Religious but not Spiritual

Let’s talk about God.

Buy ten NPR totes and get a “spiritual but not religious” pin free. I had one myself. With each passing day at my liberal arts university, I grew prouder of it.  I also became completely disconnected to its meaning. Only after I resurfaced to the real world did I realize why: it is a lie.

The largest leap of faith in human history occurred when we shifted from believing in God to believing in Science. The former assumes the existence of an all-knowing being, whereas the latter rests on two fundamental assumptions:

  1. It is possible to know all.

  2. I can know all.

We scaffolded science onto religious faith, and then we made a crucial quantum jump.  We still believe in an “all-knowing being”, but now we know who it is: us.

And so began construction of our Ivory Tower of Babel.  Communicative chaos has ensued. E=mc^2, we now say. Game Theory, we say. Quinoa, we say. A choir of voices from inside and outside the Intelligentsia sing praises of intellectualism. We relegated God from transcendental to intellectual, and now our deep uncertainty and vulnerability cowers beneath an illusion of scientific order. Facts barricade the truth, and words damn true understanding. Our intellectual idols wield swords forged from hollow words, which protect them from nothing but their own humanity.  Intellectuals become so untouchably smart, so spiritually isolated, so adamantly non-religious, and so often deeply unhappy.

    And wouldn’t you feel this way, too, if you’ve devoted your life to a God of facts that proves to be false? To cope with the spiritual trauma, we jump on a treadmill of intellectual hedonism.  Unlike other hedonistic pleasures such as gambling, sex or drugs, we venerate white-collar addictions such as workaholism, financial success, and beauty, but the two fulfill the exact same role.  Enlightenment, our intellectual opiate, beckons us, and we ravenously run towards it. This pursuit of fleeting pleasures exhausts us, yet we are too tired or too busy or too afraid to sit in the seat of our souls and rest.  Depression trickles down from the Ivory Tower, and, fervently, tragically, we try to cure ourselves using the very methodology that poisons us. Yet what is this insistence on facts but faith?  What is this dogged loyalty to science but a religion?  No, no-- our data driven culture is not at all spiritual, but it is unequivocally religious.

“Knowledge” has replaced knowing.  Facts have replaced feeling.  The “enlightenment” we fixate on is a mere projection and our pursuit thereof a stationary sprint.  True “enlightenment” comes from stepping off the treadmill, shrugging off the burden of almighty pursuit, and awakening to God who has been all around us, always.   Let’s stop running and sit in the sacred. Let’s bask in our laughable ignorance and baptise ourselves in our infinite wisdom. Let’s talk about God. In recognizing our own humanity, we will reveal the divinity, indivisibly, in us all.   

Emma Speer