. In fact, you note this yourself in your next phrase:

            “They contain some elements of the truth,”

            Indeed! However, it is interesting to note that we do not have any de-contextualized models or symbols of reality, religious or scientific.

          • Nathan

            Is relativism itself nothing more than a contextualized model? If it isn’t, that is if relativism is only relatively true (“true for you and not for me”) then we’ve arrived at absolute truth. If it is, that is if relativism is absolutely true (“true for you, me, and everyone else”) then we’ve once again run up against absolute truth. Either way, we’ve ascended past contextualized models.

          • Scotty Ellis

            “Is relativism itself nothing more than a contextualized model?”

            I meant specifically the relativism of physical, spatial-temporal frames of reference; i.e., general and special relativity. This is distinct from philosophical relativism. That being said, of course any of these are contextualized models. You don’t have access to anything else. Every thing you say and believe is contextualized by your physiology, neurology, and social-cultural circumstances. That is life as a human being, as opposed to (theoretically) an angel or god.

            But, let me address philosophical relativism since you brought it up:

            A lot of sophomore philosophy students learn a handy little argument that is meant to “debunk” relativism. You basically have it down:

            1) There are no absolute truths.
            2) But (1) is an absolute truth.
            3) Therefore, I win the argument.

            The problem is that any relativist worth his salt doesn’t just state (1) in some unqualified, absolute manner. Now, there are some who do, and I think they live in the land of incoherency. There are others, however, who simply mean by (1) that they do not believe there to be justification for assuming that any of our truth statements are absolute – or, rather, that relativism is not a metaphysical truth but only a circumstantial truth having to do with the nature of human existence. I am more of this variety, but I actually do not consider myself a relativist primarily because of the philosophical baggage of that label. I call my own position “symbolic epistemology.” I do believe in truth; truth is the harmony of the mind and its symbols with reality, where reality is simply whatever exists. I believe we can make justified truth statements and be justified in calling things true and false (although, typically with a bit more nuance with that). I simply do not believe that we are the sort of beings that are capable of knowing with absolute certainty that our mental and social symbols are absolutely certain. But, I am open to the possibility that I am wrong (or may become wrong given some sort of future event).

            In any case, while you may be able to wow and blow over unrefined relativists (most of whom are just posers) with the “sophomore’s paradox,” there are others who are not so easily spooked.

        • Everett

          I know of no one who believes in heliocentrism, i.e., the sun is the center of the universe; it’s the center of the solar system. Galileo, the father of modern science, replaced the error of Aristotle, the father of science, with his own error. We have no idea where the center of the universe is.

      • thefirstjacqueline

        You wrote, “… just because someone does not believe that Jesus is God… “. It sounds like you want to keep the bathwater, but that pesky Baby is optional at best. Your analogy with geocentrism only works if Christianity is not divinely revealed in Jesus Christ. Is that your unstated premise?
        Btw, it’s tenets, not “tenants”.

        • Scotty Ellis

          Thanks for the spellcheck, thefirstjacqueline!

          “You wrote, “… just because someone does not believe that Jesus is God… “. It sounds like you want to keep the bathwater, but that pesky Baby is optional at best.”

          I actually noted that when I wrote:

          “They didn’t feel the need, just because they believed that one tenant – even a central tenant (sic) – was wrong that they had to throw the baby out with the bathwater (or, perhaps, the bathwater out with the baby).”

          So I appreciate your redundant pointing out of what I already pointed out. In any case, I am not speaking of my position on these matters, but simply noting that it is not ridiculous to reject a central part of any theory (religious or otherwise) while keeping subsidiary concepts, ideas, or arguments that one believes are separable from that theory or which have alternate justification.

          • savvy

            You are missing the point. Heliocentrism/geocentrism cannot prove or disprove the divinity of Christ or his humanity. It’s not relevant.

          • Scotty Ellis

            savvy: I never said that heliocentrism or geocentrism were relevant evidence for or against the divinity of Christ or his humanity.

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

    The problem with “spiritual but not religious” is that it’s meager and contrived—it rejects the most effective mechanism for producing aesthetic/religious (i.e. “spiritual”) experience available: church architecture, music and liturgy. I like sunsets and mountains and all that, and I do get some experience form them, but the most intense religious experiences I get are from buildings and ceremonies. Last year I finally got to Ravenna and damn near passed out in San Vitale! And in addition to the architecture and music (Bach B Minor Mass, folks) there’s the historical romance—imagining a world of endless holy days and myths, processions in the streets, endless, elaborate ceremony encompassing all of life—wall-to-wall religiousity.

