Someone asked me recently if I am religious and I struggled to answer them.
“Spiritual but not religious?” they offered.
But I don’t want to be a walking cliche either, and what does SBNR mean anyway?
From the perspective of an irreligious person I guess I am religious. From the perspective of a religious person I’m not.
The problem is that I’ve read too much into multiple religions and tried to see the world through their eyes.
Like learning a new language, I know that people have different names for the same things, but they also have names for things that other languages don’t have.
They cut up reality in slightly different ways.
And so do religions. They talk about this one transcendent experience in different ways and translate it into different forms.
People get fixated on whether Buddhists believe in God or not; but people also get stuck on whether Christians from the same denomination worship the same God if they differ in their fundamental conception of Him.
Why not just say that Buddhism and Christianity both contain something transcendent, and they try to describe it in their own particular ways?
Wheat and chaff
But I’m making my own assertion here: that what is of value in any and every religion is the transcendent and otherworldly aspect of it. Not the afterlife so much as the new life, the qualitatively different experience of life in this world.
I have zero interest or time for a religion that is merely a set of rules unless those rules promise to deliver a tangibly improved relationship with reality.
It’s worth bearing that in mind, because to some people outward adherence to a creed or membership of a community is more important than some kind of obscure or, worse yet, esoteric experience of transcendence and joy that some people get and others don’t.
Some people don’t want religion to be universal unless it’s all under the one creed.
But my experience is that we are all operating on a personal creed, whether we admit it or not. And mine has evolved through familiarity with the thought of a half-dozen religious streams.
I don’t have the common ground of fellow-believers who sit together in their churches or mosques and provide a range of social reinforcements to their faith, but I probably don’t need it either. If I wanted to belong I probably wouldn’t have such a strong desire to explore and push past the boundaries of other people’s conventions and comfort-zones.
I can say for sure that life is meant to be enjoyed, and though i know that rubs some people the wrong way I have less and less concern about that.
Perhaps in writing this I’m letting myself have less concern about religion too; letting go of my awareness of all the varied and intricate issues within and around religious practice and belief.
Does it matter what I call myself or what others call me? Religious or not, the label doesn’t change anything for me apart from how I think others see me. And how I think others see me is…probably the least important question that could occupy my mind.