The benefits of being both spiritual and religious


Everybody seems to be spiritual these days – from your college roommate, to the person in the office cubicle next to yours, to the subject of every other celebrity interview. But if ‘spiritual’ is fashionable, ‘religious’ is as unfashionable. This is usually expressed as follows: ‘I’m spiritual but just not religious.’ It’s even referred to by the acronym SBNR.

There are so many people who describe themselves as SBNR that sometimes I wonder if the Jesuits might attract more people if they gave the Spiritual But Not Religious Exercises.

The thinking goes like this: being ‘religious’ means abiding by the arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. (Which would have surprised many thinking believers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, Dorothy Day and Reinhold Niebuhr.) Religion is narrow-minded and prejudicial – so goes the thinking – stifling the growth of the human spirit. (Which would have surprised St. Francis of Assisi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, St. Teresa of Ávila, Rumi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Or worse, as several contemporary authors contend, religion is the most despicable of social evils, responsible for all the wars and conflicts around the world.

Sadly, religion is in fact responsible for many ills in the modern world and evils throughout history: among them the persecution of Jews, endless wars of religion, the Inquisition, not to mention the religious intolerance and zealotry that leads to terrorism.


Spiritual and Religious: The Benefits of Being Both (James Martin / Thinking Faith)

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