WHILE PERUSING THE INTERNET recently, I came across a rather pithy statement. It read as follows: “A religious person will do what he is told… No matter what is right… Whereas a spiritual person will do what is right… No matter what he is told.”
That is short and sweet, in my opinion, and spot on.
After all, it is not too difficult to ascertain the validity of such a statement. The daily news is full of activities perpetrated by religious fanatics that are violent and sometimes lethal. One also sees evidence of religious bigotry and prejudice by less extreme parties, but it does crop up with religious fundamentalists.
It certainly seems on the surface of things that the religious right all around the world these days is as intolerant of those who are not of their faith as in medieval days. While firmness of faith can be a beautiful thing for the one who attains it, it should not result in turning against others. If anything, a truly deeply religious insight should result in greater love for all of humanity.
Since the 1960s, there has been a massive increase in the number of people who call themselves “spiritual”, but not “religious”. That has been the result of what is called “New Age” thinking and what that thinking has resulted in is tens of thousands of people no longer formally belonging to any major religion, nor subscribing to the doctrines and dogmas of the religion into which they happened to be born.
This is not to say that these same persons do not follow the general course of what is considered by most people to be ethical and moral behavior. After all, the famous Golden Rule covers a multitude of behaviors all by itself.
In quite simple terms, perhaps what this all boils down to is whether or not one is willing to take responsibility for determining one’s own moral and ethical values or prefers instead to follow the rules, regulations and “commandments” of an entrenched institution, regardless of what one privately feels about the doctrines and dogmas that have spawned those rules and regulations.
If that institution has chosen to perpetrate violence against others over the course of history and has caused abuse, pain, suffering and death along the way because of these doctrines and dogmas, then that institution has essentially lost its moral authority and should, rightfully, lose its members.
If that same institution subsequently apologizes wholeheartedly and unreservedly to those to which it has caused harm or death, and makes restitution, then it should be given another chance, but only if said institution changes its ways. In other words, if the leadership of that institution is willing to change certain doctrines and dogmas, announce those changes to the world and admit why they are, or were, necessary, then said institution should be allowed to gain back a measure of moral authority, providing it results in more tolerant and unbiased behavior in its members.
Doing what is right by others is not difficult. If an action causes harm of any type, then it is not properly spiritual. If an action is helpful and uplifting to others, then it is.
Simplicity can do wonders in terms of cutting through the dense, voluminous, authoritarian transcripts that have evolved over the centuries and fill massive libraries full of “sacred” texts.
Perhaps the short and sweet of spirituality really is as stated above: Will you do what you are told by others to do, even if you think it is wrong, or decide for yourself what is right and stand on that conviction no matter what.
After all, we risk our very souls by the choices we live and die by…
It takes a brave soul to stand on one’s own and it is admittedly tougher to stand on one’s own, but it does ensure that one never gets caught up in any form of mob mentality and remains true to one’s own personal convictions.