On Institutionalized Religion and the “Reliquification” of Spirituality


“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.” — Steven Weinberg, American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics


In a lot of other instances, I have had some significant issues about “god” but nothing about it in the present discussion. My concern is about religion and it is religion in the institutional sense with all its rituals, man-made administrative hierarchy and power structures (which I don´t think the so-called “Jesus Christ” of the four gospels of the christian bible’s new testament could have approved of had he been around or perhaps better said, had he been real), and the dos and don’ts in church policy that favor more the clergy than the lay, among others. Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is one excellent historical background (in novel form) to get acquainted with how evil institutional religion has been. When Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the masses,” his reference point was the kind of “christian religion” Europe (Germany in particular) had during his time.

Religion as we understand it in the institutional sense is different from religion as something inherent in the homo sapiens sapiens being also homo religiosus with the natural impulse that drives her/him in normal circumstances to locate her/his existence in the context of ultimate reality. The human being that is not only conscious but also conscious of her/his consciousness is endowed with a metaphysical sense that is both critical and appreciative. With this metaphysical sense, s/he asks the questions: 1) Why am I here? 2) What must I do? and 3) What can I hope for? While making sense of these questions and while in the process of searching for the so-called ultimate reality to respond to these questions, s/he also treads the religious path. Getting unilaterally inclined to solely focus on this path leads to the formation and institutionalization of religion. However, not necessarily getting too engrossed with religiosity leads to a better direction which enhances human spirituality.

Institutional religion contradicts in a lot of ways the essence of the “Jesus-Christ-on-earth narrative (or myth, if you will)” in the christian bible’s new testament which never endeavored to organize and institutionalize a religion but to saturate/flood the homo religiosus with the virtues of that “Jesus-Christ-on-earth narrative (or myth, if you will)” and in the process elevate her/his “humanity” to a higher level of spirituality thereby putting an end to the metaphysical questions as s/he finds the answers to them in the context of ultimate reality. In other words, the spirituality inaugurated by the “Jesus-Christ-on-earth narrative (or myth, if you will)” is the anti-thesis of institutional religion.

Preceding christianity is the institutionalized jewish religion which petrified that spirituality. In certain new testament gospel instances “Jesus Christ” re-liquified that spirituality by liberating it from being boxed in an institutionalized religion. In such a reliquification, we find the significance of the “Jesus-Christ-on-earth narrative (or myth, if you will)”. The ultimate reality is always present because it is the ground of being–the cosmic foundation–whose nature is noumenal (to use Kant´s terminology for the unknowable “being-in-itself”) and can only be phenomenal (knowable) in the human states of affairs via experienced spirituality.

Spirituality needs to be re-liquified to let it flow freely in the lives of people. In many instances, institutionalized religion has hindered the free flow of spirituality that promotes justice, upholds human dignity, strengthens compassion and loves life.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 20 January 2018