Religion is often defined today as being based in fear and control. Spirituality is defined as ones path being free from that control. However, it is a great over simplification, and it does a disservice to the heart of religion.
I am both religious and deeply spiritual. I am not controlled by fear, I am lead through love. I have freedom of choice and thought. I don't believe in Hell, it's not even biblical, and I do good because of the love inside of me, not out of fear that God is gonna smite me.
Being religious doesn't mean being lead by fear. It means studying God in depth, through one of the many world religions. It is for some to follow one religion deeply, and to teach and guide others who study that path at all. It is for others to follow a few religions, usually favoring one while being flavored by the others. Still others are not dedicated to any one religion, and take a little from everywhere. The latter call themselves spiritual or interfaith, and can be just as dedicated to their spiritual walk as one who is deeply religious. Then there are folk like me.
I firmly believe in the teachings of Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit. I believe that he had an important message for this stage of human development, and taught that we may become like him if we strive for our potential in love and wisdom.
I also believe in White Buffalo Calf Woman and Wakan Tanka. I believe in White Pearl Woman. I believe in the Blue Star Kachina. I believe in Ganesh and Krishna and others. I believe in one God, one Divine consciousness which is more complex than all of the concepts of God and Goddess throughout all human existence. It permeates everything, and creation is one expression of the Divine. I am a monistic panentheist. I consider myself Christian and deeply religious.
I am a priest and minister. Those are my job description, and they don't make me better than anyone else. They simply say that the vast majority of my time is spent studying religious philosophy, learning spiritual truths, and developing spiritual gifts and learned skills. It means that if you need a blessing, spiritual guidance, a cleansing, a marriage, a spiritual reading or many other services, you may come to me, and I may be able to help. If you need a doctor, a baker, an automechanic, or a lawyer, the best I can do is pray that you find a good one.
Priestess, priests, shaman, and other such religious and spiritual leaders are still needed. Someone who dedicates themselves full time to spiritual service can help in a lot of ways. Some use these titles to control and manipulate others, often through fear; however, there are good spiritual leaders out there.
How to spot a good spiritual/religious leader:
1. They will lead you to knowledge and to finding your own understanding, rather than telling you what you have to believe.
2. Even if they believe in ideas such as Hell, it is not the focus of their teaching. Instead, they teach you about the love of God and the love inside of you.
3. While they may have their own rigid dogma they follow, they don't try to impose their dogma on you. They may share about it, but they don't tell you that you have to follow it.
4. They do not gossip, nor badmouth others.
5. They are kind and generous with time and materials. *
6. They are not jealous if you talk to another spiritual leader. The best spiritual leaders encourage you to seek wisdom from a few sources outside of themselves.
7. They learn from you as well. Each person has a unique perspective, and we can all learn from one another.
8. They admit when they don't know something and may even refer you to other sources of knowledge, including other teachers and students.
9. They admit when they are wrong, and do whatever they can to make things right.
10. They are humble and not boastful. If they talk at all about the things they can do, it is to make others aware in case their services are needed. They do not boast, lord their skills and experience over others, nor do they engage in one-upmanship. Because of this humility, others respect them naturally.
This list is just a beginning. Follow your gut instinct, and ask others who have used their services or who know them. You will get unfavorable reports of some good ministers, and some favorable reports on bad ministers, but asking others is a good starting place.
* Good spiritual leaders may be generous with time and materials, but they are not usually wealthy. While they will help for free wherever they can, especially donating time and/or materials to charity when they can, but it is important that you compensate them for their time, effort and materials whenever you can. Your generosity allows full time service and for us to help others who do not have the means to make a donation. It is our joy, our calling, our soul our life and also our job.