It is quite common to hear the phrase ‘Spiritual but not Religious’. What exactly does the phrase mean? Does the phrase suggest that spirituality and religion are separate? Is it a cultural statement or does it means a situation where I choose the beliefs and prepare a concoction for myself? Let us look at it in a little more detail without attempting to evaluate the merits and demerits of each scenario.
There are a large number of people out there who identify themselves as ‘Spiritual but not Religious’. The phrase may mean different to different people but undoubtedly an attempt to understand the difference may confuse you all the more.
Spiritual and Religious are often used as synonyms and till around the 20th century they were used interchangeably. Both the words denoted the presence of a higher power and a connection with this higher power. Rituals and practices were adopted and followed to strengthen this relationship. Let us look at what being spiritual and being religious means in the modern perspective.
Being religious means being a member of a religion, a religious institution and adhering to their rules, rituals, practices and traditions. It is associated with interacting in a community and refers to the public domain of beliefs. Even private prayers in the case of religion is a standard set of practices. Looking at a passionate worker or visitor to the church, temple or any such religious institution will give you an idea what being religious means.
Spirituality moves into the personal or the private domain of an individual. Spirituals are people who do not give importance to traditions, religion and standard practices. They tend to reason more and work to connect with their deepest self. As this connection deepens it stimulates a change of behavior in them.
Spirituality and Religious – The widening gap
As mentioned above it was in the 20th century that the words began to be used to mean different things. It can be considered to be an after effect of development in science that individuals are not being able to commit unconditional loyalty to religions and the associated institutions. It is very likely that an individual may visit the church in the morning and practice yoga or meditation in the evening. What people are opting for today is a mélange where you customize your practice.
While some philosophers consider ‘spirituality but not religious’ as missing the basic point of the earlier view where spirituality and being religious were synonyms and had a common objective of striving to find the truth while others criticize this as being lazy and even self centered.
Individuals may have their own reasons for being spiritual but not religious – unanswered questions, negative experiences, it could be anything. Being spiritual and not religious is a matter of self cultivation. It encourages individuals to be true to themselves while not being self obsessed. It is about growing and being happy from within. Bridging gaps it is not hostile to other religions, practices and faiths. It encourages you to enjoy a healthy and a genuine relationship with self in order to be able to be genuine with others. To a great extent ‘spiritual but not religious’ represents a free thinking atmosphere and being concerned about the answers rather than the source from which answers are derived.
At the end it could be said that if one sees deeply, actually there is not difference between being spiritual and religious, in the core sense of the terms. Religion basically is a guide to reach spiritually elevated state, although most of the times the real essence gets forgotten in the outward acts and rituals, yet all religions basically were meant to be spiritual.
Let us try to understand how religion gets converted into mere external rituals over time. Actually most of the practices and rituals were meant as a remembrance towards a particular act which had some spiritual significance or it was the external manifestation of the internal deeper meaning which was made specifically for people who were not well versed into the metaphysical realm but needed something to start. Yet over time perhaps these got converted into rigid principles whilst the essence got lost somewhere.
So in the end it can be said that try to achieve the main goal of reaching God, whatever way you want, and it can be reached only by reaching the depths within, so whatever way you find attractive, appealing and reasonable do follow that but always remember the main goal behind all such things.