by Robert Wilkinson
While sometimes these have a lot to do with each other, more often they seem oddly disconnected. Maybe it’s because religion usually involves relating to others who also believe in a set of rules given by “G*D” to the founder of that religion and that founder’s disciples, while living one’s spirituality requires no such agreements or rules.
I believe that both religion and “personal spirituality” can help us walk in faith, and both can be actively practiced in the way that we feel is most appropriate. It seems to me that the problems arise when the dogma of religion challenges or interferes with the practice of one’s own or another’s spirituality.
Anyway, this comes up due to my reading an article at MSNBC called Religion at Work can Bring Fire and Brimstone. It concerns a former NASA employee getting downsized out of his job, and then filing a lawsuit claiming he was fired for fundamentalist Christian proselytizing about “intelligent design” (and trying to make a buck at it!) that violated his right to practice his religion in the workplace. Besides immediately thinking of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it got me to thinking about the difference between practicing religion and practicing personal spiritual truths.
I know that such subjects as the public practice of one's faith can stir up a hornet’s nest, so I really won’t take it much farther than to say that if we all practiced the highest values of our spirituality regardless of religious rules, the world would be a much better place for it. Before I found the phrase “There is no religion higher than Truth,” I used to say I was “the best of all of the above” when asked what religion I practiced.
I believe that Spiritual Truths, virtues, and qualities transcend any narrow dogmas, and are universal. They’ve been put forth countless ways, and endure through time since they are practices that consistently prove their value to those who walk the walk of living those Truths.
The thing I’ve found is that every true “religion” is founded on some great kernel of Truth. You can always find one or two great practices in every religion, usually based in some form of loving-kindness. And of course, some of the best practices don’t come from any religion.
Many Buddhist precepts are exactly this, since Buddhism is not a religion, but a way of life. While it may have some precepts that seem like dogma, the ultimate practices are merely ways to live life, and always in the way most suited to the practitioner. Even the so-called “Two Greatest Commandments,” “Love God (with everything you’ve got)” and “Love Each Other (as you love yourself),” are not dogmas as much as the only sane way to live life on this planet.
I’ll close my part of today’s little ramble through the forest with something I offered a few weeks ago that seems relevant. "While it is true that some who follow religion find true Love, Wisdom, and Intelligence, anyone may find these without a religion. When religion interferes with freedom of thought, then that religion cannot lead to Love, Wisdom, or Intelligence except as we leave behind the dogmas and limitations of that religion.”
I found two little bits in the comment stream in the MSNBC article I thought were pithy statements about religion, both of which made me smile for entirely different reasons. One related a story about a woman asking a “nice Christian lady” why she didn’t proselytize at work, as other “Christians” did. This is what the commenter wrote:
”She answered by saying that she does, in fact, do it. Every day. The best way to do it, was to live your faith and “Become a Lighthouse, not a Predator,” and “People with questions seek answers, not threats." Her favorite saying was to "Be a sponge, not a brick.””
”Oh! She also believed in not taking crap from anyone. In that respect, she would often say “I turn the other cheek..., but I only have two!””
Another quoted a meme supposedly making the rounds on Facebook:
”Religion is like a p*n*s. It's fine to have one and it's fine to do what you want with it at home, but don't shove it in my face or wave it at my children.”
Just a few reflections in this strange little corner of the Twilight Zone here on planet Urth in the 21st Century. (And I hope you got a smile from something today!)
© Copyright 2012 Robert Wilkinson