Exploring Spirituality Beyond the Confines of Religion

For the last ten months, the tag line for this blog was Exploring What It Means to be a Spiritual Person. That topic remains relevant to past and future content.

The tag line was changed to the title above in the hope of clarifying that the articles then and now, are presented for the benefit of both those who participate in a religion and those who do not. As time has passed, it became clear that this blog may provide a refuge for thought, reflection, and inspiration for people with very diverse views of religion and spirituality, including the growing number of people who have abandoned participation in the rituals of their faith, and/or who have come to question some of the doctrines of their religion.

I was raised Catholic, but in young adulthood left the church to strike a path free of religious doctrine and ritual choosing instead to seek what I believed to be a more free and pure spirituality. At the same time, I never abandoned or doubted my belief in a Creator.

After leaving the church, my relationship with God continued to strengthened and my spiritual awareness expanded greatly unfettered by the restrictions and synoptic vision of the church. I did a brief survey of world religions, not looking for a new home, but to expose myself to different ways of looking at the nature of God and our existence.

One of the goals of this blog is to identify the basic elements of spirituality without regard to religion and to seek ways to apply these in everyday life. I would leave modes of worship or ritual (if any) to the individual whether it should include attending religious services or not.

What is discussed here is presented with the hope that anyone reading the articles will benefit in some way. My intent is to provide discussion and ideas for reflection in simple language that is easily understood and, when appropriate to the topic, actionable.

If you are new to this blog, then I invite you to peruse the array of short articles in the archives which attempt to identify the various facets of what it means to be a spiritual person. The collection represents a very personal exploration of my own spirituality and how it relates to the world as a whole. I hope that you will choose to join me in my quest for deeper understanding of the meaning of life, and an expansion of spiritual awareness.

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What is Salvation?

Autumn Reflections Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Autumn Reflections Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

What is salvation? What does it mean to be saved? Indeed how is one saved?

To the best of my knowledge, the idea of salvation through faith came from the early Christian church. It appears to be a purely Christian idea. There are a number of different interpretations of what salvation means. Perhaps the most popular view is that Jesus, through his suffering and death, saved us from punishment by God for our sins. An extension of this in some Christian sects is that one can be saved only through faith in Jesus the Savior.

My concern about such beliefs is that some people, believing that they are assured of salvation by their faith, might consciously or subconsciously begin to think that how they live their life is not so important. Salvation by faith in Christ also implies exclusivity and favoritism of one group over another by God. This is not logical; God loves all of His children.

The above view of “salvation” would seem to relieve believers from accountability for their actions through intervention by someone or some thing outside of themselves. Consequently, there would be no need for one to take responsibility for wrongdoing because they would be forgiven by virtue of their religious faith.

This does not withstand the test of reason, because it suggests that it doesn’t matter what one may do since salvation would avoid retribution in the afterlife. However, without consequences for wrongdoing, there would be no learning, no incentive for change, and therefore, no spiritual progression.

In fact, I question whether faith in God has anything to do with whether or not one will find the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, I believe what is important and essential is how one lives their life and the degree to which they are able to express their spirit. It is my belief that one has to live a life of love, compassion, and virtue to experience the Kingdom of God. In other words, entry into the Kingdom of Heaven does not rely on particular religious beliefs, but rather on one’s thoughts and actions.

Further, if we are to be “saved” from our transgressions, then we must save ourselves through right action and change. One’s belief in the Kingdom of Heaven and the divinity within us should be motivators for self improvement and actuation of the spirit. Jesus made it clear that following the spiritual laws that he taught and demonstrated about how to live and how to treat others are what will reveal the Kingdom of Heaven that exists inside each and everyone of us.

What is Faith?

13th Century Stained Glass, Sainte-Chapelle Church, Paris, France Copyright 2000 by Blair Atherton

13th Century Stained Glass, Sainte-Chapelle Church, Paris, France Copyright 2000 by Blair Atherton

As I understand it, faith is the certainty in one’s belief in some thing or someone. Of course in the context of spirituality, faith usually refers to one’s certainty in the existence of a higher being, Universal Energy, or Creator.

When we say we have faith in a person, we are letting them know that we trust them or have trust in them—trust in their abilities, trust that they will not do anything to hurt us, trust that they will be there when we need their help or support.

It could be said that our faith in God has these same attributes and expectations. However, our faith in God is intuitive and comes from spiritual awareness, whereas our faith in a person is experiential and based on concrete knowledge of their past behaviors. Consequently, faith in a higher being is a leap that some are unwilling to take.

Another form of faith refers to trust in a religious doctrine and what are believed to be God’s promises and teachings found in religious scriptures. I believe that one should be cautious here and not let this type of faith to be blind. The scriptures and the clergy should not go unchallenged.

Scriptures from the various religions provide a lot of wonderful guidance concerning how to live a spiritual life of goodness. I think that most of us would independently agree on which passages provide such spiritual wisdom.

However, skepticism about other passages is healthy and may provide deeper insight. We would be remiss if we blindly accepted everything in the scriptures as the word of God. We were given the ability to reason and, if we apply it, we will be able to distinguish the word of God from those of men.

Related articles

Faith and Spiritual Awareness

What is Spiritual Awareness?