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We’ve all met someone who talks as though they’ve obtained enlightenment. They try to redirect every conversation into a platform for preaching their wisdom. Sometimes I feel like I’m that person; the village eccentric who sees everything differently and can’t shake the restless feeling like you have to spit it out to anyone who will listen. I know my personality and I know that if I don’t have something balancing me out, I can drift off into crazy land as I obsess over ultimate questions. 

I think a big part of what makes a person susceptible to that kind of thing is when they spend too much time in their own head and not enough time listening to the ideas of others. It’s easy to think you have all the answers if you never have them challenged by the insights of other thinkers.

When it comes to knowledge and wisdom, I think we can all admit that you’ll have a better chance at obtaining a balanced and healthy philosophy if it’s based on a collective of ideas ranging from many voices. I think this is a big motivation for maintaining a system of peer review in science. It provides accountability and insight that might be missed with only one set of eyes looking at a problem. The more people of integrity you have involved in seeking truth, the more likely you’ll find it. But if you insist on going alone, you’re much more likely to hit dead ends or fall into the trappings of narcissism.

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If you were to meet God face to face, he would probably tell you some things you might not want to hear.

This, to me, is the fundamental problem with spirituality without religion. If a person really could touch the divine and discover ultimate truth, I expect that they would discover things that would be unexpected and deeply challenging. If you were to meet God face to face, he would probably tell you some things you might not want to hear. When you’re spiritual but not religious, there’s nothing to challenge you in that way. You have complete and absolute autonomy to pick and choose whatever beliefs and doctrines happen to suit your preferences but what are the odds that ultimate truth is going to coincidentally coincide with your inclinations. My guess is: very unlikely.

Good religion always invites us outside of ourselves to discover the reality that we inhabit as opposed to the reality that we might want to invent.

All the great religions challenge us with doctrines and ideas that don’t occur to us. More than that, they all tell us things we don’t want to hear; behaviours that we need to adjust and challenging truths. The kind of truths that might remind us of experiences of tough love from a parent or elder. If the pursuit of truth really is an adventure of discovery then of course we are going to uncover things that we did not expect (otherwise it would not be a discovery). Mere spirituality never leads us in this direction because all we have to guide us in that journey is ourselves and what we already know. It implores us to look inward when we should be looking outward. It is the idolatry of self when we should, in fact, be worshipping something much greater than we are. Good religion always invites us outside of ourselves to discover the reality that we inhabit as opposed to the reality that we might want to invent. This is why I’m both religious and spiritual. Religion has always balanced me out and kept me safe from egotistical madness. It has set my gaze outward to the divine when I might want to look inward for it and lock myself into a creed that is all about me.  

About the Author
Brian Holdsworth
Author: Brian HoldsworthWebsite: http://www.holdsworthdesign.com
I'm the Principal and Creative Director of a web design, graphic design, and marketing studio in Edmonton, Canada, called Holds Worth Design Inc. We work closely with a variety of clients including Christian ministries and organizations to help package timeless truths through modern methods.
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