We've all heard of people who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious." Some, for sure, are sincere about believing in a higher power to which they should submit their will, but others are more concerned about making up their own religion to suit their own preferences. We're addressing this issue because most discussion is around the "religious" versus "secular humanist" divide. It's pretty easy to distinguish between those who believe in God and those who don't. A special problem occurs with those who believe in a God of their own making.
We lived for a time in California and here are some of the ideas and their implications.
There is only one God: Christians believe this, too. However, the 'spiritual' believe there is only one God and he has many names, e.g., Jesus Christ, Yaweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Gitchee-Manitou, Gaia, Seth, etc. Implication: Since every religion points, ultimately, to the same diety, one can pick and choose which rituals and moral orders to follow from day-to-day and change them as easily as one changes clothes. It's spiritual relativism.
God made the world out of himself: Selecting the very beginning of "in the beginning... " and ignoring what the first couple did in paradise, the 'spiritual' rationalize a blameless world. Implication: Since God is only good, the world is only good. There is no evil in God, therefore there is no evil in the world. Since terrorist masterminds like bin Ladin were made by God, they are not evil. The 'spiritual' rationale for the existence of terrorism is that America is reaping its own 'bad karma.' This plays into the hands of the hate-America-first crowd.
The world is a reflection of yourself: Since the world is only good, evil is only a distortion of good. Implication: Only those who are themselves "distorted" would perceive evil. Naturally, 'spiritual' people are aghast (and smugly superior) when President Bush speaks of the "Axis of Evil."
There is no hell: Since the world is only good, the afterlife must be even better. Implication: It is OK to put some people "out of their misery" because the mercy killers are merely "letting them go" to a "better place." What really matters is living with dignity and all suffering should be eliminated. Those who don't believe this have a 'distorted' view of the world.
There is no devil: Since everything supernatural is, by definition, divine, then any mystical revelation (e.g. voices in your head) could only be from God. There are no temptations from the Devil. Implication: Whoopee! Anything goes. Feel empowered to "experiment" with any sort of degraded behavior because it's just a "learning experience" and "it's all good" isn't it? And if it happens to turn out badly, just take a pill to end it all and go off to somewhere better.
So what's the danger in this self-serving, superficial spirituality? Their proponents view these bumper-sticker slogans as "progressive" in contrast to the archaic "superstitions" of Christians and the religious of other traditions. They imagine that the world is ready for a forward leap of evolving consciousness and that it is only the superstitious that are holding back the rest of the would-be "enlightened". While it's not widespread, there is a growing segment of this movement that suggests it would be better for "the world" to get rid of those who are holding back the enlightened, holding back "progress." If that sounds ridiculously paranoid, harken back to the Communist era of the 20th century for a little perspective. Recall the millions who died to make way for Mao's "Great Leap Forward."
Peter and Helen Evans, a husband and wife team are freelance writers and speakers. They are also real estate agents in the Washington, DC area.
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