Updated: Jan 14
We're past that aren't we? Like, religion was for prehistoric people ignorant of what we - post-modern and enlightened people - know now, right? In today's culture, "religion" is bad. It's judgey. It's lame. It's full of hypocrites. it's unintellectual. It's degressive. It's just not cool.
Voices of culture may respond something like, "no, we do not need religion. In fact, we would rather do away with it altogether. Instead, we prefer that you just be spiritual. That way you can define your own truth, be your own person, and let everyone else live how they want to live, too."
The overwhelming consensus - especially among Millennial and Gen Z - is that religious people aren't as enlightened as spiritual people who have an open mind and tolerance for other beliefs, ideas, and values. In fact, some may say that religious people just need some value-framework to tell them what's good, what's bad, what's right, and what's wrong. But spiritual people can do this for themselves because they can use all of their experiences to form their own value-system.
Religion is the old. Spiritual is the new. Religion is exclusive. Spiritual is inclusive. Religion judges others beliefs. Spirituality accepts all people's beliefs. And so contrasts continue to grow.
The problem that I, as a born-again Christian, have with answering this question in the middle of our cultural melting pot is that the definitions of religion and spirituality are jaded. The original meaning of spirituality has to do with God's spirit, but has now been exchanged for "good energy." Likewise, the orthodox meaning of religion has been exchanged for dogmatic moralism - believe things with blind faith that they will work out and do your best to be a good person. I don't think we need this type of religion, nor did Jesus. Religion that's built on "being a good person" so that you feel better about yourself and that God's impressed with your moral performance is opposite of Christianity, and Jesus had much to say about that. He hated it. He was pissed that people were spreading that garbage in His name. So, I would agree with Jesus that religion - as culture is defining it today - is a bad idea that should die off, and the church is leading that effort.
But if we define religion in the orthodox sense of the world as a "spiritual worldview" then I would say that religion is inescapable. You and I simply cannot exist as a conscious human being without a spiritual worldview that shapes what we believe about 1) who/what created the world, 2) who we are as humans 3) why we are here, 4) what our purpose is, 5) what the truth is, 6) what moral values are best for society, 7) the difference between good/evil, and 8) what happens when we die. Everyone must have some kind of answer to these questions. Even if we have made them up in my our heads or developed our own ideas through a series of experiences, we still have answers to these questions, and therefore we have a spiritual worldview, and therefore we are religious according to the original sense of the word. Even the agnostic who says, "I don't know" is still thinking about the answer to these questions. We are certainly all inescapably religious.
It may be cooler and more accepting in today's culture to say, "I'm not religious; I'm spiritual." I don't like religion, but I believe there is a God out there." But as soon as the spiritually open minded person says something like, "I think people should be open-minded to all people's spiritual beliefs" and then says "that religion over there is wrong for not being open-minded," they are actually contradicting their own spiritual worldview by not accepting another person's belief of being closed-minded. They are saying "closed-mindedness is wrong" which judges another person, and therefore shows their own religion. And that's ok. That should be accepted. It is more logically consistent to recognize that we are all religious and yet have different ideas about what the best spiritual worldview is. From that point, we can start an authentic conversation about truth. And that's what should be celebrated - honest dialogue that moves us closer to the answers we seek. It's wonderful and beautiful to discuss such amazing moral and philosophical realities of the universe. Let's not dumb-down and numb-out spiritual/religious dialogue because of bad definitions and bad logic. Let's start with the common-sense foundation that we all have - ie, a spiritual worldview - and work our way back up from there.