Friday, November 18, 2011

The Difference Between being Religious and being Spiritual

The question I am most often asked – and still have a difficult time arriving at a simple, straightforward answer – is: "What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual."
Three ideas or answers generally surface as I think of my answer to that question:
  1. AA old-timers used to say, "Religion is for those who are desperately trying not to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those, like us, who have already been to Hell and don't want to go back." We'd all generally laugh.
  2. Spirituality is a state of being that comes from a truth that is acquired without the use of your five physical senses. Many call it intuitive knowing. It is that knowledge that just "pops" into you, and once it does, you know it to be true for you and you know you know it.
  3. Religion is a systematic dogma that supports your concept of rightness – concepts that are grounded in the belief that you are a distinct human being having, somewhere inside you, a soul or spirit. Spirituality is an intuitive knowing that you are already a loved and accepted spiritual being that is simply having a current human experience.
One of the principle tenets in New Thought congregations is "Thoughts are things."
If your thoughts are consistently about the "reality" of this life, then you perceive yourself as a human that has a soul/spirit. Most of us do not feel at peace. Rather, we feel threatened, angry, fearful, on-edge, wary. As I stated in last week's message, we believe in the duality of our perceived world: good/evil, right/wrong, light/darkness, God/Devil, birth/death, strong/weak, beginning/ending, love/fear, peace/anger, win/lose, plenty/scarcity, oneness/separation.
Giving voice and re-action to these kinds of thoughts simply continues to reinforce our perceived reality of this world.
If your thoughts, in a non-judgmental way, are consistently about your thoughts, then you are beginning to perceive yourself as a spirit having a human experience. You are beginning to comprehend that the reality you see and respond to is merely the reality you perceive. Change your perception and your reality changes.
Early in AA I came to understand that I cannot control people, places or things. The only thing I can control – at least sometimes – is my attitude or my outlook. If I stay focused on what I believe my true mission is then my world changes. Car batteries seem to work, bosses seem to listen. Financial issues get resolved. Relationship issues, as well, get resolved.
What is my mission? To stay sober and be in a position to help another alcoholic. Over more than 20 years of sobriety, I now find that I have broadened my mission to include those who seem to be stuck in their ego-centric worldview; those who define their perception of the world in terms of their personal dualistic view of reality – perceptions of right/wrong, good/bad, righteous/evil, God/Devil, birth/death, strong/weak, beginning/ending, love/fear, peace/anger, win/lose, plenty/scarcity.
If my "world" changes when I refocus on my mission and change my perception, then yours can, too. The Course in Miracles teaches that this change of perception is the beginning of the process of atonement – the miracle that will alter your life forever. The miracle that allows you to perceive yourself from an intuitive knowing that you are already a loved and accepted spiritual being that is simply having a current human experience. A state of spirituality rather than an acknowledgment of religious doctrine.

Donald O'Dell, Gospel of Transformation

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