“I’m spiritual, not religious”

“I’m spiritual, not religious”

Spiritual no Religious 2I wish I had a back massage for every time I’ve heard this line. What gets me most is the presupposition it stems from, that “spiritual” is the assumed equivalent of “good” and “religious” is the assumed equivalent of “evil.” Who made up this language game?

Honestly, who decided that “spiritual” was a term that would be used to contradict religion and as evidence of personal enlightenment, without further ado. And does anyone using the phrase ever stop to think what they actually mean by it? I think what is usually meant is that religion is man-made tradition whereas spiritual is a phenomenon that happens on a personal level, free from all “man-madeness” and tradition, and thus… true?

My experience has been exactly opposite. I spent the first 20 years of my journey in Christianity believing that I was spiritual and not religious and have come to realize I had been imposing a false dichotomy on my faith. The main reason I pitted spirituality against religion was because of a profound ignorance of historic Christianity. I say “profound” because I spent nearly 10 of those 20 years in formal training in Biblical and theological studies. Somehow in that time period I was never made aware of the real story of Christianity. That’s like studying capitalism and never running across Adam Smith. I just assumed that my little universe of self-taught Evangelicalism was true and anything falling outside of its parameters was just religious, i.e. cold, calculated ritual void of any emotional or heartfelt concern for relationship with God. But what I encountered with the historic Church was a religion that was far more advanced spiritually than I ever dreamed of being as a Christian solo artist.

I don’t like the broad and confused stroke with which this phrase paints religion. Religion need not have anything to do with cold, calculated ritual. Indeed, it can become that, but spirituality can just as easily morph into flighty emotionalism with no core. If one is taking Scripture as their guide, religion can either be pure or false. “Pure religion,” writes St. James, is to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).” And tradition can either be tradition of men or Apostolic Tradition. The New Testament is replete with admonition to cling to the Apostolic Tradition.

I have found the phrase, “I am spiritual, not religious,” and its redheaded stepchild, “I follow Jesus, not tradition,” to be manifestations of spiritual pride, not spiritual enlightenment. These phrases are almost always accompanied by a corresponding lifestyle where the rules are made up as you go and all things are ultimately justifiable in the light of “personal revelation.” It is a world of Christianity where there is no human authority, save oneself; where millions of individual “popes” abound, but the Church is nonexistent; it’s essentially a personal religious-potpourri not unlike New Age adherence, with slightly different language.

To claim to be spiritual and not religious is like claiming to have taken a swim without getting wet. Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition in the attempt to understand and practice it. The next time you hear the phrase, or, God forbid, say the phrase, remember that it has no meaning whatsoever. It is perhaps one of the emptiest phrases ever developed in the English language.

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507 thoughts on ““I’m spiritual, not religious”

  1. I just left a great response to this. It would’ve blown your mind…then I had to reset my WordPress password and somehow it was lost. I don’t have the energy to re-type it. Ah, well.

  2. Great article. How would you phrase a response to praise people for the tiny step they have taken away from secularism and move them toward a more complete understanding of spirituality?

  3. Actually your page template is cool. I’m not hatin’.

    I did enjoy the article…I think there is room for some semantic deconstruction here; i.e. meaning and language as it relates to ones unique worldview and perspective. I don’t think all people who would say that phrase would mean the same thing by it…but they would all be TRYING to say something. I’d be interested in what is behind the phrase for them…as you explored in your second paragraph. Based on your presupposition on their meaning I agree with your reaction. Cool to hear about your personal experiences with “religion.”

    • Thanks, Josiah. Good points. The specific interpretation I chose to pick on was the one I have found to be most prominent in the cases I’ve heard it, but you’re right, there are plenty of other ways people can mean it. In the final analysis, I don’t think its as much a misunderstanding of “spirituality” as it is of “religion.” Religion seems to have become universally accepted as dead ritual. Sad.

      • I agree with M. Josiah! And, I totally get what you are saying Eric! If I would have read this a few months ago, I would have been in complete agreement with you! However, I’ve sort have gone through a spiritual journey over the past few months and, although I’ve never actually uttered this phrase (and probably never will), I sort of understand where people might be coming from when they say it. I’m kind of at a crossroads between having a sense that this is something bigger than myself out there, but I’m not sure that feel comfortable subscribing to any of the religions that I know about. So, I guess that’s what that phrase means for me! And… that last sentence… Ouch!! lol Great post though! :-)

  4. What if though, you define spirituality as a love of nature, humanity, and the human spirit, and you show that spirituality by being kind to others, recycling, and interacting with people on a daily basis in order to make the life of anothe person easier? That’s not religion, that’s just being kind.

