Monday, December 24, 2007

Religion vs spirituality

The last couple of posts (heck, a continuing thread of posts throughout) beat up on the Bible-beaters. (But they're such an easy target.)

And yet, "spirituality" is one of the things I've listed as a semi-regular topic for the blog, though I haven't discussed it much. Maybe it's time to address that.

"Spiritual but not religious" is, I suppose, the closest I can come to describing my own outlook. (Some would say that's a null referent, that there is no such thing as spirituality without religion; I'm not so sure. In fact, I am sure; it's not a null.) A higher purpose to life, a long-term trend toward enlightenment and awareness of how we affect each other beyond our own tribe, recognition of our responsibilities toward each other, a commitment to live a little closer to "love thy neighbor as thyself" today than yesterday--those are what I try to aspire to.

Is there Something out there, Something Much Bigger Than Us? Perhaps. It can't be proven; there's no positive proof of anything that's convincing, and a negative can't be proven. (See the Black Swan fallacy.) And of course, "I would like this to be true" is no proof at all. I'd like to own a sports car, but no matter how much I want it, just wanting it isn't going to make a Ferrari appear in the carport.

But there are several things my spirituality is not. I reject dogma. I reject "You must believe this because our great-great-grandfathers believed this." I reject any system that requires me to ignore evidence or abjure reasoning. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I refuse to give up my right to ask any question I please. I reject any system based on blind obedience or accepting the ridiculous "on faith," especially any system that uses my ability to accept the ridiculous as a measure of merit. I reject any system requiring me to pay homage to a tribal sky-god in bad need of a 12-step program, or that takes ancient texts of dubious authorship as unquestionable ultimate authority. I reject any system based on who it excludes or who it hates--if there really is a Big Is out there, then it's out there for everyone, not just those who agree with me or who have names I can pronounce easily.

Thus, I reject organized religion, a man-made institution in which the control freaks have run amok, institutionalizing their privileges and consolidating their control. I particularly reject the toxic combination of religion and politics, which brings out the worst qualities of both. (See the Romney and Huckabee campaigns for easy examples; Pat Robertson's presidential run also comes to mind.)

Some people claim to be able to find spirituality through religion; personally, I've not seen much evidence of it. And for every person who does, there seem to be several more who clearly don't, who find in religion a way to confirm and reinforce their bigotry and let their worst instincts run rampant. I suspect those who found spirituality through their religion, would have found it by some other means if religion hadn't been there. Thus, no net loss if it were gone.

So as long as the Bible-beaters keep acting the fool, I'll keep mocking them.

And so it goes.

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