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Spirituality cannot adequately replace religion in today’s world

Parker Grogan, Contributing Writer

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At different points throughout history, the pendulum of religion has shifted. When Rome was founded, people only practiced religion as a means to pursue personal interests or explain natural phenomena. During the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, people moved away from religion to focus on themselves and the power of humanity which they felt needed to be celebrated. Once the Protestant Reformation hit in the 16th century, the world turned back to religion, focusing fiercely on the subject to determine status on the world stage. When the Age of Enlightenment occurred, people began to again refocus and prioritize themselves and their wisdom as opposed to trusting a greater entity. Then, with the Great Awakening, people returned to religion as their main focus.

For the most part, history shows a trend of people going back and forth between focusing on themselves and surrendering to religion. Therefore, it’s only natural that while people are currently focusing on themselves by being spiritual rather than religious, the pendulum will soon swing back the other way.

According to the Pew Research Center, a quarter of Americans now consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Many people are beginning to wonder if spirituality can truly replace the phenomenon of religion in the United States, and if that is the case, is the shift from focusing on doing good in order to reach Heaven to focusing on being compassionate and caring for the sake of it necessarily a bad thing?

An article from the Huffington Post entitled “New Heaven, New Earth: Is Religion Being Replaced with Spirituality?” notes that unlike traditional religions prominent in the United States such as Christianity or Judaism, spirituality does not have a leader, a designated place of worship or a clear structure. Rather, spirituality entails a connection to something greater than one’s self or a theoretical abandoning of one’s self which provides peace and serenity. Religion attempts to achieve a similar goal, as it also guides people toward attaining a sense of calmness, peace and belonging. However, spirituality allows people the flexibility to do what they want when they want.

Spiritual people are responsible for themselves and individually hold themselves to a certain moral standard. One of the major differences between religion and spirituality is the simple fact that religion fosters a community, whereas spirituality enhances the feeling of singleness of mind and individuality. To some, the idea of being alone in pursuing strength, guidance, and goodness is intimidating, but to others, without the community and strict structure of religion, people feel less judged and freer.

As noted in the Huffington Post, being spiritual is about discovering the truth about power and control and turning towards the power and control of the individual; conversely, being religious is about giving the power to another supposedly greater entity in order to achieve a state of enlightenment. There is a clear difference between the two mindsets people use to achieve a greater happiness or understanding of the world. While it is definitely a good habit to practice spiritual exercises such as mindfulness, it is equally important to be a part of a large community.

Putting beliefs aside, one of the major reasons people created the church community and continue to pursue it are because it is easier for human beings to gain an understanding of the world when they are not responsible for every aspect of it. While accountability should be a factor in the lives of all people, there is something about trust and faith which makes people stronger. If a person completely relies on his or her self, their senses of humility and perspective become distorted, creating a world of entitled and selfish people. Human beings are better when they are vulnerable, and without trusting others or some higher power that be, people think they are invincible – a quality to which nobody can relate or understand. Thus, the major benefit of religion as opposed to spirituality is the open and trusting relationships which foster a supportive community.

Anyone can be spiritual. An atheist, a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu, just to name a few, can all practice appreciating nature, enjoying being in one place at one time and seeing the bigger picture of life. However, for one to be religious, no matter what that religion may be, one has to be dedicated and determined. Being spiritual is an individual choice, allowing one to change standards depending on their actions, while being religious implies maintaining a non-negotiable set of morals.

While it is difficult to wake up and go to church in the morning some days, there is something to be said about people who are willing and able to make such an effort. Creating habits such as going to church may seem unappealing at first, but once a person is set in his or her ways, their actions begin to reflect their surroundings – people, places and teachings. Religion is not easy, but it teaches us, as human beings, that we are not alone and that we can be good people on a universal standard.

 

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Spirituality cannot adequately replace religion in today’s world