  5. Thoughtful discussion on the meaning we lend words. I am with you, although I will admit to having used this phrase in the past. Nowadays, the line seems blurred. I do find that the belief in something – be it science, god, others, or your cat – is as helpful as can be in living life with a sense of purpose.

  6. You have a beautiful way with words. I love reading things that “pull back the veil” on ideas that permeate our culture. I have always felt that this phrase has become a prideful way to separate one’s self from the negative thoughts that seem to go hand in hand with religion while still attempting to say that they are somehow “deep”. Great post!

  7. Interesting viewpoint. I’m not on board with religion nor with what the term “spirituality” seems to have devolved into. Mindfulness, perhaps? If religion an attempt to define the concept of the Divine, I find it too confining – in any denomination. My perception is that all disciplines – religions, sciences, philosophies, mathematics – are an attempt to define the concept of the Divine. In that sense, it’s my opinion that it is quite possible to have a unique, logical outlook without strictly adhering to any one discipline or modality.

    Thank you for sharing your view!

    • I have a Personal philosophy, my way, a Natural way that I see that all things work. A paradigm if you will, that allows my person to adjust to new knowledge easily. I loved this comment because, well, it is awesome and I agree 100%. I am not on board with the “religious” title because I do not follow an institution or a tradition or have a share history or experience, even if I do accept the Qur’an nothing else. Additionally, I cannot claim to be spiritual because the context of the word is a bit too open. One is confined to something, the other tells you nothing of the person.

      People ask me daily “How can you believe in God and not have a religion?”….. I ask them “How could you believe in a religion and claim to believe in God?”

      There seems to be a great amount of confusion. If I wanted to worship a man, or man’s rules, or an institution then I would wrap myself up in a religion. Since I personally chose not to do that, and I chose to believe in God, I also accept that I have to do so for myself and by myself.

      Who else could take the burden of my belief? LOL

      • I agree!
        The word ‘God’ is not GOD!
        Each of has to experience spirituality/ God in our own way!
        A perfect description of the taste of a mango is no substitute to actually eating and tasting one, as I just did – a mango from my garden!

    • I agree with you, Margarita. It is an interesting viewpoint, but I still adhere to my being “spiritual” rather than religious. “Spiritual”, to me, is something that comes from within. It’s an attitude, a philosophy. It does not necessarily have to do with religion.

      • Yes, I agree that “Spiritual” is an expression of an internal state and it has no dogma such as religions do. Still, I’m not entirely sure that its current usage, which smacks to me a little of a pop culture thing rather than what you describe, feels entirely accurate to me. It feels a little overused, like “whatever!” I’m more comfortable using the term in a discussion where we can agree on what that means before we proceed. I think we’re on the same page in this case, and I’m grateful for our comment. It’s good to connect! All the best, M

  8. If a person has a relationship with the divine that is unmediated by any man-made rules or dogma, I would say that person really is spiritual but not religious. Nothing wrong with that.

    • Merriam-Webster definition. Religion
      4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
      Just because you don’t hold to the confinements of what one person says about God or their beliefs, doesn’t mean you aren’t religious. How you follow your belief is your “religion.” That doesn’t make you less spiritual though. His point is that we have perverted the meaning of the word religion. Religion isn’t limited to an organization. It isn’t the negative word that everyone has made it out to be. :)

      • That definition agrees with my point. Religion is culturally based and requires human thought and invention to exist. It’s semantics whether you argue in support or against his opinion. And, at the cost of far too many zealots in this world, religion needs redefined if you don’t won’t to include bad connotations with good.

        • Religion is specified to an individual. Everyone who doesn’t affiliate with an organized form of religion, isn’t effected by zealots in the organized religion. Even in that instance, the zealots all have their own form of religion if their beliefs lead them to believe and act differently than a lot of others in that specific belief. It’s using the term incorrectly to broadly cover anyone that has similar beliefs that includes zealots with people in organized religion.

      • Typically I will use the phrase “organized religion”, to define a man-made set of beliefs and requirements to which a follower must adhere (and I believe this is what many people mean when they use the word “religion”). I am happy to say that I am spiritual, and do not follow any organized religion.

    • That’s why one must ask oneself”am I a spiritual being in Human form or a human being in Spiritual form?”…Vedantic philosophy,if one understands well, takes you to the real answer for that. “I”…it is certainly not S.Rajah Iyar or Lisa Shaw!