    Now prima facie it’s hard to understand why anyone would forgo that yummy stuff—why they would be spiritual-but-not-religious. But from what I read, and hear (e.g. from students) they understand religion, as distinct from “spirituality,” as a package of obligations, for belief and behavior, rather than a resource for personal grown and enjoyment. In addition, many of them have never been exposed to religion as a source of aesthetic pleasure: they think Pat Robertson’s 700 club rather than Ravenna. In any case, reading through this discussion, you can see it’s all about the perceived obligation to belief that religion, but not “spirituality” imposes.

    Now I am horrified at the decline of religion in favor of “spirituality” because it means that the buildings and liturgies will not be supported. San Vitale is a museum (if it were an actually church I might have dropped dead on the floor, it was that good). San Apollonaire in Classe though is still a church, so there is hope. But with the end of religion, most church buildings will be demolished, or turned into condos, and the few that remain will be made museums. And we’ll all be the poorer for that.

    I agonize about this. I love church buildings, sacred music, and liturgy. This is wonderful stuff but it will disappear through secularization. I want people to get on board with religion—not “spirituality” so that these buildings and ceremonies will be financed and supported.

    So, for God’s sake, why can’t churches get it across to people that they aren’t checking credentials at the door, that they provide all this gorgeous stuff of inestimable value with no strings. All these questions in the comments—about the “man made” character of religions, about whether Biblical claims are literally true or whatever—are completely irrelevant. The issue is preserving the buildings and ceremonies, crude as that sounds. Please, spiritual people: you can enjoy these beautiful things! Please support them! Sunsets and mountains are nice, but why not enjoy the fancy churchy stuff as well? Why not take everything you can get?

    • NM

      But…they’re just things! I like beautiful things, too, but they’re of this world, and will crumble to dust one day regardless of our attempts to preserve them. This world will cease to exist one day.

      God will not.

      • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

        I didn’t say anything against God. So, right, these are things–finite things, in time and space, that will decay. But so are all things and all human pleasures. That doesn’t mean they’re worthless. We are finite, and we want to enjoy all these good things while we can.

        • NM

          I guess I don’t see the connection. I don’t think anyone was advocating for the destruction of churches (not in this thread, anyway). I find solace and encouragement in churches of all kinds, from ancient cathedrals to humble clapboard country churches to roadside shrines of all sorts, etc. I just don’t think these cathedrals and churches and shrines, temples, whathaveyou, are a replacement for God.

          • savvy

            Nobody said, they were a replacement for God, but that we live in a physical world. Christianity holds that God become human and entered our time and space. Hence the world has meaning and purpose. Christianity also teaches the resurrection of the body.

            The idea that man is made in the image and likeness of God, comes from the fact that man alone is both matter and spirit, like the eternal son of God.

          • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

            But church buildings and ceremonies don’t just grow–and they need to be maintained. You need money, and an institutional structure to maintain them. That’s the point of organized religion. Now if you can find some way of maintaining that infrastructure with “mere spirituality” I’m all for it. But can you? How are you going to keep those buildings from falling down? How are you going to organize the rituals?

      • savvy

        The question is who is God? Just an idea or a person.

    • savvy

      You are onto something here. Christianity holds that God become human and entered our time and space. Hence the world has meaning and purpose. Christianity also teaches the resurrection of the body.

      So we can’t say that we can throw out out our physical body, because it’s not relevant.

  • Will

    I was raised Catholic and will remain Catholic. I am retired and religion is not something I talk a lot about to other people. I try to set a good example and repent when I fail. I see comments and examples in person, online, on television, and in newspapers where so-called “spiritual” and so-called “non-spiritual” people do and say good things and where both also do and say bad things. I do not know enough to judge their spirituality. Who am I to judge them?

  • http://www.dispirited.org Dave Webster

    I am also (but from a non-religious position) interested in “spiritual but not religious” – and remain convincend that to be spiritual is – to a large degree – what it means to be religious..

    http://dispirited.org/about-the-book/

    • savvy

      I said the same thing. Man is both matter and spirit.

  • savvy

    “In any case, there are already versions of Christianity that do not believe the validity of the Eucharist and do not believe that Jesus Christ is divine, and they’ve been around almost as long as the rubber-stamp-approved orthodox version!”

    But, they were never considered Apostolic, which predates these versions.

    • Scotty Ellis

      Savvy, this is beginning to diverge quite a bit from the actual post that Father made. However, before the fates of these heresies were decided by authoritative council, there was no a prior way to distinguish whether Arianism or what became the Orthodox side of things would “win.” Of course, you could say that the council didn’t “decide” the issue, but merely gave an authoritative recognition of the truth of things, which is fine and good – except that it would not have helped the existential issue of conflicting interpretations before the authoritative ruling. But, all this aside, my point was simply that “Christianity” is a broad term in itself that it encompasses a wide variety of movements and institutions, not all of whom agree and some of whom don’t even believe others are Christians. If I did have any interest in a “pick and choose” Christianity, I would at least have numerous precedents.

