Religion vs. Spirituality

Most of my friends know that I’m not the religious type but a few that don’t know me too well have asked whether or not I’m “spiritual”. I’ve always found this to be an interesting question and one that I tend to give what I think is an unorthodox answer to. For most people I think spirituality and religion go hand in hand, and in  a way they do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also exist separately.

A quick Google search of the term “spirituality” conjures up definitions mostly concerned with its meaning through religious belief.  But my favorite definition is the one that Wikipedia provides, in which they write:

“The term spirituality lacks a definitive definition, although social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for “the sacred,” where “the sacred” is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration.”

This definition encompasses the more modern meaning of the term as well as the original definition concerning things that are holy. My own conception of spirituality aligns more with humanistic psychology which attempts to explain the human drive towards self-actualization. The part in Wikipedia’s definition that really stands out to me is, “…where ‘the sacred’ is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration.” In its purest form “sacred” has always been thought of as pertaining to religious belief, and this would make sense given the context in which the word had first arose. There was once a time, believe it or not, when the vast majority of humans believed in higher powers that closely monitored every action of an individual human. During these times religious ideologies held the worldview of all of humanity and there wasn’t much room for anything else. But as we’ve seen in modern times, thousands of ideologies can exist in a single city, and words tend to lose their original meaning. So when I see Wiki’s use of the word “sacred” in their definition followed by “that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration,” multiple ideas fall into the category of “sacred” to me. These ideas include those that are found in art and those that are found in science. I realize that at this point I’m blatantly suggesting my own personal opinion of what is sacred. And that’s the point! What is sacred to an individual has diversified greatly since the days of old, when people were forced to think that a select few things could be held as so. I have now told you what find sacred, and that is art and science. And unsurprisingly I’m not the only one who thinks this way. There are a countless millions of individuals who I’m sure would agree there. And why not? Science and art are very much capable of producing ideas and objects that are undoubtedly worthy of “veneration,” and that are clearly set apart from the “ordinary.” So by broad definition I’d say that the various constituents of art and science are more than qualified as sources of spirituality.

Basically, when people ask if I’m spiritual I tell them “yes.” I draw my spirituality from the wonders presented to me through various art forms and scientific facts. I stand in awe at creative genius, and it gives me goosebumps to ponder fantastic quotes like Carl Sagan’s, “we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” And I think that everyone is spiritual, although most people won’t admit it or aren’t aware, probably because of the residual connotations of the term.

Spirituality is inspiration. It is our fuel; synonymous with drive. It is our passion and willingness to better ourselves in order to reach our goals. If you want to know where you draw your spirituality, think about what it is that gives you goosebumps. And if you aren’t quite sure what that is, then perhaps it’s time for some spiritual introspection. Get out there and experience more of the world and maybe something will touch you in a way that ignites a fire in your chest, and then you will know.

I’m going to draw this post to an end before it becomes too much like a self-help blog. I may brush on this topic a little more; probably going a little more in depth about the humanistic psychological side of things. Until next time!

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