Bono and the Pharisees: On Being Spiritual vs Religious

by: Mike S

October 19, 2011

In my post last week on what we should do if we truly wanted to spread the gospel more effectively, there was some discussion in the comments on being spiritual vs being religious.  Is one possible without the other?  Is one “better” than the other?  Is there a difference between the two?  And, if so, what is that difference?  To examine this, I first want to give examples of each attribute, then discuss what that means for us.  The two examples: The Pharisees and Bono…

The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism that existed before and after the time of Christ.  They had many distinguishing characteristics which separated them from other sects, including socioeconomic class structure, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and family ties.  One aspect of their belief system which is discussed at length in the New Testament is their level of interpretation of  and extension of the Law.  For example, “the  Torah requires priests to bathe themselves before entering the Temple. The Pharisees washed themselves before Sabbath and festival meals (in effect, making these holidays “temples in time”), and, eventually, before all meals…” They extended the law in myriad ways.

What was Christ’s response to how the Pharisees interpreted the Law?  It forms most of Matthew 23, which is often called the “Woes of the Pharisees”.  Christ said that the Pharisees taught about God, but shut up the Kingdom of God to themselves and others.  They valued swearing on the gold of the temple more than the temple itself.  They paid tithes with spices, but ignored justice, mercy and faith.  They focused on the outward appearance, but inside were corrupt.  They did works to be seen and praised of men.  The followed the Law with exactness.

So, what did this make them?  They were arguably very religious people.  They had and followed a long list of rules, laws and standards.  But were they spiritual?  I’m sure there were some whose religious observances caused them to be more spiritual, but in general, Christ denounced them for being “whited sepulchers”.  I would interpret this as them not being very spiritual on the inside but not very religious on the outside.

Now move forward nearly 2000 years, to Bono and U2.  They are arguably one of the biggest bands currently touring (and have been amazing on each of the 7-8 times I have seen them over the past 2 decades).  They have been on the cover of Time, Rolling Stone, and just about every other magazine.  Through performing and wise investments, Bono is worth nearly $1 billion.  So where does he fall in all this: Religious?  Spiritual?  Both?  Neither?

Many people don’t know it because of their popularity, but U2 started as essentially a Christian band.  Bono and 2 of the other members were part of a fairly intense Christian group when they were younger, and as they started getting more successful, nearly broke up out of concern for the “lifestyle” of being in a rock band.  Yet they stayed true to their principles and have succeed enormously.  And in all of this, Bono has maintained a deep spirituality.  He talks about God and Christ in interviews, and writes both subtly and overtly about his beliefs in his lyrics.  Consider the song “Until the End of the World“, which is Judas talking to Jesus in the afterlife:

Haven’t seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold, just passing time.
Last time we met it was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom.
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time except you.
You were talking about the end of the world.

I took the money, I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think.
You led me on with those innocent eyes
And you know I love the element of surprise.
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart.
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world.

Or consider the song “40”, based on Psalms 40 and with which U2 ended all of their concerts for a number of years:

I waited patiently for the Lord.
He inclined and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay.

I will sing, sing a new song…

You set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
Many will see, many will see and hear.

I will sing, sing a new song…

Or one more, “Yahweh“, about having God reach down and make something of the wretches we are:

Take these shoes / Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes /And make them fit
Take this shirt /Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt / And make it clean, clean
Take this soul /Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul /And make it sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Take these hands / Teach them what to carry
Take these hands / Don’t make a fist
Take this mouth / So quick to criticise
Take this mouth /Give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahewh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

Take this city / A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city / If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart / Take this heart
Take this heart / And make it break

And in interviews, Bono is even more open about God and Christ.  Some quotes from a book of interviews with Michka Assayas:

  • Christ teaches that God is love… I don’t let my religious world get too complicated.  I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is.  God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion.  Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love.  Now, that’s not so easy.
  • Religion can be the enemy of God…  A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit.  Discipline replacing discipleship.
  • The true life of a believer is one of a longer, more hazardous or uphill pilgrimage, and where you uncover slowly the sort of illumination for your next step.

And it goes on and on.  Bono is has a firm testimony of Christ.  And he puts his money where his mouth is.  He has spent countless hours and millions of dollars helping the less fortunate.  He is a very spiritual person, but he is NOT very religious in the sense of belonging to any specific denomination.  He doesn’t have much use for organized religion.  As he sang in another song, “The God I believe in isn’t short on cash.”

