I found this article Of God, Darwin and creation interesting. Written by a priest who is also an evolutionary biologist, he discusses how he believes things that science has shown us such as gravity or evolution more or less as fact, but believes in things like the goodness of humanity and an all loving God. He says that,
Believing IN something means placing trust and faith in it.
Now for the interesting part. He says,
I don’t believe the biblical accounts of creation, but I do believe IN them. A story that is not factual, can still show us truth.
The stories of creation teach us that all things find their source in God, that we are made in God’s image, and that creation is very good. We needn’t believe the facts of the stories to believe IN the truth they carry.
This is an interesting take, but I think he goes too far with using “truth”. It’s just his belief that it is true; taking the Bible as a whole I find no reason to consider anything in there “truth”, and observing and talking with people it doesn’t seem that anyone else takes it that literally either; people simply pick and choose the parts that they want to believe in.
I think we can sum up the main difference between religion, spirituality, and science (and folks with proclivities for each). Scientifically-minded folks rely on logic, reason, and observations about how the world actually works. Religion (generally) presents a specific set of claims about how the world works, and then asks that we accept those claims based on a combination of faith and tradition, even when said claims completely contradict logic, reason, and observation. To me, both religion and science are external, in that they present information that we do not formulate for ourselves (some of the introspective religions excepted). Spirituality is different than religion because it allows people to believe in pretty much whatever they want and is based primarily on intuition; it is more internal and introspective; it is more of a feeling. And I think that spirituality essentially comes down to what one wants to believe in.
This reminds of a monologue from the movie Secondhand Lions:
Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money…mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and [that]… true love never dies…Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.
Exactly…you believe in something because you want to.
To me, religion is essentially useless. The amount of horror that religion has bestowed upon mankind is terrible. It is divisive, teaching people that they are right and others are wrong when religion is completely subjective. And it doesn’t seem to add anything (helpful) that science and spirituality can’t and don’t already cover.
I believe that we have to go first with what science tells us, because it is our best way of knowing about the world. Then, we use spirituality for things that science either hasn’t uncovered or can’t uncover. We shouldn’t believe things that simply aren’t true, but it is okay to believe in things that may or may not be true, especially when that belief helps ourselves and others. Something that brings harm to oneself or others is not worth believing in.
The key to spirituality as I have talked about here is that it is a personal feeling. We all have to recognize that everyone can (and does) have different spiritual feelings, that personal feelings are not evidence of any “truth” that should apply to anyone else, and that our personal feelings are no more correct than those of than anyone else. I believe in the idea that replacing religion with science and spirituality (as I have defined those terms) would go a long way toward ending much unnecessary suffering in the world.
Finally, perhaps we should just have ideas and thoughts rather than beliefs; keep a certain amount of mystery around. As in this sequence from the movie Dogma:
Rufus: [Jesus’] only real beef with mankind is the shit that gets carried out in His name. Wars, bigotry, televangelism. The big one, though, is the fractioning of all of the religions. He said mankind got it all wrong by taking a good idea and building a belief structure on it.
Bethany: You’re saying having beliefs is a bad thing?
Rufus: I just think it’s better to have ideas. I mean, you can change an idea, changing a belief is trickier. People die for it, people kill for it…all over a belief.
Makes sense to me! May we all get a little less worked up over differences in our personal feelings and ideas.