Religion and spirituality

Western concepts of what a “religion” is, or could be, are affected by what Christianity is.

Jesus named his calling the Way, a road through life or way of being in the world, yet for many Christianity is a Creed, a belief-system. Richard tells me the New Testament Church of God are “Pre-Millenarians”, who believe that Jesus will come again and rule the world with the just for a thousand years before the final battle of Armageddon. What matters is, how does this story colour their understanding of the world and their lives now? I imagine it creates a siege mentality. The Devil is powerful, and can make people suffer. This fits much of what Jesus said to his disciples- “there will be wars and rumours of wars”, though he was talking about the coming war with the Roman Empire ending with the destruction of the temple in AD70.

Privilege is the idea the world was made for you and those like you, that you are the default human and others revolve around you. There is the middle-class belief that society will look after you if things go really wrong. That church does not quite believe that nature, heartless, witless nature, Will neither care nor know, for there is a loving God, but the bottom can fall out of their world.

Correct belief was very important to Christians from the beginning, but one correct system was strongly enforced by Constantine taking over Christianity as his ruling ideology in the fourth century. Even then there was diversity- Justinian’s empress Theodora was a Monophysite, and the Christians travelling overland and planting churches as far as China were Dyophysites, before being wiped out by Catholics who called them heretics. Though Wikipedia says there is no reliable information on their survival when the Jesuits arrived. These words relate to understandings of the relation of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. From outside, one might state negative consequences of false belief about this- the Docetist does not believe in the value of the material world, which they call sinful from the beginning, not beautiful, to be used with respect. Beware the description of a belief system by those who condemn it, because they do not understand it. What is the value of the belief from within.

Genesis 1 was never written as a scientific hypothesis, as that concept has developed since the Enlightenment. It was a Jewish adaptation of a Babylonian story, which infiltrated Jewish ideas of the value of Creation. God saw what God had made, and it was Good.

“Religion” is a different word from “Creed”. Its derivation links to rule, as in the rules by which we order and structure society and come together as community, and rituals we perform. The rule that in the sanctuary of the church, I as a server would not walk in a diagonal line, only parallel to the walls- so I start walking towards the communion table by walking 45° from a direct path, then make a 90° turn- helps keep that place separate from ordinary life- special, sacred. It is a way of showing respect so giving meaning to life, by relating to something more than ourselves- God, who Loves all God’s creation. So I am religious as well as spiritual, though I choose my own rules. Having been brought up in one Anglican framework of rules, I find rules which seem good to me, and commit to them, as well as living within a Quaker set of rules. Other- no word covers the whole, but call them “religions”, may give more emphasis to practice and less to belief. They are different. They are of themselves, not to be defined by our concepts. To say the Rig Veda is “like” a book of the Bible is to misunderstand it.

Spirituality may grow and flourish within religion. A rule or system of worship or meditation may promote spirituality, and beliefs expressed in stories may nurture it. One can be “spiritual but not religious” but it is not easy, and at worst people form too great respect for calm. “Namaste”, I say, denying the rage and confusion within me which frightens me and curdles, expressing itself in my passive-aggression.

Oh No! Again, again with “What Spirituality is Not”! What is harmful about it! Spirituality is– consciousness, knowing, empathy, accepting reality including the wonder of ones own self and of other people.

And now- a great mathematician!