Friday, October 08, 2010

An Update To "Public Religion"

A discussion with a friend brought out a bit of further insight into what I wrote about in the Public Religion post.

There's an enormous difference between spirituality and religion. Most of society tends to blur the line between the two, and yet when we are talking about the implications of religion in the public sphre, I think it becomes important to understand.

Spirituality is internal - it has a lot to do with how we see ourselves in the world, our place in the world and our understanding of the abstract notion of whether there is a higher power, and how that power is believed to interact with this world.

Often, individuals will root their spirituality in the rubric of a specific religion because it more or less fits well with how they see themselves.

When you start to externalize internal spirituality, the objectives shift from being about understanding your place in the world as an individual and begin to center around the more tangible aspects of religion - be it rituals, legends or the words in scripture.

For some, the understanding of the world is no longer filtered through the internal, spiritual understanding and is filtered through a highly externalized lens that tries to apply the framework of a particular religion's stated beliefs to the broader society beyond the individual.

Needless to say, this has a tendency to become excessively contentious, and it is where the extremists tend to arise. Suddenly, the issue of religion becomes less about individual spiritual understandings, and moves into the considerably more awkward world of trying to insist that a particular worldview must be imposed through the force of law upon others who may not agree or accept the tenets of any particular religion.

This is particularly true in the discussions around religious rights and the ongoing arguments over whether or not someone should be able to discriminate against GLBT people based upon what their religious convictions tell them.


Veronica said...

I've never heard a definition of spiritual or spirituality that didn't involve some serious hand-waving. What do you think they actually mean? Just curious.

MgS said...

Generally speaking, I tend to assume it refers to one's sense of self, and to some extent blends into the more metaphysical understanding of that self in the context of the broader world we live in.

(if that seems handwavy as well, it's because it is - but then again, so are most metaphysical topics!)