Got religion? Got spirituality? Know the difference?

I thought Herman Cain was my man and was disappointed he dropped out of the running before the primaries got to Wisconsin, even though I wasn’t too thrilled with his “9/9/9 tax plan,” but after getting “Atheist libertarian Nick Gillespie horrified Bobby Jindal wants U.S. to ‘turn back to God'” in my inbox, I’m glad I didn’t vote for him. “Spiritual revival” does not necessarily mean “Christian population explosion,” and there aren’t a lot of countries more Christian than America, so why is America so screwed up? Answer: Because America is so dumbed-down they don’t think for themselves anymore, and they take the particular translation of the Bible they grew up with at face value, too uneducated to understand anything about the languages it was written in or the context of the times the various books were written in, and too stupid to realize how such lack could completely change the interpretation of a passage. Maybe not fanatical enough to highjack a plane and drive it into a building, but just as convinced that their own particular worldview is the only correct one and not sorry to project it on everyone about them.

Many say that Islam is the fastest-growing religion on the planet because it’s “easy” to practice. Some Christians parishes are closing due to loss of membership, others are surging. Which ones are surging? The mega-churches that provide a feel-good “you’re special” show every Sunday with a thin veneer of Christianity. People only have the “obligation” (or not) of showing up. How’s that for “easy”? And for attending an entertaining sign-a-long (or just clap your hands, or just listen, or even sleep if you’re the kind who can sleep when everyone around you is jumping and clapping), where nobody critically examines anything that’s being said, you get a little flag to wave that says you’ve got religion. Talk about opiates for the masses.

The ultimate purpose of any true religion is to develop oneself as a spiritual being. Unfortunately, too many interpretations of too many religions–Christianity and Islam chief among them–encourage a sort of spiritual neoteny by providing a set of scripted external actions to be rewarded with some kind of paradise if faithfully followed, bonus points for dragging someone else into the herd. It’s not unlike children trying to understand a magic trick; they think if the coin didn’t appear under the cup, it’s  because they didn’t tap it with their wand hard enough and not because they didn’t realized the magician had slipped the coin in with his pinky the last time he picked it up. And in religion, we have adults scolding other adults for the equivalent of not bothering to use a wand at all!

Here’s another way to look at it: many say that prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is listening to God’s answer. Having been raised Catholic, I can tell you: The Church taught me to pray, it never taught me to meditate. And although I am aware that many saints and more notable folk of the cloth did in fact meditate, I did not come by that knowledge from my catechism classes.

My apologies to the educated, understanding, spiritual beings who find the teachings of Jesus most appropriate for their own personal path to enlightenment and respect those who tread a different path, knowing that “all roads lead to Rome,” so to speak.

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