Spirituality through the eyes of a Truth Seeker


Religious versus Spiritual (Part 3)

In the beginning….. (pun intended) all I wanted to do was discuss from my personal perspective what I felt was a topic of interest; What is Religious versus Spiritual? I have come to understand that people could be Religious without necessarily being Spiritual and that people touting that they were “Spiritual not Religious” may not necessarily be correct in that statement but perhaps they are more seeking Spirituality instead of Religion but all of this was going to require some explanation. So I decided to start with what I felt was at the core of the word “Religious”, which is dogma, and from there the can of worms opened up. That plus searching for what others had written on this same subject seemed to be coming up short for me so I set off to “fill in the gaps” and now I am finally writing Part 3 of what’s turned out to be an expansive discussion of this topic. In order to assist the conclusions I’m making here, I’m including recaps of Parts 1 & 2 (along with some additional commentary) but at the same time am suggesting that you take the time to read them in their entirety as they both comprehensively contribute to the final conclusions I’m making.
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Religious versus Spiritual (Part 2)

This is a continuing conversation, therefore it is important that you read Religious versus Spirituality Part 1 before reading this post.

A few days before writing this I received an email from a friend with two USA Today articles on this type of subject. The first USA Today article is called, “Religious Americans: My faith isn’t the only way” and the second one is called, “Survey: More have dropped dogma for spirituality in U.S.” (note: take a look at the fascinating survey results). It’s interesting to note that the oldest one has ZERO comments where the one on dogma and spirituality has, at the time this is being written, 1,791 (updated 9/10/08) comments. Obviously the latter has gotten the attention of a large group of people.

I read several pages of the comments and the fascinating thing is that they are very similar to the type of comments written in reaction to the YouTube “Church of Oprah” with the main difference being more comments from the “other side”. It’s also very interesting that the first article has absolutely no reaction but in just over 24 hrs there has been an average of one comment per minute (assuming no one is sleeping). Why? It comes right back to The Believing vs. The Feeling that I originally discussed in my post “The Church of Oprah vs Christianity“. The first article is about how my way is not the same as your way. Okay, big deal, we see that all the time. The second article is about people turning away from dogma, the cornerstone of ANY religion and turning to this nebulous thing called Spirituality. So again, The Believing is being attacked here, even though it’s in a more mundane fashion than the Oprah YouTube phenomenon which was more attacking so it could promote a book. This article is only publishing the results of a survey but perhaps the reactions are forcing the readers to re-evaluate their Believing when there are statistics that challenge the dogma that supports their Believing. In other words, “Why are so many leaving dogma and turning to spirituality?”

Taking all of this into the context of what it means to be “spiritual” with dogma being used as the basis of the definition, it not only puts dogma into the realm of a personal opinion but also being religious or spiritual as a personal experience. This then takes us back to the comment in my first post about The Believing and The Feeling. Believing is based on thoughts and Feeling on emotions. As in language, we both can decide that what we see in the distance is a tree, but that does not say that we will ever fully agree on exactly how we feel about that tree. For example, perhaps that tree looks a lot like the tree one of them fell out of as a child and severely broke a limb, where for the other it looks just like the tree where he/she first made love. Both people are looking at exactly the same tree, but are having entirely different emotional reactions, which again points to experience affects how you feel about what you see which in turn can affect your Beliefs.

Taking this to the altar of religion, two people can be within not only the same religion but also part of the same physical church and neither of them may fully agree on how they FEEL about God. In this case The Believing is fundamentally the same but the resulting Feeling may not ever truly match and again be based on previous personal experiences. As a result the dogma, principles or doctrines of a religion are normally vigorously and clearly stated to ensure that the resulting feeling is as much the same as possible (did you know that nothing in the Bible could be questioned until the early 1900’s?). The congregation of a religion then looks to a main figure of Authority to bestow upon it The Believing in such a way as to ensure they all feel the same way and if ever doubted The Dogma is then reiterated to bring the correct Feeling into the religious commonality. You see this quite clearly in the “Church of Oprah” comments and ensuing video responses. The Dogma is being reiterated over and over and over again. When this is being done by the main figure of Authority it ensures that The Believing is legitimized which then reconnects to The Feeling the congregation has come to know as a result of The Believing as stated in their Dogmatic Doctrines.

An excellent example of this is one of the “Church of Oprah” response videos. Continue reading

Religious versus Spiritual (Part 1)

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about the differences between these two words? Think about when they’ve come up in conversation long enough and you might notice some things.

The most common one for me is that more people will “defend” their beliefs with Spiritual more than with Religious. In other words, whenever the subject of “Belief in God” crops into a conversation, especially if you ask someone what religion they are and some will respond with that they are “spiritual not religious”. I see this as a defense and can attest to that mainly because I am “guilty” of it. When this is the response, the person has rejected the notions of religion in favor for something not so specific and needs to state that. The one thing that I have not ever heard is the opposite of someone saying they are “religious not spiritual”.

So just what is the difference? Most people, especially those that claim the “spiritual not religious” stance will tell you the main difference is in the word “dogma”. Let’s then start with the “Grammar of It All”.

Per http://www.etymonline.com; Dogma – “1541 {another source stated 1590-1600} (implied in dogmatist), from Latin dogma “philosophical tenet,” from Greek dogma (gen. dogmatos) “opinion, tenet,” literary “that which one thinks is true,” from dokein “to seem good, think” (see decent). Treated in 17c.-18c. as Greek, with pl. dogmata.” So there we have it, right? Not really because this is using the word to describe the word, so big deal if dogma is from the Latin or Greek of the same name. So that didn’t help.

If you just take the referenced Latin and Greek, tenet appears in both. Cross reference tenet (http://dictionary.com) you get opinion and dogma in the definition for tenet which exemplifies the peculiarities of the English language where we use the same set of words to describe another set of words. I take this to mean they have similarities with very subtle differences that are never really explained leaving you to come to your own personal understanding of their use. Using what has been given between these two; then it’s a philosophical opinion or tenet (opinion, doctrine, principle) that which one thinks is true. Let’s bring that down to something more manageable and say it’s a “philosophical opinion, doctrine, or principle that one thinks is true”. This leaves itself open for lots of speculation because you may not agree with what I think is true, but then again opinion is used in the definition.

When looking over the actual results at http://dictionary.com, the speculative “one thinks is true” doesn’t appear in these definitions. The various dictionary definitions are actually more solidly stated than that. Take a look:
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Random Thoughts
  • “The more secure you feel, the more complacent you become, and then the easier it is for others to influence, manage, and control your thinking process.”
    by Barbara Marciniak, The Pleiadians
  • “Do you want your life to “take off”? Begin at once to imagine it the way you want it to be—and move into that. Check every thought, word, and action that does not fall into harmony with that. Move away from those.”
    by Neale Donald Walsch, Conversation with God Series
  • “Life is a Perpetually Unfolding Experience; Enjoy the Mystery!”
    by Jeff Staebell, My Life Experiences