My motive is not to offend anyone nor to debate which religion is right or wrong. I ask that anyone who replies try to maintain that mentality as
I am writing this after several years of being an ex-Christian, watching my wife enjoy the freedom of being able to research aspects of her Christian
faith without worrying about me thinking less of her, and having several conversations with a Christian pastor which proved to be quite enlightening.
So, while my background is primarily focused on Christianity, I am going to attempt to remain neutral in terms of how I lay out my question and the
points I'd like to make.
As I wrote in the subject line, my question is this: Why do people embrace religion instead of only spirituality?
I struggled to write my own definition of spirituality, so after looking around the internet briefly, I found one
which sums up what I was attempting to write:
Spirituality is, in the most basic sense, matters pertaining to the spirit and is based on the idea that there exists something, be it a state of
mind, a being, or a place, that is outside the experience of our five limited senses. Spirituality is the personal relationship of the individual to
this state of mind, being or place and often emphasizes the notion of a path, that spirituality is a goal in achieving understanding, or an improved
relationship with the sacred.
In other words, spirituality is personal, free of influence from other people. A person can define their own spiritual journey, exploration, growth,
and desires however they see fit. There is no need to worry about the consequences of asking questions, having doubts, or dealing with guilt. Rather,
it is meant to be satisfying, enlightening, and fulfilling.
Anyone can enjoy a rich spiritual life. Yes, there are those who choose to take the path which does not include spirituality, and that's perfectly
fine and deserves to be respected, as does every person's choice of spiritual beliefs.
But then there are those who wish to pursue spiritual enlightenment as well as religion. Well, what is religion? On
it is defined in several ways, however here is the first definition:
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies,
usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
A set of beliefs...devotional and ritual observances...and a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs - these are all things which are
influenced by men and women. Not only that, religion, even in it's most simple form, dictates a person's spirituality.
I used to go to church every Sunday, of my own free will, even after my parents no longer made me go with them. I stood up, sat down, stood up, sat
down, sang the songs, gave my offerings, prayed, listened to the sermons, and so on. As I was doing all of that, only occasionally did I feel like I
was growing spiritually. Instead, rather than being free to embrace a fully free spiritual journey, I was in a routine. I was so focused on doing what
the church expected of me, that I neglected to understand that I could indulge in a much more satisfying spiritual life on my own.
Eventually I stopped going to church. There were several reasons for that decision. The first was that I was bored and wanted something more
fulfilling. So what did I do? I tried to find another church! The problem was that the church I'd been attending was about as contemporary and fun as
a person could ask for in this geographical area. Needless to say, I never found one that suited my needs. Another reason for my decision to stop
attending church was that I began to see beyond the altar. What I mean by that is that the political and bureaucratic side of things had become
apparent to me. At one point many long time members left the church due to some things that went on which had nothing to do with spirituality! That
saga instilled in me a great deal of negativity towards the manner in which many churches operate. Unfortunately, most churches cannot avoid those
kinds of complications as they grow in size.
Anyway, getting back to my original point. After freeing myself from the church environment, and eventually getting past the resulting guilt and
negative implications (many people let me know that they didn't think too highly of my decision), I realized that I didn't need religion in order to
embrace spirituality. Ever since then I have been completely happy, at ease, and content with being agnostic and exploring all of the different
aspects of others do on their spiritual paths while I try to determine my own. I no longer need to worry about what others will think or say when I
have questions and look for answers. Nor do I feel obligated to participate in a dictated routine just to make others happy or to satisfy a mental
need which was created by the routine itself! I am free! I am free to do whatever I wish with my spirituality!
Here is the meat and potatoes of what I am getting at. Using my own past as an example, let's go back to the time shortly after I stopped going to
church. I would often spend time, alone in my apartment, practicing my own form of worship by singing, reading, and praying. It was personal. It was
just me and God. That is what spirituality should be - something you do on your own terms, of your own free will, and without the need to be dictated
by an outside influence.
So, back to my question. Why do people feel the need to participate in religion when their own personal spiritual journey can be traveled without
I realize that no one can give an answer that lays it out and will apply to everyone. But I would like to learn what others feel about that question,
and perhaps why they do involve themselves with religion.
And again, I am not out to start any debates or upset anyone.