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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why "Spiritual but Not Religious" Isn't Spiritual At All

I've met many people who feel "spiritual but not religious." This kind of ephemeral, mystical grey belief is applauded today; a person who holds such a view is seen as sensitive but not dogmatic. However, I think the position is confused and unworkable in the real world.



Blaise Pascal dealt with a similar viewpoint some 350 years ago. He states that life is ordered in such a way that men and women are forced into examining the question of who God is and what he requires of us. To dismiss the particulars leads not to insight but confusion. They ask "How can you believe there's only one way to God? There are many sincere people who seek out God in their own way." This idea is not a broadening of spirituality. It is actually rejecting the spiritual, replacing it with something closer to atheism. Pascal writes:
The whole course of things must have for its object the establishment and the greatness of religion. Men must have within them feelings suited to what religion teaches us. And, finally, religion must so be the object and centre to which all things tend, that whoever knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the world in general.

And on this ground they take occasion to revile the Christian religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful, and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He could show.

But let them conclude what they will against deism, they will conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corruption of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God.

The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.1

Pensees, Sect VIII, 555.

References

1. Pascal, Blaise. Pensees. New York: E.P. Dutton &, 1958. Kindle. 157.
Image courtesy Ean Paderborn and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) License.

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