Spiritual but not religious

CNN has an interesting article http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/personal/06/03/spiritual.but.not.religious/index.html?hpt=C2  I’ve been mentioning this in my sermons for probably at least five years.  More and more people are defining themselves as spiritual but not religious.  They believe in god but it is a god of their own making and he is born out of a frustration with organized religion.

Organized religion has its faults whether Catholic or Protestant or any of non Christian faith.  There are plenty of hypocrits and corruption at every level of religion.  The truth is that Christians are sinful like everyone else and while Christianity offers a better way to live life and true Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide them, Christians are still far from perfect.

The biggest problem with the spiritual but not religious idea is that it is a new age idolatry.  The god you believe in is one of your own making.  Don’t like the idea of sinners going to hell?  Then you simply choose not to believe in it.  You accept the things about god that you like and dismiss what you don’t.  It has a new name but it has really been going on since the beginning of time.

If you take this idea a bit further than these spiritualists are willing to take it, then you’ll see the absurdity of the notion.  “I believe that when I die, god will turn me into my favorite animal and heaven will be spent frolicing in the woods/field/stream.”  Of course this sounds absurd because there is no basis for believing this.  But that is the problem with the spiritual but not religious concept.  There is no basis for the belief.  You can’t pick and choose ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism and decide that this is what you believe.  The religions are incompatible.  I really don’t know how to put it in any other way than that. 

The other problem with spiritual but not religious is that every person believe that they are going to their version of heaven.  It seems pretty obvious that a person is not going to choose to believe that they are hellbound if they decide what the standards for heaven are.  If there are no absolute rules, then a person will always set the bar below where they currently are.  They will point to people who are far worse than them – thieves, murderers, child molesters – and claim that those are the people who are hellbound.  But people like themselves who are relatively good and who try to live a good life will certainly go to heaven.  Without absolute standards for right and wrong, how does anyone know what is wrong?  It comes down to conscience which is a poor indicator because it can be ignored and twisted.

Organized religion is far from perfect because it doesn’t always operate the way that God intended for it.  But it is better than the alternative.  Spirituality that is chosen based on what feels right will only lead to trouble.  Without standards of right and wrong, we’ll choose the lowest common denominator and stop aspiring to be better people.