Part 1: What is Religion?

What is religion and why is it of interest? Is there a difference between religion and spirituality? What about the differences between religion as an institution, and religion as a method or meta-set of ideas?

Ken and I discuss this, and more, in this special series of the Dialogues podcast.

In part 1, Ken and I do our best to establish a foundation and working definition of what, exactly, religion is; and what it is not.

But more than a definition, understanding why this topic is valueable or of interest in our lives is of equal importance.

I hope you enjoy this first episode and are looking forward to the series as it develops over the coming weeks.

Part 2: The Religious vs the Spiritual

On the one hand, religion has an inherent connection to a community. It is a force that binds a group together through a set of pre-agreements on conduct or rules of the road. In Ken’s own words, it “outsources social monitoring” to some higher authority. 

Similarly, religions of the world (in this theme of being “community-based”), all tend to offer five key ingredients: do no harm, play fairly, be loyal to your group, respect authority, and live purely.

In contrast, spirituality has less concern with the community or the group, but with the individual experience – particularly the individual experience and understanding of those religious principles and norms that form much of the behavioral life of those individuals within those communities.

I hope you enjoy this second part and are looking forward to the following parts.

“If I follow the path of wisdom as revealed by the wisest teachers I can find, and cross-check that with inward instincts and the intuition of my consciousness, supported by observation and experience of living, I may live in a manner acceptable to Truth. If I live rightly I will earn the merit and the right to a larger knowing and continuing understanding.” – Ken Keach

Part 3: Comparative Religion

How can one develop a mature, personal philosophy, without becoming familiar with the deepest and noblest convictions of mankind? And what do hamburgers have in common with comparative religion?

For Ken, comparative religion (or this study of the deepest and noblest convictions), is no different than using two eyes instead of one. We simply get a broader and more complete perspective.

Comparative religion is the branch or study of religions, concerned with the systematic comparison of doctrines and practices of world religions. This study yields an understanding not simply of information or trivia knowledge, but the underlying philosophical concerns of different people, cultures, and histories.

In developing a mature and well rounded philosophy, discovering different definitions of God, morality, and the good life does not have to be a game of finally picking the one whole Truth – but of stitching together many Truths to form an ever greater whole.

The flavors of the world, whether in food or in the divine, will enrich our experience of life – if only we are brave enough to try them.

Part 4: Evolution of Religion

How has religion evolved in the world and in America? Is capitalism and technology a threat to religious traditions, or healthy competition? How can we understand the decline of traditional religion, while at the same time witness the growth of fundamentalism or the emergence of secular humanism?

“We have moved from isolated communities to personal isolation. We live in a society where we don’t know where we fit.” To quote my guest, Ken Keach. This is a core aspect of religious evolution today. The market for religious ideas has certainly shifted, but have the demands truly changed?

From the influence of technology and capitalism, to various strains of fundamentalism, to the impact of science and more secular forms of religious ideas – this part aims to help us navigate the landscape of religion in these rapidly changing times.