Many people consider themselves to be spiritual when a statement like that could not be further from the truth. What then connotes spirituality and being spiritual? The definition of spirituality according to the dictionary is
1 of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things
• (of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits.
2 of or relating to religion or religious belief
According to the formal definition we can say to be spiritual is to hold one’s religious beliefs deeply and shun the material world. This is all well and good. When you actually ask someone if they consider themselves to be spiritual; they will say yes but when asked if the consider themselves to be religious most people will say no. According to the traditional definition this leaves quite a contradiction of terms. This means that the majority of people either aren’t spiritual or have a different view of spirituality in mind.
To understand more why someone would consider themselves spiritual and not religious, one needs to look at the surrounding religious systems. This rationale may be because people view the term religion as some sort of negative. They may associate religion, with strictly one belief system such as christianity. This is interesting because of those I have met that are practitioners of Hinduism they say they are both spiritual and religious. From this I may deduce that perhaps those raised as “Christians” (I use the term loosely because most people raised as such only participate 2-3 times a year if that) view their religion in a negative manner. After all the precept of Christianity is that we are all born in Sin and that Jesus died to relieve of us of that sin. The approach of Christianity on its practitioners is very negative. When compared to Hinduism a polytheistic belief system, one is not so locked into the dogma of we are damned from the start. The same applies for Buddhism which the same people asked consider to be “spiritual”.
Knowing this what then do these spiritual but not religious people consider spirituality? Of the majority I asked it is also interesting to note many of them sought only material gain and happiness. When asked what they consider spirituality many responded with a connection with nature. Some also responded with meditation. Not one said prayer or a strong belief in deity constituted spirituality. Instead they viewed prayer and a belief in deity as religious. Therefore the popular westernized definition of spiritual could be concluded as.
“A strong connection to nature and a lasting happiness.”
How one attains this happiness, most labeled through material gain but equally through love. A romanticized hollywood ideal of love but love none the less. According to this definition these people are not spiritual. These people merely share a seemingly selfish desire for happiness and a need for getting back to their ancestral roots.
True spirituality is indeed both religious and spiritual in nature. One must believe in deity in order to possess a spirit and equally one must adhere to some belief system. Even pagan beliefs are religious. Perhaps the formal definition of spirituality is not accurate. Perhaps it can be restructured as
“A belief in deity reinforced by religious ideals.”
Regardless of how spirituality is viewed it seems everyone has their own ideal of it. Whether our view is religious, materialistic, or something entirely different, the word spiritual still holds a profound meaning. It holds presence over our daily and often mundane existence. So I ask again. Are you spiritual?