      • savvy

        The point is that the council did look for contradictions and logical fallacies etc Scripture, tradition and reason looks for these things.

        By what authority could they have done these things? We call this Apostolic authority.

  • savvy

    “That being said, spirituality is a broader term than religion. It is actually quite simple to find examples of people engaged in sorts of non-religious spiritualism – including, for example, folk magic (which often includes an element of spiritualism), divining, or, to be less esoteric, simply reading a book one believes has guidance in becoming a better person, finding truth, or developing one’s will. Any of these activities could very easily be understood as spiritual in nature, none of them require any particular religious commitment.”

    Are you seriously saying that the people who engage in these things are just pure spirit without human flesh?

    I think that spirituality and religion are the same thing. However, I agree that not all religions focus on both things in a balance.

    • Scotty Ellis

      I am beside myself trying to figure out how you came up with:

      “Are you seriously saying that the people who engage in these things are just pure spirit without human flesh?”

      Nothing I’ve said even resembles what you say I said. I’ve been trying to figure out the source of the miscommunication. I said that spirituality refers to a broader range of cultural practices than “religion.” Religion is an established or institutionalized form of belief and/or praxis, usually involving the relationship of man to supernatural or transcendent realities or beings. Spirituality is simply practices or beliefs about man’s spiritual component, which may or may not be institutionalized at all, such as tribal animism – certainly, a spiritual belief and practice, but not one commonly recognized as a “religion.” Insofar as Father’s post was about how spirituality is, in his opinion, ridiculous or shallow without religion, I simply meant to point out that this would render a great deal of human spiritual practices “ridiculous” and shows, in my mind, both an insensitivity and an unwillingness to deal with different beliefs and believers on their own terms.

      How that equates to me claiming that people don’t have physical bodies escapes me at the moment.

      • savvy

        You say that you do not need to sign up to a health club to exercise. This is true, but you do need a body to exercise.

        Religion merely takes into account that we are BOTH body and spirit and need to nourish both.

        • Scotty Ellis

          Really, savvy, please explain why you continuously say that I don’t believe we have bodies?

          I here publicly proclaim before you and all the universe, that there may no longer be doubt: I believe in the physical universe. Moreover, I’ve never not believed in the physical universe. Nothing I am saying now or ever shall be construed as a denial of the physical universe unless otherwise noted.

          With that out of the way, can we stop confusing the word “spirituality” for a denial of the physical universe? Clearly whatever spiritual practices might compose a person’s spirituality will involve their physical bodies. That does not make those activities “religious.”

          • savvy

            How would you define religion?

          • Scotty Ellis

            As I have said elsewhere, religion is an established or institutionalized set of beliefs and practices regarding a supernatural or transcendent reality or realities.

  • http://lamentablysane.blogspot.com Beefy Levinson

    When someone says that they are spiritual but not religious, what they mean is they’re willing to believe any silly nonsense so long as it doesn’t involve Jesus.

  • savvy

    Everett,

    All the people in scripture you brought up, did believe in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, a very particular God and religion. Hence we cannot claim they were spiritual without being religious.

    Yes, they did not always have access to ritual, which was a result of persecution most of the time, but when they did they did keep the fasts, and feasts and everything else.

    • Scotty Ellis

      “All the people in scripture you brought up, did believe in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, a very particular God and religion. Hence we cannot claim they were spiritual without being religious.”

      While I too would quibble with certain individuals on Everett’s list, it is clear that some had non-religious spirituality, especially those who lived before the establishment of the Mosaic law that is the institutional foundation and substance of the Jewish religion.

      • savvy

        Actually the ancients were quite religious. Abraham’s ancestors were Afro-Asiatics, who had many rituals of their own. People discover religion because it already exists in the created world or natural world, in time, space, the cycles of the earth etc.

        Hence, nobody is spiritual without being religious.

        • Scotty Ellis

          Savvy: what do you mean by “religion?”

          • savvy

            A path to God with it’s own teachings. Hence I do not think that religion and spirituality are separate.

          • Scotty Ellis

            Using your definition, an atheistic Hindu would be a counter-example that proves the possibility of spirituality (that is, a belief in a immaterial reality and its importance to daily life) that is not religious.

    • Everett

      savvy,
      Before the law given to Moses, there were no “fasts, feasts, and everyting else.” Moreover, the fact that they did not have access to ritual because of persecution is irrelevant; the fact they were quite able to remain and even grow spiritually without ritual is relevant. John the Baptist had access to formal religion and ignored it; do you think he set a bad example?

      • savvy

        The law was given to Moses because people were breaking it, the same way they did during Noah’s time, but this did not mean that the law itself did not exist. John the Baptist, did not reject formal religion.

