Many of us say we do not like organized religion but that we are “spiritual.” There is something about the word that feels right to us. But what does spiritual really mean? Our world has taken enormous liberties with this word. Religious groups engage in “holy wars” (now there’s a play on words…a classic oxymoron) where acts of terrorism are committed. A busload, café, or office building full of innocent people, including children, is firebombed and those responsible claim to be spiritually motivated. Physicians are murdered over the very complex abortion issue and the killers explain that, according to their “holy book”, the murders are spiritually justified. If each person in a group were asked to define the word “spiritual,” each one, and understandably so, would have a different definition. What does this word mean?
Spiritual may be defined as having to do with sacred matters or sacred things. We have arrived at the word “sacred.” It sounds wonderful. But what does it mean? Sacred may be defined as that which is associated with gods or that which is associated with religion. When we say that sacred is that which is associated with gods, the question arises immediately, “What and whose god or goddess are we talking about?” Most everyone seems to have different ideas about the concept of a god or gods. Seldom, and understandably so, is there agreement. If there is agreement on anything, it might be that life has its mysteries.
When we attempt to define or worship these mysteries, particularly as gods, invariably we create religious problems. Definitions are divisive and invite conflicts. Historically, we have had and to this day continue to have conflicts. Worship of these gods is diversionary and distracting. Our attention gets focused out there somewhere, worshipping something we have been programmed to believe exists, is sacred, and by which we are going to be “saved.” We are going to be saved while at the same time we live horribly unhealthy lives, go to war with our neighbors literally and figuratively, and destroy our environment and deplete our resources. Yet, we are going to be saved. It doesn’t make sense.
Another understanding of sacred is that which is associated with religion. We have gone from spiritual, having to do with sacred, to sacred, having to do with religion. We haven’t gotten very far. The obvious question is, “What is religion?” Religion may be defined as a belief in, or worship of, a god. That definition takes us back to gods. Immediately, the same problematic issues arise: What and whose god or goddess? The conflicts over definitions of gods and goddesses. The diversion and distraction of our attention to these gods and goddesses.
Religion may also be defined as a belief system having to do with the cause, purpose, and nature of the universe. In fact, this is what we have done since the beginning of conscious thought, and with very little knowledge. Early man (men and women), priests and priestesses, profoundly ignorant of life as we know it today, created gods, creation stories, and religions to explain the cause, purpose, and nature of the universe.
Today, we do not need supernatural gods to explain these things. The generally accepted theory for the cause of the universe is the big bang theory. Since we understand only a very small portion of the universe, we don’t have a clue as to its purpose or if it has a purpose. However, the nature of the universe is another matter. It is here where the enigma unravels. It is here where the architecture of life and true sacredness are revealed.
To be continued…