"Balancing faith and lifestyle choices". Mr. Big is one quarter of a Poly-fi quad. His column will focus on his current struggles to find balance between his chosen lifestyle and the faith he was taught to believe. Join him while he journeys the path of enlightenment.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Religion vs. Spirituality

As I began to enter the poly world, I was surprised how many people said they first came to the notion themselves by reading Stranger in a Strange Land. I bought the book immediately and, as I read, had no clue how they came to such ideas until the final few chapters when it all became very clear. Another cross point that struck me from the book is how Michael decided to label his teachings as religion, even though he knew it did not fit in that category. I wonder how many other modern faiths don’t really fit in the definition either. I’m looking in from outside on most world “religions,” self admittedly, and find myself wondering if we mean the same thing with that word. Some religions seem to be more about a self awareness or a way of relating with the other creatures and creations around you. Which other “religions” are about acknowledging a creator and a way of first relating with that creator? I do not use quotation marks in anyway to belittle any of their teachings. I just wonder if one category for all of them is too broad. How do you define the difference in religion and spirituality?

A minister friend once said “there is a large amount of theology being spouted as doctrine from the pulpit”. As I have studied other sites and discussions of polyamory and its relationship to Christianity, one of the lines I read became painfully obvious. “Today's "true believers" are woefully ignorant regarding their own religion”. I imagine this is true with most of the more prominent faiths in this age. Most people have so much going on in their lives, I’m surprised if studying their faiths is given any serious attention at all. Some people take it very seriously, but within Christianity specifically, the average church goer seldom even sees a Bible or prays outside of their sporadically attended weekly church service or the infrequent grace before a meal. Of course, it is these same “true believers” that are repeating the afore mentioned theology that have driven so many away from the church. Here are a few quotes I found that seem to be echoed through much of the poly community.

“I think religion and spirituality are definitely different. I am much more spiritual than religious. I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t something that I was a part of. In high school I kind of broke away from it. I realized I do believe in God, but I can believe in God within myself. I can learn through myself rather than go to the church. Religion has been a downfall for many societies. Being part of something that brought down a different group of people, that’s just something I don’t feel like I should be part of. Even now, growing up Catholic and being a gay American, there’s that tension there. Why do I want to be part of something that doesn’t want me to be part of it? Now if I don’t feel comfortable with being a part of an organized religion, but I still believe in God, the spirituality prevails and I find solace in that rather than being part of religion.” – David (18), BustedHalo.com

“Tried religion, different type churches, like spiritual much better! Nuf said” - Jim

Many people perceive “religious” as things physically done, often out of habit, ritual, or tradition that are associated with a specific faith. If they have issue with people in that circle, they run away from “religion” and decide they would rather be “spiritual.” Religion becomes intolerable and Spiritual becomes comforting. Many times the focus falls away from the creator to the creation and God is no longer at the center. Losing that focus becomes akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic after the iceberg.

Recentlya guy informed me he does not go to church on Sunday because he "believes in spirituality not religion." My response was to remind him there are spirits and there are spirits. Being spiritual is not the same as being good. The devil is a spirit. In fact it is hard to get more spiritual than Satan. That's why St. John warns us to "test the spirits to see whether they are of God." (1 John 4:1) One of the things that make me shiver is talk about "spirituality" as if it were an end in itself. That spirituality leads to worship of self-image or worse to a worship of invisible powers, life forces, creative energy whatever you want to call them. For a Christian the goal is not to achieve spirituality. Our goal is God. He alone is pure goodness. The people who contrast spirituality and religion have fallen into a subtle error”. – Phil Bloom, Pastor of Holy Family in Seattle.

“The core issue really comes down to one critical issue: What is the true, inherent nature of the human being? What is the meaning of a soul? It is time to return not to religion, not to spirituality, but to reality – one that has not been hijacked by so called religious people or discarded by so called non-religious people. Spirituality is not a ride on the cloud and religion is not a religious act – both are an expression of our inherent state of being… Religion and spirituality are one and the same. They are both the human discovery of self”. – Simon Jacobson

You cannot expand your own vision nor can you delve into new thought processes without someone or something acting as a catalyst for you. One of the best ways to grow in this pursuit is to find mentors who are further along than you are that understand your situation. Another is to find a community that believes and understands what you are trying to learn. It must be a very personal journey. Just don’t allow someone to throw you off course because of their misgivings.

So have I stepped on enough toes yet? Sometimes this column is about how poly can fit into Christianity. Sometimes it is about how Christianity can fit into polyamory. At least I make you think.

Mr. Big is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. He can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Mr. Big; September 12, 2006


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