The often repeated criticism against those claiming to be “spiritual but not religious” is that those who hold this philosophy are without doctrinal parameters and as such pick and choose to believe what suits them. Most of these criticisms come from the devoutly indoctrinated, but occassionaly a new atheist will mount the same criticism in an effort to prove that all believers – from those who believe crazy doctrines to those who cannot decide which crazy doctrine to seek their teeth into- are all sufficiently deluded.
I cannot find a label which suits my spiritual understanding so for the sake of simplicity I just refer to myself as spiritual but not religious. I tend to define the word ‘religious’ not as “having or showing a belief for God”, but rather as “concerned with the teaching of a religion or adhering to a specified doctrine of belief.” And since I define religion as a rigid indoctrination of belief, I cannot identify with myself as ‘religious’.
Most of my family members have a traditional Christian belief, although the denominations and doctrines that they subscribe to vary greatly, from Pentecostal to Catholic and all mainstream Christian groups in between. I knew early on that I was the odd duck in the Christian pond. Instinctively doctrines presented to me as opinion, not the ‘Word of God’. I could easily see the fallacy of logical arguments whenever religion was discussed. I realized that everyone believes what they prefer to believe, and for most, it isn’t their belief at all but rather beliefs that they have accepted and adopted as their own.
I began referring to myself as “spiritual but not religious” long before I was aware of progressive and liberal Christians, mystic and new age Christians, or the wilderness and emergent church movements and the calls to exit Babylon and the Harlot church.
My spiritual journey outside of organized religion has led me toward many non-traditional conclusions and I find that I have similar spiritual perspectives with many diverse faiths. To this end I accept many tenets of varying spiritual beliefs while equally rejecting just as many. Like the pantheist, I believe the Source or what most call God is evidenced in nature, and like the panetheist I believe we are individualizations of the All. Like a gnostic I believe the Kingdom of God is within and that we all encompass the spirit essence of God. Like the mystic, I want to know God directly and not just through teachings and doctrines. Like progressives and liberals, I have the willingness to question and hold a sincere respect for other faiths while choosing the path of Christ as my guide. Like the Buddhist, I believe that the way to find God lies within the heart and like the Hindu I believe that the spiritual objective is to know God and the way chosen is not important.
It may be the opinion of some that I have a bastardization of spiritual beliefs. I freely, and somewhat proudly, admit that I “pick and choose” what I decide to believe, because who is to say what is right? Our greatest human weakness, in my opinion, is the ease of which our minds deceive us. We easily buy into the delusions of others, the opinions of others, the preferences of others. Mob mentality? Innate tribal behavior? I don’t have the answer why this is true, but I observe it to be true in all people. Rare and few are the true independent thinkers. For most, the need to belong in the group is just too compelling or overwhelming to ignore. As evidenced in the fertile grounds of politics and religions, the hotbeds of divisions and debates, concurring thought allows us to experience our predilections with the support of those who think like us, and the satisfaction of excluding and reducing to less those who don’t.
I hold the position that truth is subjective and is based on our life experiences and sense of reality. What is profoundly true for me may very well seem completely false or illogical to someone else. That is why I have settled into the idea that a spiritual journey should be a solo sojourn. It is refreshing if I come across people with similar understanding along the way, but, inevitably, at some point we will differ. So, live and let live. I am content to allow others to have their subjective truths just as I have mine.
I think as humans we should nurture our spiritual instincts in order to have a complete and full life. The only way we can possibly do that is to embrace our own truths and allow ourselves to explore our soul consciousness. It is said that no two strands of DNA are alike. If the physical is designed to differ, why would the soul be designed any differently? Religion meets the spiritual needs of some, and it equally fails to meet the spiritual needs of others. While I may feel compelled to search for a universal divine truth, I don’t think it can exist. The only thing that seems to exist is a personal divine truth. All of the spiritual perspectives that I write about are just my personal understanding. Others have similar thoughts, many more do not. What is important is that it allows me to live a happier more content life and live more harmoniously with others…which in my view is the purpose of the Divine.