Religion vs. Spirituality
Though a lot can be said about morality and religion, the former has failed to receive as much attention in the field of academic study as the latter. The best known research about morality development is that of
Lawrence Kohlberg who lived in New York, in the Bronx, I believe, and was quite wealthy. He conducted research on why people develop morals. He did studies on children and presented this story to them:
Heinz Steals the Drug
In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that? (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 19)
Kohlberg was not interested in whether the subject said "yes" or "no" to this dilemma but in the reasoning behind the answer. The interviewer wanted to know why the subject thought Heinz should or should not have stolen the drug. The interviewer then asked new questions which helped to understand the child's reasoning. For example, children were asked if Heinz had a right to steal the drug, if he was violating the druggist's rights, and what sentence the judge should give him once he was caught. Once again, the main concern was with the reasoning behind the answers. The interview then went on to give more dilemmas in order to get a good sampling of the subject's moral thinking.
I liked the work because the questions were questions that had no right or wrong answer, and couldn't really be answered by someone using a Bible or rulebook. They required a person to decide based on their own heart-felt morality. Kohlberg came up with a chart that describes stages of moral development. He believed that most people only progressed to the level of "Law & Order," His chart can be found at this link: http://www.usefulcharts.com/psychology/kohlberg-stages-of-moral-development.html
My personal opinion, and the way I try to live, is based on the 6th stage: Universal principles of morality. Here, let me say, I try to separate morality from religion as a discussion point, because as you well know, they are two separate things. A moral person is not always religious, and a religious person is not always moral. This agrees with Kohlberg, too, as he noted that we don't always operate in the same stage consistently. But, I have noted that I tend to hold my own moral standards, regardless of what anyone else believes, and regardless of the laws of the land. One example of each is abortion and interracial marriages. The first is legal but immoral, in my opinion. The second is "frowned upon" by many people in society and even by many religious people, yet I believe it is not only moral and fine, but I see cases in the Bible where God defended interracial couples from prejudiced religious people, like Moses & his wife, when they were criticized by his sister Miriam.
Similarly, religion differs from spirituality. Some people see spirituality as 'being in tune with one's own self or spirit' where religion is the connection with the spirit of God. But, this would be an erroneous way of viewing spirituality. Spirituality refers instead to the individual human spirit's relationship to the spirit of God. I see religion as an external system or form of finding truth and God, a higher truth than oneself. I see Spirituality as true faith, the inside belief in the heart and soul. Rather than trying to 'get in tune' with who I am, or my inner spirit,' the spiritualist is concerned with having an inner relationship with God. I know who I am already. I don't need some shaman, or spiritualist, or religious teacher to tell me who I am. I want someone to tell me if there is a God. I want to know how I can know Him, and communicate with Him. I want to know why I am on this Earth. My faith in God, the "total package" of religion and spirituality, answers those questions for me.
Another great thinker, Maslow, wrote about the Hierarchy of Needs...he was a humanist. One of those needs is self-actualization. That is a great need for me. I don't want to be just who I am. I want to be better than I am, better than I ever thought I could be. Change is not a problem for me. I have changed repeatedly throughout my life. I believe we are reinvented, re-created often, throughout our lives. I like to ask myself the question: If I am who I was yesterday, and will remain so tomorrow; then why should I need more tomorrows? To that point, the biggest challenge for the Christian of today lies in having more than religion... more than spirituality... more than ethics and morality... but a connection with the Holy Spirit that will order the mind, heart, and soul in a faith that is built on true spirituality.
In conclusion, the Apostle James gave a summary of religion that includes the total package of morality and spirituality that we all hope to obtain.
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.