      • AnneG

        Do you really believe there was no religion before Moses or Abraham? There were “high places” of local gods where sacrifices were made.

        • Everett

          AnneG,
          I didn’t say there was no religion before Moses and Abraham. I said Abraham and Moses, et al, were spiritual without being religious. By religious, I mean a formal organization with prescribed rituals.
          savvy,
          John the Baptist did reject formal rligion. He lived in the desert until he began his ministry; you never find him in the temple or practicing anything that couild be called “religious.” And this, despite the fact that he was from the priestly line of Aaron, and his father was a priest.

          • AnneG

            John, the Forerunner lived his life as a prophet. He was in the line of the Temple priesthood, but he was a good, observant Jew, probably a Nazarite or Essene. That line about this or that Old Covenant figure rejecting religion is incorrect. Otherwise, and this is just one example, the Jews, especially the Temple authorities would not have gone to seek him out.
            Also, again, Abraham was religious, entering a Blood Covenant with God. Moses learned and practiced religion, almost losing his life for not circumcising his son, remember. Those are religious things. Spiritual is just part of it, but not a touchy feely spirituality divorced from practice of Worship of God.

  • Deacon John Saturus

    I think that usually when someone says he’s “spiritual but not religious”, his actual meaning is something like this: “I am not a materialist; I’m aware that there’s a spiritual dimension to the world, and to human life. But I definitely do NOT want to undertake any religiously-based obligations that might affect my personal choices about how I spend my time, how I spend my money, or how I pursue sexual gratification. Those things are off-limits, and since religions tend to talk about all three things, I don’t want anything to do with religion.”

    • savvy

      Yes spirituality without morality.

      • Everett

        John Saturus and savvy,
        I am an apostate Protestant who hasn’t been in church since June of 1981; that’s when I decided “no more games.” If I couldn’t find believers who wanted to simply obey the Word of God, I would go it alone. As much as I had grown in the decade before, real growth came after that, largely because of persecution and spiritual, emotional, and physical hardship. My life had become a furnace of affliction; at times the darkness around me was so thick, the only light I had was from the word of God. The closer I drew to God, the further I withdrew from this thing called religion with its lifeless rituals I consider myself spiritual without being religious. And no ,savvy, there is no such thing for a disciple of Christ as “spiritually without morality.” The more spiritual you are, the more sin is an abomination.

        • savvy

          Everett,

          Thank you for sharing. The thing is in Catholicism. Dogma and mysticism are not separate from each other. So a genuinely religious person, would also be a spiritual person and vice versa. This is why this separation does not make sense to us. I can see though why it would make sense to someone with a more dual view things. For example. The Protestant reformation was based on Sola Fide, or faith alone. In Catholicism faith is not just mental belief but refers to the whole deposit of faith which covers everything.

          I hope this makes sense.

          • Everett

            Savvy,
            Sola fide was Luther’s invention, and his fellow Reformers called him on it at the time. Scripture repeatedly says were are saved by faith, but only Luther’s German Bible has sola. Luther died an angry, bitter man. His chief lamentation was his followers lived lives as dissolute as the pope’s followers. He never understood his sola was the cause.
            The pharisees were genuinely religious; they were not spiritual. I’ve personally known thousands of people who were genuinely religious who were not the least bit spiritual; they were hypocrites.

    • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

      But this is ok. You can go to church, enjoy the ceremonies and art, and not pay any attention to the moral bullshit. I don’t. Neither do most religious people. Why not just consume the churches’ goodies and do as you please? I don’t want these goodies to go away because they’re yummy! Spirituality doesn’t have these goodies, and if it prevails they’ll disappear. I just don’t understand why people don’t enjoy the churchy stuff and do what they will.

      • AnneG

        ” This arrogance and elitism is so sophomoric its frightening. Along with this arrogance is a touching level of do-it-yourself amateurism. ”
        From para5 or so, above. Fr d nailed what you are saying. You can ignore all what you call bs, but these great, physical works came about because of dedication to God, love for Him and understanding of the true integration of human spirit, soul and body.
        Btw there have been lots of predictions of the demise of religion and attempts to put an end to the Catholic Church, Christ’s bride. Nobody has yet succeeded, not even ourselves.

    • Everett

      AnneG.
      You don’t have a scintilla of evidence to prove John the Baptist was a good, observant Jew or was An Essene or a Nazarite. Guessing is a poor substitute for evidence. Merely listening to a man preach isn’t, in itself, an act of religion and it doesn’t make you religious. Abraham’s covenant with God, and Moses circumsizing his son were simple acts of obedience; at that time there was no religion to speak of. Much of my day is spent is prayer and reading Scripture; neither is religious.

  • savvy

    Scotty,

    I know you think that religion is organized with it’s own rituals and structures, whereas spirituality is more free flowing. The point is that most religions got to this stage by discovering what already exists. Hence, nobody even the cave man was more spiritual without being religious.

