On reading Susan Cato’s November 24, 2003 Time Magazine Canada piece titled, “In Search of the Spiritual,” I became increasingly annoyed at the realization that many people keep making the erroneous split between religion and spirituality, when they are one and the same. For example, in the Time Canada piece, Rabbi Leigh Lerner, who leads the Temple Emanu-El–Beth Sholom, a Reform congregation in Montreal, states, “Religiosity may not be increasing, but spirituality is,” confirming the notion that ‘spirituality is separate and preferable to religion.’

I would have to disagree with this notion. Why do people keep insisting that the ritual and setting of worship is religion? It clearly is not. Religion comes from the Latin root re-ligare which means to re-connect. Re-connect with what? To re-connect with the inner Hero, the Divine, the
Sacred. It is the ultimate Grail Quest, the hero’s journey, the spiritual journey, that we are all on: the Quest for Truth. Ask any Christian with a true understanding of the teachings of Christ about ‘going to church’ and they will tell you that the church, the physical church where people go to sing hymns and listen to sermons, is NOT the real Church. The real Church is the spiritual body of Christ where people fellowship in love. And where ritual is concerned, it clearly states in the Bible, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:4, NASB).

Religion is a window unto the unseen and is based on the years of spiritual experience of great teachers, prophets, and seers. It’s not some ancient relic, like an old fashion or fad, to be thrown away under the guise of a new word like spirituality. It is a metaphor for life based on eternal principles.

Along a similar vein, I completely disagree with Cato’s last statement in her article that “In a skeptical age, religion can’t be taken on faith.” I would argue the exact opposite: religion can ONLY be taken on faith. Faith is the cornerstone, the foundation, of all religion and spirituality. Faith is the ability to see the unseen; a complete and total surrendering to the majesty of truth. It has nothing to do with believing or not believing, and everything to do with knowing and experiencing for oneself. One can question and seek all they want, and along the way some of their questions will be answered, but ultimately one must take the great leap of faith in order to experience transformation, because there will always be more questions than answers.

I feel the confusion between religion and spirituality is causing a backlash against both the new agey mumbo jumbo of pop spirituality or ‘spirituality lite’ and the rules, rituals, and restrictions found within traditional institutions that claim to house religion and a move towards a more authentic, plain, honest, and sometimes blunt way of communicating religion and spirituality. I recently took a screen writing course with the legendary Robert Mckee who was talking about searching for the truth by exploring both the light and the darkness, the dual nature in all things (what I call the psychology of the hero and the psychology of the villain in my book). He was talking about what seems pretty also usually has an ugly side and mentioned that the lovely bird songs we hear are about some bird staking out its territory and letting all the other birds in the vicinity know not to dare invade his ‘turf.’ And all the other birds are just waiting to hear his song weaken and falter with age so they can ‘peck the mother fucker to death.’ To me, that was a spiritual statement, because it was the truth.

There is going to be a move away from the crystals, séances, incarnations, mantras, affirmations, and also a move away from church hymns and sermons towards a quest for truth that involves a very authentic, plain, and direct way of communicating which will not tolerate any bullshit. We can see this already with the popularity, especially among youth, of Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” the ‘religion’ of today’s generation.
A blunt and darker expression of truth is underway as people learn not to shun the shit behind the sunshine. Enter a new era: a journey into the heart of darkness. ___________________________________________________

Sharif Khan is a professional speaker and author of highly acclaimed, Psychology of the Hero Soul, as seen on www.herosoul.com. You can reach him at sharif@herosoul.com.

Author's Bio: 

Sharif Khan is a professional speaker and author of, Psychology of the Hero Soul, a non-fiction,inspirational book about awakening the Hero within and rekindling people's passion for greatness. As President of Diamond Mind Enterprises, an organization devoted to helping people awaken their inner potential to live their highest life, Sharif has dedicated over ten years research in the field of human development and studying greatleaders. His vision is to inspire the world and make a positive difference in people's lives.

A dynamic and highly engaging public speaker and workshop facilitator, Sharif provides keynote presentations and leadership development seminars that inspire, educate, and entertain. His unique approach focuses ondeveloping each participant’s hero potential. “Sharif will inspire you to become a better leader and pursue excellence for life,” writes Chris Ridabock, CEO, J.J. Barnicke and former Chair of the Toronto Board of Trade.

Currently, Sharif is working on a novel about redemption and the hero's journey. He is an avid reader and movie buff, a Learning Annex Instructor, and also serves as Director of the MetroActive Writer's Club in Toronto where he resides.

Sharif can best be described as a true renaissance man who enjoys the arts and literature, some jazz and blues,intellectual conversations at cafes, and just about anything new that moves and opens the soul.