A lot of people, in fact majority of people according to some studies, would describe themselves as “spiritual and not religious,” I have recently realized I’m spiritual AND religious. I attended a lecture at the American Academy of Religion a few weeks ago only to realize after several decades of anti-religion sentiments I have come back full circle.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “spiritual seeker” jumping from religion to spiritual practices without creating any lasting relationship to any of them. My list includes Christianity, Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Unitarianism, Science of the Mind, and even a day-long romance with Scientology. I appreciate the commitment religion cultivates. Identifying as “spiritual” often misses out on an entire cultivation of community that feels very important to me. It’s a solo (soulo) experience with the divine instead of communal (community). The exploration of spiritual beliefs seem an important part of finding our religious home and our sense of belonging in the larger cosmos.
My timeline with religion goes something like this:
- Ages 5-13 would pray to a God and wondered about what was after death
- Ages 13-15 attended Christian summer camps and youth group with my friends upon moving to Colorado.
- Age 15 Was told my dad was going to hell for being an atheist
- Ages 15-20 Atheist
- Ages 21-22 Take philosophy courses to prove that as an intellectual I didn’t have space for God
- Ages 23-24 Attended Unitarian Universalist Church, started doing yoga
- Ages 25 Joined Buddhism Sangha and attended Science of Mind Church
- Ages 26 Lived at ashram and practiced many Hindu traditions including yoga
- Age 27 Attended Science of Mind Churches on occasion and continued doing yoga
- Age 28 Move to SF and am a philosopher with no time for spirituality
- Age 29 Commits to Science of Mind and “new age” traditions even if sometimes they seem silly, values all religions and appreciates their role in society
With the holiday season upon us I feel called to honor the religions that give us this time to celebrate. I guess you could say I’ve made my peace with religion, even Christianity. I appreciate the teachings of the past, however, there’s a special place in my heart for new thought and find the most alignment for my beliefs with the “new age” religions.
I think we all need a place to hang our hat. Spirituality gives my soul a personal home and with religion relationship to spirit has a group home. My spiritual practices include meditation, yoga, philosophy, and listening to the teachings of Abraham and Eckhart Tolle. My religion as Spiritualism and Science of Mind offers me a community of people to share my spiritual insights with. This former atheist, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Unitarian can’t imagine being just spiritual or just religious. I need the personal and collective belief systems to support each other for me to fully connect with the divine – I look forward to the day when our descriptions of religious beliefs also include a space for being spiritual and religious.