    • Scotty Ellis

      Actually, spirituality is simply the belief in an immaterial existence or beings of relevance to human life. Religion is an organized or institutional system of belief or practice with regards to such an existence or beings. Spirituality is a broader term, religion is a smaller subset. So, while I would agree that all religious would be spiritual, not all spiritual persons need be religious. Moreover, contra Father, being spiritual but not religious is not in itself absurd or ridiculous.

      • savvy

        Are you saying that spirituality is spirituality without morality?

        • Scotty Ellis

          Once again, you seem to have difficulty understanding what I said. Take a look at my comment again. Does the word “morality” even appear? No. It is safe to say that I am making no claims whatsoever about the relationship of morality to either spirituality or religion.

          Morality – from “mores,” custom – is how a community understands proper and improper (or, right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and wicked) actions, both with regard to oneself, one’s neighbor, property, and (if they are part of the culture) transcendent or divine realities. As such, they could potentially be completely indifferent to God and spirituality, or they may derive from religion.

          Spirituality may or may not involve moral beliefs or practices.

          • Scotty Ellis

            *from moralitas

          • savvy

            “Spirituality may or may not involve moral beliefs or practices.”

            Yes, this is why I reject spirituality without religion.

          • Scotty Ellis

            You should also note that religion may or may not involve moral beliefs or practices.

      • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

        But what about the art? the music? the architecture? Why are you willing to forgo that? In this I’m just genuinely puzzled. Religion is just RICHER spirituality, with more stuff, more goodies to produce religious/aesthetic experience.

        • Scotty Ellis

          I never said anyone should forgo it. I’m not encouraging or discouraging religious practices at all; and, I would be so bold, for all that I’ve said, that in general religions offer more sophisticated beliefs and practices than “mere spirituality” (exceptions granted). I simply wanted to point out how ridiculous (there’s that word!) it is to call “spiritual but not religious” ridiculous.

          By the way, there is no reason that mere spirituality should not produce art, music, and architecture.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            What great architecture, music and art did you have in mind that is spiritual but not religious?

          • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

            How? The issue isn’t production but performance and maintenance. I’m sure that artists and composers may be inspired by “mere spirituaity.” The point is that you need money and organization, for all practical purposes an institution, to maintain buildings, put on public ceremonies on a regular basis, pay the musicians and keep the silverware polished. That’s the purpose of “organized religion”–of an institution to supply the money and administration. “Mere spirituality” can’t do that–not because there’s something wrong with the beliefs but because you need an institution to maintain infrastructure.

      • AnneG

        You keep making these sweeping statements. No evidence or even argument. Shouldn’t you say “I think,” or, more appropriately, “I feel, with no logic or reason to back up my opinion”?
        Morality is based on Natural Law written on each heart. Religion is systematized behavior. All people practice some kind of religion. What you are calling spirituality is emotion exalted, just how you feel and react to something.

        • Scotty Ellis

          AnneG, you are apparently unaware of how sociologists consider the issue. I am using a common sociological definition of religion. Of course, you can always define “religion” to mean anything, in which case the whole discussion becomes meaningless. I would suggest you read, say, Rodney Stark in order to become more versed on this issue.

          Morality is based on custom. I see no empirical evidence for natural law, understood as universal agreement on moral precepts. Ethnographic studies have and continue to reveal a great diversity of cultural moralities. The only way to establish such agreement is to make natural law into a vague and morally uninteresting observation such as “one must pursue the good and avoid evil.”

          Obviously, some people do not practice religion. For example, secular atheists. If you define religion in such a way that a secular atheist is religious, you have made “religion” a meaningless word. Spirituality can certainly involve emotions (as can religion) but it is not a requirement. All that is required is a belief in the relevance of non-material reality, a belief which may or may not involve any sort of emotional involvement.

          • AnneG

            Sociology only watches what it deems important. I don’t accept their empiricism or definitions, so don’t need a reading assignment. You, however, might want to consider one of the great philosophers, Augustine of Hippo for a reasoned definition of religion and Natural law. One empirical proof of Natural Law: your wife has an affair, maybe flaunting and in public. Natural Law pretty much kicks in there.
            Most secular atheists I know are more dogmatic and religious than most faithful, devout Catholics I know. They even perform rituals like closing their eyes, plugging their ears when there are reasonable proofs provided regarding God. Saying spiritual but not religious is pretty much doing that.

  • savvy

    Scotty Ellis,

    The atheistic Hindu would still be religious if he/she believes in right or wrong etc, the pursuit of truth and goodness etc. Even atheists are religious. The difference is they won’t admit it.

    • Scotty Ellis

      I don’t see how this makes sense given your previous definition of religion:

      “A path to God with it’s own teachings.”

