Spiritual Synergy?

A recent thread begun by xwiccanx (Living in the Broom Closet) got me thinking about the nature of religion in the 21st century, particularly regarding our seemingly-pathological need to mix-n-match theologies. I am not setting out to criticize this approach, merely question it. I wonder if we are losing something crucial in this process of intertwining faiths. After all, Catholic liturgies and masses, Southern Baptist revivals, Jewish kaddishes and pagan rites all presumably bring us closer to union with divinity…whatever name we may attach to it or however we choose to honor it. In our rush to do “what feels right” are we losing this vital connectivity? Or are rituals merely staid and conservative vestiges of “establishment” religion?

I speak as a practicing witch of nine years, and though the Old Religion does allow wiggle room, so to speak, there are still the eight sabbats, there are still the ersbats, there is still the fundamental equilibrium of God and Goddess, Male and Female, Life and Death and Rebirth. Were I to introduce that nasty little Desert God from Judea, the essence of this simple faith would be perverted by an authoritarian, all male, all-supreme power (clearly unacceptable).

If the path to truth is divergent, and I have no doubt that it is, then does that diversity preclude us from religious synergy; is a “salad bar” theology the logical extension of it, or shall the twain meet?


Categorized as darkness

By shadowgod

Remember when you said "mine?" And I said, "forever." You said, "only forever." It's forever, now.


  1. Interesting question. I’m sure that the reason so many people drift away from “normal” groups into fundamentalist churches and cults is that they need something pure, original, unadulterated, and visceral – something that has less to do with rational synthesis and more to do with emotional and spiritual hunger.

    Then again, there are plenty of people who burn for numinous contact who attend mainstream churches and laid-back covens and so forth who get exactly what they crave. There are also people who simply want something rational and consistent with their own beliefs, and who are attracted to unitarian systems because these systems are compatible with their open minds.

    I think it depends on the individual.

  2. I think it’s almost counterproductive for some to NOT take the “salad bar” approach. At least it was for me. Some people need the ritual and the soild foundation of obeying an organized religion, and you know what? Great for them! It’s wonderful, as long as they make they’re own choice, and not because it’s the same religion as their parents (or friends, or whatever). I think we need orgainized religion becasue it gives people a common ground to exchange views. Or it would if people would just understand that on one , NO ONE on this planet knows exactly what’s going on. No religious figure, no scientific law, no philosophy has it 100% correct. But it’s not about being right, it’s about standing up, being counted and making a stand for what you believe in. And what we don’t know now, we’ll get the pieces little by little thoughout our lives.

    everything is rent


  3. Having lived in the Fundamentalist South most of my life, I see a great deal of the Constantinian need to accept despite the outragousness of the claim…almost BECAUSE it is absurd. And I have no doubt that these folk do crave a religion without compromise. (Trust me on this one, Southern Baptists or Mennonites or Pentacosts have NOOOO room for doctrinal disagreements!) I know some really agnostic Jews, a couple of laid back Unitarians and several folks who really tow the Celtic-Wicca line. It has apparently worked for them, but…

    My real fear is not rigid religion or necessarily in mix-n-matching doctrines, rather in creating an amalgam of different theologies…whereby we lose the key tenets of one or more faiths by introducing them into a different milieu. I see this more in New Agers and, especially, in the Boomers. For example, the wine-cellar yuppies who gain “strength” from yoga and crystals, believe in reincarnation but pray to a Methodist God, and have certainly taken no vow of austerity! These are the folks who seem to disregard the inherent difficulties or struggles that religion would require of us. It also seems to water down any real spirituality. This example is a bit contrived, but points to my underlying concern.

    That is a different story, though 🙂


  4. I am pleased that this approach worked for you, and to a great extent, I agree with you. I am not being a fundmentalist or proselytizing for strict sectarianism. Nor do I think that we can’t have some form of coming-together. The Buddhist spiritualist, Ken Wilbur and other acolytes from other theologies would disagree, but that is what cheerleaders are for!

    What I am questioning is whether a complete mishmash really even accomplishes what its adherents beleive will occur, namely a sense of emergent or awakening spirituality? And, if taken in extremis or not measured judiciously, I think that it can be and is, in fact, counterproductive. (Think mixing any polytheism with any of the monotheisms…or mixing my family’s Shoshone animism with my other family’s Southern Baptist doctrines…you get my drift).

    This is not about castigating those who seek some unity of divinity, it is about mixing bleach and detergent to get something cleaner….what eventually happens is that it explodes in a caustic belch of smoke. But, if you mix that bleach with water or lemons, it really does get things cleaner. I am just wondering if people understand what they are mixing when they get out the cleaning supplies?


  5. I personally came to my current attitude on religion when I realized that most of them say basically the same thing, but in different ways (in my humble opinion at least). Starting a campfire with a match, a lighter, or a flame-thower and gasoline, is still starting the fire. Just choose the one that works for you best, and don’t insult someone for chooseing their own way.

    everything is rent


  6. I follow the more salad bar variety of religion.

    For me, religion is not about facts, but about what I feel. When I am involved in a faith, I am looking for spiritual fulfillment. I’m also looking for a faith that ‘feels’ right. If I cannot feel it in my heart, it is useless to expect me to believe it. The mind may say many things, but I must feel it in order for it to be true. (For me, that is.)

