Spiritual people often say that they don’t like ‘religion’. They want nothing to do with religious organizations. What they usually mean is, as far as I can gather, that they want nothing to do with Christian organizations, or dogmas. Every other religious organisation is just lumped in the bag of ‘bad’, without the person having prior experience with the organisation.
As a definition of religion this is an old one: those who gather in a church, believing in the same God… In fact it’s a uniquely Christian invention – and within Christianity only protestant Christianity (old school protestantism) really fits the bill.
For instance Judaism: a person is a Jew simply because their mother was a Jew. What they believe, what organisations they are members of, whether they go to Shul (the synagogue). A religious Jew isn’t defined by what they believe either – but by whether they observe the rules of behavior in orthodox Judaism – and to what extent. Of course there are shared beliefs, but one can be an observant Jew without sharing them.
Protestant Christians follow the definition rather precisely (or they used to), especially here in The Netherlands. You belong to a certain group of protestant Christians if you have vowed to believe in the dogmas of that group, pay your membership dues and go to church most Sundays.
But Roman Catholics are different. For the church those born to Roman Catholic parents are themselves, by definition, Roman Catholic. A person has to actively do something to get out of that lock in: like writing the arch diocee that you don’t want to be a Catholic.
I hope it is clear from this that the label attached to religions is dependent on culture. These days it is becoming more and more common for people who call themselves Christian to also be interested in mandalas, for instance. American Christians don’t gather based on their specific Christian beliefs (who cares whether God left us free will or not?). Instead people mostly choose their church on practical considerations.
So if all that is true – why do people in the alternative spiritual scene hate the word ‘religion’ so much? Anybody care to explain?