Thoughts on ‘starving for spirituality’

There is something which I call ‘starving for spirituality‘.  This seems to be a modern creation, reflecting the modern situation.  It creates what can be described as a false or pseudo spirituality or belief system.  I call this ‘starved belief‘.  There are a number of elements that make up this belief:

  • Its a reaction to the lack of religion.
  • It is an attempt to replace what’s lost.
  • It is typically unconnected with the culture or way of life.
  • It is usually a ‘transplanted belief’, often coming from other cultures.
  • It is personal, reflecting a personal need (even though they may be part of a group).

In short, its an “attempt” at a religion by people desperate for it.  Oftentimes, people are so desperate that they will basically ‘invent’ a belief which is usually based on other beliefs, coming from other places.

People, by nature, are religious-like.  That, frankly, is part of being human. As a result, this problem describes a crisis in the modern human condition.  I’ve always felt that this tendency for people ‘making up’ a belief system is a testimony to the need for religion in peoples lives.  It shows its power and influence as well as its need. 

The modern world has created a condition where none of this need can be satisfied.  The society and social structure has been undermined and the modern way of life is not conducive to any consistent belief system.  This makes any “organized” belief system fail or wavering in its effects . . . but, still, the need is there.  We are human after all.

Some people feel this need more than others, and will often struggle to find it.  Quite a few people, nowadays, spend a large part of their lives looking for a ‘belief system’.  In fact, I tend to feel this is a big part of peoples lives nowadays, though they are often not aware of it.  Since these are typically not a culturally based “organized” belief system there is a tendency for people to believe in what I call ‘Partial Beliefs’.  These are “small” beliefs that typically fullfill the need for belief, but it doesn’t consist of much at all.  Examples of ‘partial beliefs’ are:

  • Following trends and doing what everyone else is doing.
  • Keeping small and, sometimes trivial, customs of “organized” religions.
  • Learning about things.
  • Having small ‘quaint’ beliefs, like believing that ‘aliens are among us’.
  • Having an interest in foreign religions, such as Buddhism.
  • Getting involved with political beliefs.

For some people, though, stuff like this never works.  They need more.  But, in modern society, there is nothing to satisify that need.   Over the years, though, there have been beliefs that have become more than ‘partial beliefs’ for some people.  In some cases, they have become something like a movement, involving thousands of people, sometimes in organized groups.  Much of these seemed to of appeared during the 1960’s and 1970’s but there are some that existed before (such as spiritualism), but these tended to be minor affairs in comparison.  In fact, the liberal attitudes of the 1960’s and 1970’s created a golden time for the proliferations of these new beliefs.  During this time they multiplied and expanded.

Beginning with the discovory of Hindu spiritualism, especially, the proliferation of new beliefs seemed to spread quite rapidly.  It created whole movements of the ‘new spiritualism’ (such as the New Age).  Sometimes, these appeared to be genuine religions but, in reality, they are really demonstrations of modern peoples starvation for belief.

There are a number of qualites that I often see with this new form of spirituality:

  • Their belief is often fantastical.  They could create a religion based on aliens, for example, or crystals.
  • Often, their belief is taken to the extreme, creating bizaar and often ridicuous belief systems.
  • They often tend to have beliefs in ‘conspiracies’.
  • Their belief is something they usually ‘find’.  That is, it is not a part of their culture or way of life.  They often disover it while reading, talking to people, or seeing it somewhere.  Many people who are ‘starved for spirituality’ actually go “shopping” for the belief, looking for one that fits their needs.
  • Oftentimes, since it is not part of the culture it tends to have a sense of being opposed to society or removed from it.

Even though they think it works there is always something missing – cultural validity.  This makes it so that any ‘starving belief’ tends to be individualistic and removed from the society.  In fact, ‘starved belief’ often fails because it is based too much on the person, meaning that it has no demonstration, no support, nor any validity within the culture itself.  It makes it so that many ‘starved beliefs’ tend to be temporary, often reflecting a phase in a persons life. 

This problem describes a problem associated with the modern world – the problem, or rather lack, of a firm belief and spirituality.  The ‘starved belief’ is part of the attempts to deal with this problem.  Sadly, they seldom work.  In fact, no ‘religion’ has ever been created by any ‘starved belief’ nor has it had any lasting impact on the culture or society.

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