Spirituality vs. religion

Deborah Solomon writes a weekly column in The New York Times magazine in which she poses a series of questions to an individual of note. In a recent edition, she interviewed Deepak Chopra. Here is one question and his answer:

How would you define spirituality as opposed to religion?

Self-awareness and awareness of other people’s needs.

Hmmm…. That’s a view of spirituality I hadn’t heard before. And are the two necessarily “opposed’?

In doing a little research to learn how others might define the two terms, I discovered a wide range of ideas and opinions. No surprise — it seems that religion has gotten a bad reputation lately, while spirituality has become more acceptable.

Naturally, this led me to investigate my own religion’s take on spirituality. Here’s some of what I learned.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote that “Christian Science meets a yearning of the human race for spirituality.”

In a paragraph  headed, “Health from reliance on spirituality,” she wrote:

To ignore God as of little use in sickness is a mistake. Instead of thrusting Him aside in times of bodily trouble, and waiting for the hour of strength in which to acknowledge Him, we should learn that He can do all things for us in sickness as in health.

She acknowledged that the quest for spirituality in everyday life can feel swimming upstream, against the current:

The earthly price of spirituality in a material age and the great moral distance between Christianity and sensualism preclude Christian Science from finding favor with the worldly‐minded.

She explained the logic behind her statements, in part, as follows:

As God Himself is good and is Spirit, goodness and spirituality must be immortal. Their opposites, evil and matter, are mortal error, and error has no creator. If goodness and spirituality are real, evil and materiality are unreal and cannot be the outcome of an infinite God, good.

She challenged thinkers of all persuasions to embrace their spirituality:

Spirituality lays open siege to materialism. On which side are we fighting?

A friend recently remarked to me that he found it brilliant that the web site for learning more about Christian Science is called spirituality.com. I recall hearing from one of the individuals who participated in choosing its name that many months of research and prayer went into identifying the right name for this very public forum. This process led those involved to discover how central the concept of spirituality is to Christian Science.

So, spirituality vs. religion?

In Christian Science, they aren’t “opposed” as Ms. Solomon suggests. In Christian Science, spirituality and religion are inextricably entwined.

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3 Responses to Spirituality vs. religion

  1. Andrew Cort says:

    Yes, religion has a bad rep these days, at least here in the west, as a stifling attempt to force someones else’s literal unscientific beliefs onto us, whereas spirituality (and/or eastern religion) is considered to be about inner human growth and discovery. There are understandable reasons behind this alleged distinction, but it would be good to bring inner life and inner meaning back into western religion. It’s always been there, and trying to refresh it was Jesus’ aim. It should now be ours.

    • Pamela Cook, C.S. says:

      Andrew,
      Welcome to the conversation! I have a feeling you are already doing what you suggest — trying to bring inner life and inner meaning back into western religion. Bravo! Please keep us posted on how that’s going, what you encounter along the way, how you respond, etcetcetc. And thanks for your participation here.

  2. What a cool read. I have bookmarked your articlety

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