Religious Crazy (RC): Well, if you don't believe in God then what religion do you practice?
Me: I am a member of our local UU congregation and consider myself a UU but that doesn't define my beliefs. I prefer to refer to my beliefs as spirituality instead of religion. I don't really like "religion".
RC: I'm confused?
Me: Easy, they are NOT the same thing!
RC: Yes they are.
Me: They might be for you, but for me they hold distinct differences and I would prefer to never "practice" a religion. I prefer to develop my spirituality.
The conversation came to a screeching halt as the RC spent the next hour scratching her head trying to understand what I was saying. The response I finally got was...
RC: I don't really understand what you are saying but I will be praying for you!!
Oh yippie!! (Actually I do believe in the power of prayer mainly because it almost always is positive in nature and I believe in the power of positive thinking.)
So for all you religious crazies out there, and the regular crazies too, let me elaborate on the topic of religion vs. spirituality...
Religion and spirituality are totally different animals! They are often billed as the same thing. That isn’t the case and they are not dependent on one another. One can be spiritual and not have any affiliation with religion and one can be a devout follower of religion but have no spirituality of which to speak. The problem with religion is that people depend too heavily on it. People buy into the dogma and never really examine what it means, why it exists or how it relates to the World around them. This is where people miss out on spirituality. Religion is easy, spirituality takes work.
Religion requires us to follow as set of rules that were written by someone else. Religion tells us these rules are right because the ‘supreme being of choice’ said so. Religion tells us that there is no need for us to examine their validity because that has been done for us. As long as we follow the rules religion has set forth, then we are free of condemnation for the results of our actions.
Spirituality, on the other hand, requires us to get in touch with our World, cultivate our knowledge, enlighten ourselves and develop our own rules. Spirituality then holds us responsible for how the rules we developed affect the World. Spirituality does not tell us if our rules are correct. That is for us to discover. Spirituality encourages us to continually evaluate our rules and change them if they need adjusting. Spirituality is an ongoing experience, nothing is set in stone. Spirituality requires us to do the work for ourselves. It requires us to think.
Religion eliminates the need for us to get in touch with our governing energy, be it called God, Goddess, Spirit, Creator, etc. Religion provides us with "trained and educated clergy" whose job it is to get in touch with the governing energy and help the lay people to understand. Spirituality requires each of us to shut up and listen to what our specific governing energy is trying to tell us. Religion has caused us to loose touch with the energies that are there to help guide us while we develop our rule book.
After all, the rule book is already written for religion. Spirituality just provides us with blank paper, a pencil and a bottle of white-out because, while religion feels it is infallible, spirituality understands that the search for the correct set of rules is a never ending journey that is bound to takes us on a few wrong turns in the process.