Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 22, 2010
'I'm spiritual, but not religious'
Spirituality without the Church means turning your back on community, says archbishop
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious.
"When I thought back to my own childhood, that kind of a phrase wouldn't have made any sense," said Archbishop Gerard Pettipas.
"During my childhood, religion and spirituality were synonymous. One would never have thought of separating the two, spirituality from religion, because they had the exact same meaning."
Today, however, particularly among young adults, there is a prevailing sense of wanting to be spiritual but at the same time rejecting organized religion. Pettipas, shepherd of the Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese, said over the years he has become increasingly critical of the phrase, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious."
Pettipas explained the phrase during a workshop at the Catholic Conference 2010, organized by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association. His March 13 workshop was provided in both English and French.
Some people believe in God but don't see the need for the sacraments or attending church on Sunday. Others believe in a "godly being," perhaps sensing strong feelings of the divine, or a world beyond the material.
"In the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) movement, they talk about a higher power, and you'll notice that in AA they are reluctant to even use the word 'God,'" said Pettipas. "It's very important for people in AA to recognize that there is another realm, another reality beyond the physical."
ON THEIR TERMS
While labeling themselves spiritual, anti-religion advocates will reject the rituals of organized religious institutions, view religion in the context of exclusion (an in group vs. an out group), and do not like being preached at or having rules imposed upon them. Espousing individualism and finding their own identity, they reject religion because they see the Church as assigning their identity.
Some people compose their own spirituality like consumers going to the supermarket with many options available to them, choosing what they want and disregarding what they find unappealing.
"What a lot of people are saying in that phrase is that spirituality is personal and religion is commune. They feel very comfortable sharing their spiritual identity because it's something they get to create for themselves. They will say, 'my spirituality is mine and I can put it together any way that makes sense to me. I can make it what I want it to be.'"
The missing element from this kind of spirituality is community. "Religion is not all about you. It's also about other people. When I say I am religious, I don't get to determine it, and I don't get to make up the rules. They were given to me, handed down to me," said Pettipas.
A person claiming to be spiritual but not religious is akin to somebody saying he favours education but does not like schools, he said.
The non-religious faction does not want their self-made spirituality impacting their behaviour and how they choose to live their lives. They try to be good people, relative to their own belief systems.
DIVINE, PEOPLE CONNECTION
Speaking as they would, he said, "I am happy to say that I am spiritual. I am happy to say that I recognize something beyond the physical world. I am happy to say that I have a connection with, not just the divine, but with other people, and that those connections have an impact on my life."
Religion, by its nature, is conservative. Religion picks up values and virtues, and holds onto them. These values and virtues are steeped in tradition that Pettipas said is necessary for deep, meaningful spirituality.
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