“What exactly is religion, how’s it distinct from spirituality and what’s it for?”

signpost

QUESTION: “What exactly is religion, how’s it distinct from spirituality and what’s it for?”

Here are a few notes;

1 “What is religion?” – Religion is organised spirituality –

a) self-organized, integrated, focused consciousness (+ or -) in the case of the individual,

b) group-organized in the case of sects etc.

2 “What is spirituality?” – Spirituality is that which isn’t physical.  Includes the intellect!

3 “Again what is spirituality?” – Spirituality is feeling (heart) – preferably supported by reason, and right action.

Dawkins = ultimate narrow view

Karen Armstrong & Terry Eagleton = broad view

4 “Again what is spirituality?” – Spirituality is encounter and experience in how we relate to the unknown and unknowable – to Ultimate reality + reflection.

Subsequent to encounter spirituality becomes the eyes with which we see, the ears with which we hear

Belief, objectively true or false, is the meaning and motivation we derive from encounter, and allied experiences + reflection + study.  This provides our worldview.

5 “What is mysticism?” – Mysticism (the real stuff c.f. self-delusion or mental illness) = the heart of spirituality, and (the means to) true religion –

”Mystical experience…..does not seem to me to be anything other than first-hand religious experience as such. This is, however, the core of religion…..…the explanatory function of religion is secondary and derivative.” (Hick)

6 “What is the worldview that each of us has?” – Our worldview is how we ‘read’ the world. Our worldview includes that of which we are conscious, plus that which derives, less consciously, from enculturation & socialization.

7 “How is our worldview formed?” – Enculturation, socialization, beliefs and world-view determines our identity – and therefore our actions.  (E.g. –  Taliban – no school for girls, blow-up priceless Buddhist sculptures!)

8 “What is the process of true religion and spirituality?” – Becoming more fully conscious of Oneness, and its implications, and acting accordingly, gives us a sharpened sense of  our purpose.  This also links to Abdu’l-Baha’s definition of faith as ‘Conscious knowledge + right action’.

9  So religion =

a) PERSONALLY – encounter experiences, inc. of Ultimate Reality, and reflectively what we make of them

b) SOCIALLY – any agreed set of relationships, teachings and customs held in common with any religious group of which one has membership, to which we subscribe.

10 Rituals, prayer, meditation & other practice = remembrance + short-cuts to possible encounter experiences (but thoughts of the washing or shopping may get in the way).

11 Progress in spirituality is measured by regularly bringing oneself to account – in relation to the standards of your spirituality, world-view and religious group/s (if any).

—–0—–

Etymological issues:

The English word “religion” is derived from the Middle English “religioun” which came from the Old French “religion.” It may have been originally derived from the Latin word “religo” which means “good faith,” “ritual,” and other similar meanings. Or it may have come from the Latin “religãre” which means “to tie fast.”

Start doing your own research:

One good starting point is provided by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.  See HERE.   Two of the definitions I like best from this source are;

George Hegel: “the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as absolute mind.”

Attributed to Paul Tillich: ‘Being religious is “the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern” 

Others are see HERE;

The Religious Tolerance group tell us that David Carpenter has collected and published a list of definitions of religion, including:

1 Anthony Wallace: “a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers for the purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of state in man or nature.”

2 Hall, Pilgrim, and Cavanagh: “Religion is the varied, symbolic expression of, and appropriate response to that which people deliberately affirm as being of unrestricted value for them.”

3 Karl Marx: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Don Swenson defines religion in terms of the sacred: “Religion is the individual and social experience of the sacred that is manifested in mythologies, ritual, ethos, and integrated into a collective or organization.”

4 Paul Connelly also defines religion in terms of the sacred and the spiritual: “Religion originates in an attempt to represent and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of  the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration, it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses.”

5 He defines sacred as: “The sacred is a mysterious manifestation of power and presence that is experienced as both primordial & transformative, inspiring awe & rapt attention. This is usually an event that represents a break or discontinuity from the ordinary, forcing a re-establishment or recalibration of perspective on the part of the experiencer, but it may also be something seemingly ordinary, repeated exposure to which gradually produces a perception of mysteriously cumulative significance out of proportion to the significance originally invested in it.”

He further defines the spiritual as: “The spiritual is a perception of the commonality of mindfulness in the world that shifts the boundaries between self and other, producing a sense of the union of purposes of self and other in confronting the existential questions of life, and providing a mediation of the challenge-response interaction between self and other, one and many, that underlies existential questions.”

CONCLUSION to QUESTION: “What exactly is religion, how’s it distinct from spirituality and whats’ it for?”

“What exactly is religion,”

Religion personally = spiritual experience i.e. sacred, ‘transcendence of self’ or ‘encounter’ experiences, inc. of Ultimate Reality, PLUS the organizing of doctrine that the group does with doctrines, ritual etc.  Individual religiosity might be highly consonant with the official group – or less so. Why?  Because ultimately people choose to believe what they will.

Religion socially/organizationally =  any agreed set of relationships, teachings and customs held in common with any religious group of which one has membership, and to which we subscribe.  The ‘to which we subscribe bit’ because many Catholics don’t agree with e.g. no-contraception and I once found that 40% of a class in a RC school believed in reincarnation!  

In groups religious people may be more or less spiritual (or truthful or hypocritical) than those who are not religious!

“how’s it distinct from spirituality and”

Religion is a) ways to institutionalize organized spirituality and b) ways for maximising the chances for more religious experiences, and for hearing good reflection on such experiences.  Moral behaviour and service action should follow!  Spirituality is a natural and almost omnipresent part of being human like philosophising, creating, loving or breathing.  Spirituality does necessarily need religion but, at best, can greatly benefit from it.

“whats’ it for?”

Religion, and responsible spirituality, are means to help us become more fully, positively and integratedly human in order to be of service to others.  In doing this we develop higher-order qualities and virtues.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that the absolute form of such qualities and virtues are the names and attributes of God, and that in acquiring them to an above average degree is worthy of the appellation ‘truly religious, truly spiritual’.

-0-

To read the full article by the Religious Tolerance group go HERE

Reference:

Hick, John, (1981) Mystical Experience as Cognition in Understanding Mysticism, ed. Richard Woods, London: The Athlone Press – p423

My final question – “Why are there so many religious intolerance groups?”

Dr Roger Prentice – main site = http://www.pre.me.uk

Advertisements