It is interesting that in the chapter just prior to the “Woes of the Pharisees”, Jesus teaches “Which is the great commandment in the law”  He answers: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  Bono certainly lives these two commandments.

So, it can be argued that the Pharisees were religious but not necessarily spiritual, and that Bono is spiritual but not very religious.  But which is more important?  What should be our goal?  I would quote several people.  First, Buddha who taught:

O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.

My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience…
My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship.
My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river.
Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore

In this, the Buddha taught that his teachings had a use, but they were only a means to an end.  Once the end was reached, there was no use for the teachings any more.  So how does this relate to us and being spiritual vs religious?  In General Conference from October 1984, Elder Ronald E. Poelman taught the following:

The gospel is the substance of the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church is the delivery system that provides the means and resources to implement this plan in each individual’s life… As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs.  Our lives become gospel centered.  Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies.  Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practice may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles.  Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standard may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy.  In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity…

It is important, therefore, to know the difference between eternal gospel principles which are unchanging, universally applicable, and cultural norms which may vary with time and circumstance…

When we understand the difference between the gospel and the Church and the appropriate function of each in our daily lives, we are much more likely to do the right things for the right reasons.  Institutional discipline is replaced by self-discipline.  Supervision is replaced by righteous initiative and a sense of divine accountability…

May each of us continue to learn and apply the eternal principles of the gospel, utilizing fully and appropriately the resources of the divine restored Church…

And there’s the difference.  I would argue that being spiritual is much more important than being religious.  Being spiritual implies a personal and powerful relationship with God.  Being religious implies a relationship with a religious organization.  In the ideal world, being more religious will lead to being more spiritual, but, as in the case of the Pharisees, this isn’t always the case.

Some people say that being “spiritual” is a cop-out, or that it’s the “easy way out”, or that they don’t know what “being spiritual” means because it doesn’t fit in some little category.  While this can sometimes be the case, it depends on the person.  As Bono said, “The true life of a believer is one of a longer, more hazardous or uphill pilgrimage, and where you uncover slowly the sort of illumination for your next step.” And just because you’re religious, it doesn’t mean it’s “harder” – you can be a “cop-out” and still remain religious.  It is quite easy in the Mormon Church to “go through the motions” – to wear a white shirt, to give the correct Sunday School answers, to look the look.

At the end of the day, we are all unique.  There are billions of people on this earth, all scratching their way though life and trying to make sense of their relationship with Deity.  We all have different backgrounds and different life-experiences.  For some people , being religious and being a fully engaged member of the LDS Church makes them more spiritual.  For others, their path may life in a different faith.  For others, like Bono, their spirituality may not be based upon ANY organized religion.  And finally, for some, their path may still be wondering about God all together, yet they may still remain profoundly interconnected with the rest of us.

So, being spiritual isn’t a “cop-out”.  Being spiritual is THE GOAL.  It is why we are here.  Being religious can help us along the way towards being spiritual, but when all is said and done, it’s just a raft; it’s just a tool; it’s just a means to an end. Loving God and loving the rest of mankind are the ultimate commandments and goals, whether you are LDS, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Humanist, or whatever.  And on this hangs all the other laws and prophets…

Questions:

  • - How do you define being spiritual?  Being religious?
  • Can someone be spiritual yet not religious?  Or religious yet not spiritual?  Both?  Neither?
  • Does being religious necessarily lead to being spiritual?
  • Does the LDS Church tend to develop spirituality or religiosity?  Both?
  • Which is the “higher” principle?

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45 Responses to Bono and the Pharisees: On Being Spiritual vs Religious

  1. Miri on October 19, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    According to my experience…
    Religiosity is guaranteed (if you are active the way Mormon culture says you should be).
    Spirituality is a bonus. A lot of people find it; a lot of people don’t. Most of the second group think they have it because they think the two are the same thing.
    And I agree with you that spirituality is the important thing. They are definitely not mutually inclusive.

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  2. Daniel on October 19, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Mike:

    The problem with spirituality lies in the fact that it’s not easily defined. It can’t be boxed up, it can’t be wrapped and defined as being x, y and z. All religions, however, can define what being religious means. For Mormons, by and large, it’s paying a full tithe, going to church each week, wearing the uniform of the Priesthood, following the Prophet, etc.

