11/11/2013 08:53 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

A "Believer" On The Futility of Religion and Spirituality

Since 1977 my spiritual teacher and meditation practice have helped me in ways too numerous and positive to mention; which puts me in the "spiritual person" category. So, why would I declare spirituality to be meaningless?

I've been thinking about this subject since someone forwarded to me an acquaintance's rant on Facebook upon his return from India. In his post, he grumbled about (among other things which I look forward to discussing with him in person) the disconnect between Indians' rich religious and spiritual culture and the polluted, trash-littered and earsplitting "cesspool" in which they live (Honk! Honk!).

The more I ruminated on the subject, the more I thought, really? Are religious people supposed to be better social citizens than the non-religious? Are "spiritual" people more conscious or mindful than those who smirk at the idea of an intelligent and creative life force?

Unfortunately I have not seen evidence of that.

I know spiritual people who are narcissists. I hope I'm not an egocentric, but I have spent many less-than-altruistic hours fixating on the indignities flung at me from my mirror on a daily basis as I age. I've hung out with spiritual people involved in illegal activities. I have met devout Christians who are racists. Members of the Taliban--apparently the most God-driven crew on Earth--practice unspeakable violence on their brothers and sisters. So, how does religion and spirituality help make a better world?

Most people seek an inner sense of joy, peace, love and well-being, regardless of their external circumstances. I access it through meditation. For example, someone breaks my heart, or I have to deal with a health issue, which makes me feel awful or helpless; if I meditate, just like magic, in spite of the given situation, somehow I feel better, and better able to deal with it. So, if everyone lived their lives from a calm and balanced center, joy would reign throughout the world, right?

News flash: we are not here to bring peace to the world. We are meant to find our own peace; to get through life with as little angst as possible (tears are fine, just not forever). But, finding our personal peace does not automatically transform us into kind, generous, mindful human beings (I'm guessing most kind, mindful people were born that way). It does, however, instill in us a desire to approach life from a place of love, and that can't hurt. If you spend time sending love to or praying for a friend (or an enemy), whether or not they benefit is debatable; but it's guaranteed to make you feel good from the inside out, where it matters. We are born alone and we die alone. And since challenges await us around every corner, it's our job to feel as good as we can while we're here. The number of routes from here to there is endless. Take your pick and enjoy the journey.

In the meantime, if Indian rulers don't care about pollution and waste retrieval, and don't provide their populations with the means to live a healthier, more sanitized existence, don't blame that "pious" driver leaning on his horn, trying not to run you over as he speeds by in his black-fume-spewing vehicle, counting prayer beads while careening crazily around those sacred cows. Just put a handkerchief over your nose and move out of his way.