For most people, religion is the only way they get their spirituality and the only way they get their personal growth. I want to open-source spirituality and personal growth. Let’s bust this up and make it available to everyone!
Before I get out the pickaxe, let me explain what exactly I’m talking about.
Religion is a belief system with supporting social systems. For example, Christianity is a religion. It has a belief system, which says things about the nature of the universe (God created it in seven days, etc.) and it also has supporting social systems, like church. It also has rules, like “Thou shalt not kill.”
Spirituality is our connection with the divine, the supernatural, something greater than ourselves.
Personal growth is improving your inner self. Not just acquiring new skills, like learning to play volleyball. It’s learning how to know yourself better, getting in better touch with your emotions, becoming better able to handle difficult situations, learning to love more wholeheartedly. That sort of thing.
Here’s one of the two points I want to make.
You don’t need religion to get spirituality.
In my worldview, spirituality is a very personal, individual experience. It’s amazing when I find people who share similar views and experiences about the divine and have a similar connection with the universe. But at the core it’s something that’s personal and individual. Hmm. That’s actually completely false. It’s not individual at all because it’s all about oneness and connectedness, at least for me. What I was trying to get at is that it’s not something that can be taught. It’s not something that can be learned or dictated. It’s something that must be experienced on your own.
So, when a religion says “Your only connection with the powers greater than yourself is through me,” I bristle. It’s a heavy-handed control paradigm tactic. The religion takes away your power, your birthright to be connected to the divine, and tells you that you aren’t qualified to do that on your own. That you need an intermediary.
That’s all bullshit. No one owns your spirituality.
Sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and look inward. Or outward. Look all sorts of ways and feel your connection to the divine. It’s there, just waiting for you to pay attention to it and open yourself to it.
And here’s the other point I want to make:
You don’t need religion or spirituality to get personal growth.
I’m pagan. A Reclaiming-ish neopagan, to be precise. I don’t worship Satan (I don’t even believe in Satan, in fact), I don’t sacrifice goats, and I’m not anti-Christian. In fact, I think Jesus sounds like a pretty swell guy, and I think the world would be a better place if more people (including Christians) paid attention to what he said.
Paganism is a religion. (Actually, multiple religions. Just like there are denominations of Christianity, like Catholic and Lutheran, there are denominations of paganism, like Wicca and Reclaiming.) It has a belief system (there are many gods, the earth is sacred, etc.) it has supporting social systems and traditions (shared rituals at the turning of the seasons, etc.) and it has rules, like “An ye harm none, do what thou wilt.”
But that’s not really important to me.
The reason I’m pagan isn’t because of the religion. It’s because of the spirituality and the personal growth. Paganism attracts people whose spiritual paths are similar to mine, and provides me with lots of yummy spiritual soul food. Also, it provides me with useful tools for personal growth, tools that can help me get in touch with my emotions, let go of stale patterns that no longer serve me, feel more at peace in a stressful situation, help me realize new things about myself, etc. Paganism couches these tools in the language of its own religion and its own spirituality, but that’s not important.
You can change the metaphor, and it still works.
In paganism, you practice magick. (The extra k is to distinguish it from stage magic.) You perform a certain ritual in a certain way, you chant, you sing, you breathe, you move energy. You connect with the gods.
In Christianity, you pray. You perform a certain ritual in a certain way, you chant, you sing, you kneel, you stand, you worship. You connect with God.
In therapy, you process. You talk, you roleplay, you lie down on the couch, you fingerpaint, you let out a primal scream, you get in touch with your inner child, you introspect. You connect with yourself.
It doesn’t matter what wrapper you wrap around it.
There are fundamental truths of the universe, and different people, different religions, and different spiritualities each interpret these truths differently. It’s like switching window managers but keeping the same kernel. You can use whatever metaphor works for you.
If you’re a pagan listening to a Christian talk about God, try interpreting what they say by substituting your own concept of the divine. When they talk about praying, substitute “focusing energy”. If you’re a rationalist listening to a spiritualist talk about the divine, try interpreting what they say psychologically instead of spiritually. Think about their spiritual experiences as interesting insights into psychology and useful tools for introspection and personal growth.
Magick is science. God is the universe.
Next Friday, we’re going to start posting about a spiritual experience we had that spurred a lot of epiphanies and personal growth. Remember that if our metaphors don’t work for you, you are empowered to substitute your own.
It’s all the same underneath.