    Because of that, there are some doctrines I accept and some I do not. I have a faith that is an odd mix of christianity and hinduism. I have this belief system because some of the beliefs of christianity are illogical to me, and the same for the strict version of hinduism. I do not feel that people who are not exposed to the gospel are going to hell. The whole idea is ridiculous to me. Nor do I feel that women are less of a person then men.

    With hinduism, I do not believe that there are 3000 different gods. I believe avatars of the same god have come to earth many times, but I do not believe in multiple gods.

    All of this is just me. This makes up who I am, and it’s what gives me the spiritual fulfillment I crave. This makes me feel whole as a person. And ultimately, I think that is all that really matters.

    People need something to believe in. We need to have reason’s for why things happan. Religion is just that. I’m not saying that there is no such thing as your god/goddess. I’m saying that people need a higher authority to fall back on. Most men have realized their imperfections centuries ago. It gives us comfort to know that out there some where, there is someone who is perfect, and does know what’s going on.

    With all that, I think the reason so many fundimentalists (in all religions) get upset with change, is because they crave a constant. Things must stay the same, the rules must always be the same, and there should be no straying from the path set forth by their religion. For many, if the rules start to change, it makes them wonder what else might possibly be wrong. And that’s not a comfortable thing when one has devoted their life to the practice of that faith.

    I don’t know if all religions will meet as one. Personally, I believe that all gods are one and the same, and all that changes is how we view them. But, because a person’s belief system is usually very strict, it will be difficult. Man likes to be special. He likes to think that he is above someone else. He likes to believe that he is elite. There is no better or easier way to gain this elite status, then to belong to a particular doctrine. However, once you start insisting that other people who aren’t in his club might, in fact, be part of the same elite order, he gets upset. It doesn’t make him special anymore. And it means everything he has thought up to now, has been inaccurate.

    I think you may be right and that the salad bar theology might be the answer to man’s diversity. Every man is different, and will see and interpret things different ways. And take what he wants from each. He will find his truth where he wants it. And take that to heart. Another man might find a different truth at the same bar.

    So, what you end up with is 2 completely different looking salads. Both in flavour and in look. But that doesn’t change the fact that they still came from the same salad bar.:)


  7. Thank you for the insightful response. In many respects I agree with you, as it does seem that the “salad bar” is becoming more prevalent than a set menu. And I have received a couple of emails from folks who also feel that combining doctrines is a viable approach. It has worked for me to some degree, as well.

    I think that the question that I posed was more about the possibility of this approach actually damaging the supplicant, not aiding them. It does seem like a conservative and fundamentalist position, and one which I am not entirely sold on myself. However, one lady emailed me describing the true trauma that she experienced when she went the “sald bar” route. So, what may be a boon to you or I clearly damages others. Then again, it could be the nature of the participant and not anything inherent in mixing the different religions. (Similar to the old “guns don’t kill people” argument which I loathe!)

    As you can tell, this is a question with which I struggle and my position shifts and refines itself daily.


  8. That makes sense though. The problem that there is with the salad bar variety, is it does let people pick and choose.

    As an extreme example, lets take the commandment “Do not kill”. A commandment found in almost any system of faith. There will be some people out there that don’t like that commandment, so they will simply not follow it. Since it doesn’t let them do what they want to do, they just treat it like it’s not accurate.

    And that’s where the problem can definately come in, with the salad bar religion. One of the things religion does is to give people guide lines with with to follow. Something to pattern there life after. When you start picking and choosing what you like and you don’t like, then you no longer have a set of rules. You no longer have something to guide your decisions, you no longer have the same set of ethics to stick to. You have nothing, and you’re left floundering.

    Ironically enough, that was my problem with the wiccan covens in my area. If you didn’t like what they believed or practiced, then you could choose not to do it anymore, or believe it. But, then it ceases to be purely wiccan. And your presence in that coven might be detrimental to others in it.

    Religions have rules and laws for a reason. Most of them are to help us better ourselves, and help those around us. Those should stick, and you should not be able to pick and choose what you want to do from those. At least you shouldn’t be able to do it and still claim to be a practicing member of that denomination. You end up doing more hurt then good for that denomination.

    However, the minor points of faith and salvation shouldn’t be quite so set in stone. That is something that depends on the individual, and I think that’s where the salad bar should come in.


  9. You’re quite right about there being no room for doctrinal differences in the south.

    I live smack dab in the bible belt (1 catholic church and 25 baptist churches in the city), and if you have an idea that strays ever so slightly from the established norm, and you are branded something akin to a heretic.

    There is no room for deviation from the doctrine they have set forth. And if you choose to, you are not welcome in their church.

    People need normalcy, and no where is it more evident then in some of the bible thumpers of the south. (Note: Not all churches are like that. There are some wonderful open ones out there. They are just few and far between here.)


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