Recently, the Pew Research Center released the findings of its 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most notably among the results is the finding that Americans are becoming less religious overall, led by a group commonly referred to as “nones,” meaning to have no religious affiliation. However, what is most interesting to me is the finding that, of those with no religious affiliation, 40 percent reported to have “regular feelings of spiritual peace and well-being.”
Religion and Spirituality are often thought of as one and the same. However, many religious people take umbrage with the idea of spirituality existing on its own. For many theists, spirituality is a byproduct of observing codified religious texts and practices. Religion essentially means that one follows a system of belief that is also followed by others who, together, form a collective religious identity and group.
But does spirituality need a theology or definite philosophy in order to exist. I don’t think so, and it would seem that many are beginning to realize this as well. Instead of spirituality being under the purview of religion, imagine if religion were merely one personal and completely elective aspect of spirituality? This amounts to a chicken or the egg conundrum: (i.e. which came first, religion or spirituality?)
As I see it, we are spiritual people in that we can attribute things like love, gratitude, generosity and compassion to a spiritual essence within us. Evidence of this would be people who do not believe in a god or subscribe to a religion but, at the same time, act in love and altruistically. I know many atheists and agnostics who are some of the most generous, compassionate, warm and loving people in my community. To invalidate these attributes because they do not hold a religious belief would be nonsensical and an affront to some very wonderful people.
Conversely, some who claim to be religious act pompous, greedy, egoistical, violent and just plain mean. And many of them wear their religion proudly and run for public office using it as leverage.
We are engaged in spiritual activity everyday. The point is not in comprehending what the spirit is but how spirituality manifests itself. I see spirituality in each smile, in each laugh we share, in a kind word, in selflessness and forgiveness. And religious spirituality can certainty be expressed in such ways but spirituality isn’t the exclusive domain of religion.
Embrace your spirituality, let it grow and foster it. Do not let yourself become hung up by dogma, limitations, preconceived notions. Just like we see things to be grateful for in every day life, let us also begin to open our hearts to the spiritual abundance that exists in everyday life.
And if religion in the means by which you perceive spirituality, continue to do so. But maybe begin to grant some broadness and flexibility to the term so that we can all come to the table and share.