Religious or Spiritual?
That’s a question one might find even on the multiplying dating sites these days. Organizations and individuals that track social trends in the United States find that as mainstream religious institutions are losing members, more and more individuals report that they are spiritual, not religious. On the matter of falling membership in formal religious institutions, in a March 29, 2021 article, the Gallup organization reported that “Americans' membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup's eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.” Even the Roman Catholic Church in America has seen its membership decline by 11%, or two million people, in just the two years between 2017 and 2019 (source: Wikipedia, article on the “Decline of Christianity”)...
On the matter of religious or spiritual, there are really four possibilities, not just two: religious; spiritual; religious and spiritual; and neither religious not spiritual. It would be interesting if a survey were to question a representative sample of Americans as to which of these four boxes their respondents would check. I’m guessing that in our secularizing world, a growing number would check the last possibility, the neither-nor box. A small minority, into which I’d fit, would plunk for the both-and option; a larger minority would likely describe themselves as religious; and, according to my feeling, a growing group would self-identify as spiritual, not religious. This final group is clearly present in my hometown, Boulder, Colorado, where there are more statues of the Buddha in gardens and on front porches than the permanent populations of most of our ski towns. And we are a mainly white city of 110,000 primarily Christians and Jews! Zendos, a diversity of meditation practices, all kinds of yoga, and the Sufi Dances of Universal are widespread here in Boulder.
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know I have been doing a form of active, moving meditation called Subud for over 60 years. It came originally from (or though) an Indonesian Moslem named Muhammad Subuh (d. 1987) and is now practiced by individuals in 100 countries. (For more information on Subud, see www.subud.net.) As the child of secular, non-observant Jews, I was never seriously exposed to the religion of my ancestors. From our long-time African American housekeeper, I first became aware of the heart-filling possibilities of Christianity, something deepened by four years at a Protestant boarding school. In graduate school I had a conversion experience and chose to be baptized with my daughter and follow my late German wife’s Lutheran faith. After seven mainly happy years as a Catholic, I turned to the Episcopal version of Christianity in 2010 and feel that I have found my final church home. So, for me, being both religious and spiritual has proved a good choice. Where on the religious-spiritual spectrum would you place yourself?
Leave a Reply.