Religion and Spirituality
This short blog post is inspired partially by a heated debate I had with a friend of mine. For the sake of privacy, I will refer to this friend as M.
M is a devoted Christian, though I am still not sure what subset of Christianity he truly belongs to. He forcibly declines to be called a Catholic, despite attending two Catholic schools throughout his life so far, nor does he like to be called a Protestant. Though to be honest, he mentioned some sect of Christianity he follows, but I just have forgotten it.
Anyway, M, being a devoted Christian, truly believes that Christianity is true in the sense that it is the only true religion in the world. M also holds the Bible as the true, or at least the inspired, words of God. Now, I find not only Christianity to be false in the sense that its metaphysical teachings are false. I also think all religions that exist or have existed are not true in the sense that M believes Christianity to be. Now, I will not deny that Christianity, nay, every religion, holds some wisdom in its teachings, but I also think that most of the wisdom found in those religions is tainted by persistent dogma and superstition.
This short post will focus on the subjects of religion and spirituality. I will rely on my extensive study of these two subjects to drive the argument that religion, of all sorts, is almost certainly false. Besides that, I will also argue that there is a common misconception between religion and spirituality, which is that "you cannot have spirituality without religion." I will carefully show how these two things (if they can be called that) are very different.
In my eyes, religion is a set of dogmas; take Christianity, for example. I consider Christianity a religion because it has a set of dogmas, such as Jesus being the son of God, though there are many variations on this dogma. Some Christians hold Jesus as God in the flesh; others say he is part of the trinity, in which there are three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. For someone to be considered a Christian, she/he has to believe one of the above dogmas, among many others. The same holds for Islam, in which Muhammad, is to be regarded as the last prophet of God. Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism also has it own particular set of dogmas to which it adherence must believe.
Now, is any of the above religions true? Either only one of them is true, or all is false. How can one find out which religion is the true one or if all is false? Considering this thought experiment, say that I am a stranger to all religions, meaning that I do not adhere to any religious sect, and say that I am interested in following a true religious sect. Which religious sect should I choose? Looking at each religious dogma is a safe place to start. Suppose I examine Christianity first. Is there any dogma in Christianity that can lead me to belive it is the only true religion?
The Bible is the scripture of Christianity; why not look there? Christianity says that the Bible is the true word of God, though some Christians postulate God inspired it. Is the Bible the true word of God, or at least inspired by God? Because of my ignorance, it is good to look for an authority, a scholar. In the book Misquoting Jesus, Bart D. Ehrman, A New Testament scholar, offers some enlightening revelations. According to Bart D. Ehrman, the Bible, given a close look at its history, says nothing about it being of divine origin.
The Bible is a bundle of work that was edited, translated, and misquoted by mortal hands. And just liked that Christianity is out the window. What about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism scriptures? Can it be said that they were written, edited, and possibly misquoted by human hands? I think I can also say the same about those religions.
If you have read this far, then you may have noticed the intensive focus on Christianity and the abrupt ending in the ‘on religion’ section. This is because I hope to keep it short. I might offer an extensive treatment of all the religions mentioned here in the future.
In my eyes, spirituality differs from religion, with the biggest difference being that spirituality has no dogmas. A man can consider himself spiritual without adhering to any religious sect. Take Buddhism. Buddhism certainly is a religion, as it also has some metaphysical claims about the world, but at its core are some real tangible claims about the real world. The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, formulated the Noble Eightfold Path system, which offers a clear-cut way to achieve peace and tranquility in this world. Buddhists practice the art of mediation, in which one sits down comfortably and controls his or her thoughts, the goal being to keep the mind still and focus on the present. Mediation is known to increase one's sense of spirituality.
Spirituality has many definitions, and most of them are mired in superstition. There is one definition of spirituality that I think captures the essence of spirituality succinctly: "Spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling, sense, or belief that there is something greater than myself." This definition is good because it implies no superstition. Consider the last part of the above definition, "something greater than myself." To some religious folks, this may simply be God, while to a non-religious person, this could be the Universe and all its wonders.
A quick note:
Sorry about this. I have also kept this section of the post short because I thought that another post that comprehensively addresses spirituality was warranted.