The laws and regulations called “religion” have sustained humanity for centuries and have created a conducive atmosphere for peaceful co-existence. Change of times, though, changes everything. Religion which was once a ray of hope for the deprived and distressed is now the main source of human sufferings. People now try to isolate themselves from the bonds of religion, and are trying to find out different ways towards solace.
In the modern world, mostly in the western societies, individuals are detaching themselves from religious traditions. A study of Pew Research (2012) reported that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion increased from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2012, and this number continues to grow. One-fifth of the US public and one-third of adults under the age of 30 are reportedly unaffiliated with any religion but identify as being spiritual in some way. Of these religiously unaffiliated Americans, 37% classify themselves as spiritual but not religious, while 68% say they do believe in God, and 58% feel a deep connection to the earth (Funk, Cary; Smoth, Creg. “Nones on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation”, The Pew Research Forum on Religion and Public life, 2015). Demographically, research has found that the religiously unaffiliated population is younger, predominantly male, and 35% are between the ages of 18 and 29.
The studies are quite clear that people are running away from the “institutional religions” and are concerning with “personal religions” called “spirituality’. The spirituality is further detached from the “religious affiliation” to what is now known as “spiritual but not religious”. Today, the “spiritual but not religious” is quite common usage of the individuals who are in anyway not satisfied either with the conservative and so-called religious advocates or with the “Godhead” religions. From here, the problem of defining “religion” and “spirituality” creates further confusion among the masses. The “associates” are trying to define and advocating their faith in their own ways and the “counter ones” argue with the same stance and define their belief.
Religion and Spirituality are two distinguished overlapping realities of the world. It is hard to define the two either separately. Both hold immense significance in the life of an individual. Religion is considered as the discovery of man as the result of the expediencies of life, while as spirituality is the necessity of a man to attain original purity and shape.
Religion has to do with doctrines, dogmas, and ritual practices, whereas spirituality has to do with the heart, feeling and experience. To be religious is to bow to the authority of another, to believe in doctrines determined for one in advance, to read ancient texts only as they are handed down through existing interpretative traditions, and blindly to perform formalised rituals. For the spiritual, religion is inert, arid, and dead; the practitioner of religion, whether consciously or not, is at best without feeling, at worst insincere.
Religion and Spirituality are thought to be overlapping realities but modern man was obsessed with religion and the associations of the religions. Therefore, he discovered what is terminologically known as “spiritual but not religious”. The term “Spiritual but not Religious” has gained momentum throughout the globe and people are voluntarily associating themselves to it. Not only the theists but also the atheists and agonists are equally influenced and motivated.
The alarming issue is, if the same continues, the concept of religion will not sustain in the near future. Therefore, it demands high responsibility from all of us who are the adherents of religions. With respect to the religions of the world, the need is to revisit, revise, reinvestigate and regenerate the religious doctrines, practices and even the propagators of the religions; to accommodate more and edify the “propagators” & “advocates” with knowledge, wisdom and profundity to attract people back towards religion.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Islamic Studies, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri. [email protected]