Two weekends ago, some friends and I were having drinks at a restaurant after an event. Like many get-togethers with university students, the conversation began drifting towards more serious topics. More specifically, we spoke at length about our struggles in distinguishing between religion and spirituality. Evidently, it seemed that everyone at the table had grappled with this issue at one point or another in search of the “truth”.
Like anyone who first joins university, a lot of my beliefs, habits and perceptions were often challenged. This was further amplified by the fact that I moved to a whole other country. I would often question everything from my existence, to my purpose and even the life choices I have made. Being away from home, I had the opportunity to take a more critical view of my upbringing and discover who I really am.
From the moment I made the decision to study abroad, it was up to me to decide whether I would uphold all the same values or not. For the most part, I did. Although when it came to religion, I felt that I needed to explore a little more. I realized that for most of my life, I had been as the word describes: Religious. As many children do, I simply followed what my parents, teachers and other adults told me was the key to living a fulfilling life.
As I thought about the historical and systematic implications of religion, I could not help but come to the conclusion that religion doesn’t always equate to spirituality and vice versa. To me, religion is a result of a series of spiritual experiences that coincided with a particular culture which people then attached their identity to. These cultures further spread and became altered as time progressed.
Since it is heavily tied to tradition, religion is subsequently a very sensitive topic. In my view though, tradition should not restrict an individual from formulating their own path to self discovery. However, since tradition and identity are also closely linked, then it gets even more complicated. There’s just no easy way out is there?
Overall, I am not out to bash religion because it was indeed my introduction to morality and socially conscious thinking. This and many other lessons definitely count for a lot, but I feel as though they can be taught outside of the context of a religion. My issue with a religion being the end-all be-all of morality and goodness is how deterministic an approach it is, in that it allows no room for variation and alternative experiences.
It is hard for me to wrap my head around the notion that anyone who does not follow a particular doctrine is doomed to an eternity of suffering. What if I have my own way of connecting with the inner sense of being a part of a larger cause? What if I still treat people equally and with respect? What if I too strive for peace and unity? Am I still doomed because I did not do so in the “correct” way?
At the end of the day I feel as though it comes down to the dance between what works and what doesn’t, as well as everything in between. It’s all a matter of perspective and everyone is not always going to get it right.
I personally am still in the quest to discovering a happy medium. I can’t say whether or not I am fully religious, but I believe we have a duty to connect with that which makes us special beings. How we do so is where it gets tricky and where conflict tends to ensue. However, we can try our best to be as inclusive as possible and hopefully the rest shall follow.
Featured photo from Pixabay