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Spirituality v. Religion

Spirituality Religion

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#1 Bad Wolf

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 01:06 AM

The issue of spirituality v. religion has come up rather extensively on many occassions and most recently on the "Can the Right Compromise" thread so by request I am starting this thread to discuss the topic.

I don't think spirituality and religion are synonymous.  Neither do I think they are necessarily at odds.  I believe that many people who are religious are also deeply spiritual.  I also believe that many people who rigorously follow a religion are wanting in the spirituality department.

Similarly I believe that many non religious people are spiritual.  I know that I am.  I believe in God (or whatever someone wants to call it...the Force, the Divine, Mother Nature...whatever).  I just don't have much (if any) faith in organized religion.

Anyway, what do you guys think?

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#2 QueenTiye

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 01:22 AM

It's very funny - we are sharing some of these ideas on Planet Baha'i, right now!  I started to start this topic at your request, but realized I wasn't clear on where you wanted to go with this, so I waited... I'm glad you started it! :)  

I'll be back later, but I'd like to hear some of the thoughts of others first.

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#3 Godeskian

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 01:54 AM

I see three distinct associations here.

The first is religion, the second is faith, the third is spirituality.

I have met people with both faith and spirituality, but who chose to practice in private rather than join a religion. I've also met a number of people (as per our discussion yesterday QT) who had an abundance of religion, but didn't seem to have grasped the kinder nature of their Faiths.

Spirituality, i find a more complex topic because it is (in my mind) the least distinct of the three, and can encompass a wide range of beliefs, mindsets and behaviours.

I suppose that my primary thought is that while Faith and spirituality can both exist in individuals, religion, by it's nature, is a concept for crowds.

#4 QueenTiye

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 02:06 AM

^^ I pretty much love that statement.... "religion, by nature, is a concept for crowds."  I have to remember to address that.  I have a feeling this is going to be a long post whenever I finally do post... :)

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#5 Kevin Street

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 02:26 AM

Imo, human beings come with a spiritual instinct built right in. It's remarkable that every culture on Earth, all through history, seems to have practiced a religion of some sort. Way back before any civilization, the Neanderthals seemed to have spiritual beliefs, since they left flowers and tools with their dead, and carefully aligned the bodies so they faced east. (As many cultures do today.) There's no particular reason why any culture should have developed religion (or art and culture), but they all did anyway.

It's something built into our bodies, I think, just like pattern recognition. When we look at clouds our brains tell us that there's faces and castles in the sky, and when we look at natural events like lightning strikes, earthquakes, fires, births, rains and deaths, we see meaning behind them too. We can't help looking for patterns in the world around us, and that leads to spiritual beliefs, and eventually the beliefs get codified into religions.

#6 Hambil

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 02:40 AM

First I would think we need to define the two terms, and what they mean to us.

To me religion means the belief in a higher power.

Spirituality means the belief in an inner power.

They are sometimes linked, but have no inherent need to be.

#7 Godeskian

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:00 AM

Kevin Street, on Aug 3 2004, 08:24 AM, said:

It's something built into our bodies, I think, just like pattern recognition. When we look at clouds our brains tell us that there's faces and castles in the sky, and when we look at natural events like lightning strikes, earthquakes, fires, births, rains and deaths, we see meaning behind them too. We can't help looking for patterns in the world around us, and that leads to spiritual beliefs, and eventually the beliefs get codified into religions.
If you don't mind me asking Kevin, if what you say is accurate, how do you explain atheism?

#8 Bad Wolf

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:02 AM

For me religion is not about whether I believe in a higher power.  I do btw.  Religion is a manmade institution with the well intentioned goal of sharing spiritual beliefs through a standard set of principles.  It has not thus far worked for me but that doesn't affect my belief in a higher power.  

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#9 Kevin Street

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:14 AM

Imo, atheism is a philosophical position that's only become "possible" (or at least, popular) since the advent of science during the Renaissance. Before then people here and there (maybe in large numbers even) may have decided that there were no gods, but they didn't really have a way to explain the patterns in nature, or the origin of everything. There were no atheist movements. Atheism wasn't really a coherent position until science began to explain the structure underlying the natural world, revealing the universe to be a giant machine, albeit an unpredictable machine with weird quantum effects going on inside the works. Science has fulfilled our inherent need to see patterns in the world, and now you can use mathematics to pretty much explain everything right back to that first vacuum fluctuation. The area that religion and religion alone can explain has been pushed back to the beginning of time, and there's lots of room for a self-consistent atheist philosophy to fill the void.

#10 Bad Wolf

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:20 AM

Seems to me that atheism is not so much a response to science but a rebellion against the abuses and excesses of organized religion and the evils perpetrated in the name of organized religion.  I mean I believe in science too.  Very much so.

But I was standing on my deck today looking at this huge tree that was swaying in the wind.  And I can't imagine that all *this* is just a freak accident of science or chaos or happenstance or coincidence.  I don't know how to really articulate it I guess but I just sorta *know*, you know?  

