CX. The Great Being saith: O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 215)
The topic here is spirituality VS religion. There are many who would like to assert a sense of spirituality while eschewing religion, and for this reason, a predominant thought is expressed in the title of this thread: VS. I would like to submit that it is my longstanding practice to avoid dichotomies of this type. I cannot believe in a world that must always look upon itself in an either or existence, since my practical experience has shown me that that outlook leads almost always to disharmony, and besides, rarely exists as such a pure abstraction.
So saying, I'd like to support the definitions offered here in this thread for spirituality and for religion. (And I need to add this disclaimer - I started this before some of the responses that are here were posted. I do not mean to overlook anyone - I simply was mid-post while you were posting!) They are:
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.
Kevin Street said:
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....
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.
To me religion means the belief in a higher power.
Spirituality means the belief in an inner power.
Una Salus Lillius said:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge Cyberhippie's
persistent question - that is, if spirituality or religion are inate, what accounts for atheism, or lack of such belief?
Whew! I shoulda given my response last night... lol!
Spirituality is, of course, the condition of being spiritual. The word itself inherently implies a recognition of ourselves as having connection to "spirit" however we understand that. At minimum, it recognizes that our beings are more than just our physical selves, and that our physical wellbeing is not all that is required for our total wellbeing. Spirituality also implies, therefore, that there is something we can and should do to ensure our total wellbeing, inclusive of that elusive spiritual part. I believe we are all endowed with this, no exceptions. Cyberhippie
- the desire of atheists to emphasize their ethical upstandingness is an expression, in my view, of spirituality. It is an unavoidable recognition that human happiness cannot be had without a sense of "rightness," or as religionists would call it, "righteousness."
says, many people today like to have the warm fuzzies of spirituality without the strictures of religion. He then goes on to mention that that diversity of opinion, that desire to break off and splinter from existing strictures tends to lead to new permutations of strictures. Hambil
posits that religion has been humanity's made up response to a confusing world.
Indeed, I have to agree with these ideas as well. From a certain perspective, they are certainly true. Given the various permutations of oppression that people have imposed on one another in the name of religion, the present day skepticism of religious institutions is justified, but even without a history of oppression, the history of seemingly erroneous information offered as what can only be considered scientific explanations, lends to our understanding of religion as being "just made up."
Another way of looking at this, however, is as a progressive unfoldment leading to the further development of humanity. Yesterday it was "unclean" to eat things with cloven hooves, or sacriledge to kill a cow. In the time when those things were revealed - it was most likely of great benefit to the culture where they were revealed (for instance, supposing milk was more necessary to the culture than beef?) And yet, from our point of view today, these things can seem superstitious, the benefit of some practices no longer actually practical in todays world, and indeed, in some cases, what was once beneficial is now not. Baha'i faith posits the idea of progressive revelation - that is, that religion, science, arts, knowledge, are all renewed over time. In that outlook, it is not hard to recognize that most organized religions had forms of organization that were beneficial at the time of their revelation, that are not useful or beneficial today. For instance - I'd love to see Jewish people try to organize themselves according to the plan outlined for the 12 tribes in the Bible!
Clearly, that would not be practical today. But at the time of that revelation - it was very beneficial to organizing and defining a people, making a nation of them, in the understanding of nations at that time.
Some of our discussion is also tainted by our reality of living in a secular western nation-state. Our worldview is shaped by a recognition of the nation-state as having one set of authority and religion having a different set. Religions, no matter what they look like in their native lands, are profoundly transformed by entering into this setting. People's relationship to religion becomes a side-matter, literally an option, whereas for many centuries, religion was literally a way of life - inseparable from anything else. We don't live in the world where our religion provides our food, shelter, entertainment... for instance. So, for instance, a religion where the activity is to perform rituals at a shrine is going to look very different here in America, or any similarly constructed nation, than it does in the land where that practice is the social activity for the entire community. In those lands, religion is not the fettered constriction that we see it as here, but rather, the thread that binds the community together. Consider the record of early Christians in the first chapter of Acts - the inspired community life that they lived has no plausible equivalent in today's society, and any attempt to recreate such a community either fails quickly or becomes oppressively constrictive in the form of a cultic group.
So, human beings, finding themselves in changed circumstances have often attempted to reapply the spiritual principles of their faith to the outward reality of the society in which they live - this "making it up as we go" form of organization is what characterizes most organized religions - some do better than others, but quite often, the religion winds up feeling terribly constricting. It is my belief that this is because a new religious expression is necessary, one that takes into account the modern realities and is revealed specifically for the modern age. (That's why I'm a Baha'i!)
In any event, the purpose of religion, is, in my view, just as CH
said - intended for groups. It is intended to accomplish the unity of humanity, as a state of unity is most conducive for human productivity and spirituality. It is intended to codify into a system the things most useful for the society where it resides, allowing that society to become more advanced, because one or two people doing x, y, z
will help those one or two people, but the entire society doing it will help the entire society.
I finally will end with a long quote that I found that to me answers the question very nicely. Thanks bunches for reading this rather longwinded post!
There are two kinds of civilization, - material civilization which serves the physical world and divine civilization which renders service to the world of morality. The founders of the material, practical civilization are the scientists and investigators and the establishers of divine civilization are the celestial universal teachers.
True religion is the basis of divine civilization. Material civilization is like unto the body; divine civilization is like unto the spirit. A body without the spirit is dead, although it may be clothed in the utmost beauty and comeliness.
In short, by religion we mean those necessary bonds which have power to unify. This has ever been the essence of the religion of God. This is the eternal bestowal of God! This is the object of divine teachings and laws! This is the light of the everlasting life! Alas! A thousand times alas! that this solid foundation is abandoned and forgotten and the leaders of religions have fabricated a set of superstitions and rituals which are at complete variance with the underlying thought. As these man-made ideas differ from each other they cause dissension which breeds strife and ends in war and bloodshed; the blood of innocent people is spilled, their possessions are pillaged and their children become captives and orphans.
Thus religion which was destined to become the cause of friendship has become the cause of enmity. Religion, which was meant to be sweet honey, is changed into bitter poison. Religion, the function of which was to illumine humanity, has become the factor of obscuration and gloom. Religion, which was to confer the consciousness of everlasting life, has become the fiendish instrument of death. As long as these superstitions are in the hands and these nets of dissimulation and hypocrisy in the fingers, religion will be the most harmful agency on this planet. These superannuated traditions, which are inherited unto the present day, must be abandoned, and thus free from past superstitions we must investigate the original intention. The basis on which they have fabricated the superstructures will be seen to be one, and that one, absolute reality; and as reality is indivisible, complete unity and amity will be instituted and the true religion of God will become unveiled in all its beauty and sublimity in the assemblage of the world.
Hence, to this honorable congress I say, "Tear asunder the veils and curtains of these dogmas, remove these accumulated, suffocating increments, dispel these dark impenetrable clouds, that the sun of reality may shine from the horizon of eternity."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 161)