February 22, 2013 | 09:00 am

Spiritual vs. Religious

As I write this I’m vacationing in the Florida Keys, and I happened by a sign in Key West that said that John Dewey, the great educator, lived at this spot and was one of the first “snowbirds” (he spent January through April in Key West). This was news to me, though his book, “A Common Faith” had a profound effect on me some years ago. 

Dewey differentiated between two kinds of religion - capital “R” Religion and small “r” religion. He postulated that capital “R” religion was the one that says you must do this and that in order to be a spiritual person, whereas small “r” religion was the feeling of connectedness with all of life (“religion” is from the word “religio” which means to be connected - think of the word ‘ligament’). A light bulb went off for me when I first read this. It gave me a new meaning of the word “religion”.

It’s common to hear people say nowadays “I consider myself spiritual, but not religious.” I suspect many of us at West End Collegiate would likely resonate to a statement such as this. What people may mean is that they feel connected to matters of spirit, but they are uninterested in following the ‘letter of the law’, i.e., doing proscribed things like attending church regularly, or believing in creeds, or feeling they must perform certain duties in order to be in favor with The Almighty. 

Rather, I feel that through our connectedness with one another, our appreciation of one another, our honoring of one another, that there is God. Here’s to small ‘r’ religion!