Spirituality or religion?

Science and religion have been perceived as age-old rivals, combatting and challenging each other on the most pertinent domains of human existence. Whereas religious institutions reigned supreme in the past, many people are now inclined towards only accepting the empiricism and rationality of scientific analysis. However, despite the growing rift between science and religion, there is a newer and more perplexing rivalry prevailing in the current times.

Conceptualisations of morality have remained consistent through all world religions and philosophies, indicating that an ancient paradigm of morality is inherently embedded in the human psyche. However, religious doctrines and interpretations, especially those that are vehemently imposed, have sought to encode this morality within a regimented system of regulations, defining morality by their own standards and expectations. Consequently, individuals who deviate from these prescribed forms of religiosity are intrinsically categorised as deviant and in desperate need of salvation. The essence of individual spiritual elevation is negated by the impetus to conform to a congregation of crystallised beliefs, which are reinforced by inducing fear into those wishing to travel their own path.

An inflexible adherence to attributing these religious commands to God’s will has resulted in bigotry, theocratic dogmas and systemically enforced conventions of normality, depriving the human spirit of their potential towards ascendance. The idea of being one with yourself and nature, as opposed to ardently ascribing to religious tenets out of fear for damnation, has systematically eroded the natural inner spirituality of universal human morality. This unnatural dynamic has distorted concepts of morality, replacing them with sentiments that are inexorably bound to the formulaic rituals of religion. Due to these expected forms of conformity, many are now complying out of fear of hell instead of truly understanding the symbols of their purpose and actions. Radicalisation and extremism are high risk factors when individuals adhere to externalised behaviours without addressing the discrepancies within their own hearts. Inclinations to condemn those who disagree arise, leading to hostility and hatred. A pervasive lack of spiritual insight compels the blind follower to blame others for their own inner conflicts, which manifests in division, misunderstanding and disharmony for the world as a whole. Fear and hope remain pivotal emotions for humans, but when they are ingrained in a rigid framework of myopic inference they became toxic impediments to attaining true spiritual tranquillity.

Strict ideologies and doctrinal rituals appear to have replaced internal reflection and assimilation of ideas. Human beings are focussing on the exterior and superficial elements of each other, which is why the environment, human relations and global affairs continue to be laced with rising conflict. Spirituality and religion, although seemingly intertwined, are now bitter adversaries whose differences become more salient and irreconcilable as the world becomes increasingly polarised. I am not suggesting that all religious endeavours are devoid of spirituality, on the contrary religious observance and commitment can have immeasurable spiritual benefits for devout believers who find solace and peace in their belief. However, myopic ideas pertaining to religious supremacy and doctrinal necessity inevitably impede human progression on numerous spiritual and holistic levels, leading to dangerous discrepancies in moral consistency, tolerance and understanding.

The egocentric forces, who crave to subjugate others to appease their own sense of power, have ardently proclaimed God to be defined by their own structural and theological interpretations, consequently forsaking the illimitable wilderness of possibility that is reflected in the human spirit. Now we inhabit a world where the environment is systematically degraded to appease an ever-insatiable rise of materialistic needs. Instead of focusing on the natural beauty and wonder of the world, many are possessed by their possessions and motivated by the urgency to attain more and a need to belong. The materialistic evolution of religion, science and politics has rendered many incapable of reaching contentment with gratitude and inner cultivations of serenity. Focusing primarily on the externality of religious practice, the inner spiritual awakening has been neglected, culminating in a detrimental situation where individuals equate morality with conformity to prescribed sets of behaviour, whilst simultaneously doubting and vilifying those who seek a higher truth. Such a situation will only continue breeding a virulent enmity between different human groups, rupturing the fragile equilibrium of an increasingly strained world.

In the modern era, the spiritual connection humans once had to the earth and nature has been violently substituted for platitudes, superficial displays of righteousness and mechanistic rituals of self defined and regulated sanctimony. Spirituality and religion are now more bitter rivals than science and religion, and the dichotomy holds the balance of our future in trembling and uncertain hands.

We owe it to ourselves and each other to look deep within and embody the truth of our hearts through contemplation, knowledge seeking and honesty. Only through achieving an inner and outer congruence will we be capable of making a better world for the generations to come.

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