I've heard the idea before that the only thing worse than a person who calls himself “religious” is a person who calls himself “spiritual,” and I agree with it to a great extent, even though if given a choice between those two options, I would definitely have to go with “spiritual” to describe myself.
I occasionally hear about someone going somewhere like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, pressing their hands against the stone, and then talking about the sacred feeling that they get of being connected to the billions of people who have been there before them, but that always leaves me wondering. I understand the feeling completely, but the thing is, I get it all the time – when I’m stuck in traffic, waiting in a doctor’s office, or wandering around a festival with my adopted Juggalo family... even when I’m exploring an abandoned building, knowing that it was once full of life. That is an essential feature of humanity to me… the shared experiences, both mundane and exceptional, that make up our lives and give them their flavor. I don’t understand why people need a religious monument to bring it out of them. It’s everywhere, all of the time. That’s a core part of the spirituality that I feel in my life.
And that got me wondering about all of the aspects of “religion;” the prayers, the rituals and services, the decorations. Those things seem to just be props that people need to give shape to their inherent human spirituality. Props to hold on to. Props to gather around… and imagine that they are actually imbuing them with the sacredness which really comes from inside all of us.
I've been a part of a religious community before, and I get it (although I would really only show up when the needle was swinging way over to the community side as opposed to the religious side). They can provide solace and warmth. They can provide real human interaction and brotherhood. Most profoundly, they can provide a true bonding experience. All of that is important, but religions are held together by the artificial props of dogma and ceremony, which people use to drape their spirituality across. Different props shape religions differently, but all of it is there just to prop up the people who can’t seem to find the goodness and sacred humanity inside themselves.