I’m in Dallas, Texas this weekend to do a presentation at the North Area Texas UU Religious Educators teachers training (that was this morning), and to preach at the First Unitarian Church tomorrow. I really enjoyed the training this morning–a terrific group of teachers from around north Texas. They do this every August, I believe, and it’s something I’d like to see happening around Prairie Star. I’m sure the congregations in the Twin Cities area could support something like this, as well as the congregations in Iowa and Kansas. At any rate, I had a good time, got to see some old friends, and met some wonderful folks who are volunteering their time and energy to be a caring presence for the children and youth in the congregations here. I promised the participants that I would post some of the quotes read during the presentation, which I think I’ll do over a series of blogs this week. Here’s the first set–definitions of faith, spirituality, and religion. It’s from an essay called “A Neuropsychological Perspective on Spiritual Development,” by Andrew B. Newberg and Stephanie K. Newberg, and it can be found in the Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence.

A neuropsychological perspective posits that all human experience is ultimately processed by the brain. The brain therefore can only provide a “secondhand rendition” of external reality. If this is the case, then human beings always have to have faith in their interpretation of the external reality as it is processed by the brain. Faith, in some sense, is absolutely essential for the human brain to function properly so that it assumes that the world as it is perceived and interpreted represents a reasonable one-to-one correlation with what is actually “out there.”

The feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors that arise from a search for the sacred. The term “search” refers to attempts to identify, articulate, maintain, or transform. The term “sacred” refers to a divine being or Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Truth, as perceived by the individual.


Religion and religiousness not only contained the preceding criteria, they also included a “search for non sacred goals (such as identity, belongingness, meaning, health, or wellness).” Religiousness also implies that the mean and methods of the search “receive validation and support from within an identifiable group.”

I gave these definitions this morning because I think they do a good job of putting faith and spirituality in the context of religion. Here’s the comment I made about them: “You can have faith and spirituality without a religion. However, if you have a religion, it encompasses those things as well. So when we talk about religious education, we’re talking first and foremost about the things that specifically deal with “religiousness.” But questions of faith and spirituality are part of it, too.” So we teach about Unitarian Universalism, our Principles and Purposes, World Religions, etc. but we are always dealing with issues of faith and spirituality no matter what the curriculum because faith and spirituality are part of any religion.

I followed up those definitions with another definition of religion from another essay in the Handbook called “The Relationship Between Moral and Spiritual Development,” by Lawrence J. Walker and Kevin S. Reimer: “Central to the teachings of all religious traditions are moral guidelines for living a good life and for interacting appropriately with others.”

More from the presentation (and some photos) later.