A Spiritual Association for the Transcendence of Religion
Integrative Activism is dedicated to the development of informed mature spirituality and to the utilization of such spirituality to help mitigate and solve the worlds most pressing problems. If we're able, we'd like to help develop a Spiritual Alliance for a healthy, just and peaceful world. Considering the facts that humanity is the cause of this planet's sixth mass extinction event while worldwide inequality and poverty has never been greater and we have begun a renewed nuclear arms race, we feel that the world is in a spiritual crisis. Isn't the fate of life on Earth and the quality of life the highest spiritual priority?
We don't think that there is anything inherently wrong or bad with religion, but we do acknowledge that religions have too often been used to justify some horrible things. History is replete with plenty of examples and it continues today. ISIS is the present poster child of misguided religious exploitation.
Transcending religion does not mean discarding or rejecting religion. Transcending religion is simply the release of one's primary identification with religion. When a person is authentically spiritual, that person doesn't think of themselves as a Christian or a Muslim or a Pastafarian first and foremost. Religions are part of our cultural heritage and we cannot reject or discard them any more than we can reject our history or genetics, but we don't need to define ourselves by such.
An ever growing number of people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, although many people have difficulty clearly articulating the difference(s) between the two. The most commonly cited difference is that spirituality is more personal and religion is more institutional. Defining spirituality is even more difficult for most people.
Spirituality is, most often a perception of unity with that which is and accompanied with affects of love and awe. If we accept that as the fundamental basis of spirituality (or at least a core component) than the superiority of spirituality over religion is easily discerned.
When one deeply feels unity with life and nature, then the morality of the golden rule becomes part of one's psyche.
A person simply cannot be racist.
A person cannot be sexist.
A person cannot behave violently toward another.
A person cannot be purposefully environmentally damaging.
A person cannot be opposed to science.
We posit that spirituality is more immune to misuse than traditional religions and the reasoning for this view is explained below.
Spiritual but not necessarily religious is the preferred phrasing for us. A person can be religious and not very spiritual. A person can be spiritual but not religious. Some people can be religious and spiritual such as Pope Francis. The Dali Lama is certainly a very spiritual person, but we consider Buddhism more of a wisdom tradition than a religion, but we digress.
The distinction between religion and spirituality is a relatively new phenomenon. This distinction is a mostly an American product that emerged in the 1960s whereas Europeans tend to be more nonreligious if not religious. The distinctions and differences between religions and spirituality remain nascent and poorly developed at present. It will most likely take a considerable period of time and the efforts of a suitable community of adepts and experts before these matters are fruitfully resolved. One thing is certain, the overall demographic shift is toward more spirituality.
We can think of spiritual as pertaining to matters of ultimate concern such as an afterlife and the fate of our being after physical death or the nature of good and evil. We can think of spiritual as the essence of something such as a spirit of justice or the spirit of a community. Schools conduct spirit rallies, usually in conjunction with sporting events. We use the word spirited to describe an animal or child with a strong will. If we consider these uses of the word spirit, it can help us to demystify spirituality and aid in teasing this word apart from religion as they are too often conflated.
History is replete with examples of religiously based violence, war, persecution and discrimination. A community of proactive spiritual people could serve to mitigate the harmful effects of misused and poorly understood religious impulses and actions.
To further this process of teasing religion and spirituality apart, this author posits the following:
1)Religion is a subset of spirituality.
Forms of spirituality existed in pre-history, throughout history and can often be observed in those who have transcended traditional religion. For modern examples we can look at the new-age movement and Zen, neither of which rely on religion to nurture spirituality.
It is prudent to note that the conflict between religion and atheism or secularism could be greatly diminished through the widespread advocacy of a transcendent spirituality.
2) Religion is more culturally dependent than spirituality.
Spirituality is transcultural whereas religions all have roots in specific geographical areas and their cultures.
3) Religions are institutional whereas spirituality in more personal and independent from institution.
Because of this this, spirituality tends to be more immune from the types of corruption that large religious institutions with considerable hierarchies, political power, and monetary interests are prone to contract.
4) Religions are patriarchal, spirituality is gender neutral.
The Judeo-Christian tradition blames women for humanity’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Gender equality will remain opposed to this fundamental doctrine. Modern developed societies are transcending this injustice, but that work is still incomplete. Spirituality is not inherently gender biased or gender oppressive, therefore it may be more effective to transcend the religion than it is to reform doctrine.
5) Religion is fundamentally opposed to science while spirituality has no conflict with science.
Faith and blind belief are the tools of religion while science is firmly empowered by healthy skepticism. Many people attempt to reconcile this conflict by adopting more metaphorical interpretations of religious doctrine and at times this can be a fruitful exercise, but replacing religion for a mature and informed spirituality could be a more fruitful strategy.
6) If a well-informed and mature spirituality is differentiated from religion, it could offer atheists an alternative view and direction from what often results in an overly cold objectifying worldview thus reducing the conflict that exists between the secularists and the faithful. Science has proven that an unintended consequence of confronting irrationality with factual rationality can have a backfire effect reinforcing irrational beliefs. Spirituality offers a softer and smarter approach.
7) The major religions are transcendent, in that salvation or divinity is to be found separate, above or beyond the physical realm whereas spirituality is open to perceiving divinity within nature. Many of the environmental problems we face today are in part the result of a religious worldview that considers nature to lack substantial value (divinity), something to be exploited.
8) One of the most fundamental insights of spirituality is the unity or interconnected nature of all things. This spiritual insight provides an inoculation to prejudice in all forms. A perception of unity with all makes racism, sexism and ideological intolerance impossible.
9) Mature and well informed spirituality is able to recognize that morality is not the product of religion, but is an evolutionary development based on the virtues (survival) of a groups ability for cooperative conduct (troop, band, tribe, etc.)
If you consider yourself to be a spiritual, but not a necessarily religious person, please join our efforts or support them. Please feel free to visit our discussion board and participate.
At this point I would like to address the importance of recognizing that spirituality may be naturally inherent in people and thus society and culture, yet is subject to developmental stages. As such, infants and children may have spiritual tendencies that are immature and uninformed compared to those with greater age, education and experience. The developmental sequence from immature spirituality to a well informed mature spirituality still needs considerable work and remains beyond the scope of this essay at this time.
To lighten things up a bit we offer you some entertainment with the reverend Billy Talen who heads the Church of Stop Shopping
Marketing; Remember the Grey Poupon commercial, with the rich guy in the Rolls pulling up to the other rich guy and asking if he had any Grey Poupon? It was a hugely successful marketing campaign that changed the world of mustards forevermore.
Perhaps such an ad could be produced for SbNnR….imagine a bunch of religious fanatics – arguing and fighting and chaos erupting…while a serene Disney-like figure floats through the violence unperturbed with his happy critter cohorts and flowers rising in his footsteps. Spiritual, not really religious.
Perhaps forming a new church would be prudent. I like what John Oliver did.