    Each religion has a list of things that defines and categorizes the faithful from the faithless, the apostate and the heathen. Those lists, though likely well intended, are quite divisive, especially when many of the lists are predicated on outward events, things or choices. As you mentioned, it’s incredibly easy to “go through the motions” and get a pass in Mormonism… and yet be full of dead bones on the inside.

    Likewise, I think people categorize religion as hard and spirituality as easy because there’s a certain reinforcement that makes us feel better about ourselves (and certainly that works both ways). We all want to think that our way is the correct way, that what we’re doing is right for us and, by corollary, right for others. We don’t like to be that guy/girl who took the raft to the other shore of the river only to find ourselves alone in uncharted territory. We want people to be around us, with us, confirming that our choices are correct.

    Therein lies a rub I have with all religions, and even spirituality. Mormons have an infamous persecution complex… and our doctrine reinforces it to a large extent. We like being the “odd” or “peculiar” or “persecuted” people at times and, like today, we like being the inclusive, respected, popular people we are today. There’s a certain amount of vacillation involved, but it all suggests that we like the attention and like the reinforcement it gives us.

    For many people who have chosen to leave organized religion, there’s that same reinforcement need they seek from outsiders… finding groups, people and the like with whom they can relate.

    At some point, though, we have to come to some sort of realization that “to each his own” is more true than we’d like to admit. Each person has a path that is best for them. Each person has a path that is intended for them. Devaluing one’s chosen path, whether intended or not, is merely a technique used by the insecure in an attempt to aggrandize themselves.

    And therein lies the chief problem… in seeking to aggrandize ourselves at the expense of our fellowman or woman we ignore all of Christs teachings, because we fail to inculcate and share love with all around us.

    “If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.” -H.P. Lovecraft

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  3. Chino Blanco on October 19, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    This post reminds me of my mission. Towards the end of that experience, I was driving my mission president somewhere and we got to talking and I bungled my way into an awkward silence by mentioning that I wished I’d been more “spiritual” during my two years. Not long after that I was in his office for an exit interview during which he informed me of a son-in-law who was pulling down $45K/year at Black & Decker and how that counted for “success” in his book… Fast-forward a few years and I wound up at my mission prez’s house in Connecticut and his daughter embarrassed me by mentioning at the dinner table that she’d read this “hilarious” account in the Student Review of a missionary who’d been advised to seek out Black & Decker as the quickest post-mission path to “success”… Anyway, I think a lot of this “religious” vs “spiritual” divide is largely generational… And if you’re Mormon, it can be like living The Graduate without all the hooking up…

    Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

    Benjamin: Yes, sir.

    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

    Benjamin: Yes, I am.

    Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

    Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

    I was as confused and skeptical and impertinent as Benjamin coming off my mission, but the funny thing is, I’ve gained a lot of respect for Mr. McGuire over the years.

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  4. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Thank you for the comments – I agree with what you are saying. Spirituality and religiosity are hard to define, but they are essential.

    And as an aside, the links by the song lyrics are to live versions of U2 in concert. if you’ve never been to a U2 concert, it is an amazing experience. I have felt as uplifted and as close to God there as I have felt in any other place – church and temple included.

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  5. curious on October 19, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I believe you’re quoting from the apocryphal version of the Poleman talk.

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  6. Meag on October 19, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    This has been my question for years. Until recently, i didn’t even understand was I was trying to define. I have grown up super Mormon my whole life. And although now I 100% believe the church should act as a vehicle for our spiritual growth, I still get freaked out to “break the rules” of the church, like a Pharisee would do. (I would never be caught dead wearing earrings in my second, third, or fourth holes, because, what would people think?!…) also, I truly do believe spirituality is the #1 goal, and I believe that can absolutely be achieved outside the “true church”. I have over the years decided I like the church, I like serving in it, and it is where I will work out my salvation – even though I see a lot of incredibly frustrating things within it.

    But, what about baptism by the correct authority as a entrance into heaven? We claim to have that here. And essential covenants that only we are “authorized” to perform? If those are true facts, and only the LDS church has the priesthood authority, shouldn’t we hope everyone ends up in this church?
    But, I believe for many people this church is not where they are going to grow and blossom spiritually. One example would be a gay person. I know lots who, if anything, are being torn down and suffering within the church. So, help me with my conundrum please!

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  7. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    #5 curious: I believe you’re quoting from the apocryphal version of the Poleman talk.

    If by “apocryphal” you mean “hidden, spurious, or of questionable authenticity”, I would disagree. If you mean “the original, unedited version”, you are right.