      • savvy

        I have explained the theist concept of God below.

    • AnneG

      No such thing as an atheistic Hindu. Atheistic Buddhist, yes.

      • Scotty Ellis

        AnneG, I am afraid you are mistaken.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism_in_Hinduism

        • AnneG

          Pretty much like liberal Episcopalians, not really Christians but they like the ceremony. According to sources I’ve read an talked to, it’s a new invention or reinterpretation.

  • savvy

    Scotty Ellis,

    What theists, especially monotheists mean by God is the external world of reality that exists regardless of what people think. There cannot be objective morality without objective reality. So an atheists who pursues objective morality would be more righteous than a theist who does not.

    The atheist in essence would be doing a better job of seeking God than the theist would.

    • Scotty Ellis

      Savvy,

      You stray farther and farther from the ideas at hand. Let me help you, though, with some clarity:

      “What theists, especially monotheists mean by God is the external world of reality that exists regardless of what people think.”

      Actually, this is not really correct. Classical theism does not equate God with the external world of reality, but rather sees the external world of reality (the cosmos, the universe, or creation) as a distinct thing from the transcendent God. God is Being; that is, the transcendent Source of existence, but is not conflated with existing things.

      Your definition fits better with Pantheism, the notion that God simply IS all existence and existing things. This has been typically rejected by Christianity, at least classical Christianity, although there are no doubt pantheistic strains within the Christian tradition.

      “There cannot be objective morality without objective reality.”

      I would tend to agree with this, although it is not the case that believing in an objective reality requires belief in an objective morality. Additionally, it is difficult to envision what an “objective morality” would be, since it deals with the actions of culturally-enmeshed subjects.

      In any case, none of this has much to do with what we were talking about earlier. I am beginning to lose any sense of what exactly you are arguing here.

      • savvy

        Okay, back to the subject at hand. A person CAN be both religious and spiritual. Not all religions may have moral code, but spiritual without religious these days, usually means I do want anybody to tell me how to live my live, etc. It certainly comes from the “me first” attitude.

        • Scotty Ellis

          Really? So, in your opinion, an atheistic hindu who refrains from personal pleasures and attempt to diminish his sense of self-importance is doing it because of a “me first” attitude?

          • savvy

            No. I was just talking about how this statement IS used to snub religious people.

          • savvy

            The thing is in Catholicism. Dogma and mysticism are not separate from each other. So a genuinely religious person, would also be a spiritual person and vice versa. This is why this separation does not make sense to us. I can see though why it would make sense to someone with a more dual view things.

        • kenneth

          So the fact that people can and do claim “spiritual but not religious” as a cover for amorality. The same has been true of religion without spirituality. The Borgia popes were nothing if not religious. That didn’t insulate them from “me first” thinking…..

          • savvy

            Kenneth,

            No they were not religious, because in Catholicism the two are not separate from each other. Dogma and mysticism are not separate.

  • Fred Otto

    The rabbi Yom Tov Glazer talks about this issue in one of his lectures. He said that the word spiritual is a combination of the words “Spirit” and “Ritual” Which leads me to agree with Father Longenecker’s feelings about this issue (i.e. you need the RITUAL of religion), although saying that, I could not find a dictionary definition that agrees, but perhaps I was looking in the wrong dictionary. I also completely agree with Beefy Levinson’s comment earlier where he said “When someone says that they are spiritual but not religious, what they mean is they’re willing to believe any silly nonsense so long as it doesn’t involve Jesus.”

    • kenneth

      Many of you, including Fr. Longenecker, are dismissing all “spiritual but not religious” folks as spiritual lightweights and self-serving nihilists (and you also assume that all of them have rejected Christianity). If you bothered to actually meet more people with an open mind, you’d find that some of the truest believers in Jesus are those who are not “religious” or at least don’t fit within the orthodoxy of any one church. Some of them find themselves called to physical and spiritual disciplines even more exacting than those of the conventional religious and ordained life. I have met some who are celibates. Others who have effectively taken their own vows of poverty, working and living among the “least” of society. Some have given their lives in service of their beliefs. Whether you think their version of religion is “real” or not, they’re walking the walk. Believe it or not, there are also more than a few of us outside of Christianity who find that our spiritualities and religions call us to accountability and to do things we’d rather not and to serve some end higher than our own hedonism.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    Theoretically, “spiritual but not religious” could just mean someone is a good pagan, or it could mean that they acknowledge God, but find church boring and finds the numinous in Nature.

    But usually they mean they have “theological problems” with the church: as Bishop Sheen once asked a priest who claimed theological problems with the church: “Is your theological problem Blond, or Brunette?” (and found she was a redhead).

