A Point of View: Is it better to be religious than spiritual?
Further and further people are rejecting religion but embracing church. But have they got effects the wrong way around, asks Tom Shakespeare.
After a relationship break up many times agone , I linked on to a courting website. Filling in my online profile, I was interested to discover that the question on religious belief included an option that was new to me. You could tick boxes for the major persuasions, or for polytheists, or for SBNR, which I discovered stands for "Spiritual But Not Religious".
Whereas the word "religion" generally refers to organized forms of deification and a wider faith community, "spiritual" frequently describes people's private individual beliefs.
A lot of twinkles on Google revealed that SBNR is further than just an acronym. One in three Americans defined themselves as spiritual but not religious. Millions of people now suppose of themselves as on their own particular spiritual path, but not combined to any specific religion. American sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell talk about" Nones"- people who belong to no religion but still believe in God. Others have used the term "homiletic remedial religion" to relate to how youthful people are turning towards a vague belief that God exists and the point of life is to be happy. You could also call it "pseudo-religion".
The people who tick the SBNR box are distinguishing themselves from veneration. They would presumably believe in some supreme being or advanced power. Maybe they are interested in Eastern church or some miscellaneous admixture of ideas.
SBNR reflects a rejection of the dogmas of systematized religion, indeed repulsion at the abuses committed in the name of Christianity and Islam and Judaism and Hinduism and Buddhism. I suppose it connects to the explosion of so-called particular growth movements in the West since the 1960s, similar to yoga or transcendental contemplation, as well as to new religious movements like atheism and Scientology.
The rise of SBNR comes in the environment of declining systematized religion, at least in the UK. Smaller of us are calling ourselves Christians. According to the Census, figures fell from just over 70 in 2001 to lower than 60 in 2011. That is still a maturity of the population- and other persuasions make up another 5 or so-but only one million of us will attend church this week. further than a quarter of Britons don't identify with any particular religion.
But many members of this group are completely paid-up followers of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or other humanist prophets. People might say, "I'm not interested in systematized religion, but I do have room in my life for church." They've a sense that there's a commodity "over and beyond" everyday. They've beliefs, a faith in some transcendental force, or whatever, still incipient it may be. It reminds me of the citation from Carl Jung "You can take down a man's gods, but only to give him to others in return."
I want to challenge this approach, and explain why I was unintentional to tick the SBNR box on that courting website. I worry that SBNR can just be vague, lacking the rigor which comes from centuries of refinement and debate. And unlike traditional persuasions, it does not have anything important to say about charity and justice.
Maybe this is because it's a reflection of the individualism that seems to be such a problem in western societies. People want a reassuring set of beliefs that makes them feel better about their own life, rather than being challenged to help others or make the world a better place.
For all these reasons, I agree with the pen James Martin when he says that" church without religion can come from a tone-centered complacency disassociated from the wisdom of a community". But also Martin is a Jesuit, and so of course he wants those wishy- washy spiritual religionists to subscribe up to his systematized faith.
Whereas my biggest problem with SBNR is the contrary. It's that it frequently retains the mumbo- Goliath, aspects of religion. People have rejected the shelf with the ready- made religious beliefs, and gone straight around the corner to thepick'n'mix shop to buy a more or less arbitrary set of beliefs which are, if anything, indeed more inconceivable. numerous people who are spiritual but not religious reject the organization but hang on to the supernatural bit. But I do not want to have faith in a supreme being or cautions or reincarnation, or any reality for which there's no scientific substantiation.
The word "religion" is allowed to decide from Latin "religare", to bind or connect. I suppose that sense of a connection is the crucial point. Religion offers a bond between individualities and it helps them form a connection to the wider macrocosm. The great French sociologist Emile Durkheim discerned between belief, which was private, and religion, which was social.
I suppose what we need moment is more connection with each other, and with our damaged world. I do not suppose humanists offer us important help with that. Humanism isn't positive but negative- it centers on rejecting religion. I suppose traditional persuasions do offer connections, but at the cost of demanding that we believe questionable effects. So that is why I'd endorse being religious and non-traditional.
Without religion, the peril is that an individual thinks that he or she's the center of the macrocosm. Religion asks further of you than just to look after yourself. Because religion is a collaborative practice, it enables us to learn from others around us, and from a history of sincere and disciplined examination of the problems of life- a history which is occasionally called the Wisdom Traditions. Through reflection and discussion in the environment of religion, we can achieve perceptiveness, which means seeing reality more easily.
I suppose that numerous people who identify as religious aren't spiritual, at least in the sense of having a belief in a god or supernatural force. They may have anon-realist view of religion, which means that they consider persuasions to be mortal and realistic, not supernatural and god- given.
In my case, I'm a Quaker, so I sit in silence for an hour a week with like-inclined people, and I try to live according to Christian principles. But a many times agone , I stayed with a coworker's family in upstate New York. They were Jewish, and around the house there was a mezuzah, a menorah and the newsletter from their original temple. But as we talked, I realized that although they attended services regularly, they didn't have any particular belief in God. In fact, they had enough much exactly the same outlook on the world as I did. And I suspect numerous people who sit in Anglican pews on Sundays are analogous. They are going through certain rituals, and value class in a community of folk trying to lead further meaningful lives, but their belief in a supernatural being is minimum or missing.
Still, I can happily recommend involvement in religion, If you are a polytheist. It offers a sense of belonging and it offers tradition, which can be reassuring and comforting. It offers discipline, tutoring us that there's a commodity outside ourselves to which we should bend our particular will. However, religion helps us lead better lives, with a commitment to justice and social action, If we do it right. Sociological exploration shows that involvement in systematized religion is good for our health and well being.
So this week, why not find a time to sit in silence with your fellows, or sing with them, or read a holy book with them, or village with them. Take a moment to reflect on your place in the macrocosm and your scores towards others. Belief in God is rigorously voluntary.