Religion as a Pastime
It is often stated, “I’m not religious but I am spiritual.”
Is there a difference between ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’?
Most definitely there is a unique difference. One who is religious is not necessarily spiritual, however the implication would be that religious people are spiritual, or they would not seek alliance in an organization that teaches one aspect of spirituality.
In all cases, it seems, that the nuances of ‘real life’ eventually get in the way in the religious circles, as they do also in business and in politics and even school life.
In the church nowadays, there are ever-increasing expenses required to maintain the status quo of any brick and mortar business. Building maintenance, hydro, pastor salaries, management staff which can not be filled by volunteers, etc. Some churches pay for musicians to provide the best possible atmosphere in the service.
To accomplish the continuance of these businesses, drives are made to keep the money flow consistent. Whenever great attention is paid to the finances and it is said, ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’, there becomes a movement away from spirituality.
This human factor, which is not unique to ‘nowadays’ has always plagued the desire for a truly spiritual religious experience.
But who in the world is not religious, about something at least? So many fight viciously for the favour of their political stripe. Others take their jobs or occupation as a religiously serious calling. They can never be outdone with respect to duty or achievement. Hobbies also can devote a person to leaving their schedule closed to anything that doesn’t move their accomplishment forward. The love of planet can consume people into continuous lecturing and reminding others what to do better.
But for this discussion, my interest is more about organized religion which has survived for centuries despite the reformers to the cause and the criticisms that seem to want to break down any successful idea.
It’s hard to understand how ancient superstitions have survived, e.g. the mass (“From roughly the time of St. Gregory [d. 604] we have the text of the Mass, its order and arrangement, as a sacred tradition that no one has ventured to touch except in unimportant details.”).iii
This religious ceremony is just one example how religion has passed from generation to generation in families and throughout the Western Culture as a sacred truth that must be maintained.
To equate this tradition with a child who firmly takes a serious devotion to baseball seems silly, however, we do as humans seem to corner our interests for a purpose.
The child didn’t invent baseball. Baseball is also a long standing tradition. So the interest in a game is also a following of sorts. So too is the organized religion. It is a following where people agree with other people and tend to participate in their doctrine, whether they understand the complexities or not. Clearly the child likes baseball but cannot possibly be aware of all the rules.
Now the difference that hasn’t been mentioned here is the ‘God’ factor.
The ‘Mass’ believers are convinced that their devotion to this ritual will bring them closer to God in eternity.
The ‘baseball’ lovers are convinced of a purer lifestyle that may eventually give them an eternity where they will be remembered if they become a great player.
Does it sound trite to compare these two potential lifestyle choices? I think not.
If you attend a Sunday service of the Mass, and then attend an afternoon baseball game, the attendance factor might be similar, and the participation may seem similar, or there may be ten times more people excitedly involved in the baseball game.
Yet I’m not saying that these two religions are completely separated in spirit. Some people can be devoted to both.
In regards to organized Godly religion, can we say that the newer pastimes, i.e. sports, casino, travel, etc, are keeping people from God? Not always. People can stay devoted to their churches but go out and enjoy other things without becoming devoted to those things too. The God-fearing people of the past lived in a harsher time for the human populations. Life-spans were shorter and the dangers of life ending diseases or famines or wars were realities. One’s need to reach out to a Godly religious organization seemed like an insurance that was necessary. People today also use Godly religions as insurance. The main sales pitch in Christian evangelism is ‘you will be saved’. That’s also a compelling sales pitch in network marketing, whether the product is health care or gold.
How can religious superstitions survive in a modern civilization where people are free to choose and grow more dependent upon socialized government rather than the perceived grace of God?
Churches are now more likely to lure people in response to their political stripe, which attracts an ideology that appears Godly, but in fact supports a party engaged in the power struggle of ruling the nation. Churches, like any business are bound to the earthly need of self-survival. It is necessary to reach people wherever their hearts are. The masses are bound to follow something. It’s impossible for a person to stay fixed in individuality. One needs to have common ground to have friends and acquaintances. The best way to become included is to join something.
The best organization to join to become included is a well established religious organization. You can never agree with every aspect of the religious doctrine, or with every person you come in contact with. In many cases, the less you know the better. However, being a part of a God-fearing organization can only benefit you and your community and give your children a quality of people who they can depend upon as they grow up.
I will conclude that Religious organizations in themselves are not necessarily spiritual, but a person can always practice spirituality inside most Religious organizations. There’s no harm in that.