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#11 Kevin Street

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:32 AM

That's a beautiful illustration of what I'm talking about. :) We really can't imagine that everything is coincidence or random chaos. There's an inherent human instinct to look for patterns and explanations behind everything, and spirituality is an expression of that.

Edited by Kevin Street, 03 August 2004 - 03:32 AM.


#12 Hambil

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:49 AM

Kevin Street, on Aug 3 2004, 08:12 AM, said:

Imo, atheism is a philosophical position that's only become "possible" (or at least, popular) since the advent of science during the Renaissance.
Atheism is a Greek word, that (I beleive) translates literally to "not believing in the gods of Athens". Socrates was executed for it in 399 BC.  It has its roots in philosophy, not science.

#13 Godeskian

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:53 AM

okay, I think I get what you both are saying.

two thoughts, first to Lil, what does it say about me that i can see the world as just a big coincidence or a freak accident, and actually prefer that option to the alternative?

and Kevin, if i'm understanding you right, religion was used to explain the world, then science came along and provided an explanation with finer distinctions, but it still plays to people's innate need for order and explanation?

#14 Kevin Street

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 03:57 AM

^ Yep, that's it in a nutshell. :)

Hambil said:

Atheism is a Greek word, that (I beleive) translates literally to "not believing in the gods of Athens". Socrates was executed for it in 399 BC. It has its roots in philosophy, not science.

That's what I said, it's a philosophical position. They had a word for it back in Socrates' day, but it was a tendency, not a philosophy. You couldn't hang a metaphysical hat on it and say "atheists believe that..." There was no central thesis in atheistic thought until science showed how the universe could function without the presence of controlling gods.

Edited by Kevin Street, 03 August 2004 - 04:01 AM.


#15 Ogami

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:34 AM

Spirituality vs. Religion... I take it spirituality in this instance is wanting to have that warm glowing feeling of being religious, without the encumbrance of the organized religion's strictures and rules.

Therein lies the formation of every cult, splinter sect, and new religion ever conceived of in human history. It's why were all still not parading around Stonehenge as druids beat the drums made out of human skin.

Someone else came along with a better religious idea, usually one that revolved around them getting a bunch of young women and wealth in the process. That's spirituality for you.

-Ogami

#16 Hambil

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:39 AM

Okay, since everyone seems to think that spirituality is just religion lite, and still requires belief in a higher power, what do you call belief in an inner power?

And religion is certainly not 'built into the human condition'. The quest to understand is. That is how our brains work. The need to understand is so strong that if we can't find an explaination, we make one up. Thus, religion.

Edited by Hambil, 03 August 2004 - 07:39 AM.


#17 Hambil

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:49 AM

Kevin Street, on Aug 3 2004, 08:55 AM, said:

^ Yep, that's it in a nutshell. :)

Hambil said:

Atheism is a Greek word, that (I beleive) translates literally to "not believing in the gods of Athens". Socrates was executed for it in 399 BC. It has its roots in philosophy, not science.

That's what I said, it's a philosophical position. They had a word for it back in Socrates' day, but it was a tendency, not a philosophy. You couldn't hang a metaphysical hat on it and say "atheists believe that..." There was no central thesis in atheistic thought until science showed how the universe could function without the presence of controlling gods.
The problem with your analysis is that it assumes you need to know what is true, to know what is false. This is not the case. An idea can be evaluated and rejected even if there is no new idea to replace it.

Philosophers such as Socrates did just that. Based on observation and critical thinking he came to the conclusion that Gods did not run the universe and cause fires and storms and good and bad crops. They didn't need to know what did, in order to know what didn't.

I know this is probably not your intent, but trying to tie atheism to science, and call it a something relatively new, bothers me. It's a classic tactic of Christianity to try and trivialize something it doesn't agree with.

#18 Godeskian

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:59 AM

I honestly don't think he was trying to trivialise anything.

While I agree with you that there is no requirement for a better explanation to realise that the current one is incorrect, I believe it's also true that atheism in the modern day has benefitted hugely from scientific advancement to help defend itself, with evidence, against the belief in the divine

#19 Hambil

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 08:05 AM

Cyberhippie, on Aug 3 2004, 12:57 PM, said:

I believe it's also true that atheism in the modern day has benefitted hugely from scientific advancement to help defend itself, with evidence, against the belief in the divine
Yes, it has. But the conclusion can be reached without science. Science simply helps support that conculsion.

This is why there are christain scientists - they see the value in having supporting evidence.

And I don't think his intentions were bad either, and I hope I didn't step on toes. The idea being put forth bothered me, not the poster putting it forth :)

#20 Jid

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 09:47 AM

To me, the distinction between religion and spirituality is simply that religion seeks to help people cultivate spirituality, of a specific form.  Religion also is meant to function as sort of a "place" or "tool" of instruction/guidance on spiritual matters where things seem hazy or difficult to discern as an individual.



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