The word “huge” may be an understatement.
Everyone can experience spirituality if we understand “spirituality” as our relationship with the larger world we live in, our attempt to understand it and navigate with as much success and happiness as possible.
If we think of our spirit as our “essence” — the very nature of who we are as individual, sentient creatures — then no one needs a church to help them on their spiritual journey. A church needs people to follow its rules. Spirituality on the other hand doesn’t need rules.
We all have a relationship with the larger world outside our flesh. We all gaze up at the cosmos knowing we are but a small part of this much larger thing. How we relate to that much larger thing — where it came from, what it means and what it says our purpose is — those things are all “of the spirit” rather than “of the concrete” or “of the bank account”.
When I think of my spirituality, I think expansively. I think of endless possibilities and cosmic mysteries that need investigation. I think of how my relationship with the cosmos instructs my relationship with other people — and other creatures, too. My spirituality seeks the most complete picture possible of me, the world and my place in it. My spirituality feeds my daily existence and gives it clarity and purpose. And I do all that without a church, without a deity and without a single rule or regulation.
Here in the West, we’ve got it in our heads that only a church cares about or can address one’s spirituality.
In a sense, that’s true: only a church cares about anyone else’s spirituality enough to want to codify it, regulate it and dominate it. Jesus didn’t load up his message with rules and regulations. He didn’t say “Do unto others… but, first, follow these rules: tithe like your life depended on it, hate the people I tell you to hate and believe everything I tell you to believe regardless of how ludicrous it is”.
Jesus also said clearly that no one needs a church to deal with their spirituality. Talk directly to God, Jesus taught. Temples are corrupt — ditto the priests running them. It seems kind of contradictory to say on the one hand that one must follow Jesus, BUT, one can only follow him by first joining a church.
Jesus was spiritual. The church Paul invented to teach Jesus was not. Paul’s church needed to dispense with Real Jesus because Paul’s church was relying on old, moth-eaten messiah prophecies that themselves relied on complex mythology. All Jesus wanted his followers to do was “Do unto others”. Paul needed Jesus’s followers to believe in magic — to believe that Jesus was magic. Jesus didn’t attach himself to magic, Paul did that.
In time, the Church made belief in magic more important than belief in Jesus’s message. Believe In The Magic or be a heretic. Or — Believe In The Magic or we’ll kill you. That’s how churches did unto others.
What has any of that got to do with spirituality?
Nothing, of course. As Jesus understood, one does not need a church to address one’s spiritual concerns.
Think about confession. What has confession got to do with anyone’s spirituality? In the real world, confession is one imperfect person telling personal secrets to another imperfect person — except the second imperfect person has bamboozled the first imperfect person into thinking they’re “infallible” — and therefore, what? “God-like”.
If the God character is so “infallible”, then how does one explain God’s constant attempts to punish or wipe out mankind. What kind of infallible creator creates fallible creatures (in his own image no less)? What was the Flood if not a giant Mulligan God wanted to give himself. And, while we’re talking up deities and their incompetence — what bad things did animals ever do to destroy dying in the Flood?
What kind of infallible creature destroys plenty of faultless creatures because one of his failed creations keeps failing? This God character’s screwy — the kind of screwy that only humans could invent.
By the way, the church didn’t tell its followers it was “infallible” until 1854. Pope Pius IX (via the First Vatican Council — 1869 – 1870) decided he was infallible when he spoke on matters of faith and spirituality.
That’s a corrupt priest (and, by extension, his corrupt temple) telling followers they may not question what they say — regardless of their corruption. What has THAT got to do with anyone’s spirituality?
Every which way you look at it, religion doesn’t want to liberate spirituality, it wants to contain it. Codify it. Religion wants you to believe that only by following its rules and regulations can you ever hope to achieve spirituality. How human and earth-bound of them.
Jesus taught “Do unto others”. He did not teach “Do as I say”. Only churches teach that — and call it “spirituality”.