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mattbrowne's avatar

Would you consider yourself to be a spiritually progressive person?

Asked by mattbrowne (31600points) June 2nd, 2009

Here’s one example of what I mean by ‘spiritually progressive person’:

From Wikipedia: The Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) is an international political and social justice movement based in the United States that seeks to influence American politics towards more humane, progressive values. The organization also challenges what it perceives as the misuse of religion by political conservatives and the anti-religious attitudes of many liberals. In the international sphere, the NSP seeks to foster inter-religious understanding and work for social justice. The Network of Spiritual Progressives was founded based on three basic tenets:

* Changing the bottom line in America
* Challenging the misuse of religion, God and spirit by the religious right
* Challenging the many anti-religious and anti-spiritual assumptions
* Challenging behaviors that have increasingly become part of the liberal culture

Today, institutions and social practices are judged efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power. That’s the ‘old bottom line’. Now here is the New Bottom Line for which the NSP advocates: It believes that they should be judged rational, efficient and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace, and to the extent that they enhance our capacities to respond to other human beings in a way that honors them as embodiments of the sacred, and enhances our capacities to respond to the earth and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement. Educating people of faith to the understanding that a serious commitment to God, religion and spirit should manifest in social activism aimed at peace, universal disarmament, social justice with a preferential option for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, a commitment to end poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and inadequate health care all around the world.

‘The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right’ is a 2006 book by Rabbi Michael Lerner. In it, Lerner argues that that in order for progressive politics to survive in America, liberals must develop a respect for progressive forms of religion that can provide inspiration and a sense of “meaning” in people’s lives. Lerner argues that the Religious right seduces many well-intentioned Americans who hunger for higher purpose into supporting political candidates whose policies ultimately exacerbate the spiritual and moral vacuum that creates the desperation that makes the Religious Right appealing in the first place. The pivotal thesis is that American culture is dominated by a technocratic rationality and a bottom line of money and power that causes deep levels of depression in a large part of the population. This in turn makes much of the population vulnerable to being easily seduced by authoritarian forms of religion and tempts them to reject liberalism altogether, its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Lerner further argues that the cultural excesses of the Left in the 60s and 70s led to backlash in the 1980s. Rabbi Lerner believes that a solution is to develop a progressive form of religion which can speak to people’s real spiritual and emotional needs without pulling its followers into the dark side of religion.

Even if you haven’t heard of the NSP and their ideas, would some of their ideals and objectives match with your own? Would you consider yourself to be a spiritually progressive person? Have you heard about (or read) Michael Lerner’s book?

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24 Answers

Judi's avatar

I have pretty much felt that way my whole life. I am deeply dedicated to my faith, even when other followers of my faith seemed to drift into this “hate land,” as if abortion were the only issue that Christians could stand on.
It warms my heart to see the pendulum start going the other way.

DarkScribe's avatar

No, I tend to stick to Scotch.

Blondesjon's avatar

I do consider myself to be both spiritually and socially progressive.

The problem I have is when human beings start to get together in groups. Based on what you described above, Christianity was, at it’s earliest incarnation, a group of spiritually progressive individuals.

We all see what happened with that.

cwilbur's avatar

@Blondesjon: some groups of Christians are still made up of spiritually progressive individuals.

Blondesjon's avatar

@cwilbur . . .As is your right as a human being. Be you, my friend, be you.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

No, I’m spiritually lazy which is stark contrast to being physically in the now overstimulated and borderline crazy.

wundayatta's avatar

I consider myself spiritually progressive, but what the Wikipedia article is talking about seems awfully unspiritual to me. More like religion. For me, progressive spirituality is individualized and ethical and mystical, but does not really take place within the confines of anything that limits it (like organized religion).

prasad's avatar

How do I know I’m making progress?
Are there any measurable traits?

mattbrowne's avatar

@daloon – Which limiting confines?

mattbrowne's avatar

@prasad – ‘progressive’ here is meant as the counterpart of conservative. For example when challenging existing interpretations of religious texts. An example would be progressive Hinduism.

wundayatta's avatar

@mattbrowne Such as spirituality can only be experienced using sacred texts, or the ideas contained in sacred texts, such as the idea of a deity, or other dogmatic ideas. That limits the creativity of expression of spirituality. It limits the ways of talking about it, or the contexts in which it can legitimately be felt.

