May 7, 2011

On Spirituality

This paragraph from a recent ScienceDaily article about spirituality among Atheist scientists really caught my attention:

"In their analysis of the 275 interviews, they discovered that the terms scientists most used to describe religion included 'organized, communal, unified and collective.' The set of terms used to describe spirituality include 'individual, personal and personally constructed.' All of the respondents who used collective or individual terms attributed the collective terms to religion and the individual terms to spirituality."

For me, being Heathen is about spirituality. I'm a "progressive Heathen" (to borrow Uncle Thor's term) and a mystic. Frankly, I'll go so far as to say that I'm actually grateful to be in a faith that does not have a more formalized religious structure.

When it comes to the online world, you do not have to look far to find varying approaches to being Heathen that are distinctly religious. Some of these writings have a brittle, desperate tone to them. With spirituality, you have to be mentally prepared for deep-seated disagreements: someone's take on a God or Goddess or any other aspect of faith may really set your teeth on edge! With religion, there's a certain expectation of consensus: for example, the recitation of the Nicene Creed is a vital part of many Christian services. The spiritual Christian with personal experiences outside the majority-defined religious paradigm is in a position where he or she might be accused by others of not even being Christian.

What about people who are, well, "wrong?" You know, that hypothetical individual who offers up Thor a Shirley Temple, lovingly embellished with one of those little frilly cocktail umbrellas, when the rest of us all know He'd prefer a nice dark stout?

We can trust the Gods to speak for Themselves. Probably quite loudly, where the Shirley Temple is involved. The spiritual approach is to allow the individual that freedom to potentially stumble quite badly: the responsibility is on the worshiper. What comes of this is between him or her and the Gods. The freedom--the openness, the growth, the real connections--that can result are the most worthwhile of trades, even when measured against such a grievous "breach." We need not stand stiffly in front of an altar someone else designed, reading from a dusty liturgical book and nervously glancing over our shoulders, self-consciously wondering if we're doing things "right." That's religion.

Me, I'll take what's joyous, what's strong, what's of the heart and free. I'll take spirituality.

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