    • Scotty Ellis

      Pagans had (and have) religions, too. Before anybody’d even heard of Jesus, priests were leading congregations in prayers and sacred divine feasts before their deities and man-gods.

  • Melia

    I think the problem here is the difference between genuine spirituality and what I call ‘DIY-spirituality.’

    Historical spirituality, as expressed in the various world religions and philosophies, requires you to actually do something. You follow rituals, you practice prayer or meditation, you read sacred scriptures or philosophy books, you consider questions of meaning and purpose, etc. It’s an attempt to transform you and the way you look at the world around you. It is something innate to humanity and can quite possibly be achieved in a secular context, although it is more often fostered in traditions such as Christianity or Buddhism.

    ‘DIY-spirituality’ is a modern phenomenon, and is quite the reverse. Rather than attempting to follow and be molded by an already established tradition, this kind of spirituality either misinterprets or completely subverts their various tenets or just does away with them altogether in favour of something more convenient. One examples is this whole idea that ‘you are God’ and you have power over your own destiny or the universe or something like that. It imposes no rule of life, invites no struggle, and is ultimately shallow and relativistic.

    I think that you can be spiritual without being religious, as one can struggle and honestly trying to seek answers and be better without being familiar with any religion – it’s part of human nature. But I also think religious tradition offers a framework and structure that genuinely challenges a person, and seeks to change them. It is the starting point and the road, not an end as itself.

    • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

      ok, DIY religion is fine with me. But it’s nothing new. Many churchgoers don’t regard Christianity as a body of doctrine and set of obligations by which they form their lives so much as a resource–one that provides rites of passage and other rituals, social activities and so on. They USE religious facilities and believe what they please. I think this is a good thing.

      Now my question is this. Suppose my goal is to promote instututional Christianity as such in order to keep the buildings maintained and the ceremonies organized. And I don’t care what people believe or how they behave as long as they get their bums on the pews to make for a crowded, lively service, and pay their money to keep the building maintained and pay for the incense. How could a liberal church, which didn’t make any belief or behavior requirements, attract spiritual-but-not-religious people.

      • kenneth

        If your only bottom-line goal is building preservation, turn the place into a tavern or bed and breakfast or rent it out to adult film studios for shoots! On a (somewhat) more serious note, look at Europe. They’ve managed to keep most of their great historic cathedrals open even though church attendance is barely in the double digits in many countries. They’re great tourist draws, although they also have government support, which is generally verboten here due to the First Amendment.

        • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

          The point is not just building preservation but preservation as a religious item, and liturgy. Yes, you can hear sacred music in concert, but that’s not the same thing as hearing, and participating in a liturgical setting. The Hagia Sophia is a fantastic piece of architecture–been there twice–but it’s a museum, no longer either a church or a mosque. And something is lost when a building no longer has the purpose for which it was intended and is simply preserved as an art object. Ironically, when a building or other object that had a purpose loses its purpose and is treated purely as an aesthetic object it loses some of its aesthetic value.

          • kenneth

            Powerful buildings and places have a remarkable staying power. I would venture to say very few of the visitors to the Great Pyramid share the original pharoah’s belief in funerary rites. Even fewer of the Taj Mahal’s 3 million annual visitors are there to mourn dear old Mumtaz. Stonehenge gets near a million a year, and up to 20,000 on the summer solstice, despite the fact that it long predates both Christianity and the druid culture that inspires many of its modern neopagan revivals. And as I’ve said, many of Europe’s great churches are still popular even with non-observant tourists. It’s hard to envision driving people toward orthodoxy for the simple sake of preserving buildings and liturgies. Either it resonates with your or it doesn’t.

            You raised the point of why don’t people just stay engaged even if they’re not really on board with the beliefs? Well, they do, and it was probably the dominant mode of Catholicism in the decades following Vatican II. Rome, however, has made it clear in no uncertain terms that they aren’t cool with nominal Catholics. For well over a decade now, they’ve been telegraphing the message in not-so-subtle ways that “your’re either all in or all out.” People are following their consciences accordingly.

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber LogicGuru

    Mercifully, I am not Catholic—and don’t have an over-active conscience.

    Skeptical, minimal, Laodicean or nominal Christianity isn’t a post-Vatican II novelty: at most times in most places it was the norm. Think of Chaucer’s religious tourists. The “either all in or all out” mandate that the RC Church is now promoting, ironically, has its true home in the left wing of the Reformation, with the idea of the “gathered church”—where membership is constituted by belief.

    It certainly isn’t the Anglican tradition–recall Queen Elizabeth I’s dictum concerning her role as Defender of the Faith: “It is not our business to make windows into men’s souls.” And that remains the stance of the Episcopal Church and, I suspect, most liberal mainline Protestant churches. You’re welcome to enjoy the service whatever you believe. The doctrines are laid out—consider them—no one is making you believe them. Surely there’s a large middle ground between orthodoxy (whatever that comes to) and non-participation—consider all those good nominal Christians who use church facilities for rites of passage and go occasionally, who aren’t convinced atheists but don’t by most of the standard story, whose religious convictions are “maybe there’s something there—go figger.”

