[Chapter 1 of this book is here. Following chapters will be posted on Wednesdays.]
Integrating Spirituality Into Religion
If you are like many people today, you were raised in one of our traditional religions. That may have created a problem for you.
I say this because you are reading this book. In other words, if your religious beliefs completely fulfilled all of your spiritual needs, you would not have even considered reading this material. You would already feel fulfilled and complete.
Given the changes which are coming upon us, many traditional Christians, Muslims and others will be challenged as to how to integrate the new information being received into their old religious beliefs. There will definitely be conflicts. For many people, resolving those conflicts will not be easy.
Although you may not be one of them, many people have felt compelled to leave their family’s traditional religion when it seemed to no longer meet their needs when dealing with the issues faced in today’s complex world. Some people migrate to other religious or spiritual beliefs and some simply quit their church because they no longer feel connected to it.
One problem many people face who leave their religion is living with a feeling of guilt or unfinished business. These feelings can last a lifetime for some people. Psychologists often treat people who decided to leave the religion they were raised in, but who couldn’t deal with their residual guilt in a positive way. This illustrates that this issue of guilt is no small thing.
I believe that the problem is really that so many of us are looking for an external source to answer all of our problems. If one religion doesn’t work then another one might do it. I am not suggesting that it is wrong or bad to change our religion, merely that we should be sure we are doing it for the right reasons.
If we come into this life with a number of conflicts inherited from several past lifetimes, our resolution must ultimately come from within. The form our religion takes can help us in some cases and it can hinder us in others. Part of the problem is that some people define themselves by what church they attend. Obviously if that church no longer fills that person’s needs, they have a problem because they have so identified with it.
I have a suggestion for these people. While it may be appropriate for some people to find an alternative church, there is nothing wrong with staying within a church and redefining yourself according to how you feel you really are.
For example, let’s say that you are an Episcopalian, but you feel that you have evolved spiritually beyond what you used to believe, and what is taught by the church. However, you still enjoy the church’s liturgy and the fellowship of the other parishioners. The familiarity of the service still gives comfort to you. To me it makes perfect sense to continue attending your church in this case.
To illustrate what I mean, consider the following. Imagine a large box. Your spirituality, or what you are, is represented by this box. Your religious affiliation is represented by a smaller box. The smaller box can easily fit into the larger box.
In other words, the church, while important to you, needn’t define the totality of who you are. Being an Episcopalian represents only a portion of your total spirituality in this example. It doesn’t completely define you as a person. Interestingly, some people have a great amount of difficulty doing this because they have spent a lifetime defining themselves by their religion. Put another way, the Episcopalian part of you would be only a portion of the total spiritual you.
To some people, this will make perfect sense and they will say that they didn’t even need to have this explained to them. But, some other people may not have considered this. To use an old saying, you don’t need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Or just because your spiritual beliefs may have grown beyond what the church teaches, it’s not always necessary to abandon it.
Too often we allow external organizations to control our lives, actions and even our beliefs. We modulate our beliefs to fit the principals espoused by the external organization. You see this every day where churches, political parties and employers are concerned.
Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that the solution is anarchy. What I am suggesting is that each of us has the responsibility to define ourselves, and then we can be a part of the church, political party or whatever on our own terms, accepting only those things they promote which is in accord with our core beliefs.
This means that we can agree with the organization on certain things while disagreeing with them on other things. Too often many of us have been lemmings and that needs to stop. That way of being does not help our spiritual growth.
While most churches will strongly disagree with what I am advocating here, we might keep in mind that our spiritual growth is primarily our responsibility and not the church’s.
If you think I am overstating this, then just look around you. How many people do you know who are Republicans or Democrats who buy into virtually everything their party preaches? How often do they really question their party? If they don’t, then they have bought the whole package and may be controlled by that outside source. Incidentally, that is what propaganda does.
So, back to the main point here. There is no reason why we can’t integrate our religion onto our larger system of spiritual beliefs.
I’m sure that if you were to ask the leaders of the church if they would agree with you, or accept every one of your spiritual beliefs, they would disagree with at least some of them. That is their right. It is not really our place to tell them what they might be doing wrong, as we see it. Our ‘job’ in this lifetime is to learn and to grow spiritually as much as we possibly can. Those who embrace conventional religions and believe in the teachings as being 100% literally correct will have ample opportunity to have their beliefs tested in the coming times.
So, consider integrating religion and spirituality as I have suggested. Then you may be able to avoid falling into the guilt trap that so many others have done when they felt compelled to leave their church. Lastly, you will likely have an easier time integrating the new information you will be receiving as well.
End of Chapter 11
You may find Ron’s book, How to Navigate the Coming Spiritual Changes ebook in a Kindle edition on Amazon here, for the very reasonable price of $3.99. For those who would like to skip ahead of our chapter by chapter presentation on Wednesdays, this is where you can go get his ebook for yourself and read it at your leisure.
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