Sunday, February 21, 2010

Glenn Reynolds on why spirituality is more popular than religion

Citing a Pew Research Forum report, which cites young people as being spiritual, but not religious, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit had this to say:
Well, that’s because religion often tells you to do things you don’t want to do, or to refrain from doing things you want to do, while spirituality is usually more . . . flexible.
I'm not sure if he considers that a bug of a feature, but he hits the nail on the head. Far too much of the so-called spirituality today centers around the idea of God wanting our attention, but little more. The idea that God may actually expect certain things of us beyond a generic, flexible "being good" is inconvenient at best.

No, the inconvenient truth is that God has a plan for us, and that plan calls for us to meet certain standards of behavior. Attempts to water it down so that we can feel better about ourselves with less effort will not work out well for us in the end. I mean seriously, do you really think you can tell the creator of the universe that "I'm sure you didn't mean all that 'thou shalt/shalt not' business. Here, let me show you what I am willing to do for you, though."?

Good luck with that.


Ronaldo said...

For the sake of devil's advocate, the whole point of moving to spirituality instead of religion is that you can internalize your code of honor and do what YOU feel is right rather than let people who wear big shiny Authority hats tell you what to think. Yes, it's a very good idea to learn about the don'ts, but decide to follow them yourself, not because you're scared of God. The point is, those Authority hats are far too easy to come by, and people who respect the hat more than their own judgment all too often end up strapping on bombs or setting fire to synagogues...

Thom said...

Of course the problem with that argument is that it starts with the assumption that a) individuals know better than the "people in the shiny hats" what is right and wrong, b) the people in the shiny hats are wrong because sometimes people do bad things in the name of religion, c) none of the people in the shiny hats actually DO speak with/for God, d) religious people only do things because they are scared of God, and e) it's somehow wrong to be scared of God.

I'll direct my attention to B for now. The claim that religion is wrong because sometimes people do bad things in the name of religion is intellectually dishonest. Are you saying that the number of crimes committed for religious reasons outnumber the number of crimes committed for non-religious reasons (or in opposition to religious teachings)? Are you saying that Socialism is wrong because Stalin killed so many people in the name of socialism? Are you saying Democracy is wrong because democracies kill people in the name of democracy? Should we throw out all governments because they sometimes result in bad things?

I will not argue that religion, like any other form of power, is susceptible to corruption and abuse. But what you are proposing, spiritual anarchy, is better how? After all, there are plenty of people who kill, rob, rape, etc. because they feel it is the right thing for them to do.

By the logic you put forward, "spirituality" is therefore no better than organized religion, and people shouldn't trust themselves, either. All it really accomplishes is a world where nothing is "wrong" because everything is right as long as you feel good about believing/doing it.

I hold to my original thesis that spirituality is mainly a means for people to feel good about themselves without actually having to do anything differently. Just because some people in organized religions, and admittedly some organized religions, do/advocate bad things only means that people are free to choose for themselves. It does not mean that organized religion itself is inherently bad or wrong, nor does it mean that there isn't at least one religion out there that really IS correct and does represent God's will.

It mainly just proves that Satan is good at muddying the water--and that God does not disallow it.