SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS?

33% of the world population claim to be spiritual, but not religious. That implies for them that they are not attached to a particular religious group. They describe themselves as “unchurched”, spiritually eclectic, religiously unaffiliated, freethinkers, or spiritual seekers. They give many reasons for refusing to subscribe to religion. The most common reason is religious leaders are not living what they preach. They preach the word of God not as God’s calling, but as a career. They don’t want to be confined to a system or structure, as if they are already part of a system. They claim scientism, as if science can explain everything like ‘why there is anything at all’. They argue that while religious’ substance may be good, they don’t like the style as if each believer is not responsible for his personal faith, in some way. I will not answer all these concerns for the sake of brevity. I will analyze whether or not it makes sense to be spiritual without being religious. Can someone have a deep, abiding friendship with God without religion?

RIDICULOUS

I believe in human’s willingness to achieve phenomenon. I know that fundamentally human beings are created good. I know that each one of us has a deep desire to achieve the good. The reality is to know and desire the good does not mean having the capacity to achieve it. Morally speaking, we may learn the Nicomachean Ethics and the golden rule and be very convinced about it, but when it comes to applying it, we break all the rules. We know what to do, but when the occasion surfaces to act, we just fainaigue it as if we never knew better. The truth of the human nature is that we possess both a soul and a body. We are both human and animal. We vacillate between doing the good and the bad. We love the good due to the presence of the soul, but we do the bad because of the animal. As a result, we need to order our lives so the animal or the body does not rule the soul. You only need to read Plato’s republic to understand how we are built and what to do to properly order our lives.

HELP

We need light to enlighten our darkness. We need encouragement to stay on course. When crises strike, we just are not in our best, perhaps due to emotions, biases, fear etc. We need to constantly be reminded of why we need to stay on course. It is natural that the more we hear something, the more likely we are to act on it when need there is. It works the other way too. The less we hear something, the less likely we are to utilize it when we should. We need the “good news” to strengthen our good behavior and avoid stupidity. You only have to read Dostoyevsky’s Brother Karamazov to see how immoral someone can be when he starts fabricating his own moral codes without religious guidance.

That is where religion comes in. it is always there to remind us what it means to be human. It is constantly there to help us answer in the right way the deepest and most important questions of our lives that stir our hearts. What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of life? What is the right course of action? Why do we do bad things even if we want to do the good? What ought we to do? What’s our purpose? Where does suffering come from and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What is death? What happens after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?

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No one can answer these questions in a way that speaks to the depth, height, and breath of the human soul without turning to religion. No man can remove himself i.e. his emotions, fears, and biases from these questions unless he lets the God who reveals himself through religion speaks, the God who uses man to speak and yet transcends all men in time and places when speaking. These questions stand above any transgression man commits in the name of religion. They go beyond science, particular system, or style. They come from God and lead to God if properly answered.

Finally, no man is an island. Just as no one can finish high school without being committed to some kind of program or school, just as no one can become an engineer without going to an engineering school, no on can reach God without using the ladder of religion to climb to God. It is okay not to be the biggest aficionado of a ladder, but if God used it to condescend and speak to us, why should we despise it? Religion is the mean through which spirituality is built. It gives essence and sense to spirituality. It makes known the true God. Ask any respected anthropologist; he should know that. Religion informs spirituality. There’s no spirituality without religion. Spiritual always has to do with religion. When that is not the case, two things happen. Either a person creates his own religion so he can erect the God that pleases him, or he’s really not a believer at all. This theme, spiritual but not religious, is therefore an illusion.

That being said, the real reason why anyone would reject religion while claiming to be spiritual is really to be able to do whatever he wants without being judged by the standard set by the God of religion. These people want to do what any non-believers are doing, but they simultaneously feel guilty of renouncing God altogether. Their sensus divinitas and conscience bark at them. So they prefer to say that they are spiritual. None of them can answer what it means to be spiritual.

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The Winnable Fight

It is a sad fact that we are living in a world that’s becoming increasingly less religious. While lawmakers are directly passing laws challenging religious freedom, many people are publicly expressing their disagreement with religious teachings/doctrines. (Check out the latest survey on abortion, gay marriage, contraception… you will understand how controversial the church’s position is on these issues among people who called themselves religious). The interesting phenomenon is that those same individuals maintain that though they don’t see eye to eye with their church, they are still active members of the Church as if being a member of the Church does not mean following her teachings. Does that not simply confirm what St Paul had said: a time will come when people will not endure sound teaching… they will accumulate teachers that suits their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth (2 Tim 3: 3-4). I believe what is at the foundation of this rejection of religious teachings is simply a lack of understanding of the Nature of God and the role of the Church in society. Hence, the dire need for a New Evangelization is manifest.

