FAITH column

The debate about religious freedom suggests that being publicly religious can be confusing, challenging and complex. The controversy about the online posts of Israel Falou highlights how contentious the issue is while at the same time, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism also cause consternation for many people.

For most people religion is personal and usually private, their religious commitment practised oblivious to fervent dialogues that often distort their conviction.

As a young girl living in a quasi-Orthodox Jewish home, I was religious, attending synagogue on the high holydays and praying to God for strength and guidance. During adolescence however, my scientific studies and intellectual awareness questioned the existence of an Almighty, and aroused a more agnostic attitude, though not abandoning a sense of spirituality that was extant too.

Entertaining this spiritual philosophy inspired a moral integrity that imbued my life, ensuring my beliefs were honest, decent and just, reflecting Matthew 7:12 who implored “…do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

Undoubtedly, some people may think this religious perspective and a spiritual ethos are inextricably entwined, or one and the same.

Whatever the impetus, enjoying spirituality seems significant in affirming a life of contentment, though not necessarily associated with unwavering faith in God.

It may be that being spiritual enhances the meaning of life, offering sanctuary, solace and serenity on occasions of painful adversity or spontaneous adventure.

As an exciting dimension to existence, it can be a strong force for life itself whether or not we celebrate traditional religion.

Indeed, faith in spirituality can supplant more fundamental religious practice, enriching life with profound, positive feelings independent of any deity.

Modernism has sometimes ordained spirituality as an aromatherapy experience with scents, oils and crystals defining its reality, inviting a relaxed mindfulness that represents a more holy understanding than scripture.

This nurturing of one’s soul without godly exhilaration can evoke tranquillity as much as any gospel worship.

As French theologian and physician, Albert Schweitzer, commented: “If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history…”, as spiritual faith can embody a religious reverence without God.