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Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 1: Spiritual But Not Religious
"Spiritual but not religious" people are free to (and often do) cherry pick bits and pieces of various religious philosophies which appeal to them, appear to be advantageous, and which fits into their world view. My question is what this hodgepodge offers you in the long run... beyond this life.

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bibleís humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. Can we at least apply the same standards to the Bible that we do to other ancient literary works.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies. Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
Part 8 b:The Resurrection Accounts. The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written, and therefore, it is a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm, or undermine, the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does doing it twice sound? - which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian? Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.

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ON THIS PAGE

A Note To The Reader
Religious Freedom

"Spiritual" But Not Religious... Defining the Terms

Spirituality and A "Higher Power"
Burger King (Eclectic) Spirituality?

How Do You Know?


A Note To The Reader
Please note: This article has absolutely nothing to do with you being a good caring individual, your compassion, kindness, or level of involvement in social issues. There are many thousands of 'spiritual but not religious' people who make every effort to lead good and responsible lives. The article also has absolutely nothing to do with the organized church which, like many other organizations, can be both good and bad (Unfortunately, the vast majority of people, most Christians included, do not realize that in many, many, instances, the doctrines of the church and the teachings of the Bible parted ways a long time ago).

This article is strictly about the evidence for the truth or falsity of Biblical Christianity vs. other religions.


Religious Freedom
The very concept of 'freedom of religion' implies that every person is entitled to his, or her, own set of beliefs, and can practice their own religion without fear of any form of discrimination or reprisal. Religious freedom being one of the core principles on which this country's government is founded, American citizens are guaranteed the free exercise of religion by the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment is supposed to support freedom of private religious belief and expression, and grant freedom from any state-imposed religion. As James Madison once wrote in his 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments... "The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate..."

And we have exercised our religious freedom... in spades.


"Spiritual" But Not Religious... Defining the Terms
It is not at all uncommon to hear someone describe themselves as being 'spiritual'.  In fact 37% of all Americans identify themselves by the very trendy phrase "spiritual but not religious" [01]. I would, therefore, like to briefly examine some of the terms involved.

Spirit: The English word "spirit" carries a broad range of meaning. It is used in connection with religion, God and supernatural beings such as angels or demons. The word 'spiritual' is also used to denote the non-physical part of a person.... their essential nature, which includes the mind, will, and feelings. It is the part of you that seeks meaning and purpose. 

Religion can be described as ...

  1. Belief in, worship of, and obedience to, a supernatural power considered to be the divine creator and governor of the universe, with control of human destiny.
  2. Any personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
  3. Beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is usually categorized much more nebulously. Social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for "the sacred"... that which transcends this world and is worthy of veneration. Some call it the 'awakening to the divine within you', while others say it a 'seeking of oneness with Deity'. However, the common consensus is that spirituality is beyond mere words, which cannot describe the inexpressible. Many assert that spirituality not only results in a wide range of positive health benefits, but, by developing inner peace, contributes towards happiness and life satisfaction. Thus, both physical and psychological well-being are an important aspect of modern spirituality.

Spiritual But Not Religious is also the title of a book by Robert Fuller, professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University, in which he says, the terms were 'used more or less interchangeably" until about one hundred years ago.

    "However, over time, the word "religious" has come to be connected with membership in religious institutions and "participation in formal rituals, and adherence to official denominational doctrines". On the other hand, the word 'spiritual' "came to be associated with a private realm of thought and experience". [02]

In other words, there is now a definite distinction between spirituality and organized religion. However, since I didn't have the slightest idea as to what this "private realm of thought and experience" encompassed, I asked several non-christians what 'being spiritual' meant to them. Sadly, what I got was much hemming and hawing. One person changed the topic, others said they couldn't possibly describe it. All of which made me wonder if this lofty sounding self-description was bereft of any real meaning.

The question remaining unanswered, I googled the question 'what does it mean to be a spiritual person?', which resulted in a number of more precise, but varied, definitions. Apparently being "spiritual" means quite different things to different people. One site said you might be spiritual without realizing it if you try to think happy thoughts, gaze at the stars, feel serenity in nature, allow yourself to be guided by intuition etc. [03] Others were 'me centered'. In other words 'spiritual people' just enjoyed  being themselves, which included liking and respecting themselves. In some cases, being spiritual seemed to be largely confined to feeling good... about yourself and the world around you.

However, the UK based Mental Health Foundation lending some more depth to the issue, says... "Spirituality means different things to different people and people express their spirituality in varied ways", including...

  • their religion or faith,  
  • meaning and direction in their life, sometimes described as their 'journey' 
  • a way of understanding the world and their place in the world 
  • belief in a higher being or a force greater than any individual 
  • a core part of their identity and essential humanity
  • a feeling of belonging or connectedness 
  • a quest for wholeness, hope or harmony
  • a sense that there is more to life than material things. [04]

In Spiritual, But Not Religious, Robert Fuller offers a definition of spirituality. He says

    Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things. This is true even when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is "spiritual" when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life. [05]

Since, in modern times, 'spirituality' usually refers to the internal experience of the individual, it cannot be clearly articulated nor defined. In other words, in spite of all these definitions, the term is as slippery and unformed as a blob of jello. Perhaps the only element that clearly emerges is that, like religion, spirituality is concerned with that which exists beyond the tangible and visible world.


Spirituality and A "Higher Power"
There seems to be at least one common thread running through many, if not most, definitions of spirituality. Unlike atheism, there is often the concept of, or at least, an openness to, the idea of a supreme being, or power, behind the natural physical world. However, there seems to be little or no knowledge about what or who this being/power might be, much less describe his, or its, nature, characteristics, or essential qualities. Robert Fuller states that..