When we tell these people about God as the indwelling principle beauty, truth, and goodness, when we speak of a great spiritual force pervading all things, a common mind of which we are all parts, a pool of generalized spirituality to which we can all flow, they all tilt their ears to listen. They feel right at home. When we present God as loving, peaceful, forgiving, defender of the weak, they all feel drawn to Him. But the temperature quickly drops as soon as we mention God as One who has a purpose and a plan for each individual. They all turn away when we introduce that same God as concrete, prohibiting God with a determinate character who chastises those He loves. C. S. Lewis classified these kinds of people as Pantheists.  Allow me to scrutinize the credentials of pantheism.

C. S. Lewis noticed that pantheism is a natural inclination of the mind when it is left with no direction. It is the permanent ordinary level the mind sinks into under the influence of superstition. It becomes in that way a religion on its own. Of course, when great thinkers’ thoughts like Aristotle’s Four Causes, Plato’s method of thinking are rejected, what else could be expected? That’s when the church comes in; the leaders of the church, when making moral decision are not defending their personal interest; they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit inspiring them about what to decide. Two thousand years they have been doing that. That’s why they are still standing despite the many hardships she endured under the hands of government leaders. Had they been defending their baseless interest and not under the guidance of the Paraclete, no longer would they be a light for those in darkness, a voice for the voiceless, truth for those living in lies. “Those members of the Church” must recognize that truth before they start disagreeing with the Church. It is not about being insightful; it is not about using logic to come to lofty conclusion (though logic is very helpful); it is about having a peek into the Truth. Had they not, they would have been just like these people who use their reason to come up with hurtful conclusions. So are those members wrong then for making those conclusions? Yes because we tell them the truth; they reject it for their own selfish reason. Rejection of the truth is a sin; ignorance is not.

It is important to know that pantheism is not a false concept; however, it is even more important to acknowledge that it is not completely true. Christianity, for instance, agrees with it on many of the ways it understands God and man, but they disagree on where they go from there. Their conclusions are most of time incompatible.

They agree that God is present everywhere. Pantheists then conclude that He is concealed in all things and therefore a universal medium rather than a concrete thing. Christians conclude that God is present at every point of space and time, and locally present in none. This fatal conception also pushes pantheists to conclude that God must be equally present in both evil and good.  Both agree that we all depend on God and intimately related to Him. Christians defines that relation in term of Creator and created, whereas pantheists say that we are parts of Him, and contained in Him. They both see God as super-personal, but they understand that word differently. For the Christians, it means that God has a positive structure which we could never have guessed in advance, any more than knowledge of squares would have enabled us to guess at a cube. Christians so maintains that God is three persons while remaining one God just as a cube contains six squares while remaining a cube. Though Pantheists use super-personal to describe God, they treat Him as sub-personal.

It is always a mistake to conceive God as one of many. God is a particular Thing. In fact, He is the Real Thing or the Really Real (Torchia). He is the opaque center of all existences, the thing that simply and entirely is, the fountain of Facthood (C. S. Lewis), the unmoved mover (Aristotle), the thing that which nothing greater can be thought of (St Anselm). That’s exactly what pantheists fail to understand; they halfway understand Him, but sadly they refuse to embrace the portrayal of those who have had a glimpse into the depth. They rely on what their reason tells them while reason herself urges us not to rely solely on her. She knows her limits; she knows she cannot deal with mystery, with the transcendent.

The reality is that the pantheists’ conception of God does nothing, demands nothing, and expects nothing. He is like a book on a shell. He will not pursue you. There is no need to be faithful to Him; whereas, the Christians’ God is a loving God who will pursue us until He gets us. He wants nothing but the best out of us. He prunes us when we stop producing fruits. He rewards us when we produce 30, 60 or 100 barrels of grain. He cares. He looks for us when we go astray and celebrates when He finds us. That’s the God people who are not in sync with the Church fail to conceive; that’s why there is a need for a better, and a more aggressive evangelization. An evangelization centered on the way this people think while teaching them the truth of God. One that does not act as if it has no clue about the thought processes of the society we live in. One that understands what people go through daily in order to bring a humane solution while adhering to the truth of God. We need all kinds of people—men as well as women, doctors, teachers, journalists, artists, Hollywood Superstar, lawyers, as well lawmakers, and people from all background and places. We need all kind of modes to get the truth out—the internet (especially the social networks) as well as cable TV.  We need to present a friendlier image of who we really are. Most non Christians think that we have nothing to offer them or to talk to them about; our religion is so rich, there is no one we cannot inspire. We need to only understand where they are on their journey so we can meet them there.