I grew up in a devout Christian family.
My parents held firm views on most things, especially when it came to religion. They believed there were two types of people in the world; believers and non-believers. Most of the families on our block regularly attended church. We didn’t associate with those who didn’t.
The United States has become a far more secular society in the years since my childhood.
In a 2017 survey of religious beliefs and practices, The Pew Foundation found:
39% of survey participants were devoutly religious like my parents.
32% of survey participants fell broadly under the category “Spiritual, not religious.”
The remaining 29% rejected belief in a higher power and said religion does more harm than good.
Religious belief is of course a personal matter, but I’m troubled by the Pew survey.
I believe that a life well-lived requires the balancing of Body, Mind, and Spirit. If 29% of the population reject religion and spirituality altogether, I wonder how they nurture Spirit in their lives?
My religious education described God as an omnipotent being who is “out there” watching over us. I never resonated with that. For me, Spirit is an “inside job,” something directly experienced, rather than knowledge or a belief.
As I reflect on the Pew survey results, I fear that modernity has come with a hidden price tag. The Enlightenment shifted humankind’s attention away from subjective interior experience to external objective knowledge. Previously, religion held authority over science. Now the tables are turned. If something can’t be objectively observed and measured, it isn’t real. This effectively subordinates inner experience.
Scientific materialism relies on reductionist tools to explain existence. The fundamental premise is wholes are understood by examining their parts. I am confident this will be considered myopic in the future. I am no scientist, but the closer I look, the more inter-connectivity I see. Everything in nature is a whole nested within a larger whole; the sum being greater than the parts.
External reality is objectively measureable from atoms to universe. The inside is different, being composed of relationships and love. Wholeness requires the development of both the outside and the inside. Divisiveness and violence arise when we conflate the two.
Spirit is an inside job.
I fear it’s gone missing in our objectively rational world.
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