On Religion and Spirituality
Humans have an unconscious and instinctive need to believe in the supernatural. We are pulled in by a story that tells us we belong to and are connected to something greater than ourselves. Organized religion can fulfill this instinct, yet organized religion often creates a human dilemma. It provides us with a story, which is the good part, and on the other side of the coin is the question is, “Does the story the organized religion tells create in some a far greater fear than it assuages?”
I personally see the beauty that belief and faith can have for us as humans. It gives meaning to what could otherwise be an existential mind game, which is that life has no purpose other than to exist. Belief and faith can create a community of purpose and greater Love that can lift us up and stir our imaginations. If that is what organized religion creates in us, then I am all in favor of it. But, if it mows down a swath of people in the process, count me out.
There are countless cases of people who will testify to the fact that in their experience the fear caused by organized religious indoctrination (especially as children) haunts them to this day. Instead of being soothed and comforted by their experience, they end up experiencing anxiety, depression, addictions, mental confusion, anger, and hatred.
These once believers are people who have terrifying dreams created by the thought that they are “sinners” who may someday end up in the grasp of a Devil monster being endlessly tortured in the afterlife. How awful it is for these people! What has brought to many inspiration, meaning, and comfort, has brought to others persecution, terror, and rage.
Often this experience of religious indoctrination creates its own Alter Ego effect in Atheism, which a perfectly normal oppositional response to throwing off the negative effects of that indoctrination. I am not going to debate whether “God” exists. I see that as a pointless argument.
Rather, I am going to propose another solution, which is spirituality. Spirituality is about telling the human story that includes us as being connected to a higher purpose. We don’t just exist and then die. We have Love to believe in, and we know there is more than mere existence for its own sake.
Spirituality, unlike organized religion, does not promote a specific cause, or inflict wounding upon its believers. It does not insist on being correct or “right.” It does not promote duality and authoritarianism. It thrives on philosophical debate, and encourages change in beliefs as we learn more.
Spirituality is not opposed to science because the physical dimension is part of the whole of life. Finally, spirituality can be a part of organized religion, but organized religion is not necessarily spiritual.
When organized religion creates pressure to believe without allowing questioning, when it creates an authoritarian culture that terrorizes its believers, and when it insists there is “only one way” to get to a promised goal, we need to question its validity. We humans need to believe and have faith in a higher purpose, but we also must question if and when beliefs cause more harm than good.