Thursday, November 6, 2008

Okay, I am still hung up on something that maybe someone can help me with. A few weeks ago, we were talking about religious experience; I believe the Julian of Norwich reading. If I recall, the terms "religious" and "spiritual" were being used interchangeably. I said something in class on how I did not think that they mean the same thing. I am still wondering about it. Spirituality to me seems less organized and structured than religion. I looked up 'spiritual' on Merriam-Webster and saw that there are different definitions. Some having to do with religious matters and the one that I think I was hinting at; "of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena". Its the awe that one feels witnessing a sunset or the feeling when in a place of meaning, such as an ancient ruin or a historically significant location. The first beliefs humankind might have had (as I see it) would have been spiritual. Did religion then grow from a group of people's spiritual beliefs? Does spirituality still exist or has it been replaced by religion? Can someone who is a firm believer in some religion be also spiritual? So I guess I need to find the distinction (if one exists). These seem like petty questions or something that should be obvious, but I have been thinking about them.


pamela1103 said...

I think that there can be some distinctions between the two, but I think a vague answer is that it depends who you are talking to. I am religious, but I also think that I am spiritual. I am not sure whether spirituality grew from my religion or the opposite. I guess to me it seems most likely that religion grew from spirituality. I think people may have been spiritual, and religion has been a structure that houses some of their spirituality. I don't think anyone knows exactly which came first, I think people modify their ideas to what suites their beliefs better.

Blake said...

These are not petty questions because in looking for the answers, they bring to light some pretty cool ideas.

In trying to answer some of these questions (there was a class offered last year called the Immortality Project which dealt exclusively with religion and its evolution from the beginning to now) it is important to recognize the root of Religion, Spirituality.

Spirituality is generalized Religion--specifically religions must be spiritual while being spiritual does not require being religious. Thus I think its safe to ID Spirituality as the root of religion.

As a thought experiment, we can take current beliefs/rituals associated with them and ask questions like: where does this belief/practice come from?
For example--the Soul is a widely accepted concept whose origin and definition is mysterious.

Taking a look at the origin of the idea of the Soul, ask yourself what would prompt you to think of such a thing. Imagine that you are a person who existed at the dawn of our human capacities. Your father or mother has just passed away, physically. Yet, that night while you sleep, you have a dream wherein you see the person who just passed away (they are as real to you as they were before their physical death). Being at the dawn of human capacity we have no knowledge or social experience to draw from to help us distinguish between dreams and reality.

One would then be forced to concede (in this state of ignorance) that life existed beyond death because the dead father or mother is obviously still affecting you/with you—even if we see that today as a dream. Thus this belief then gets passed down, generation to generation, being combined with other beliefs that we project our "order" onto. We then combine activities (rituals) with those beliefs to socially bind the believers (creating Religion).

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that people can be religious and spiritual or spiritual and not religious. I"m not sure if one could be religious but not spiritual, possibly if one were to evaluate religion only in its systematical and organizational ways could they be religious but not spiritual. I believe some people are more comfortable (by this I mean me haha) using the word spiritual instead of religious when talking about the validity of an experience or belief. It has been my experience, perhaps a cynical one, that religion seemed to suppress my individual spirituality instead of encouraging it. Therefore, I feel more comfortable in conversation using spirituality to convey my beliefs and experiences than using religion. For me the word religion holds a collective understanding of individual experiences and that collective understanding is what should determine your beliefs. I struggled with this immensely and felt that others experiences could not speak for me, nor should my experiences that justify my beliefs be validated by a collective. I lean towards spirituality and using the word spiritual in conversations because it seems to more accurately express where I'm coming from. Using religion in a conversation, to me, sounds as though I'm coming from a collective opinion instead of my own. Perhaps this is all semantics but it is why I believe our particular conversation in class fluctuated so.