Does Spirituality Require Religion? Kent’s Perspective

Joe my co-writer is bringing it this week. For Joe religion is merely a human construct.

My experience is that some people simply aren’t theistic. I have a friend who was once a Christian pastor. Ultimately he found that he didn’t believe in God but remained deeply spiritual. In time he found his way to a non-theistic branch of Zen Buddhism which has provided great meaning.

I have another friend who is a humanist and a scientist. He believes in human reason and potential.

There exists however common ground with my non-theistic friends. It is our shared sense of awe and wonder at the enormity and mystery that is creation. When we look at photos from the Hubble telescope or look up at the stars, our shared response is ‘Wow!’.

The difference is that for me this ‘Wow!’, is also a reflection of my faith in the Source of all that is good, lasting and true.

Awe. Wonder. Mystery. In response human beings since the beginning have created religions. The word religion is from the Latin ‘re-ligio’ which means to ‘attach or re-attach’ to that which gives meaning. Religions by definition are a meeting ground of human longing and divine inspiration.

This week I met with multi-faith leaders in my community…Buddhist, Jewish, Christian. Our purpose was to claim common ground upon which we can stand as we work for the common good.

Granted we are a self-selecting group. We aren’t dogmatic fundamentalists. While firmly rooted in our respective faith traditions, we respect the differences that we hold. This mutual respect creates common ground upon which we stand and work together.

For us this is spiritual work. Our guides are varied…Buddha, Elijah, Jesus. Yet each guide calls us to a life of compassion and walking in harmony with creation.

Joe, my co-blogger writes:

“Requiring a God of some religion to give weight to compassion and common decency is unnecessary. Religion adds nothing to honest spirituality. I would argue it distorts and compromises it.”

Joe is an ethical guy. He and I both try to do good in the world.

I disagree however with Joe’s assertion that my faith and the faith of other traditions ‘adds nothing to honest spirituality’.

I don’t know about Joe but I know me. I need some extra help, some spiritual juice to do what I otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t do on my own. I benefit from a religious tradition that offers guidance and encouragement.

Jesus in Matthew 25: 40 says,

‘Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable among us, you do unto me’

My faith teaches that when we practice compassion we are in process of being transformed, that we are in the very presence of God.

For me a healthy religion is one which expands the human heart and imagination. I don’t know about you but I need all the help I can get.


About Kent Harrop

I am bi-coastal...I was raised in New England (Rhode Island) and for twenty years 1994 - 2014 served as pastor of First Baptist Church McMinnville, Oregon. In May 2014 I moved with my wife Tricia back to New England and serve on a team of ministers at the First Baptist Church in Beverly, Massachusetts. I love the beauty and geographic breadth of Oregon and the north shore of Massachusetts. A growing edge for me is the integration of the contemplative and prophetic life. Tricia and I enjoy gardening, camping and kayaking on rivers and ocean. We have two grown daughters who are strong, smart and adventurous. The purpose of the blog is to explore the relationship between faith and the wider culture. The views expressed here are my own.
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One Response to Does Spirituality Require Religion? Kent’s Perspective

  1. Karen says:

    I really enjoy your posts, thank you!


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