    Most people probably know, but you won’t find this version of Poelman’s talk on LDS.org. The Church edited his talk and made him retape it in the Tabernacle. After adding a cough track, it was included in the tapes of General Conference sent around the world. Apparently, they didn’t like the emphasis on one’s personal relationship with God taking precedence over one’s relationship with the LDS Church, so they edited it.

    For example, here is one section of the original talk:

    As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.

    Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies.

    Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles.

    Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy. In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity.

    Here is the edited version of the same section that you will find on LDS.org:

    As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we can more effectively utilize the Church to make our lives more gospel centered

    The eternal principles of the gospel implemented through the divinely inspired Church apply to a wide variety of individuals in diverse cultures.

    It is very different in meaning. If you are interested in seeing the differences highlighed side-by-side, here is a link to both versions.

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  8. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    #6 meag: But, what about baptism by the correct authority as a entrance into heaven? We claim to have that here. And essential covenants that only we are “authorized” to perform? If those are true facts, and only the LDS church has the priesthood authority, shouldn’t we hope everyone ends up in this church?

    I don’t have an answer here. Given the numbers involved, I assume that just about everything will be taken care of in the next life.

    For example, assume that God is even 10% “successful”, meaning 10% of His children make it back to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. For the nearly 7 billion people on earth, this means that 700 MILLION of them will “make it”.

    Now take the number of active LDS members. It is generously estimated to be around 6-7 million. And assume that 100% of these people “make it”. Given this, only 7 million out of the 700 million were actively religious LDS members during their earth life.

    So, if we define “religious” as being active LDS with required baptism, etc. during earth life, maybe less than 1% of the people that return to the Celestial Kingdom will meet that criteria. But I would guess that 100% of the people who return to the highest reward were “spiritual” people – whatever that meant for them individually – but in general, meaning they reached for a connection with the Divine and treated their fellowman better based on that connection.

    So, being “spiritual” is more important than being “religious” – and only 1 out of 100 people in the Celestial Kingdom is likely to have been Mormon in mortality anyway.

    ———-

    Incidentally, I do believe that it is important to give as many people as possible the chance to partake of LDS ordinances in mortality. That is the whole purpose of the If I Were In Charge series – changing non-doctrinal things like number of earrings, etc. that do nothing other than turn people away from the fundamental and beautiful truths of the gospel. The fact that you are scared about how many earrings you have in is wrong on so many levels, yet shows how misguided some aspects of the Church have become for many of its members and potential members.

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  9. Will on October 19, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Mike S,

    I love that chapter in Matthew; it is one of my favorites in the Bible. I especially like what the Savior said in Matthew 23:23 when he specifically stated why they were being hypocritical ‘they were overlooking the weighty matters of the law of mercy, justice and faith”

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  10. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Will:

    Just to let you know that I actually voted you thumbs up… :-)

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  11. Will on October 19, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Mike,

    thanks. I actually typed it wrong, it is judgement rather than justice.

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  12. Paul 2 on October 19, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    I wonder to what extent spirituality develops without an undergirding set of holy texts and religious practices. For example, all of the above discussion of spirituality is deeply couched in holy texts. All pre-industrial societies had their sacred stories and religious practices and those played a large part in most people’s lives.

    I have an atheist scientist friend. (Here I don’t need to say he is a very good person, but in most Mormon contexts I would need to). He is trying to develop his spirituality and the closest he can come to defining spirituality is “feeling good and peaceful”.

    I think humans usually do better engaging with specific contexts and specific holy stories than talking about abstract principles. I think that attempts at spirituality can be stymied when the quest becomes too abstract. I have the same concern about correlated lesson materials.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on October 19, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    “How do you define being spiritual? Being religious?” Being spiritual is being a good human being. Being religious is being a good Mormon (or Catholic or Jew or evangelical or muslim). Being religious is being observant. Being spiritual is seeing in the sense that Jesus meant (“they have ears but can’t hear and eyes but they can’t see”).
    •”Can someone be spiritual yet not religious? Or religious yet not spiritual? Both? Neither?” Definitely. I had a strange compliment once at a retreat. One of the other participants said that I was a very spiritual person, but that he wanted me to understand that it wasn’t because I was Mormon because he had met many Mormons who were not spiritual. I do think there is a lot of conflating in all churches with religious and spiritual. It’s very easy to mistake one for the other. I also think it’s very easy to claim to be spiritual just as a cop out to doing anything defined.
    •”Does being religious necessarily lead to being spiritual?” Absolutely not. For some, it probably is a stumblingblock to becoming spiritual. They get praise for being religious; it reinforces their worse instincts. Instead of becoming spiritual, they become judgmental and hardened.
    •”Does the LDS Church tend to develop spirituality or religiosity? Both?” I think among the Q12 you will find individuals who focus on both. All the “faithful” LDS are committed to building up the church. That’s part of our covenants. That’s being religious.
    •”Which is the “higher” principle?” Being spiritual is the higher principle. Hence the NT (the new covenant) is the higher principle than the OT (the law & the prophets).

