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At what point does a spiritual tradition cross the line into a religion?
The distinction between spirituality and religion is not a particularly old one. People who want to believe in something beyond the material, but want to dissociate themselves from Christianity or other formalised religions, say that they’re spiritual instead. Noone talked like that before the Enlightenment. And what is the stark dividing line between a spirit and a god supposed to be? Between reverence and worship? Between belief and creed? Just organisation? But how can organisation be… prevented? And why exactly should it be?
The distinction looks bogus to me, and reminds me of another bogus distinction. In the 19th century, Westerners discovered that the Ancient Greeks practiced magic. There are full on voodoo dolls and curse tablets in graves.
The Westerners who claimed intellectual descent from the Ancient Greeks were pretty distressed to discover this: their Graeco-Judaean construct of religion was a noble, elevated thing, nothing to do with voodoo shit. (Wait till you look more closely at Talmud lore, let alone the Kabbalah; Rabbinic Judaism wasn’t immune from magic either.) And Western scholars invested decades trying to establish a bright red dividing line between the stupid ancient commoners’ magic and the noble ancient philosophers’ religion.
The recent conclusion I’ve seen: there is none. It’s all expressions of faith in a world beyond the material. The incentive to differentiate them is a modern, class-based prejudice against magic.
And I suggest, the incentive to differentiate spirituality from religion is similarly a modern prejudice against contemporary organised religion.
Answered 2017-02-15 · Upvoted by