"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spiritual . . . And Religious

"If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone."

-- 'Abdu'l-Baha --
In a recent editorial blog on The Huffington Post (here), writer and educator, Laura Weingberg, makes an insightful argument for being 'spiritual and religious' rather than merely 'spiritual but not religious.' The crux of Ms. Weinberg's argument is that worship of an all inclusive God demands that we act in this world in a principled manner. Her critique of the SBNR folks (like myself), however, is that there is not necessarily an imperative for us to behave in a manner that fulfills our obligations to God.

"Spirituality can lead to a relationship with God," Ms. Weingberg notes, "but religiosity demands the fulfillment of obligations to God. Why is that desirable? Because committing to God changes who we are; we can no longer be what we are automatically, or even what we aspire to; we are obliged to push ourselves beyond that and to find our true selves, the "soul who is pleasing unto God.""

Ms. Weinberg's view can be critiqued on the grounds that what can be described as 'religious' may yet fall far short of seeking "our true selves." This transcendental search, one assumes, is the hallmark of being 'spiritual and religious' rather than merely and nominally 'religious." But is the search to find that which is transcendental and transformational in life not also the hallmark of being 'spiritual' but not necessarily 'religious'? Personally, I think it is. The quest for spiritual meaning, I believe, is the essential quest - even if it remains unrecognized and unacknowledged - of all persons.

Ms. Weinberg, a Baha'i (and thus a member of one of the world's most inclusive faiths), provides a compelling and all-encompassing vision of 'what' (not 'who') God is:
"I believe in a God who is the creator of the universe and all that it contains," she observes, "who established and operates through natural laws, and loves all that He has created. This great, unknowable Creator has not, in the Baha'i view, left humanity to struggle along without assistance or guidance. God is not watching us "from a distance" as we bumble around, laying waste to His perfect work. He is close to us, with us, actively intervening in human history, guiding us to our destined future."

"Religion offers not only a close personal relationship with God," she notes, "but a sense of common purpose with Him, the hope that somehow our efforts to promote human well-being are in line with His plan."

"There is," she points out, "a path out of the mess we are in; we need to refer to His guidance to walk it."
I can agree wholeheartedly with all of the above, except that last line. One looks out at the multitude of religious faiths, philosophies and wisdom traditions and it seems plain to me that there are a plethora of paths out of the mess we are unarguably in. Does being "spiritual and religious" imply that we can utilize the insights and directions from only one path? If it does - and I suspect that most solely 'religious' people believe that it does - then you can still count me amongst the "spiritual but not religious crowd."

Personally, I will take what guidance I can from any and all of the world's great religious and spiritual traditions. Whether that wisdom comes from the Buddha, the Baha'u'llah or Bambi's mother is irrelevant to me, so long as it leads me out of my narrow self and into a unitive relationship with the God of my understanding, a God that it is wholly consistent with that described by Ms. Weinberg.

As Ms. Weingberg quotes 'Abdu'l-Baha : "(T)he purpose of a remedy is to cure." Thank God there seem to be a variety of cures out there. For one prescription may be more effective than another for a particular sufferer. And some may, indeed, require a combination of dosages.

1 comment:

  1. Spirituality is always soothing and relaxing feeling for anyone who turns toward it. Your post is interesting and good to read. Thanks for sharing.