  9. I think of religion as the vehicle you use to drive your spirituality around so it can accomplish some good. I can feel “spiritual” reading the scriptures; but as James suggests, “religion” means actually putting principles into practice. In my experience, those who use this as an excuse for inaction have either been burned by a religious rep—which is a different issue—or just don’t want the effort/inconvenience that religion demands.

  10. Thank you for this article. You have finally expressed exactly what I try to reason when I hear that phrase. It annoys me to no end when people tell me`they are “spiritual not religious“. Invariably there is an air of condescension that goes with it too.

    Unfortunately we live in world that is riddled with too much moral relativism. Spirituality has a different definitition for different people and everything under the sun becomes justified according to one`s “spiritually enlightened“ whims and fancies.

    “Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition in the attempt to understand and practice it.“- perfect line.

    I`m bookmarking this page.

  11. I believe the “negative” term religion has been cut and diced to the point where it is unrecognizable now as just, religion. I associate the negative term religion to coincide with the Word that speaks against the “religion of men”. Two completely different things…

  12. I think you have a point about the false dichotomy, which you state fairly well in your final paragraph (“Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition”). But to some extent, that point is unfalsifiable: *any* individual’s idiosyncratic spiritual practice would become, by your definition, a “religious tradition”, no matter how erratic or unshared, even though consistency and communion are generally considered essential to any religious tradition. So while there are certainly plenty of cases where a self-proclaimed “spiritual but not religious” person is actually ignoring the religious elements to which he adheres, I don’t think you can fairly assert it is true in every case.

    I also think your argument is based upon a straw man — the “spiritual = good / religion = bad” interpretation you start with. I have no doubt this is what some people think, but certainly not all. I believe there are a large number of people for whom being spiritual means they sense the majesty and mystery of the universe to which they belong, and being religious means they accept as largely infallible some human-run organization’s interpretation of this majesty and mystery, and they say they are “spiritual but not religious” because the former does not always imply the latter. I don’t see how even a rock-solid religious believer can see that view as logically impossible. After all, if there are, say, 100 different religions in the world, and you believe in one of them (say, Christianity), then the only difference between you and a “spiritual but not religious” person is that you think that 99 of them don’t quite explain the majesty and mystery right, and the s.b.n.r. person thinks that 100 of them don’t.

    • Bill, is individual spirituality free from being “human-run,” and is it not a particular human’s “interpretation of this majesty and mystery”? Individual spirituality differs in no way from organized religion in these respects, just less people involved. :)

      • If you’re suggesting that numbers don’t make a difference, then I guess you believe that polygamy differs in no way from monogamy. :)

        There is nothing wrong with the argument that any form of spirituality, even just one person’s idiosyncratic sense and practice, could be called a “religion”. Surely that is one definition of “religion”. But it is disingenuous to assert that it is the *only* definition, or that it is the definition that people always have in mind when they say, “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”

    • I think you summed it up perfectly. I feel this is why most people pronounce themselves spiritual but not religious. A lack of faith in organized religion but not in the existence of a deity. I think the dissatisfaction with religion but the need to convey their belief in a higher power is what drives people to use this expression.

  13. I understand your point. My experience with religion in America is that it’s about making sure you go to church everyweek not about living in the likeness of Christ. That’s why I no longer go to church I still talk with God daily. I still fellowship with other Christians but I just don’t feel I have to validate my spiritualism by making sure everyone sees me at church. If I practice what Jesus preaches people will know I’m a Christian without having to broadcast it or tebow in the hallway.

    • Going to church isn’t about validating spiritualism, it’s about being part of the community that is the body of Christ. It’s about supporting others and receiving support from others. It’s about serving Christ by serving others with others. Yes it is also about accountability. Faith as Christ taught by word and deed is personal but not private. Certainly faith and faithfullness occur outside the walls and halls of the Church or a church. Church, communities of faith should encourage and impower ministry of the individual to offer in their lives away from the community. Church, the body is not a manmade institution. It was created and sustained by God in which God offers us the opportunity and priviledge to be a part of and work in and through.

      • You don’t have to go to church to be part of the community. Any time a group of believers gather is fellowship and that is what the bible states, to fellowship with other believers. Church is a man made institution to take attendance not to keep accountability. It so individuals can get their gold star for being religious and then live the rest of the week how they choose. I get far more accountability, support, and guidance from friends and family than from an individual preaching their interpretation of the bible.

        Jesus has more patience, kindness, love, and forgiveness than I was ever shown at a church. I only began to realize this when I made my relationship private. I believe there is something about taking the plank out of your own eye before trying to take the dust out of someone else’s.

