Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Today it’s fashionable for a person to say he is spiritual but not religious. That comment is intended to suggest that the person is above the primitive practices he assumes religious people follow. Only superior people wear the mantle of spirituality, rather than taking on the dogma and rituals of ancient religions.
Only no one really knows what it means to be spiritual. And perhaps, no one cares.
From my perspective, I think people choose to take the easy road to a relationship with the—divine?—because practicing a religion can be demanding, if you follow it, well, religiously. But if you only see the downside of practicing a religious faith, you deprive yourself of what may become a deeply moving and fulfilling lifestyle that no level of spirituality can match.
Why do I celebrate religion? The moral tenets (which many people see as restrictive and limiting) are meant to be the guideposts for living a generous, righteous, and ethical life. But in these times, who cares about following all those rules? The fact that life continually presents us with the challenge of making wise choices is irrelevant; we can just rely on what feels good to us, repercussions be damned.
More than the moral reasons, though, is that religion, from my perspective, teaches us how to relate to the world and everyone around us. It teaches us what not to do, those actions that can cause harm or pain to others. Even more, it teaches us how to be a blessing to the world, how to relate to others in loving and caring ways. It gives us the road signs for when we are getting lost, and the rewards for making an effort to develop solid relationships and to benefit our families and communities and the world.
People who practice spirituality will tell you that they want to save the world, but their actions may demonstrate otherwise. They focus on what they think the rules should be, and act accordingly. Factors such as right or wrong, good or bad, helpful or harmful are irrelevant, because their activities are coming from a “spiritual perspective.” They have the freedom to make their own rules, and are not bound to, or responsible for, the consequences of their actions.
This mindset is a self-centered, narcissistic way to live.
* * * *
Periodically I ask myself about my own religious faith. This time I was motivated to reflect on my observance before and during the Ricochet Meetup in Sarasota. The practices I observe on the Sabbath are minimal, but I try to maintain them and therefore rarely travel. Lighting Sabbath candles, turning off the phone, avoiding TV viewing, staying off the computer, reading Torah commentaries, praying and abstaining from anything that can be called work describes my usual Sabbath observance. It is a very minimal practice, but I have maintained it pretty consistently.
Until I didn’t.
I was determined to have a Florida Meetup, but for a number of reasons, my original plan of a dinner meet-up expanded to a two-day gathering, including Saturday. Nobody twisted my arm. One person asked me about the decision and its effect on my Sabbath practice, but I avoided the question. And it was a lovely time.
But I felt a certain sadness. I was sad that I was willing to sacrifice my simple practices for a time of pleasure. I missed the opportunity to connect with G-d. I have to admit that I also felt guilty, not only for dismissing G-d but disappointing myself.
I won’t spend a lot of time beating myself up about my decision. I know that G-d was present even if I wasn’t. But my Sabbath observance is the one commitment I want to maintain.
From now on, I aim to do it.Published in