Spiritual but Not Religious
The new study by the Pew Forum finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs, even though they do not identify with a particular faith.
The unaffiliated category includes those, who profess no religion, from atheists and agnostics to people with spiritual beliefs but no link to any established faith.
Furthermore, people not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50.
In view of the above statistics, a very pertinent question arises – what is the significance of spirituality for people with no religious affiliations?
Spirituality means something different for everyone. For some it is about participation in an organized religion. Others connect with their spirituality through prayers, yoga, meditation and quiet refection. The skeptics even can’t stifle the sense that there is something much greater governing the world we see.
Historically, the words religious and spiritual have been used synonymously. But, gradually, the word spiritual has come to be associated with the personal realm of thoughts and special experiences, whereas the word religious has come to be associated with public realm of membership of a religious institution. Spirituality has emerged as a distinct social construct due to the choice of so many people.
Therefore, spirituality has emerged as a distinct concept from religion. In other words, religion is viewed by many as primarily a social phenomenon, and spirituality an individual one.
Relationship of conscience and spirituality -
Conscience is a faculty of the mind with an inborn sense of right and wrong, by which we judge the moral character of human conduct. All human beings are born with this faculty of the mind but as we grow up, many of us start losing the sense of what is right and wrong because many factors come into play to influence the conscience.
The factors include individual experiences of unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations and environment. These experiences are constantly shifting and changing and so our sense of right and wrong shifts and changes with them. A minority of people appear to have no conscience because of negative and unhealthy thoughts, memories, feeling, sensations and environment. They develop antisocial behavior without a sense of compunction.
So, the function of conscience is to correct and reprimand, when we fall short of righteousness. Its work will be decidedly incomplete if after we have committed an error, conscience does not rise up to reprove it. Conscience will, in fact, stop us from committing an error. Following the voice of conscience is a sign of true spirituality.
The acts of an individual, who follows the dictates of conscience, have power to motivate others to act similarly. The acts of conscience are timelessly anchored in values that do not change but the application of the values is constantly changing.
An exploration of conscience is a deeply personal journey, which can be mapped only by listening to our own inner voice above and beyond those of others.
Spiritually mature persons possess the characteristics as mentioned below –
- Such people always follow the dictates of their conscience and their conduct is purely governed by timeless ethical values.
- Such people are not overly attached to their perspectives and paradigms. They are willing to think differently. They are willing to look again at old realities through new eyes. They know that changing ways of thinking always precedes meaningful change.
- Such people impact their atmosphere. They can fill a room with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness, even while speaking hard things. When there is tension, fear, or apathy, they can transform the immediate power of these storms and restore vision, vitality and hope.
- Spiritually mature people are secular in their outlook. They respect all religions and religious faiths.
- Such people have religious tolerance and shun religious bigotry in any form.
- They have no qualms about visiting the church, mosque or temple since they respect equally all religions. Spiritually mature people never indulge in religious dogmatism of any sort.
- They are an embodiment of love and compassion, which they practice extensively
- They always respect the belief systems of others, even if they differ from their own. Nevertheless, they don’t try to impose their belief systems on others.
The bottom line –
Spiritual people have discovered there is only one true power and that is inside them, which is called conscience. It is the inborn sense of right and wrong. Conscience supports the grand edifice of spirituality as its foundation. All religions of the world promote spirituality in spite of apparent differences in their philosophical concepts. The people, who always listen to the voice of their conscience, contribute largely to raise the consciousness of the society. The people with higher consciousness will ultimately make the world a better place to live in whether they are affiliated with a religion or not.