Is religion a substitute or counterfeit for the true spiritual path? Is religion just the fast food of spirituality?
Before we jump into the rationale for the analogy of “religion as the fast food of spirituality” let’s look at some background information.
The Context of Spirituality
Above all, the terms spiritual and spirituality are very confusing. We associate them with the human Spirit and Soul. And, it’s not uncommon for people to use these terms with other things. It’s a way to make it sound “spiritual.” In fact, these terms are used to describe almost everything in the human condition. For example, some people say that eating hot spicy food is a spiritual experience. Consequently, it’s fair to say that the term spirituality is somewhat overused. So, it’s important to pay attention to context.
We use the spirituality in reference to processes which expand awareness and open the doors to higher states of consciousness. These types of processes help us connect to the inner values and virtues of the spirit. They open up our awareness to new perceptions. So, although spicy food can be tasty is does not a process that reveals the virtues of Spirit or our Soul. Traditionally, spirituality is the realm of Mystics, Seers, and Shaman. In some cases, religions have sought to adopt people with these gifts. But, for the most part, gifted Seers operate apart from organized religion of any kind.
Attaching Spirituality to Religion
Some religions actually do provide traditions for safeguarding and transmitting “processes” for reaching higher states of consciousness. For example, Taoism and many forms of Paganism encourage the exploration and development of your own path. If you enjoy nature and find peace in the natural splendor of the Earth, you have a lot in common with Paganism and Witches. Paganism and Animism are probably the oldest belief systems. Here the belief in animals and nature became personified. These eventually became the anthropomorphic entities of the old gods, humans with animal characteristics.
Western Organized Religion and Spirituality
Most people who live in cultures dominated by Western Organized religions associate spirituality with their religion. These are the Abrahamic religions of Semitic origin, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These systems spend a lot of effort projecting the idea that their doctrines, superstitions, and ceremonies, are what makes something spiritual. It must come from them. Otherwise, it is evil.
In these religions, cultural programming starts early in life. Children have no choice but to learn their dogma. Additionally, people who are in crisis also fall prey to this tactic. They come because they are hurting, They need financial and emotional support. So, this makes them equally vulnerable to groupthink manipulation tactics. You see, the belief is the result of programming. Intelligence isn’t a barrier to the effects of this type of continuous programming. The longer you are exposed the more likely you are to become influenced. Groupthink is a powerful tool of propaganda. These religions have three main concerns:
1. Mandatory membership and allegiance to a Supreme Being, (God or Gods)
2. The justification for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and values
3. Required belief in the afterlife, or life after death with either rewards or punishment
In contrast, for many others being spiritual means living a life must exhibiting the higher virtues of the spirit. In other words, it’s not what you believe but what you do with your life that counts. It’s not about a part of an exclusive club, but about promoting equity and equality for all people. In this case, spirituality relates to processes which expand awareness. It’s about consciousness and spiritual development not adherence to dogma. This is the domain of spiritual exploration. So, this leads us to the analogy of why Western Organized religion is the fast food of spirituality.
Fast Food of Spirituality of Western Religion
Consequently, many freethinkers view Western Organized religion as the fast food of spirituality. Because, just like fast food, these religions are readily available. There are many fast spiritual food outlets. There are many churches, mosks, and other religious structures. And, just like fast food religion tastes good to the Ego. But religion has no spiritual nutrition if you equate it with processes for transformation. So, that’s why you must return again and again. You’d have to conclude that Western religion definitely is the fast food of spirituality. It seems like it is the root cause of many of the world’s inequities, persecutions, and conflicts. Almost like it does more harm than good.
Like fast food, religion is habit-forming. It promises to fill the need it can never meet. This requires you to keep coming back. And, it demands a portion of your hard earned wages. Your spiritual need cannot be quenched by the dogma of religion. It cannot be bought with the hope in the Afterlife.
Is Religion a Substitute or Counterfeit for Spirituality?
Many of the great teachers of Western religion taught not to follow organized religion. The Jesus discussed in the bible was a Jewish Scholar. He was not a Christain. He sought enlightenment alone in the wilderness. Muhammad was not a Muslim. To follow in their footsteps was to walk your own path. Unfortunately, instead of inspiring the freedom to seek ways to enlightenment, religions were created in their names. And, there are more sects being created every day.
So, above all, learn to grow your own spiritual food. Learn to research ideas outside your current belief system. Learn to feed yourself spiritually. Skip the fast food of spirituality of Western religion.
If this article sparks interests please check out our blog. See how this discussion fits into our blended learning process. It’s a way of identifying elements which affect our thinking and values. This process is what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Follow the link to learning options, and our page under FAQ.