Spirituality is different every time, it seems to me. Our rituals should be able to change every time in order to reflect the experience of that moment.

mattbrowne's avatar

@daloon – Spirituality can only be experienced using sacred texts, or the ideas contained in sacred texts, such as the idea of a deity, or other dogmatic ideas? But the message of spiritually progressives is exactly the opposite. I consider myself to be a spiritually progressive and my view is that

- spirituality can be experienced not only by using sacred texts
– spirituality can be experienced without a deity
– spirituality does not require dogmatic ideas

For spiritually progressives religion and a deity is only one form of experiencing spirituality. Spiritually progressives also challenge the ‘exclusive right’ claimed by the religious right preaching the image of a vengeful and angry God. Does this help?

wundayatta's avatar

Yes. I agree. Progressive spirituality is creatively unconfined spirituality.

astrocom's avatar

Oddly enough, according to the description I’d consider myself Spiritually Progressive, though not particularly spiritual, and I’m certainly not religious.
Though I’d like to clarify that while public institutions and social practices should be judged in that manner, to judge businesses that way would be rather unfair for businesses that need to put effort into surviving, and that all this should only be to an extent that doesn’t infringe upon rights put forth in the Constitution and its Amendments.

mattbrowne's avatar

@astrocom – Yes, there are ethical and unethical business practices. A generalization seems unfair.

astrocom's avatar

@mattbrowne, it’s not just that though. We don’t judge killing someone as murder if it’s done in a life-or-death situation, we call it self defense. We take a kinder, more forgiving look at groups, societies and individuals of the past, because much of the time they did what was necessary to survive. It’s unfair to expect a company that’s struggling to make any profit at all to behave in a perfectly upright, ethically sound manner. (That said, companies that make sound profits all the time should be expected to adhere to ethics more strictly).

mattbrowne's avatar

@astrocom – There are tens of thousands of investment bankers having collected bonuses of many million dollars in 2006. There was no life-or-death situation, although I can imagine some falling into a deep depression (even becoming suicidal) if they can buy their third yacht and their fifth Porsche. Seriously, one doesn’t need extreme luxury to survive. The huge profits in 2006 were based on speculative bubbles assuming that real estate prices keep rising forever and any American consumer working minimum wage can certainly afford to buy their own house and premium SUV. Well, money doesn’t grow on trees and trees don’t grow in heaven.

astrocom's avatar

@mattbrowne: haha, as if the finance industry is ever actually in trouble. I’m talking about actual businesses, the ones that do useful things and earn money doing so, not companies that thrive on making money from money. Seriously, has anyone else noticed that every time we have a financial down turn, which always affects the entire economy, it’s always the finance industry’s fault? It’s atrocious, they’re damn useless * rant, rant, rant *

Blondesjon's avatar

@astrocom . . .you’re right. it must be blue collar america and the middle class’ fault. shame on all of us for wanting a little stability in our lives.

mattbrowne's avatar

@astrocom – Well, Enron was an actual business and they cooked the books. It’s the same level of fraud like the speculative bubbles.

astrocom's avatar

EDIT: I’m sorry this is all tangential at best from the topic
@mattbrowne: This is true, but I don’t believe Enron’s collapse caused an economic recession (checking that now). (conclusion: they didn’t cause an economic recession, but they somewhat intentionally caused an energy crisis in California, and obviously their investors/creditors suffered, but it doesn’t seem like the financial difficulties spread farther than that). It’s one thing when your stupid/greedy decisions screw you over, it’s another thing if your stupid/greedy decisions threaten the stability of the global economy.

@Blondesjon: Seriously, where did you even find an implication of that? If anything I figured that statement would be construed as more anti-upper class than I intended. I’m pretty sure blue collar America and the middle class isn’t all that involved in the finance industry. It’s reasonable for people to want economic stability, no one wants an unstable economy. What’s unreasonable is for a single industry to continually be stupid enough to cause economic collapses, and not suffer any serious repercussions, while the effects of their stupid decisions bankrupt companies that actually benefit society. The finance “industry” is the only industry that doesn’t actually produce products or services, anything else that’s considered an industry actually has R&D departments, actually takes it’s customer’s money and does something with it, instead of throwing it around in abstract ways to make it bigger. So yes, I’m against the finance industry, I don’t see how intelligent people can’t be anymore, seeing as they’ve screwed over the entire world (at least) twice in a single century at this point.
I mean, ok, I would have rather taken the hit to my personal finances and watched the various banks and financial institutions get what was coming to them, but I realize that most people would be severely inconvenienced by this, and that a decent number of people would have been unable to survive. (I’m starting college, I’m going to be in a shitload of debt when I finish no matter what, so sure I’ll be screwed over too, but not that much more screwed over than I would have been otherwise, which is dumb). And if you think my anger at the finance “industry” is unfounded…well…screw you.

Blondesjon's avatar

@astrocom . . .i thought i detected one’s tongue planted firmly in one’s cheek.

astrocom's avatar

@Blondesjon Whoops, no, I’m actually rather upset about the whole situation, in case you didn’t gather. I’m rather embarrassed about reacting as I did now…

Blondesjon's avatar

@astrocom . . .Don’t worry about it. I do it all the time.

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