It’s dangerous to be spiritual without being religious, and vice versa.
Question: Why is it hip to be spiritual these days without being religious?
James Martin: It’s very hip to be spiritual, but not religious. Almost everybody I know says they’re spiritual. Now that is good. I mean spiritual is good. Spiritual means that you have a relationship with God. Spiritual means that you connect with God, that spirituality is an important part of your life. You try to lead a good life. You try to be in concert with what your relationship with God tells you, which is terrific. You have to have that. Religious on the other hand in current parlance is bad because that seems to say that oh, I believe in this organization that has all these hidebound dogmas and beliefs and I would never be able to belong to an organization that tells me what to think. The problem with being spiritual, but not religious is that you’re not part of a community in a sense and so there is no one to bump up against to tell you when you might be a little off track. As well, you’re not really able to connect in your spiritual life with other people. There is a great saying from Isaac Hecker who is a nineteenth century American priest and he said, “Religion enables us to connect and correct.” So we connect with other people. We’re naturally social animals and we like to worship in common. That makes sense. We connect with one another and we’re corrected. If I have a direct line to God that means that by definition anything I think or say is from God, right? And that’s as we know a problem, so being spiritual without being religious means that you’re lacking the wisdom of the community as well as the support of the community when you’re struggling. Being religious without being spiritual is just as bad. Being religious without being spiritual just means all you’re doing is following rules. You’re just following rules. You’re just listening to the community and you’re not reflecting on things yourself. So the one thing is what Jesus was warning against, being religious without being spiritual you know to some of the religious authorities of his day. What I’m warning against is being spiritual without being religious, which is much more common today, so I think it’s not an either or.
Recorded on March 26, 2010