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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, April 22, 2010
    Losing Our Religion?

    When I read this post on Twitter it made me start thinking: When people say they don't trust "organized religion" but do respect spirituality, what exactly does that mean? Do they know what they mean? And how is organized religion controlling? Is it because it confronts people with difficult ideas like self control and self-sacrifice, challenges them to move beyond their boundaries?

    Certainly religion can be used as a controlling force, particularly when mixed with politics. For two examples I direct you to the present-day Middle East and the struggle in Tudor England between Protestant and Catholic factions. It can also be a stabilizing force. I think controlling and stabilizing are opposite ends of the same spectrum. Anything can be good or bad depending on how you use it.

    To me, saying you believe in spirituality but don't trust religion is like saying you breathe air but don't believe in oxygen. Doesn't make a lot of sense. Without a framework to build on, too often spirituality leads absolutely nowhere. I was impressed by the section in "Eat, Pray, Love" in which Elizabeth Gilbert spent time at an ashram in India, culminating in a significant spiritual experience in which she felt at one with God. But she did not have that experience until she had spent months praying, meditating, following a strict schedule set by her spiritual mentor, and performing tasks including scrubbing the temple floor. If that's not organized, I'd like to know what is.

    I believe there are people who can manage an impressive dimension of spirituality in their lives without going to regular worship services or following the tenets of a specific religion. I loved this post from Head Nurse in which she addresses exactly that. But I think they are few and far between, because spirituality - real spirituality - takes work and practice. Religion is a framework, providing the opportunity to practice, providing reminders to keep your mind on the higher things. You can view it as a cage or as a support; it's really up to you.




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