Spirituality and religion are distinctly separate tracts within mankind’s existence. Spirituality is what is. It is what you sense and what you feel. It’s also what you feel through others. Empathy, if you will. The acknowledgment of an infrastructure, to put it in technological terms, if we are the applications. What this infrastructure is actually made of is probably best described as faith. Everyone has it, whether it’s faith in nothing or faith in a supreme being. To be without spirituality is to be without faith. Flying solo in life, so to speak. Religion, on the other hand, is something the faithless can have. Man developed religion long ago to help explain spirituality. With a lack of scientific sophistication, religion also explained the world around us. When the spirit is explained, it can become a religion. Maybe I should say that when explained, it’s spiritual, but when taught, it’s religion. Fine lines, but I’m sure the intelligent reader can discern the difference.
Friday night, outside of Celestial Studios, I was approached by a man – Neil, I think – with a conversation starter. Not being naïve to this sort of thing, I had a good idea that the guy was selling something. As one would expect in this part of the country, what he was selling was religion. I don’t look particularly lost, so this guy (and his companion that never spoke) was just taking a chance on me. He explained this later in our conversation. The conversation starter was a card with an intelligence test on the front (i.e. trick question). I don’t like being confronted with trick questions because I know they’re designed to create failures. That’s a hit at anyone’s pride and I take little interest in trying to outsmart them. At any rate, the conversation moved smoothly into the realm of spirituality. He asked me questions that pinpointed me as a sinner – pinpointed everyone in existence as a sinner, himself included. At this point, we began to talk about morals and ethics. I believe it was also at this point that the conversation turned into something more challenging than Neil first intended. I chose to describe to him my philosophy on morals and ethics. That is, their being something developed by society. Morals are fickle, like man. Murder was a favorite for Neil, because it’s an easy extreme. I pointed out, however, that murder can be justified by a society, but not a victim. That is, everything living has a will to survive. Any attempt to challenge that will, whether in theory or action, can initiate a defensive response. Not a good moral to argue. Despite my best efforts, the conversation continued to circle back to murder. We also worked through the metaphors to Judgment Day and Christ’s history. What was interesting about Neil’s schtik was that he was only talking about spirituality, not religion. In fact, he acknowledged that religion is man-made and error-prone. He also explained that the importance to all of this was not in the specifics, but simply a trust and faith in Truth. These are all very good things that I stand behind today. I’m thinking to myself, “why are we having this conversation? We’re on the same side!” It’s at the end of the conversation that Neil tells me to assume for a moment that the Ten Commandments (the major topic of conversation throughout) are the rules and Judgment is based upon a black and white adherence to them. I abide and must generally remain silent for the finale. Because I’m making the assumption requested, any questions asked are designed to ensure my guilt. By the end of the conversation, it’s made clear that I’ll burn in everlasting Hell unless I can change my mind in matters of what is now religion. I was able to hang with him up until he transitioned from spirituality to religion. I lost the game at that point.
I must say, I really like Neil and the way in which he witnessed to me. Of all the people who have, his arguments were the best. Of course, in the end we were still talking about religion. I’m interested in religion, but more from an analytical approach. Kind of like the way we’ve all studied ancient Greek mythology. I’m not a religious person yet. Perhaps I will be one day, but it’s hard to find a group’s practice of spirituality to match my own. I imagine it’s the same story with many people – they just settle for a close match. That, or they simply adapt their spirituality to match the religion; not true spirituality. That reminds me, Neil said that if someone had to explain the Bible to you, you’re probably in a cult. That’s pretty extreme, but I can see the truth in it. I took that to mean that the explanation from another encompassed their perception, when it should be yours alone. It seems logical then that I can deduce if someone has to explain a spirituality (e.g. religion) to me, it’s also cult. Heavy-handed, but it’s no different an assumption than the crude, black and white judgment foretold by a religious zealot.
By the way, on the back of the card I received from Neil was a website: www.raycomfort.com. It’s an evangelism site. I haven’t read through it beyond the first page, but I see mention of avoiding false conversions; a “tragedy.” I like that message. That is a great tragedy in my mind as well, and it goes for any religion or spiritual belief. It’s like lifting weights. If you’re not really into it, why are you doing it? It’s not like you’re fooling anybody – you’re just cheating yourself. What are your convictions?