Fr. James Martin has been in the news a lot lately, particularly for his witty discussion of his qualifications for the papacy (read here, and prepare to laugh). I have been reading Martin’s bestselling book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and came upon this nugget on the whole issue of being “spiritual but not religious”.
Overall, being spiritual and being religious are both part of being in relationship with God. Neither can be fully realized without the other. Religion without spirituality can become a dry list of dogmatic statements divorced from the life of the spirit. This is what Jesus warned against. Spirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community. (page 50)
Earlier Martin states:
We all tend to think we’re correct about most things, and spiritual matters are no exception. Not belonging to a religious community means less of a chance of being challenged by a tradition of belief and experience. It also means less to chance to see your misguided seeing only part of the picture or even that you are wrong…Religion can provide a check to my tendency to think I am at the center of the universe, that I have all the answers, that I know better than anyone about God, and that God speaks most clearly through me...
Religion can lead us to terrible things. At its best, though, religion modifies our natural tendency to believe that we have all the answers…religion at its best introduces humility into your life. (pages 47-48)