Religion or Spirituality: "Soul-Saving" or "Soul-Growing"?


In the average person's mind, religion, particularly in its Christian context, seems to be all about saving one's "soul" or whatever it is that might be capable of surviving the grim reaper. Even more, it is about making sure that, whatever this thing is, it doesn't end up burning in hell for all eternity. Thus we have a slew of old revival hymns like "A Soul Winner for Jesus", "It Is Well with my Soul", "Lend Me to Some Soul Today", and "A Passion for Souls", the third stanza of which asks

How shall this passion for souls be mine?

Lord, make the answer clear;

Help me throw out the old Life-Line,

To those who are struggling near.

The thing I find most curious about all this soul-talk is that it seems to take for granted that we are somehow all fundamentally immortal souls, born as it were, into mortal bodies, much the same as the philosopher Plato taught some four centuries before the time of Jesus, or as the Hindus believed long before that. As one philosopher observed, Christianity has morphed from a quest for God's kingdom on earth into a kind of "Platonism for the masses".

In contrast, it might surprise Christians to find out that the Hebrew Bible actually knows of no such concept, and in fact, even lacked a word for it, despite the liberties taken by Christian translators. For the Hebrew people, it was God's "breath" or "spirit", the ruach that alone imparts life to the bashar or "flesh" and for the Apostle Paul and others who translated these concepts into New Testament Greek, the word psyche or "soul" (the seat of our mental and volitional activity) entirely depends on God's spirit, the pneuma, for the gift of eternal life.

If this is the case, as I argue in my book (mentioned above -- see more on . . . ) then religion should be more properly thought of as soul-growing, that is to say, the process of using our God-given evolutionary potential for becoming all that we can be, for making sure that our physical life not only flowers in the emotional and intellectual realm but even more in the life of the spirit, which is the only level, short of a miracle of some sort, that might be capable of surviving death.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is that religion, if it is to be anything more than mere ritual, is all about spirituality, even if that fact seems too often to be encrusted in ancient traditions or smothered in sentimental pieties -- or perhaps worse, reduced to the status of a kind of celestial life-insurance policy. All this is just in case, as I argue in my book, the universe -- and here I'm speaking in purely physical terms as predicted by "hard" or testable science as opposed to speculative theorizing -- turns out to be headed for a final "heat death", that is to say, the proverbial "dead end".

Is such an approach a sure thing a slam dunk proof of life after death? Not really. If anything, it amounts to a carefully calculated bet or "wager", not unlike that proposed by the scientist and philosopher Pascal centuries ago, but one in which the odds are updated on the basis of evolutionary theory and the latest cosmological calculations. Beyond that, I can only offer possibilities, that as one reviewer has said, "we can stake our life on".



R W Kropf 10/8/13 Religion or Spirituality.doc 13-10-08.html








R W Kropf 10/6/2013 Religion or Spirituality.doc