I believe there is a clear distinction between Spiritualty and Religion although the two can certainly overlap at
times. First let’s define what they are for the sake of my discussion.
Although there are several definitions of Spirituality, I think this sums it up best. “It is as a sense of
interconnectedness with all living creatures and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life.”
Spirituality is very important to me. I try to put spiritual values into practice every day; values like loving people, telling the truth, and helping others. At the same time, I consider myself tolerant and respectful of other people's values and ideas. To understand my views on spiritually is to understand my perspective on
Religion on the other hand was created by man. It is used to describe an organized group that usually acts with an intention of presenting specific teachings and doctrines during ritual observance.
Now let’s jump back to the "What do you believe?" question.
This is a big question for me that I cannot easily describe. I think no matter what I say, it will not fully express how I feel but I will try my best to put it into words My process of discovery into “What do I
believe?” has been a journey of faith rather than the loss of it.
I was raised in the Methodist church by Baptist Christian parents. We went to church every Sunday and I followed in the Christian religion. In my early twenties I met my (ex) wife and my thought pattern slowly started to change. She was a devout Roman Catholic. I went to her country and spent 3 months everyday day studying with a Nun to understand about the Catholic religion. So I was very eager to learn about this “new” (new to me) Christian faith.
While we were married I went to Catholic Church with her often although I never converted to
Catholicism. My feelings started to grow more conflicted with the Christian religion. On one hand I enjoyed the structure and sacredness of attending church. On the other hand it was presented in such a limited confined view that excluded other thoughts, ideas and beliefs. After my divorce I realized that organized religion was very difficult for me to follow blindly. My faith was questioned so I explored many other religions by going to their churches/meetings and various protestant Christian denominations hoping to find clarity in the inconsistent doctrine that was taught from one book, the bible. At one point I was going to a Methodist Church and Catholic Church on every Sunday for about a year. I told the preacher of my dilemma that I really
enjoyed both churches. They each offered me something unique and satisfying that the other was not able to completely do alone. He told me that I had to choose one church and stop going to another. So I stopped
I studied and attended various other organized religious groups shortly after that. Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. All of them had positive qualities and yet didn’t fit entirely with what I know is true. The
last one I fully explored was the Bahá'í faith. Logically I felt a strong connection with them but emotionally something was missing just like the others. Often my internal conflict boiled down between logic, science and blind faith.
I equate my beliefs now to this story I once heard. We are all men in a dark room. There is a large elephant in the room. One man touches the elephant’s tail, the other a foot, one a snout and so on. We each touch a different part of the elephant but we all feel something different. For some the snout is Christianity, for others that touch the leg it is clearly Islam. Although we can only feel one part that we touch in the dark our minds and beliefs fill in the gaps of what remains to seen. Then as men we argue amongst ourselves proclaiming the “ultimate truth”. This snout has to be God or the foot is God and there is nothing else in between. But once the light is turned on in the room, we can clearly see an Elephant, “God”. He is some of these things we felt and yet all of them. There is only one elephant which is God, but because we live in darkness and human minds are limited we think we know what God is and isn’t. Although we were all touching the same thing, the elephant we each formed different beliefs based on the part we felt at the time. The reality it is all about man’s interpretation of God.
When we try to describe God into a dogmatic box we miss the Spiritualty and the science of God. So how can we say a perfect omnipotent being would help create only one system of beliefs when in nature we are taught that life on Earth is complex full of beautiful diversity? We have many different races, and thousands
of languages spread all over the world. Would we tell a person of another culture that their race and language is not valid? You and I may not; however, the worst genocides in history were committed by men that thought another race/religion was inferior and justified the extermination of human lives on religious beliefs.
People are willing to fight and die over their perception of who God is and what he wants.
The reality is we are born mostly into our religious beliefs and culture. People rarely question why they believe in a particular religion because it is easier to follow what their family and friends are doing. If I was born in the Middle East I would have been raised with Jewish or Islamic beliefs. The reason I am saying all this is because my beliefs as a child were not the same as I when I grew into adulthood. As an adult my beliefs continue to grow and evolve. Yes, I do believe there is an omnipotent creator but organized religion is now difficult for me to swallow despite that I lived 95% of my life participating in organized Christian religion.
Religion can provide comfort and a strong support group for people. Spiritually encompasses of that but without the need for human conflict.
Mohandas Gandhi described it best, “The soul of religion is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms.”