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  14. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    #12 Paul 2: …the closest he can come to defining spirituality is “feeling good and peaceful”.

    Are our LDS testimonies based on anything different than that?

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  15. Jake on October 19, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    I think that their is a crucial difference between the two. It is often forgotten that religion is a fairly modern word. It only really starts to be used frequently in the nineteenth century. Prior to this people spoke of having a Christian Faith rather then christianity being a religion. Religion was based on practices that made certain sects distinguished. The Christian faith was a dynamic vibrant thing that united all christians. It was when they started to substitute christian faith for religion that the focused on their differences in practices. What is needed is a return to Christian faith rather then Christian religion.

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  16. Heber13 on October 19, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    I think spirituality is generally more vague than religious but there sure is lots of overlap.

    I love the Buddha quote! Well done. I think religion is the raft, and my religion has helped me find my spirituality, but many times my deepest spiritual experiences came outside of religion.

    There are times I feel I donned religion and focus on spirituality…but at times I get humbled and turn to the raft to save me and get me going in the right way again.

    I agree that religion and spirituality are 2 separate things…but I don’t think most people can have one without the other, I don’t think I can. But I think some people are able to, for their good or bad. Not all the Pharisees did was wrong or bad… They just needed to be reminded to let go of the raft at times (detachment).

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  17. Heber13 on October 19, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    That should read…”dont need religion” (darn auto spell check changing my words…grrr)

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  18. Paul 2 on October 19, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Hello Mike S.,

    I do believe my testimony is different from a good and peaceful feeling.

    I was trying to point out that I believe we are better with texts. Medical school is better with texts. I think spirituality is better with specific training. To belabor my point, your post refers at length to Christian and Buddhist texts instead of just conveying a good feeling.

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  19. Meag on October 19, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    Mike s. – thank you very much for that reply. It actually helps a lot to put it in that perspective. I have read some of the “if I were in charge” posts and have really enjoyed them. Thank goodness I found this blog, because where else can you talk with people about this stuff with such understanding and candor? Thank you!!

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  20. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 19, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    Paul 2, well said.

    In grief recovery, spiritual people recover faster.

    In hospitals you meet people who are religious and people who are spiritual, people who are both and people who are neither.

    However, those who are spiritual seem to put a lot of work into it, and, as Paul 2 notes, seem to do better with texts.

    Spiritual: studies scriptures and prays on their own.

    Religious: studies religion and prays in groups.

    I like how Christ said to seek the one without leaving the other undone.

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  21. Rabbi Wasenstein on October 19, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Chino Blanco…just out of morbid curiosity, could you explain your story just a little bit more? I couldn’t seem to figure out what in the heck it was about – but I get the feeling that it was something cool. A little explanation, maybe?

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  22. Meag on October 19, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Also, I’m fairly new to the blog world here. Can someone help me understand what everyone talks about when they refer to correlation?(I always just thought it was a meeting…) I saw it referenced in Paul 2’s comment. “pre- correlation”

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  23. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 19, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    BTW, for pop music and spirituality, there is always the alternative http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2011/10/17/brandon_flowers_of_the_killers_i_m_a_mormon.html

    ;)

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  24. Miri on October 19, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    I’ve been meaning to ask about correlation, too–I have a general idea, but don’t know specifics.

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  25. Chino Blanco on October 19, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    @21: Don’t worry, you didn’t miss any fascinating insights, I’m just comparing a couple of characters in The Graduate to me and my mission prez, whose approach is what I equate with “religious”… Great guy, but a chemical engineer with a business degree and the kind of perfectly practical personality that you might expect from that combo, kind of a Mormon Mr. McGuire. And maybe I’m just being a snob like Benjamin when I reserve “spiritual” for my low-commitment approach. That said, I’d probably still be active if I thought the church was run by guys like Poelman, which it obviously ain’t.

