Religion Can Be Spiritual, Says ‘Forward’ Columnist
But it’s still pretty lame
In the new Forward, Jay Michaelson confronts the increasingly ubiquitous notion that spirituality and religion are essentially separate. “I, too, have often claimed that spiritual practice is distinguished from religion by its pragmatic focus—what a practice does—rather than its significance in a system of myth or dogma,” he grants, but he’s not content to leave it at that: “the dichotomy is misleading.” In fact, he contends, “even the most diehard, hyper-rational, Lithuanian Orthodox, High Reform, or otherwise non- or anti-spiritual religionists perform religious acts because they want to feel a certain way. In other words, religion is a form of spirituality.”
OK. But what starts out seeming like an attempt to defend religion from fed-up spiritualists turns quickly back-handed (“lame synagogues do promote mind states”), and Michaelson ends up subtly advocating for a more conventionally “New Age” spirituality by using the concepts of “values” and “states of mind” almost interchangeably. Secular Judaism offers “integrity, ethics, authenticity”; “social justice” Judaism’s got “righteous indignation, sense of moral goodness”; Zionism—“patriotism, strength, belonging”; and old-school synagogue Judaism has this loaded foursome: “particularism, security, traditionalism, Jewish survival.” Given this array, followed by his sly suggestion that “[m]aybe other mind states like inspiration, joy or introspection, might work better,” it seems that while he says, “[w]hat I’ve tried to suggest is that these seemingly Californian spiritual values are not so distant from hard-core New York religious and political ones,” he’s actually trying to sell one to the other.
Religion is Actually Spirituality [Forward]
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.