PETALUMA, CA, Nov. 18, 2014 – The Ariel Atom is one of the quickest cars on earth, reaching a speed of 100 km/h in just under 2.5 seconds. Even faster is the time between when some people say “I’m spiritual” and “but not religious,” as if within those few milliseconds they might be mistaken for someone misguided, deluded or just plain uncool.
But what about those who consider themselves spiritual and religious? Is the assumption that they have fallen under the spell of some non-existent deity, are perhaps less inclined to think on their own and are obsessed with converting anyone and everyone they meet just to increase their standing with God or the folks back at church?
Possibly. After all, there are plenty of religious types who have been misled, who find it easier to follow blindly than to be guided by their own conscience and whose fear of being left out or left behind fuels a seemingly insatiable drive to reform or, worse, condemn anyone they consider to be unfaithful. No wonder so many are so quick to qualify their spiritual coming out with “but not religious.”
On the other hand, there are plenty of well-grounded churchgoers who have found religion to be the perfect channel for their spiritual pursuits, kind of like the banks of a river that provide a sense of direction and practical purpose to what most of us see as an uncertain ride through life’s uncharted waters.
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace,” said Martin Luther, “so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
Admittedly the overly fervent can sometimes come off as if they’re trying to sell something, focusing more on the guaranteed goodies awaiting you once you’ve joined their ranks than on the insights they’ve gained and are learning to put into practice. For the newcomer this can seem confusing if not downright hypocritical, especially when their efforts to reconcile these promises with their day-to-day struggles aren’t very successful. Were the focus to be shifted more toward the strength, stability and healing afforded by these insights, especially during life’s rough patches, perhaps then being spiritual and religious might not seem so unsavory or uncool after all.
For many this includes the realization – and humble admission – that although God is immensely knowable, there will always be more to learn.
“To understand God is the work of eternity,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, “and demands absolute consecration of thought, energy, and desire.”
While for some this may sound like a life sentence, it’s actually quite the opposite. Each and every revelation about the Almighty helps to make life’s burdens a little lighter, the understanding of our purpose a little clearer. Who wouldn’t want this to go on forever?
There’s also the ever-increasing certainty that we have nothing to fear, a confidence born of witnessing firsthand the removal of countless obstacles to progress – everything from impatience and discouragement to debilitating physical conditions, all through the persistent and consistent application of decidedly religious teachings.
And then there’s the obvious and now scientifically measurable connection between the moral uplift that comes from regular study of the scriptures – that is, a freer expression of such qualities as compassion, forgiveness and so on – and improved health. Better yet is the realization that health itself is not irrefutably matter-based, as most believe, but a natural and even essential expression of God’s care for His creation. “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good,” said author C.S. Lewis, “but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
None of this is to say that being spiritual and religious is any better than being spiritual but not religious, only that the former shouldn’t be written off as nothing more than a quaint if not annoying anachronism. “The epoch approaches when the understanding of the truth of being will be the basis of true religion,” says Eddy, implying that a reconciliation between that which we most desire and that which continues to be misunderstood and often misapplied is inevitable.
That in itself is pretty cool to consider.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.