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  26. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 12:09 AM

    #16 Heber13: I love the Buddha quote! Well done. I think religion is the raft, and my religion has helped me find my spirituality, but many times my deepest spiritual experiences came outside of religion.

    There are times I feel I don’t need religion and focus on spirituality…but at times I get humbled and turn to the raft to save me and get me going in the right way again.

    Just like the raft, religion is important on any spiritual journey. It would be very hard to start the journey without a frame of reference to “get going”.

    That being said, it seems that we spend a lot of time focusing on the raft – what is the right color sail, how the benches should be arranged, whether men and women should sit on the same side, how high the sides should be, etc. We tend to lose sight of the goal of the journey, and the ultimate goal of getting rid of the raft entirely.

    In the LDS Church, we tend to focus a lot on the raft. What color shirts are best, what “hot drinks” are really hot drinks and which are not really “hot drinks”, etc. And it seems that one’s allegiance to the Church can often take precedence over one’s allegiance to God. Even talks suggesting that the Church is only here to serve a purpose are edited heavily.

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  27. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 12:10 AM

    Paul2:

    As I just mentioned, spirituality takes place in a context of religion, which often involves texts. However, the ultimate goal of the texts is to help us focus our mind and heart and truly experience the Divine. We could read all day and be religious, but we might still not be spiritual.

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  28. Paul 2 on October 20, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    Hi Meag and Miri,

    There are lots of discussions about correlation on the bloggernacle. Here are a few links to get you started.

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/04/17/round-table-correlation-–-vol-1/

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/08/04/round-table-correlation-vol-2/

    etc. There are 9 volumes. Happy reading! My primary complaint about the church manuals is that they tend to reduce the texts in question to about 30 basic topics, so you get the same ideas over and over again, without a close reading of the scriptures or without making progress. In effect, they tried to reduce the gospel to a limited set of abstract ideas and deemphasize historical facts that point to a more complex picture.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on October 20, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Another great source on “correlation” is Gregory Prince’s David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism biography.

    The gist of it is that the church used to not correlate materials (manuals and publications) until the correlation committee was formed. This also brought all auxilliaries under the control of the Priesthood, which was a change. The upside is more uniformity of materials; the downside is that a lot of the meaty stuff got taken out and that the correlation committee seems to have an agenda that is very pro-church organization and de-emphasizes individual needs and individual growth; there is an emphasis on follow the prophet and obedience over personal revelation and “let them govern themselves.” Additionally, accurate history was whitewashed out of the materials.

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  30. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    #22 Paul2: I was trying to point out that I believe we are better with texts.

    I agree. Texts point us in the right direction. However, it’s like a finger pointing at the moon. The goal is to look at the moon, not the finger.

    I take the Book of Mormon as an example. To the extent that reading it transforms us and makes us better people it is a very valuable text. But we often hear that we need to read the Book of Mormon every day for the sake of reading the Book of Mormon every day, that our life’s problems will go away through reading it.

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  31. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    #19 Meag: Thank goodness I found this blog, because where else can you talk with people about this stuff with such understanding and candor?

    Welcome to the blog. We’re glad you feel comfortable here. We may disagree sometimes, but you truly can explore feelings and topics in a place that truly allows that.

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  32. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Re: correlation

    Paul and Hawk gave some great references. The McKay biography is a great book. One other practical thing that correlation affected besides manuals is control. Previously, the Relief Society had its own board, budget, materials, etc. run by women and for women. Similarly, the Sunday School, etc. Now, it is all under the central control of the Q12. Budgets were assimilated. Manuals were coordinated. Etc.

    As Hawk said, there are good and bad things to this, just like in any organization. Overall, the general “feel” went more from a “folk religion” to a “corporate religion”. Again, pros and cons.

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  33. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    #25 Chino: That said, I’d probably still be active if I thought the church was run by guys like Poelman, which it obviously ain’t.

    Whether you’re “active” or not as far as going to a physical church each Sunday is immaterial to me, as I wouldn’t be in your ward anyway. I do appreciate your “activity” regarding the Church around here, however, as you always have interesting and respectful thoughts on religion and the Church.

    And, ironically, I think you are more “active” than many in terms of how many hours a week you spend on Church-related things than many people who are “active” in the Church.

