“Religion” vs. the spiritual life

As usual, my mind starts brewing when reading stuff by the folks over at MindonFire.com, which usually leads me over here after making long comments over there to finish my thoughts. :). In one post, the question of the day was “What is religion?” In terms of the book we are reviewing together by Sam Harris called The End of Faith. I tried to answer that as best I could, but only briefly.
I just want to make this statement: Religion is the destroyer of the spiritual life. If anyone wants to live a thriving spiritual life, they must throw it out. It is a sinking ship – if you stay on it too long, you will die spiritually.


I first of all explain what exactly my defination of religion is so everyone is clear on what I am really saying. My best short defination of religion is that it is a faith-based worldview combined with a man-made institution whose leaders dictate how I should live my life accordingly with it.

A group of people who claim to be authorities in this religion tell you the worldview you are to have, and then give you instructions on how to live accordingly with that truth. They give you a list of things that are bad to do, and things that are good to do. In some cases, it might even be written down for you, in other cases, you have to just rely on them to tell you more and more stuff every Sunday. In my case, it was written down for me, and they called this their “doctrinal statement” which they claim to have expertly extracted from a book called the “Bible.” However, many things in the Bible are confusing, so the authorities tell you not to question things too much when discrepencies arise between their doctrinal statement and what seems to be said (or not said) in the Bible, but to consult them if you are unsure, but above all, stick to the doctrinal statement. Why? Because only the experts understand how to extract doctrine from it and you don’t.
However, a quick look around finds that many other people have similar religions because they have a different bunch of “experts” who have found a different interpretation of the Bible with a different doctrinal statement. So which group of people who claim to be authorities do you believe? The one you grew up in of course – all others are wrong… right?

Bull. Sooner or later, the thinking person is going to size up this situation and chuck the whole thing out the window. Why can I NOT question the “experts?” Who made these “authorities” in charge? Where did this “Bible” come from? Why is this particular religion’s “doctrinal statement” (dogma) absolutely right, where another church down the street has their own way they think is absolutely right? Why do people, even the “authorities” and “experts” who claim to believe this stuff, obviously live their life contrary to their own doctrinal statements and do the bad stuff they told me not to do and don’t do the good stuff they told me to do? So I reject the authorities, I throw out the doctrine, and I dismiss the experts and strike out on my own. If there is real truth in life, it’s not found in this disaster. So now that I have rejected religion, what is the alternative way to living a spiritual life?

    7 Responses to ““Religion” vs. the spiritual life”

    1. 1Blade_of_Grass
      1

      In a word…Connection.
      There is no dogma in living a connected life.
      All I can tell you is that there is energy all around you. It is there for your use. It is limitless and it cannot be destroyed, only channeled. It can be used for good or evil. That choice is yours, as is what form your god takes.
      Meditate on connecting to that energy and try sending it to someone or some thing that needs it. Say a sick house plant for starters. See or feel the energy come to you from every direction and flow through you to your target.
      Just remember the energy does’nt come from you, it just flows through you like a stream. If you do this with love for the target in your heart, I bet the house plant lives.
      In this way we can make the world a better place. It is a giving lifestyle with no material rewards. I wouldn’t live any other way. Good Luck in your endevor. I wish you the best

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    2. Jonathan
      2
      Author Comment

      1Blade_of_Grass – I think you are absolutely right! Connection is the key. I definitely believe in the energy all around us as you talk about – although something makes me think that it has a mind of its own independent of my interactions with it. 🙂 This whole weblog is about trying to understand what ‘it’ is.

      The giving lifestyle is a great way for how I must live. A self-focused existence, I believe, is ironically a self-destructive one. The world will definitely change if we all had this perspective.

