Religious, but not spiritual?

George Elgar Hicks a cloud with a silver liningWhat is the point of religion? So much seems to ride on belief- the Great Schism over the filioque clause, or the precise meaning of being “born again”. If you find yourself unable to believe in a teapot orbiting Jupiter, or a God who created the World, should you really leave the Church? If your answer is yes, then the Church is not doing its job.

All those who are “Spiritual, but not religious” have something valuable. They have feelings telling truth which they cannot quite put into words. They have experiences of Oneness with Reality, Awareness and Presence, or whatever- each is a lovely experience, you will know when you have it. It helps to have these with other people, and that is where Religion comes in.

Religion is what we do together: we go to church, we have coffee after, we have discussion groups and committee meetings. Religion is not dogma, but practice. Religion builds community. I have met my best friends in churches.

Then there is Dogma. Do not reject it, just because you do not believe it. You might not believe in a Virgin Birth, but think for a moment on

In the dark street shineth
The everlasting Light

The unexplained and beautiful is my experience. If you would not call it a miracle, call it a Synchronicity. Yes, I know, human beings look for patterns where none is, undeserved Bad as well as Good happens, and miracles are a thing. Myths would not exist if they were not true.

Spirituality, Religion, Dogma, these three- link human beings together in awe of something greater than ourselves. They are vitiated by human striving for power. They can make us equal adults working together as in the Religious Society of Friends, or they can be exploited to give one person power over another. The priest can be servant of the congregation, or its ruler. Jesus said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Then, Jesus told us to call no person father, rabbi or instructor, for God is that for us. The Kingdom of God is within us. We are right to reject power, but wrong to reject community and truth in religion, spirituality and dogma.

7 thoughts on “Religious, but not spiritual?

  1. Early on, both John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth taught the Kingdom of God would be the direct rule of Yahweh on Earth. That was the heart of their message. It would be visible, and it would completely overthrow the existing Roman political order. Judas said sign me up. Then Herod Antipas arrested and executed John. Jesus took over the movement and continued on, adding his talents as a faith healer. When Jesus in turn was executed his brother James the Just took over. It was still a Jewish movement. At any moment they expected God to overthrow the Romans. But in 70 AD the Romans burned the temple to the ground and scattered the church, leaving only Paul’s network of gentile churches intact, the ones that did not observe Torah. When his companion Luke assembled his gospel, only then did they use the language that “the kingdom of God is within you”.


    • Also Gospel of Thomas 3: Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.

      That makes a lot of sense, but requires us to distinguish the direct rule of the Father from The Kingdom of God in us. I claim to be part of building the kingdom of God on Earth. Luke/Acts has one final editor, and the writings we have before AD70 are some of Paul’s letters.


  2. Hmm. I’m no longer a fan of dogma, and I never will be again. The Church’s history of murderous persecution was based entirely on dogma … well, okay, not entirely, but chiefly. If I HAVE to believe something to get accepted, then I’m just not interested. It’s the same reasoning for why we all burnt holes in our blazers in senior year science class … the handbook didn’t say we couldn’t. We were pretty sick of that the ‘Thou shalt … or shalt not …” prep school handbook by then.

    Anyway, I think religion is best seen as an historical curiosity … a kind of precursor to modern philosophy and science. It is no longer relevant, since we have long since proved that prayer doesn’t stop war, fire, pestilence or nuclear weapons. We need institutionalized dialogue that talks about real things … which is why it’s helpful living in New York. I can rabbit on down to NYU catch a good lecture on the causes of racism, and sit on the subway home thinking about what I have done and what I have left undone in this important battle.

    Anyway, I love you all to pieces, Clare, as you know … but I’m not a dogmanite.


    • Dogmatist, I think you mean.

      You perfectly illustrate the problems of power and fear in Christianity. We fear if people believe something different. We exert power over them, symbolised by demanding that they believe particular things.

      On prayer- But what if we didn’t? Would it be even worse???

      Seriously, I am happy for you to reject religion like this. I do not require you to believe, or behave, exactly as I do. For me, dogma is story: I do not take a definite position on What Actually Happened, but sit with the ideas, letting their possible meanings turn in my mind, and bless me.

      Is there a public gallery at the United Nations?


      • Yes … but you have to be accompanied. They do have meetings with diplomats, and a school, so it’s cool.

        I was teasing about dogmatist.

        I’m going through a difficult time in my life, and going broke paying lawyers to defend me from civil suits. I may not be at my apex of kindness toward religion. Try me in a month?


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