        • Your reply gives food for thought. The Church, ecclesia, aka the Church is God’s creation if one is to believe Acts and the letters of Paul and other new testament writings. Second, the Church, as an institution rather than the body, with instituional goals and methods, and failures certainly could be considered a human creation or best said, alteration to the original Body of Christ. It is changing from that Body to the Institution where much if not all the trouble begins. Yes many of these institutions do have hypocracy and often reject in action the Word they say they want preached. In doing so they have stopped being the Body of Christ, and started becoming an institution. But, there is accountability if again you are to believe Paul, and Jesus, who sent the Holy Spirit, who created and sustained the Church as the Body of Christ. Such accountability should be offered through grace and humility not righteous judgement.

          Some preachers interpret and preach as their’s is the final if not correct interpretation. I do not do that. I study, reflect on other’s thoughts, pray and then offer my humble understanding. I always invite persons to consider what I preach and use that as a part of their own understanding as they work to strengthen their personal faith. I always welcome questions or disagreements for it is in those discussions where we all learn.

          If you are living out faith in a group of believers, aka a fellowship, then you are part of the Body and Church. You also are not private in your relationship.

        • Exactly, well put. I also beleive the scriptures validates your comments. The Sermon on The Mount, Mathew 6 “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven…” …” But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen…” I like you realized that when I took my relationship private that my relationship became reacher and my understanding of the love of God increased. In my home we gather together each evening to read the scriptures together; discuss with our children. I tell my children that their relationship with God to a personal relationship and they need to cultivate it.

    • Well said…but my additional thoughts on this are that many weekly church attendees love to talk the talk. But do not always walk the walk. It is almost as if they think that the things they do and say will be alright with God this coming Sunday, so they can do or say whatever. They make the non-church attendees feel like they are less of a person and preach their Christian views like they know more. I am a Christian, I have attended many of churches in the past, and I also practice what Jesus preaches. I do not attend and I do know God. Thanks for your reply.

    • I agree that church can feel like an empty formality sometimes. I heard someone once describe that church is the string that holds loose pearls together. We are each a pearl that has the capacity and duty to be doing good everyday everywhere, but church helps to unify and focus that capacity. It enables people to share their good works and be inspired to do more by others who are also doing them. 99% of our “christianity” should be happening Monday through Saturday and then Sunday we ought to come together to celebrate the fruits of that work and find encouragement to take it into the next week.

    • The Apostle Paul says in the book of Hebrews chapter 10 that we,…draw near with a true heart, …hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering,….provoke unto love and to good works, and…..not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together… All that to say that if we, who claim to be Christians, are indeed obligated to first read the bible, second, pray to God for his guidance in it’s instruction to us, and thirdly, follow the practices of those that preceded us in the New Testament of this faith. Ask God for his Holy Spirits guidance in leading us to a group of believers (church), and then to ask what part, or gift God wants you to demonstrate to the unbelieving masses of unsaved humanity. Or, we could go on and make up our own little spiritual cocoon to make us “feel” better.

  14. I totally agree. Following Jesus is not a religion, it’s a spiritual relationship and not man made rules. Truely the Bible is God breathed and He alone is the author that the human beings were just the vessel used. Thank you for sharing this truth about Jesus.

  15. I appreciate your view, but I don’t share it. I think man as a whole has managed to put a lot of dogma and rules into something that is divine. Even Jesus struggled with religion while on earth. I hear the danger in what I’m saying–each of us feeling that God alone provides us with our moral compass and only we can hear what’s meant for us. Lots of room there for misinterpretation and “crazies”. But religion is full of that also . . .

  16. I’m not even sure what spiritual means outside of a religious context. I get the whole one with the universe thing but it seems to have veered into the realm of supernaturalism. I’m taking about the whole third eye, astral projection, spirit guide type of stuff. I have no idea what to even make of it anymore.

  17. I see this as positive, since it says quite loudly that we’re now recognising that we’re spiritual beings without the need of a priest to drum it into us and tell us what we must or must not do. We all can read the words of prophets, gurus, saints, and supposedly God. We all can commune in whichever way best suits us. Perhaps the time has come to wave goodbye to many of the outdated religious institutions.

  18. Whilst you bring up good points. I must disagree with you. And I would just like to add here that the word ‘religion’ stems from the latin word ‘relihios’ meaning ‘to control’, whereas the word ‘spiritual’ comes from the latin word ‘spirituoso’ meaning ‘freedom’.

