My simple response is:
I have been researching, studying & practicing all the major world (Western & Eastern) religions & lifestyle philosophies for 34 years (yes, I was sent to religious schools). I consider myself both religious & spiritual. I can define spirituality.
It is a belief in Oneness: that one cannot only have a belief in God/Universal Love on a conscious level (through doctrine/mankind’s interpretations), but that one can actually experience Him/Universal Love directly on a spiritual/nonphysical/energetic level.
If you study the ancient texts, beliefs and rituals of all the traditional major world (Western & Eastern) religions/lifestyle philosophies, you will find that in fact their essence is one in the same. They all ultimately serve and worship the one and only God/Universal Energy — they simply have different ways of describing/naming Him/It.
Since traditional religious/philosophical texts are simply man’s interpretation – they are imperfect. Therefore, only by studying (analyzing, practicing, comparing & contrasting over time) all of the world’s great (traditional) religions et al…. will a person find that one sacred text/tradition will actually answer the questions whose answers were lost in another interpretation. Ultimately giving a person a less biased & more global understanding of God/Universal Omnipotent Energy. Once you have this understanding, everything makes sense – which is truly a great comfort.
Many religions ask for blind faith at times, but if other traditions have the answer to the questions you seek… Why be blind? This is the 21st century – not Medieval times. Only together – as one – do they answer the questions of: How does a person Love unconditionally? How does someone find light in their darkest hour? How can humankind, not only believe in God’s Love, but actually tap into it & feel it? How can I find love & peace?
Of course, you are quite correct when you say many people use the word “spirituality” as a politically correct way to say “religion” these days. However, if that instigates conversations like these – I say, “That’s wonderful”. The more we discuss, the better chance the more people will learn & understand religion & spirituality.
In fact, the direct experience of spirituality might actually be the modern panacea for traditional religion. For once you have a direct experience, you have not doubts. With this in mind, you shouldn’t slam the door in the face of spirituality – you should embrace it.
If you are (Western) Christian, and have a hard time digesting the thought that people claim to be spiritual. I suggest you start by studying one or two of the Christian Mystics, such as Saint Teresa of Avila and/or Hildegard von (of) Bingen. All the great Christian mystics considered themselves religious and spiritual as well.
But remember: ‘The Himalayas of the soul are not for everyone.’ ~ Bhagavad Gita
~always with love
Don’t get me wrong. I am not some dogmatic crank trying to carve spirituality out of our religious lives. I’m just saying that “spirituality” (whatever that means) gets more than its share of attention today, while religion seems relegated to the scrap heap of history, certainly in popular American culture and among most (yes, most) of the people I associate with. It is not entirely clear what people mean today when they use the word “spiritual”, especially in the phrase “spiritual, not religious”. For our purposes today, let’s assume it means the private, subjective part of what we used to call religious experience, with “religion” being the public, shared part. I imagine that the audience for this blog is made up mainly of Presbyterians from the northeast who are, like me, in many ways sympathetic with the same forces of social liberalism that shun organized religion. So I think it…
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