Spirituality Vs Religion

I notice that a lot of people these days describe themselves as spiritual rather than religious.

I’ve always been suspicious of spirituality. I’ve always had contempt for most people who talk about it. Spirituality has usually struck me as cheap grace and most of the people who preach it seem like charlatans.

Spirituality is a way for people to try to get the benefits of belonging to an organized religion without paying the price of such belonging. I don’t think anyone in Orthodox Judaism has any illusions about the price of belonging to an organized religion. It makes a lot of behavioral demands on you, time demands on you, monetary demands on you. It makes intellectual demands on you. You can’t publicly disagree with the beliefs of your religion if you want to get along with your co-religionists.

Religion is hard work and serious commitment. Spirituality can wax and wane with the wind. Religion makes external demands on you. Spirituality only makes internal demands.

In religion, God is primarily a being outside of you who demands certain behavior. With spirituality, you and God may be one. There may be no morally-demanding God outside of you.

Anyone can proclaim themselves spiritual, but to proclaim yourself an Orthodox Jew or a Seventh-Day Adventist, there are criteria you need to meet or you’ll look like a fraud.

It is easy to feel spiritual at the beach or in the mountains or while watching a good movie or listening to music. Where’s the objective moral code that a spiritual person is accountable to? What code can you point to when your spiritual but not religious roommate is obnoxious?

My last girlfriend was raised an Orthodox Jew, educated through 12th grade at Orthodox day schools, and she just hated Orthodox Judaism. She had so much contempt for me. If I ever failed to keep a mitzvah, she’d call me a hypocrite.

“You’re lucky,” I told her. “You can never be a hypocrite because as a secular leftist you don’t subscribe to any objective moral code.”

So I have this contempt for spirituality, and then I realize that for all my religiosity, it’s not changing my basic exploitive nature. So I start 12-stepping. And to my joy, it’s all about spirituality. It’s about having a relationship with God.

I thought I left that talk behind in my Christian upbringing. There I overdosed on talk about loving God, relating to God and the like.

And now I’m stuck with that same challenge.

Most people tend to relate to God the same way they relate to their father. I have a distant relationship with my father. I have a distant relationship with God. I see my father as the moral arbiter. I see God as the moral arbiter. It’s never occurred to me to try to have a relationship with God.

So I’m struggling with that. I’m struggling with accepting that I’m powerless in the face of love, sex and fantasy. I’m powerless over my tendency to get into co-dependent relationships. It’s hard for me to say that because I think of myself as so strong, so disciplined, so determined, but it ain’t working. I need to accept my powerlessness over my addictions. Step one. Step two, accept that there’s a power greater than myself that can return me to sanity. Step three, make a decision to turn my life and my will over to God as I understand Him.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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