    The aim is not to “drive” anyone to orthodoxy, but to accommodate people who have vague spiritual urges, who might go in for neopaganim or whatever—not to take them away from dancing around maypoles at Solstice or engaging in other forms of spirituality, but to send the message that churches also provide “spiritual” experiences and ceremonies, and to invite them into enjoy, with no strings attached. I suppose my real view is that I’d like to see Christianity as part of a syncretic paganism or Western hinduism. But I would like to see it as a part because it’s authentic and historically rooted in a way that New Age practices and neo-pagan revivals are not, and because it really has driven so much of the high art of our culture.

    • mmd

      So much disussion, for nothing.
      God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a very particular God. The same God promised mankind that He would send the Messiah, He had humble birth, lived with his parents until he baptised Himself and began his Ministry. He also said I have come to the righteous but more so for what the learned called sinners, as per their Laws. He initiated the Sacrament of Eucharist on Last Supper and He had clearly indicated that his time has come. He also initiated the Sacrament of confession and told his Apostles, those you forgive will be forgiven. His offered his body after suffering cruel scourging beating and insults, spitting, kicking, blows, finally was ordered to be crucified. Blood was flowing from his wea body, and by this way he completed the sacrifice of the lamb, and he proclaimed, Father I give my Spirit. In Old Testament Christ’s coming is foretold much earlier. (please read your Bible).
      We have to start somewhere to develop faith and with this comes Spirituality. Some dogmas cannot be decisively proved, but I see Saul’s sudden conversion is beyond human action, but divine intervention. One has to attend Catholic mass as a starting point and all will fall in place, the hatred will go away. This is what I believe.

  • N.O.W.

    Fr. Longenecker condescending,bombastic from the top dump is so typical and righteous and indicates some job insecurity. It also smacks of religious control.
    For me religion is an over load of rules, laws and practices that have very little effect in bringing me into a closer, loving relationship with God. Rattling off fifty some Hail Marys with all the proper thees and thous and thins while making sure the string of beads is connecting with some object to generate the sound needed for Mary to pay attention is religion. The little old lady who would never receive Holy Communion in her hand or eat a slice of toast in a restaurant without making the sign of the cross is religious Fr..She was taught by you.
    Kneeling in front of a statue or strutting around in robes with extra wide phylacteries is man made religion.
    Scapula and indulgences are religion Fr. Do you get the idea .
    Spiritual to me is a personal relationship with my divine saviour,Jesus Christ. It means praying to God through Jesus. It means I will celebrate with other Christians in church and in prayer meetings and bible studies. It means I will share the gospel with others strive for holiness in various ways including good works.
    I will make the sign of the cross prayerfully in public not because I must make it before I pray because you and sister said, but to humble myself.

    • Melia

      There’s a difference between flaunting off one’s prayers and clerical dress, and using them to their actual purpose – striving for holiness. As an Anglican who attended a Catholic school (and therefore not unfamiliar with the concepts of rules and regulations), I understand these rules, regulations, liturgies and what have you, as paths to holiness, not restrictions.

      Take for example, the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Now, if you went around flaunting them and talking about how holy and great and what a loyal follower of Christ you are, then you would have missed their whole point. The ashes are worn to convey to oneself and the world of one’s own falleness and need for God’s grace. The same goes for clerical dress. The ‘pomp and circumstance’ of decorated churches and vestments are meant to express the greater beauties found in God and Christ, and not the status of those wearing them. Indeed, some vestments and churches take the view that ‘beauty unadorned is the most adorned of all’ (Franciscan habits and Cistercian abbeys, for example). Both, despite different approaches, are trying to strive for the same thing.

      Overall, a full understanding of ritual, rules, the Sacraments etc, will not be a barrier between you and God. Indeed, they are very much a part of spirituality and a relationship with Jesus, and are complementary with prayer meetings and Bible study, not enemies.

  • http://www.the-spiritualawakening.com Jonathan JDOGG Lederman

    In order to find your spirituality one must be connected to God, Jesus, Source or wahtever you would like to reference it as. THe key is that throughout The Bible and The Torah there are many mentions of spirituality. There is no rule that you have to be in a big building to pray. The other day I was at Starbucks in my local community and I paused to do a quick quiet mediation as I came out of this 5 minute meditation a patron asked what I was doing I stated getting centered and grounded.This led to a discussion and the exchange of business cards. The key is to be connected. I invite you to visit http://www.the-spiritualawakening.com and to leave comments.


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