DSC00542You can’t read a magazine or watch TV without hearing some rock star or movie actor gushing on and on about being a “spiritual person.” Same goes for Facebook, where people post such profound bon mots as, “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” Maybe it’s just me but this always leaves me wondering: You’re spiritual? To what spirit are you referring? It begs the question, doesn’t it?

“Being spiritual” doesn’t say enough for me to have even the slightest clue as to what you are describing or asserting about your beliefs. If we have a Buddhist, a Baptist, and a believer in Brahman, each saying he is spiritual, aren’t they all saying something categorically different? And if a word can mean so many different things to different people, why confuse your listeners with such an amorphous word?

Why, indeed.

While there are probably more reasons than I can imagine, I believe that most all of them can be traced back to two.

When I say that I am spiritual, I am letting you know that I believe in something higher than myself, but am not suggesting – the pantheon of gods forbid—that my spirituality is superior or higher or nobler than your spirituality. Well, unless, that is, your “spirituality” includes what you believe are divinely given moral codes with which I disagree: then you are “religious.” My spirituality makes no base and disgusting judgments about the behavior of others because doing so is my one sacred prohibition.

Okay. There are some behaviors upon which my spirituality demands I call down hell and damnation.

It always baffles me when people go on and on about the horrific nature of God’s Ten Commandments, only to discover that they actually have created far more sacrosanct laws than we find on Moses’ two tablets. They sit there telling me how restrictive The Ten Commandments are, how morally reprehensible or barbaric it is, and then, when I light up a cigar or order a 24 oz porterhouse or they hear about my stash of banned light-bulbs I am still using or my belief in a free market economy or of the one hundred other sacred cows of theirs that I am goring by my behavior, they want me stoned or shunned…or at least have my right to vote taken away.

Which brings me to the second reason. By referring to myself as being “spiritual and not religious,” I get to believe and behave however I choose. Is that cool, or what? There are no dogmas, no codes of behavior, and no traditions, other than those I create for myself. Maybe I’ll take a little from Buddha, a smidgen from Hinduism, and something from Jesus about loving others, and, Voila: I have my self-created designer religion that demands nothing of me other than what I want it to.

Why not just say, “I have designed my own religion”? I can’t say that because it would make me sound like I have a god-complex. Then what about professing that I practice syncretism: a combination of various beliefs and practices taken from many religions that were chosen according to what makes me feel good about myself, fits my personality, and supports my chosen cultural mores.  O. Wait a minute. Those are basically saying the same thing, aren’t they.

Guest Author

Monte E. Wilson

Monte Wilson trains individuals, teams, and organizations to develop personal and team effectiveness. His work has taken him around the globe and for 40 years he has trained thousands of international leaders in the fields of communication and persuasion, education, and non-profit organizations. As a Corporate Trainer and Life Coach, he has specialized in working across cultural lines throughout the world to establish and sustain successful businesses, both large and small. ESPN, ABC, United Technologies and Best Buy.

As an authority on leadership development, Monte has worked with men and women across five continents, teaching them how to reinvent themselves, their communities and their organizations.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015