I’m Religious You Stupid Hippo

Let me make state this clearly. I adhere to a belief system, a faith if you will. I am a religious person.

I know it’s all a matter of semantics but I’ve fallen into several discussions over the last few days where I find myself insisting I’m indeed a religious person. I think when people find out I identify myself as Pagan they automatically assume, amongst other things, that I’d also consider myself ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’. And, as such, I’m much more fun to have around.

I’ve never been one for this whole ‘spiritual’ vs. ‘religious’ dichotomy. In my opinion, it really isn’t concerned with the specifics of any given belief system but rather it is used as shorthand for a collection of value judgments and assumptions usually held by the person making use of it.

Let me try and break it down as I understand it. Let’s start with the definition of ‘religion’. First, this actually means ‘organized religion’ and, usually, Christianity. Religious people are assumed to exist within a hierarchical structure where those at the top dictate the beliefs of those below them who, without reflection, gobble them up like hippos. (Yes, much like that wonderful childhood game.) Such a system inherently limits personal freedom and creativity and its power structure is usually maintained through a mixture of fear where questioning is not allowed.

On the other hand, ‘spiritual’ refers to belief systems where an individual sits outside of any sort of formalized structure. As such, personal expression and freedom are fully experienced. This in turn breeds open mindedness, self reflection and independence. Furthermore, ‘spiritual’ belief systems allow one to exist closer to nature (or the universe) since there is no intermediary to whom they must go to for answers.

Wrapped up in these definitions are also value judgments which usually become quite clear as the conversation progresses and, when coupled with the above definition, looks something like this:

Spiritual = Non-Christian (or non-Judeo/Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/etc.) = Free Thinker = Good

Religious = Often Christian, (or a formalized tradition) = Close Minded Sheep = Bad

Now, with my breadth of experience with people of various… um ‘faiths’ (was going to say religions GASP) I can honestly say that I’ve met just as many witless, close minded, self righteous asshats amongst those that consider themselves ‘spiritual’ as I have amongst those belonging to ‘organized religions.’ Likewise, I’ve known some very thoughtful, honest, reflective, good people who also happen to be Christians, Jewish, etc. and who value new ideas and are quite reflective about there own.

As such, I find this entire ‘religious’ vs. ‘spiritual’ distinction a load of crap. It speaks to personal bias which cannot be stripped away from a discussion of the specifics of the religious systems being discussed. This sort of thing always puts a bad taste in my mouth.

/WARNING – Rant ahead

Furthermore, the dichotomy is often a nice way to begin Christian bashing. As such, it’s used as a tool to distance the ‘basher’ from those villainous Christians.

“Am I religious? Fuck no! Christians are religious. I’m spiritual! I don’t have anything in common with them!”

To which I’d sometimes like to reply, though perhaps in more pretty, language, “Look asshole. You do have a LOT more in common with ‘them’ than you might think. Aside from the fact that we all belong to a thing called ‘humankind’ and often ask the same big questions, you and your ‘spiritual’ brethren are just as inclined to be as short sighted, close minded, and as likely to be found sucking at the teat of some guru who, while not wearing ‘priestly robes’ may be just as abusive, condescending, irrational, dim witted and malevolent as you assume all Christian are.”

/end rant…


<slight edit for grammar 6.14.2011>

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One Response to “I’m Religious You Stupid Hippo”

  1. like_a_god Says:

    LOL.. Let me be clear. I was trying to come up with a snarky title. I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular as a ‘stupid hippo’

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