      Reply to this comment.
    3. BECKY
      3

      I AM A CHRISTIAN THAT GOES TO A GREAT CHURCH. SADLY I LIVE IN A VERY RELIGIOUS AREA THAT THERE ARE SO MANY RULES TO LIVE BY A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE TURNED OFF BY BEING TOLD TO LIVE THEIR LIVES WHAT TO WEAR TO CHURCH. I GET SO TIRED OF IT, MOST THE TIME I GET IRRITATED WITH MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS.

      Reply to this comment.
    4. BECKY
      4

      I AM A CHRISTIAN THAT GOES TO A GREAT CHURCH. SADLY I LIVE IN A VERY RELIGIOUS AREA THAT THERE ARE SO MANY RULES TO LIVE BY A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE TURNED OFF BY BEING TOLD TO LIVE THEIR LIVES WHAT TO WEAR TO CHURCH. I GET SO TIRED OF IT, MOST THE TIME I GET IRRITATED WITH MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS. THEY DO NOT SEEM TO GET IT. HOW MANY TIMES ARE WE IN PEWS LISTENING, BUT NOT DOING ANYTHING BECAUSE WE ARE TOO UNCOMFORTABLE WITH A ANOTHER PERSONS LIFESTYLE.
      MY PASTOR ENCOURAGED US TO FOLLOW JESUS, AND NOT WHAT RELIGION OR WHAT DOCTRINE HAS TAUGHT US.
      WE DO NOT HAVE TO BE FULL OF KNOWLEDGE TO GET TO HEAVEN. ONLY THING I NEED TO DO IS FOCUS ON CHRIST. DO GODS WILL, AND HE WILL REVEAL HIS PLANS FOR MY LIFE.
      IT IS SAD THAT RELIGION CREEPED ITS WAY IN. SADLY PEOPLE BELIEVE WHAT IS TOLD TO THEM, AND HAS NO IDEA HOW MUCH THEY MATTER TO GOD. KEEP UP ON YOUR ENDEAVERS.

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    5. Jonathan
      5
      Author Comment

      Becky,
      Thanks for your thoughts! I agree with you – I really dislike legalistic religious Christian communities. I just recently left one where it was charismatically legalistic (a new one to me!). I think you have the right formula that a close relationship with God is essential for walking out your Christian life, not piles of rules laid out by the local church community. This was C.S. Lewis’ point when he described the life of a young man who left his church community in Pilgrim’s Regress – all rules an no relationship drives a person away from God. Our conduct in life as a New Testament Christian is to better understand God though our relationship with Him, and then we have been given brains to figure out how to act morally in life in a way that is pleasing to God. This ends up being subjective in some cases. Some feel alcohol is wrong, others feel it is ok. Some feel certain clothing is wrong and other that it is ok.

      As soon as people focus on the rules and not on their tight relationship with God, than we have introduced legalistic religion – we appease God with our behavior, but don’t really know Him. As soon as this happens, we are going down a road to spiritual death. Christianity is about a relationship with God, not about following rules. Likewise, a successful marriage is not focused on fidelity (good marriage conduct) with the absence of intimacy (no relationship). The two cannot exist without the other.

      My argument is that the intimacy with God is the source of strength to live morality and an inspiration to spur us on to become more moral, as well as give us the creativity on how it should be applied to our lives within the world, society, and situations that we find ourselves in.

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    6. Davey Pervis
      6

      My mind has been on fire at times, and I have lost some reasoning from it. I am a prophet of God … hee hee hee…. yea right… Laugh all you want. However, I stopped listening to His precise directions awhile ago during some “hero” moments, and began listening to my own conscience as it was seared by seizure after seizure. I HATE religion, and I don’t know how to defeat it beside stay the HELL away from it. I used to live life happily, encouraging myself, and facing the rejection of my encouragement towards others until I met a special person who accepted encouragement. Anyways, my request is for advice. Some hypocrite group wants me to join their 90% click to see if I wave my hands worthily enough to be a part of their congregation, and I am questioning. What do you optimists think? Let me know soon!!

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    7. Jonathan
      7
      Author Comment

      I’d say join the congregation and see what happens! What kind of church is it?

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