What do you do when you believe in something more—but nothing seems to fit?
When you’re longing for something you can’t name? Searching for something you never find?
It’s a painful place to live.
And it’s not just a matter of belief…
It’s about finding our people.
It’s about a life that matters.
It’s about all the things we’d take for granted… if we were just like everyone else.
But we’re not.
No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to fit.
We can’t do religion. We can’t quite do the whole spiritual-but-not-religious thing.
But we can’t believe in nothing…
So we go along…
We learn to ignore the longing. But it never goes away.
And deep inside, we start to feel like there’s nowhere that we belong.
But is that really true?
Are the choices we’ve been offered really all there is?
We’ve been given a story about the world and where it’s headed.
We’re told that religion is dead. Spirituality is dying. Science and atheism materialism are the future of intelligent society.
“It’s evolution in action.”
We’re told that education will free us from superstition, and from outdated beliefs and devotions.
We’re told that seekers of faith have been replaced by seekers of spirit… And that seekers of spirit are giving way to seekers of knowledge…
Funeral by funeral, the world is marching from the sacred, to the spiritual, to the mundane.
But what if the story we’re seeing isn’t evolution in action?
Or even the tragic decline of a more spiritual society?
What if all we’re seeing… is history repeating itself?
Who Decides What’s Spiritual?
Once upon a time, it was thought that the words spiritual and religious were synonymous—that truth and destiny were given by God.
But it wasn’t so.
Every generation has their own ideas about what it means to be spiritual.
They have their own truth; their own values; their own aspirations.
And that means younger seekers will always have to break from tradition if they want to explore and express who they really are.
The spiritual-but-not-religious generation discovered their truth when they broke from the confines of organized religion.
They didn’t need a church to tell them what to believe—or what it meant to be spiritual.
They didn’t need a religion at all.
Their parents were appalled. But within a few short decades, tens of millions of people who had spent their lives feeling restless and dissatisfied were freed to explore a whole new category of belief.
And now it’s time to break from tradition again.
The False 3-Party System
The conventional wisdom is that human beliefs fit into one of three categories: the religious, the spiritual-but-not-religious, and the secular.
And when we look at it that way, it does appear that the world is marching towards materialism.
The problem is that the spiritual-but-not-religious label is not a catchall category for everyone who rejects organized religion.
It could be…
Perhaps it even should be.
But it isn’t.
It’s just another cultural movement that embodies and reflects the values of the people who created it.
And after half a century, the spiritual-but-not-religious marketplace is so saturated with the values and ideas of Boomer-age authors, it has institutionalized their opinions.
It’s become a religion of its own.
And the next generations aren’t interested.
Just as the Baby-Boomers rejected the values of organized religion, younger seekers are rejecting the spiritual-but-not-religious values of the Boomers.
And just like the last time, the old guard doesn’t get it.
They can’t see another option.
It used to be that you were either religious, or nothing.
And the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd had to fight to show that there was a third option; that the two-party system was inadequate.
Now we’re told to conform to the three-party system. And it’s on us to fight back and expand the field again.
That restless feeling you have? That sense that something is missing?
It comes from living too long in a place you don’t belong.
From being caged in a system that isn’t big enough.
But you don’t need to stay there anymore.
Human beliefs don’t fit into any number of categories.
There is no three-party system.
There are just the thoughts and ideals of a generation—there to bring us together, and then fall away when our day is done.
So, it’s true… We are turning away from religion.
And we are turning away from the spiritual-but-not-religious movement of the hippie generation.
But we aren’t turning off.
We still believe in something.
We just don’t believe in the options we’ve been given.
And that presents us with an opportunity…
Open Source Spirituality
Sometimes the reason you can’t find what you are longing for is because it simply doesn’t exist yet.
Search forever, the feeling won’t go away—because searching isn’t the answer.
For two generations of rebels, misfits and independent thinkers, that search has become a way of life.
And it’s time for that to change.
There is a place where we belong.
It’s just up to us to build it.
Not beneath the platitudes and promises of gurus and archaic philosophies…
Not under the directive of a ruling few…
But through the unique insights and practical innovations that are already scattered among us.
That’s the benefit of collaborative spirituality:
We all have unique talents and abilities.
We all have something to offer.
And together we can build something that’s bigger than any one vision could ever be.
We don’t need to confine ourselves to the past.
We don’t need to fall in line behind a single directive.
We need to explore new options—to express who we really are.
To nurture our strengths. To share our gifts.
To connect where we can—and respect where we can’t.
To build the place where we belong.
That’s the power of open source.
That’s evolution in action.
Who decides what’s spiritual?
We all do.
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About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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