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A Point Of View: Is It Better To Be Religious Than Spiritual?

on 2014/5/31 2:56:45 ( 1731 reads )


UNITED KINGDOM, May 24, 2014 (BBC, By Tom Shakespeare): More and more people are rejecting religion but embracing spirituality. But have they got things the wrong way around, asks Tom Shakespeare. After a relationship break up a few years ago, I signed on to a dating 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 religions, or for atheist, or for SBNR, which I discovered stands for "Spiritual But Not Religious". Whereas the word "religion" generally refers to organized forms of worship and a wider faith community, "spiritual" often describes people's private individual beliefs.

A few minutes on Google revealed that SBNR is more than just an acronym. One in three Americans defined themselves as spiritual but not religious. Millions of people now think of themselves as on their own personal spiritual path, but not affiliated 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 "moralistic therapeutic deism" to refer to how young 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 atheism. They would probably believe in some supreme being or higher power. Perhaps they're interested in Eastern spirituality or some eclectic mixture of ideas. SBNR reflects a rejection of the dogmas of organized religion. People might say, "I am not interested in organized religion, but I do have room in my life for spirituality." They have a sense that there is something "above and beyond" the everyday.

The word "religion" is thought to derive from Latin "religare", to bind or connect. I think that sense of a connection is the key point. Religion offers a bond between individuals and it helps them form a connection to the wider universe. Without religion, the danger is that an individual thinks that he or she is the centre of the universe. Religion asks more of you than just to look after yourself. Because religion is a collective 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 sometimes called the Wisdom Traditions. Through reflection and discussion in the context of religion, we can achieve discernment, which means seeing reality more clearly.

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