Religion & Spirituality

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Religion & Spirituality

Post by Locke on Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:48 pm

In your experience, what is the relationship between faith, religion, and spirituality? Do these all mean the same thing or something different? Can you have one without the others?

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Re: Religion & Spirituality

Post by EastofEden on Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:57 am

Faith, religion, and spirituality are distinct entities with the common goal of providing relief from the agitating perceptions that hinder our ability to live a meaningful life.

From what I understand faith is about personal trust in some tangible, or intangible, thing. It can also be a belief and is often tied to a religion. Within certain religions, it is an active rather than a passive noun, allowing the believer to achieve a higher state of peace.

Religion is the physical representation of the beliefs of a group of people. It is the collective form of beliefs born out of systematic organization with the ultimate goal of relating humanity to some entity outside of human existence.  Although it is often used interchangeably with faith, it requires the participation of more than one person. Personally, I often feel that religion is rigid in the sense that it adheres strongly to a determined physical and oratorical form.

Out of the three, spirituality is the most active and broad. It is both personal and communal. Spirituality can mean a number of things and can encompass numerous practices. I think Stephen A. Diamond defines spirituality most clearly in stating that it is “characterized by psychological growth, creativity, consciousness and emotional maturation” (1). In comparison to the other two, I think there are fewer restrictions or codified rules. As long as one is striving to understand and accept what a meaningful life entails, they are spiritual.

I think you can have one without the others; however, I think faith is always involved. By having faith one has hope -- the essential ingredient to opening up one’s consciousness to the abstract and intangible world. I think Leo Tolstoy describes it best when he says “Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live”. Whether one is religious or spiritual seems to depend largely upon where one is living and their physical circumstances. In an article by Nigel Barber, research suggests that the educated and well-off are less likely to be religious because “As the standard of living improves, there are fewer unpleasant situations over which people have no control and therefore less of a market for religion” (2). I can attest to this statement. I was a science major in college who identified as spiritual even though I believed (and still believe) in God. Both of my parents are baptized Christians, but never forced religion on my sibling and me. Even though I have faith I was skeptical of religion, mainly because of its strict language. However, now I am more religious. Part of it is influenced by the challenges my family encountered this past year, but another part of it is that I let go of my skepticism. Another factor that influences an individual’s propensity for religion is genetics. Here we turn to studies conducted on identical twins (3). The article is not the best one; however, I think it gets the point across. Regardless of the factors at play, all three entities are needed in some capacity to create and live a meaningful life.

Each term means something different, but the ultimate purpose of these three entities is to offer solace when confronted with confusing, distracting, and tragic circumstances. Life is not all doom and gloom, but as we transition through the various stages of our lives, we are bound to face emotional and psychological challenges that make us question our existence. Reasoning with ourselves often does not put our fears to rest; it can dig us into deeper holes of despair. Faith, religion, and spirituality fill the gap that reason leaves behind.  It allows us to transcend our subjective experience and appreciate what we have, ultimately leading to happiness.  

(I couldn't provide the links, so the sources are incomplete. 1 and 2 are from PsychologyToday; 3 is from Popular Science)
1. “The Psychology of Spirituality” by by Stephen Diamond, Ph.D.
2. “Why Are Educated People More Likely To Be Atheists?” by Nigel Barber, Ph.D.
3. “What Twins Reveal About The Science of Faith” by Tim Spector

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