Rated R

“I am not religious; I am spiritual,” is like a cannibal saying he is vegan only because he eats other vegans. There’s no better way to ease into religion and spirituality than a disturbingly unfunny joke about the absence of dairy in human flesh.

Let’s get spirituality out the way.

Spirituality is your still-single uncle who gets you high, lets you drive and offers to call your parents to tell them their car is wrecked although you are safe and No, he can’t put you on the phone because you are having a conversation with a tree and No, they have nothing to worry about because the Batman is here. He then rolls you another one before your parents come to get you. He is a hero the world needs but does not deserve right now.

You can throw dog feces at this symbolic uncle and no group is going to strap a deer around your neck and release a bunch of starved wolves after you to teach your blaspheme arse a lesson. Spirituality is supreme freedom. It’s what makes it so charming.

And religion?

Writing about religion feels like peeing through my pants. Just the word triggers severe nausea. Because our conception of religion has become beliefs, fears, violence, varying degrees of bodily movement to differentiate supplication and sacrificing poultry for rainfall. And now, thanks to the comments section on the Internet the gates to hell have been dynamited open.

It’s kinda tragic what we’ve done.

Sure, a lot of shit has happened in the name of religion. But guess what. A whole lot of volcano spitting schizophrenia has happened in the name of spirituality. Because what drives the modern concept of spirituality is what drives the senile idea of religion. Desire, power, money, and an eternal promise for the first three only if you tried a little harder.

Spirituality and religion by themselves have no inherent distinction. There’s a word and an alternate word. There’s an idea and a seemingly better idea. We invented an alternative because religion was losing its positioning power in the market because people it seems, don’t like to be massaged in linseed oil only to be set on fire.

Yet despite all that, we need religion now more than ever. My conception of religion has nothing to do with the labels and fables it has come to become. It has nothing to do with one omniscient force being the ultimate authority. That’s the batshit propagated by centuries of listicles, beliefs, and books — mostly created by a very non-omniscient, very flawed, extremely needy human beings.

People who diss religion think it is an intellectual differentiation the same way hunters think hunting is a sport. The atheists are as desperate as the believers for their lives to mean something. They accomplish this by standing against something that is unknown — as opposed to the religious approach of standing for the unknown. You can’t pick sides here. This debate is not about science, intellect, or rhetoric which is what it often turns into.

The debate is about an experience.

Which is why it can never be settled. Since we had to give this experience a name, we called it religiousness. What the spiritual throw around as enlightenment. Over time, these words lost all meaning and became all about forming organizations based on who the better story-teller was.

Religion is meant to be irredeemably unique to the individual. It was never meant to enroll you into a gulag, provision you with beliefs, reward you for being a good listener, promote you based on how effective you were at propagating these beliefs like they are the truth, and stamp you with a logo so you can identify the people who harbor the same delusions you do.

Most religion is a testament to an individual. Individuals worshiped for their quality. For who they were when they were alive. Except we find it easy to accept these qualities only after the individual is dead. Because, now, religiousness is about identifying with a group, a  symbol, a story rather than with the individual. And that’s easy. That’s a cop-out.

None of the individuals by themselves ever fit any traditional ideas of religion. In fact, most of them were the antithesis of the rigorous ideas the religion, which they allegedly founded, went on to advertise. And we can be pretty sure they’d all be creeped out if they saw what was going on in their name.

What’s universal to all the people we symbolize, mythical or not, is that they suffered. A lot. Because they went into the depths of what they experienced. Their suffering was their spirituality. Their religiousness. They came to freedom through this journey. If spirituality is the journey, religion is the arrival. You can’t pick one over the other.

God is an experience. Godliness, the quality. Truth is both singular and contrasting. The moment it becomes about believability it stops being true. The experience and contradiction that is inexpressible truth – that is religion – lasts a lifetime. And this experience begins when we recognize the Godliness in one another. It begins with the realization that we are in this together. Because we are all going to the same place.

There’s never been a destination.

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