February 20, 2013

Spiritual but not religious

By Tyler Mercer–

Many people are born into the religious affiliation of their parents and some of them never stray from that way of worship. Some of those same people fall away from whatever religion they were once affiliated with and stop attending church at all. There are many more paths these individuals can follow, yet a growing number of these are people who define themselves as spiritual but not religious.

I’ve always been pretty satisfied with my own religion, because it offers a solid foundation or tradition and routine. Even so, I’m drawn to the idea of being spiritual but not religious. I don’t want to change my religion, but some of the ways religious people are viewed are correct.

For example, many people who consider themselves religious don’t actually practice their faith in a way that is acceptable. Most churches encourage their members to attend church weekly and to pray every day. Obviously not everyone does that. You can clearly see the difference between a normal Sunday service and Christmas Day mass. The amount of people in attendance changes quite a bit.

It can be stunning how many religious people aren’t that religious after all. Well, maybe it really isn’t that stunning. Saddening is probably the better word. Saddening because those few people, who represent religions yet don’t follow the practices, preach falsely or simply don’t follow simple religious rules, ruin the reputation of whatever religion they are affiliated with.

Many people look at the Catholic Church with disdain today because of the child sex abuse charges brought against priests. Something people forget is that those priests were individual people capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately, their mistakes were very inappropriate and in no way acceptable. Because of that, there are many people who don’t hold any respect for the Catholic Church or Catholic lay people.

In my hometown, a very rural, farm community, there are large churches that people look at as though they are cults. The members frequently act very cliquish and the wear the name of their church as though it were their greatest accomplishment. I understand being proud of your church, but do you worship your church community or God?

Church provides that fellowship feeling everyone enjoys embracing. When you belong to a church you don’t feel so alone in your journey. It makes worshipping easier because you can just follow along. It’s easy to mimic what everyone else is doing on Sunday. What’s easier is mimicking it on Sunday and then living however you want through the week. Easy, yes. Right? No.

Those individuals who label themselves spiritual but not religious have it right. In general, people who define themselves as such know how to nurse their minds, hearts and spirits in a way that is more beneficial. They can learn and grow spiritually without ever stepping foot in a church. Without being governed by a church you are free to seek spiritual knowledge through whatever medium or source that you want.

This freedom is appealing to most because it uses fewer rules and guidelines than most organized religions. The thing is that those guidelines are simple and are often times mimicked in other readings and practices. That doesn’t change that while religious people find comfort in their spirituality from God, spiritual but not religious people are finding that same comfort by way of many different sources of information, personal study and meditation and prayer practices.

The question then is do you need the structure and tradition or organized religion to remain faithful or can you live an independent life of study and reflection to gain spirituality? Personally, I’d like to think I can mix the two to really understand my own faith through religion and where I stand if I don’t define myself by any one practice. How about you?

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