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  34. stephen m (ethesis) at the apple store on October 20, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    Correlation also made a huge difference in how much was spent on publications. I remember a friend, who was also a consultant, who was morose that he could not find a way to get paid for advice on that point on a percentage of savings rather than basically donating his time …

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  35. hawkgrrrl on October 20, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    One other “benefit” to the correlation process (although it took some time) is that wards used to operate in a more financially independent manner. I remember my parents donating to the ward budget directly and making decisions on how it would be spent. On the upside, they had much more control on which auxilliaries, for what activities, and what the building we built looked like – it was not uniform church design. On the downside, that control came at a price incremental to tithing. The church stopped publishing financial records in 1959, about the time the correlation committee was getting going.

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  36. Ender2k on October 20, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    @Paul 2 (#28)

    I’m having a terrible time finding the other volumes. Is there a page somewhere that includes links to all nine volumes?

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  37. Paul 2 on October 20, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    H Ender2k,

    My bad. I there are only two of that series.

    A much longer series is:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/04/02/correlation-an-uncorrelated-history-part-9-history-done-backwards/

    This is very interesting. I don’t buy all of it because the cause and effect chain runs over 100 years. I would want more evidence in order to think the causes and effects really match up that way. But it is very thought provoking.

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  38. Daniel on October 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    But what does correlation have with the point of the OP… is it beneficial to spirituality? To religion?

    For me the answer is rather simple and hearkens back to FireTag’s posts on Crossan and the historical Jesus stuff. From those posts, apostasy was what happened whenever you restricted the flow of the spirit, no matter how well intended. For me, correlation is a medium we use to restrict the spirit: to restrict how/when someone feels the spirit, what resources can be used in any given lesson, what information is taught in any given lesson, plans, guidelines, 400+ page handbooks and on and on. Most, if not all, of these things had seemingly decent intentions… but the end result is a control mechanism whereby members and investigators and put in a very well defined box. Some instructors venture outside that box and continue to use outside resources, but the vast majority that I see are very much on board with the restrictions.

    Correlation has always been about control, controlling what is/isn’t appropriate for church members.

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  39. Ender2k on October 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Thanks Paul 2!

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  40. Mike S on October 20, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    Daniel:

    Regarding the issue of control – this is perhaps my biggest issue with the religion vs spirituality issue. It is present in the LDS Church, but is by no means limited to the LDS Church – that is just the church with which I am most familiar.

    Ultimately, our goal should be to develop a relationship with God/Divine/Allah/etc. – a personal one-on-one relationship. While religions are useful in this process, they should just be a tool to help us.

    There are many teachings in our church that work towards this goal. The idea that we can truly become like God someday is a profound one for me – it helps me truly try to be a better person. Similarly, many of the teachings in the Book of Mormon on charity and other things have been very helpful.

    But when the church starts veering off into things I’ve mentioned before – what color shirts you wear, how many earrings, beards, whatever – it becomes a control issue. At that point, the religion has inserted itself into the point between me and God, and only Christ should have that role. Note that when someone doesn’t follow one of these arbitrary things, no one mentioned that that person isn’t following God, as I don’t think God really cares. They say that you’re not “following the prophet”. It’s an arbitrary rule that is only “wrong” because … well, who knows? It’s the triumph of being religious over being spiritual.

    And that’s wrong.

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  41. Porter on October 20, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    This post sums up a progression that has been occurring in my life for many years. I have been trying to move toward the spiritual, and de-emphasizing the religious. If I am asked whether I am LDS I frequently respond that I was raised Mormon but I’m not orthodox. Those with a background in or exposure to Judaism immediately get it.

    The irony of the progression from religiosity to spirituality is that it is seen by “orthodox” members of the church (which in my case means my family) as problematic and even apostate behavior.

    I think Lowell Bennion is a true example of living a spiritual life. He is the person I aspire to be like — not any of the general authorities.

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  42. Meag on October 21, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Thank you Paul 2 for the correlation links. That’s exactly what I was looking/hoping for.

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  43. Miri on October 21, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    This issue of control is one of the problems I have with the church. I’ve been having the crisis of faith that so many of you in the bloggernacle have had, and all the arbitrary crap becomes a lot harder to accept when you’re just not 100% sure about things anymore.

    Thanks for the links, everyone, I’ll check them out.

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  44. accessiblemediaone on October 26, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    These beliefs are similar in so many ways

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  45. Bono On The Digital Age « The Upside on March 10, 2012 at 12:51 PM

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