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Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday Defines ‘Spiritual Vs. Religious’ for Paul

Elizabeth Lesser had a powerful appearance on Super Soul Sunday.

Toward the end of the intimate hour with Oprah, she defined something for me that had long been a question mark: the difference between spirituality and religion.

What I gleaned from her remarks is that spirituality comes from the questions many of us eventually ask. Why am I here? How could all of these amazing forces that work together to support my life possibly be doing it? The conditions to support life are perfect. I go to sleep every night. I wake up every morning and the sun comes up. How? Why?

These are general questions that can lead to general revelations. Many humans have them and for many they come with awe and amazement, and even transcendence. It is mind boggling to be a part of the natural unfolding that is happening on planet Earth. How in the universe did we become a part of it?

That is the essence of spirituality. It encompasses the questions, and the practices that might take us to the answer.

Religion, on the other hand, purports to be or have the answer. Why are we here? Some religions say “We are here because (insert answer from any religion here). We were delivered here by (insert creation idea here). To reach God you do (insert practice here). Our purpose as humans, and even as men and women is to do (insert proscribed rules, duties and restrictions here).”

Religions can be beautiful, and terrible. Religions have given me some of the best answers that I have ever found on my spiritual quest. Some of our greatest humans have been devout practitioners of religion, and their words and journeys are ones I follow.

Religions have also launched the most terrible wars and mindless persecutions we’ve ever experienced.

Religion has never been for me. I rebelled out of it by about 11 years old. My mom tried (God blesses her, with me, she was fighting a losing battle), but I flat out refused to give up a day outside to put on stuffy clothes and go inside. I wasn’t rejecting God. I was rejecting the rules that said I had to go inside on one of only two days that I have off from being in another boring box with another boring adult talking at me.

That was the beginning of my spiritual independence. Since then, I have labeled myself ‘spiritual not religious’, even putting that as a description of myself on my website for my wedding officiant services.

But if you asked me what spiritual not religious meant, until I saw Elizabeth Lesser on one of my favorite shows, Super Soul Sunday, I wouldn’t have had a clear answer for you. That discussion brought me closer to an answer.

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