Colin Kerr

Colin Kerr

August 31, 2015

Though it is common to meet people who say "I am spiritual but not religious," theologian Colin Kerr begs to differ.

Many Christians today think religion and spirituality have nothing to do with each other, Kerr said in a lecture Aug. 11 at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.

"When someone says 'I'm spiritual but not religious, that's an insult to us,'" the editor of the Catholic Review of Books said in a course on evangelizing in a postmodern culture. "It means: 'You go to church, therefore you are not spiritual.'"

The burden of apologetics is to show that religion and spirituality are not either/or, he said. In fact, true religion is the basis for true spirituality.

The laws and tradition of the Catholic religion are a "springboard" to spirituality and freedom, Kerr said. Instead of "closing you off to grace," they do the opposite.

The challenge is to show how the law, such as the 10 Commandments or the Beatitudes and tradition, are good words, he said.

"We aren't always aware these rules make us happy," he said. "If they are not making us happy, we are not understanding them right."

Jesus talks about his way being a yoke, Kerr said. A yoke keeps you moving in the right direction.

"It's not easy to get used to. When I became Catholic, I thought 'Catholicism is so hard.' Some parts are hard, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

But spirituality without rules seems fun; it has no burdens, he said. "It feels good to be spiritual.

"Yet oftentimes, the hard things are the good things, the valuable things."

Kerr asked whether it is possible to have a society without any transcendent authority. In such a case, values become "relative to what the polls say" and are easily manipulated.

People whose spirituality is not grounded in religion are vulnerable to pressure from powerful people who claim to have the route to happiness, he said.

"Our job here is to figure out how religion leads to happiness and to make it understandable to others," he said.