The Problem With Religion & Spirituality
What is so threatening about the words Religion & Spirituality?
How can two little words be so threatening? What is threatened? What is the difference between religion and spirituality? What causes one word to be negative and the other to be positive?
Religion – the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
Spirituality – the quality or state of being spiritual
Religion- What Was Taught
I grew up attending a Lutheran church every Sunday. It was just what we did.
There were certain rules that went along with this Sunday ritual, like wear your best dress, act like a lady, be polite, be silent, be reverent, don’t stare at the people in the pews behind you, try not to laugh out loud…
Dogma was tied in with religion from a very early age, I just didn’t know it.
I associated religion as dogma and dogma as religion. Although the rituals practiced were refreshing, the rules became somewhat stifling with time.
I looked forward to singing my heart out, taking communion, and reciting the Lord’s prayer. It was fulfilling to practice familiar ceremonies each week.
I had my favorite songs like “I Love to Tell The Story” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” I had a natural affinity for Christ from a young age and hung on every red letter word in the bible.
I questioned a lot of the words in the bible, feeling like there was confusion in the translation but was fascinated by the parables of Christ.
I wondered why we spent so much time focusing on the suffering of Christ instead of the truth that he taught. I felt like we were somehow missing the whole point, but I was just a kid.
Who was I to question these adults? I just continued to follow their lead.
I remember the first time I went with a friend to a Baptist revival. It was alive and so different than our usual Sunday experience.
People were yelling, dancing, and singing with joy. They were inviting people to come forward to be saved and it all seemed very exciting.
They would walk to the front and be moved to tears or fall to their knees with the movement of the Spirit. I remember thinking I wanted to know what this felt like.
I was taken by all the enthusiasm and ran home to tell my dad I was joining the Baptist church. I guess I thought he’d be happy for me. Well, that did not go over at all. I was reprimanded and sent to my room.
Well, that did not go over at all. I was reprimanded and sent to my room.This was a discussion that was not to be talked about again. I was left with even more confusion. How could feeling this alive be wrong?
This was a discussion that was not to be talked about again. I was left with even more confusion. How could feeling this much excitement be wrong?
How could others opening to the Spirit more be condemned? His story was that this was full of hypocrisy.
These “Baptists” acted one way in church then were two faced in life.
The irony was that I saw this almost every Sunday in our Lutheran church. People acted “proper” while in church then would get drunk on beer, indulge in gossip and gorge on food right after. It was okay to lose control in this way but not while worshipping God.
It was permissible because the community was predominantly German and that is just what Germans do. There was no judgment about that.
It seemed more honest to let go of control and let Spirit move us. Wasn’t this what we were talking about anyway? Control or lack of control? Do we ever really have control anyway?
I never did join the Baptist church but remained lost until my Junior year in high school.
Spirituality- Something Different
I’d moved to Dallas, Texas from my small hometown. There was a small Christian church a few blocks from our new home. We decided to check it out one Sunday and it changed my life.
The first time I heard Harold speak in church, his words brought all my questions into a simple yet profound perspective. Religion and Spirituality met in a perfectly harmonious relationship.
Before this moment, I’d gone to church every Sunday and worshiped God yet this was the first time I’d personally experienced Spirituality.
The Baptist church had shown me other people being moved by a spiritual experience but now I knew.
I heard this source coming through Harold’s vocal chords. It reached inside and filled me. I realized for the first time, that this presence was inside.
I watched him living in spirit and spirit living in him. It went to the woods with him when he hiked and peaked out of his eyes in all that he did.
He was a constant reminder of what was most important. It wasn’t just words being regurgitated.They were alive.
I could feel it inside me as I left the church and no longer needed to be in one certain place to experience it.
By definition, religion and spirituality can seem very similar. By judgment, they can seem very different. I believe the words are relative according to each persons experience.
For me, my life became spiritual and my religion became life. When I the example in Harold, of living in spirit, religion expanded beyond the churches walls.
I would often observe people leaving church service and immediately beginning to gossip about others, tearing them down, when only minutes before they were singing praises to the other members, to the church and to God the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
This did not make sense to me at the time. I questioned why we would act one way inside the church and leave our facade at the door until the following Sunday.
What was the point of this?
I had more questions than answers. That is until, I saw a living example of what Christ taught. Harold carried God with him and showed me to do the same.
He spread God’s love by giving up control. He didn’t have rules because he didn’t need them. They were not necessary and this made sense to me.
The world became my church and this ignited a fire within to share God’s love with others. I didn’t feel perfect and I didn’t have to. I could be me and love God.
I could be imperfect me and still give to others. I was reminded me of what Christ taught, minus all the misinterpretations laced with judgment.
He was a living testament and I no longer questioned the purpose of religion. I understood where religion and spirituality met. I understood where to look for God…inside my own heart.
When I hear people say they are just not spiritual, I am very confused. To me, I hear, “I am cut off from my essence and I am okay with that.” It is not a belief. It is simple Truth.
When I hear, “I am more religious than spiritual.” I hear, “I feel safer talking about God than embodying God’s love inside me.” “I am too afraid to feel that out of control.”
To me, religion is the act of worshiping God with outward actions, rituals, or ceremonies. Spirituality is living God’s love in every moment.
I think they go hand and hand. I think ritual is important in living in spirit and living in spirit is essential when practicing rituals of worship.
“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. … Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”
― Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
The problem I see with Religion & Spirituality is how we let our minds interpret it. Our ego has a job to categorize everything into boxes of right and wrong.
Each one of these boxes is a limited form of reality. Just by the act of putting an idea into a box, we have set a limiting judgment on it.
We have set a limiting judgment on existence. It may fit more neatly into our comfort zone but it has been distorted from it’s original essence.
The reason religions start wars is because of our incessant need to make one thing right and another thing wrong.
Did their teaching say, “Judge yourselves, hurt each other, and make sure to passionately murder those that look different than you?”
We say we are fighting for peace but we are actually fighting for our judgments.
If God is Love. Where are the boundaries of this Love?
What is so threatening in the word Religion? Spirituality? God?
The Simple Solution
The deeper I dive down the rabbit hole of existence, the more I realize how simple God and truth is.
It already exists within each of us, in our hearts. It is riding on each breath we take, and whispering each time the wind blows through the trees.
It is at the center of all of our desires and aversions. It is waiting to embrace us if we just let go even for an instance. There is something bigger than our minds.
If you need proof, look into a baby’s eyes, or the eyes of a puppy. If this makes you uncomfortable, perhaps its is time to sincerely ask yourself,
“Who am I?”
“Why do I exist?”
Then breathe. What do you have to lose?
Misha Almira is a shamanic healer. meditation teacher, and full time blogger.