    "... the words "spiritual" and "religious" are really synonyms. Both connote belief in a Higher Power of some kind. Both also imply a desire to connect, or enter into a more intense relationship, with this Higher Power. And, finally, both connote interest in rituals, practices, and daily moral behaviors that foster such a connection or relationship. [06]

He goes on to say that people who deem themselves as 'spiritual, not religious', tend to reject traditional organized religion as "the sole-or even the most valuable-means of furthering their spiritual growth." [07] They are more likely to be agnostic, and have mystical experiences.

    Forsaking formal religious organizations, these people have instead embraced an individualized spirituality that includes picking and choosing from a wide range of alternative religious philosophies. They typically view spirituality as a journey intimately linked with the pursuit of personal growth or development. [08]

In other words, people who call themselves spiritual but not religious, often intuitively sense something bigger than themselves, but they either do not want to, or are unable to, describe or define what this transcendent power, or being, is. What they can articulate is their opposition to religion, which they often perceive as being ritual bound and lifeless. They often consider people who participate in organized religion stifled and inhibited by rules, regulations, and superstition.


Burger King (Eclectic) Spirituality?
Unencumbered by any and all religious dogmas, regulations and/or obligations, spiritual but not religious people typically do not feel the need of a temple, church, rabbi, or priest in order to practice their spirituality. However, in their pursuit of finding direction to their lives, getting in touch with their inner selves, discovering the divinity within etc.. it is exceedingly common for them to cherry pick bits and pieces of various religious philosophies which appeal to them, appear to be advantageous, and which fits into their world view.

In a June, 2010 CNN article entitled Are there dangers in being 'spiritual but not religious'? John Blake asks if people are choosing "Burger King Spirituality"?

    Heather Cariou, a New York City-based author who calls herself spiritual instead of religious, doesn't think so. She's adopted a spirituality that blends Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs. "I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist, or Catholic, or Muslim," she says. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."  [09]

Sentiments such as these are very, very popular today, as is the term "Spiritual Eclectic", which blogger Lorna Tedder says builds on the foundation of a religion or set of beliefs...

    ".... adding new things that work for that particular person's path, new things that strengthens the bond between that person and Deity."  [10]


How Do You Know?
Which brings me to an all important question... How do they know?

How does Heather Cariou know that when she enters the eternal realm, she will not walk though a door with a label on it. In fact, how does she know she will even be allowed into the 'eternal realm'?  How does Lorna Tedder know that the spiritual practices a person picks, which appears to 'work' for them, will actually strengthen the bond between them and Deity?

The fact is, that unless they have spoken to Deity, or know someone who has, they have no way of knowing what they claim to believe. It is all very well for people to say that they believe this, that, or the other, but I think we all know that not all beliefs that people hold are necessarily the truth. And yes, I have a pretty good idea that you are going to say something to the effect of "truth is whatever you perceive it to be", or perhaps "what's true for you is not necessarily true for another person".

Which bring me to the topic of religious pluralism, the belief that all religions have a common moral code, are based on living a moral, positive life, and all have some value in that they provide comfort and moral guidance to their adherents. In fact, many spiritual paths may just lead to the same destination.


Continue on to Part 2: Religious Pluralism
It is tragically true that few of those who believe 'all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God" seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust. This simply because many, if not most, people seem to believe that religion is a matter of what you believe, and 'faith' has nothing to do with reality. Whether we realize it or not, we literally make dozens of decisions every day, based on evidence, not feelings. In fact, we would find ourselves in deep trouble on quite a regular basis, if important decisions were based on how we emotionally relate to something, instead of collecting known facts/weighing all the evidence. Whether you have thought about it or not, whether you are willing to face it or not, the simple fact is... if two religions make truth-claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right. As one example among many, when one religion says there is no God, another claims there is only one God, and others say there are many gods ... someone doesn't have their facts straight. Only someone who has their facts straight can be trusted to show you the path to God. CLICK HERE

 

Endnotes (Chapter 1)
[01] "Nones" on the Rise. Pew Research Centerís Religion & Public Life Project. October 2012. Copyright 2014 Pew Research Center. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/

[02] Robert C. Fuller. Spiritual, But Not Religious. Copyright 2001 Oxford University Press.
http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/07/Spiritual-But-Not-Religious.aspx?p=1

[03] Amanda Froelich. 12 Signs you may be Spiritual and Donít Even Know it
http://www.trueactivist.com/12-signs-you-may-be-spiritual-and-dont-even-know-it/

[04] What is spirituality? UK Mental Health Foundation.
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/S/spirituality/

[05] Robert C. Fuller. Spiritual, But Not Religious. Copyright 2001 Oxford University Press.
http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/07/Spiritual-But-Not-Religious.aspx?p=3

[06] Robert C. Fuller. Spiritual, But Not Religious. Copyright 2001 Oxford University Press.
http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/07/Spiritual-But-Not-Religious.aspx?p=1

[07] Robert C. Fuller. Spiritual, But Not Religious. Copyright 2001 Oxford University Press.
http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/07/Spiritual-But-Not-Religious.aspx?p=2

[08] ibid.

[09] John Blake, CNN.. Are there dangers in being 'spiritual but not religious'? June 9, 2010.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/personal/06/03/spiritual.but.not.religious/

[10] Lorna Tedder. What Is Eclectic Spirituality? http://www.thespiritualeclectic.com/what-is-eclectic-spirituality/

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