As I have begun working on a novel recently the stark contrast between religion and spirituality has been glaringly obvious in the words I have been writing. It is my intention with the following paragraphs to begin exploring what that idea means to me.
Spiritual law and Religious Law do not align. There are very obvious differences between what Religion requires and how spirituality naturally flows from us. I started reading the book “the Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra and it was interesting to me to see how Western thought, shaped western science, which shaped western spirituality. Eastern philosophy saw the human as the mind/body/soul as one and Western philosophy separated it. I have always wondered how eastern philosophies that shaped China can co-exist together peacefully (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism) and how being raised as a Christian I was told there can only be one true belief. Why though? Wouldn’t it make more sense to embrace everyone’s individual philosophies? Wouldn’t everyone have a different view of the proverbial basketball and be able to tell us what lies on the other side of our narrow perspective? (I might need to explain this metaphor more later)
This here is where I see the contrast between religion and spirituality. Spirituality says, all ways are good ways if goodness is the motivation, and religion says regardless of your motivation, act in this way and God will be pleased. I think my religious family believes that I was more pleasing to God when I was attending church, leading worship, and mentoring high school students. And they would be right to an extent because I did what the Bible told me to do. What they didn’t know was the secret life and ‘sins’ I was hiding behind the perfect religious exterior. I had a great religious mask, ask anyone who knew me then. I was intelligent, confident, prayerful, I studied scripture and took pride in regurgitating verse with references. I was a good christian on the surface. I was miserable, confused, self-harming, addicted, and egocentric on the inside though. Finding my own spiritual path has led me to the point of desiring to be completely self-accepting, being able to create from an honest place with a clear vision. I don’t struggle with my addictions like I used to, I haven’t willingly hurt myself in what seems like forever (not even with food), and I have no motivation other than love. I am more pleasing to God now with my middle finger in the air to him, than I ever was with my hands lifted to the heavens repenting for God’s acceptance. No need for him to accept me now that I accept myself. I don’t care what any religious text tell me I should do. I know how to be good because I know what is good and I am motivated to do good. Even if it’s not dressed up that way.
That leads me to another point, all religious people in my life have rejected me and I’m more spiritual now than I have ever been. I think there is a point to spirituality that is hard for religious people to come over to understand. Religion = conforming to what a book tells you is acceptable. Spirituality = totally accepting yourself regardless of what anyone says, even God. Spiritual people know how to accept goodness and reject negativity. Religious people breed more negativity by focusing on all that is negative about “non-believers” while ignoring their own flaws because “Jesus has forgiven” them. Spirituality accepts all and excludes none. Religion is much more focused on who is in the club and who is not. I don’t enjoy living that way. I don’t like boundaries naturally because vulnerability is comfortable for me, but creating them is what has allowed me to truly connect with people. Religion doesn’t understand boundaries, they are shamed for keeping their struggles a secret (“secret sin”). I honestly believe no one cares how I fail myself on a day to day, so I won’t keep talking about it. When I stopped talking about it, I started to really struggle with my failures because my religious conditioning told me I need divine power to overcome these things. I was “powerless to help myself”. Once I stopped believing in Jesus as a savior, that unfortunately led me to seeing other stronger people as my personal savior. Friends can help you out sometimes, but they cannot save you from your own misery. And seeing them as stronger than you only entitles you to their care and attendance. No one could possibly save me from the misery I created, I had to find my own way out. I had to get stronger, I had to be my own savior. And guess what. I did it. I can honestly say, I saved myself from depression (and continue to save myself every time I slip into that soggy pit of hell), saved myself from addiction, saved myself from self-harm. Because I chose to be different and I didn’t need a God to help me do that.
I used to think there were true Christians and pretend Christians, when my world view was limited to only one religion. Now I see that I was identifying the spiritual folks and the religious folks. I have nothing against any person’s personal faith (even though I have to stop myself a lot from getting triggered by the way Christians talk about the world and each other, and at times I fail and become arrogant in my distrust and pain) but truthfully in my heart I think its ok to believe in whatever spiritual path you want to believe. I just seriously hate religion and any person who I encounter who thinks everyone should believe in their personal religious beliefs is proving the simple fact that they are ruled by their ego and not their spirit. We are allowed to believe in whatever higher power we chose (I like the ideas of Taoism, but pray to my higher self), we are allowed to worship whatever we chose (you already worship things anyway, mine as well pick something useful. I worship art) and you are allowed to practice any sort of rituals to bring a centered focus to life (prayer, meditations, spells, I like it all). All of these things should encourage us to connect to the truest version of ourselves, to be totally who ever it is that we are, and no book should tell us who we are is unacceptable. Hopefully, a decent spiritual practice will help to ease the suffering of this life. I think that is the whole point of spirituality to begin with. Life is bitter like vinegar and a spiritual practice helps us take our vinegar with a smile (the three vinegar tasters.)
The mistake I made early on was getting on the religious road instead of following a personal spiritual path. The religious road is paved and comfortable and safe, it is marked, there are road signs and clear direction on where to go and what to do. You have a road map, a safe spiritual vehicle and there are even attractions along the way. The Bible is very cut and dry on the life to live in order to be happy, but the spiritual path is less obvious. The spiritual path is rough, dark, lonely and only vaguely marked by the people who have passed this way before you (your past selves maybe). There is no direction, there is no clear way, there is nothing to help you but your gut. The spiritual path requires focus, humility to learn, boundaries, and a daily personal practice. Religious people need church on Sundays and they good!
I wonder if my dad was still alive if we would have conversations about this stuff. He was a deeply spiritual man, who might have agreed with Christianity, but he did it his way. He is the reason I know how to act or how to treat the spiritual being that I am. He is the reason I have opened my mind, because even though he probably didn’t mean it to the extent that I took it, he taught me to question everything. Unfortunately, I started first with questioning the Bible, but regardless, I am here today with more knowledge, more wisdom, and more inspired to create because I questioned everything that came my way and learned all that I could from the white rabbits who crossed my path.
I don’t know whether or not these are clear thoughts I have laid out here, but thank you for exploring with me.
I leave you with the only advice you will ever need…
Think for yourself.