    • That definition of religion is hard to square with St. James’ definition, as noted in the article. Unless one believes that helping widows and orphans is controlling them.

      • Lol! But can’t helping someone lead to being controlling of them? Like your mother directing you to wash the dishes, or clean your face or brush your teeth or telling you when to come home? (as a child and young adult of course) and you feel like you are being controlled but really she’s just ultimately trying to help you. And when you help others, most times you take their burdens on to yourself, and slip into the extremity of controlling them through and with your advice.

        I love your post and relate, because as a college student you meet many different people and everyone has got something interesting about them. I heard a girl & a guy (they were friends–coincidence?) say that phrase to me, and i quietly thought, now what the hell does that mean? and we all sat down and discussed it. Enlightening discussion btw; but what they said was that the things that they experienced in church organizations and atmospheres are what pushed them away from “religion”. They don’t believe in religion. Its all hoopla and a way for religious leaders to make money and get ahead. Everyone in the church is judgmental, always with something to say, and it doesn’t really seem like the true atmosphere to praise God, and be one with God, and fellowship amongst people who also believe in God and Christ, when the actions amongst them are not truly Christ-like.

        However, we all talk about prayer and going to heaven and being with God or coming back as a butterfly or whatever, but everyday having and being apart of religion, looks worse and worse, but personal simplistic spirituality looks better and better.

        Hmmm. Just adding another point to the “s.b.n.r” vision. Me personally, I believe what I believe, I am how I am and thats why I most definitely agree with what you said about not having to (i went back to look for it and couldnt find it..am i crazy?) be outloud with it to BE it. Because if you ARE it, then you ARE w/o having to go church. And isn’t it truly about your relationship with God? because you are held accountable for the things you do, bc whether spiritual or religious, everyone’s trying to do the right thing.

        And, if I’m understanding the meaning of “false dichotomy” correctly, why does it have to be religion or spirituality? Why can’t it be a mix of both, suited for one’s own taste and personal relationship with God?

        Kinda Crazy Questions.

        But really, no matter if you’re spirtual or religious, God doesn’t change. We do. [If that's who one believes in] and if one is really ridding themselves of what religion is to them, and chasing after God, to be Christ-like you’re always going to be led back to the Bible, and you will want to fellowship in this..leading to Church.

        Seems cyclical to me. I’m sorry I’m long-winded. But this is very interesting to me, just because this discussion can get very deep when it comes to people, especially people my age – college students and young adults trying to find self and come into their own, experiencing and changing so much all the time.

        I’m gonna write on this! I’ll link your page and post too my page when I do. So come read!

        && i really like your post. Got the juices flowin!
        <3 Samm.

      • I believe that whatever your heart desires to do is what you want whether it is for good or for bad. I used to want only to do bad things, but truly God doesn’t control people, it’s what you really want in your heart and if some people subject themselves to religion based on trying to earn their way to God, then they really don’t desire in their heart, just in their mind. My heart is now desiring for God to use me for His good. Thank you again so much for sharing your thoughts and giving us this information to think of. I pray that God will bless you and your family.

  19. think what is usually meant is that religion is man-made tradition whereas spiritual is a phenomenon that happens on a personal level, free from all “man-madeness” and tradition, and thus… true?
    True. Nice post.

  20. This is so, so good, especially this: “I have found the phrase, “I am spiritual, not religious,” and its redheaded stepchild, “I follow Jesus, not tradition,” to be manifestations of spiritual pride, not spiritual enlightenment.”

    I have yet to meet someone who said they were spiritual but not religious who didn’t have some form of contempt for those who freely admitted to being religious.

  21. The phrase is often used as a cop out by those who don’t wish to deal with the conflict that inherently exists in religion. We come across something that exists in our religion that we maybe don’t like the sound of; it seems socially/ethically/morally okay, but the religion is seemingly very clear that it is sinful or wrong. So, instead of tackling the issue, learning more about it, researching, and praying – we convenience ourselves by simply saying that we no longer like religion or that we still believe in God but not in one that doesn’t allow [fill in the blank].

    People don’t like conflict. Religion breeds conflict, inner and otherwise. But that is what is supposed to be so great about it. It challenges us, causing us to question ourselves and grow in character, fellowship, and faith.

    Thanks for the great discussion you’ve started, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Maggie Red, thanks. I don’t usually comment on non-work matters. This post and your reply struck a cord in me. I have used the term of being deep in spirit, not religious. Why?

      It is a charged word that has many different meaning. I find it almost impossible to convey what *I* feel when *not-I* has a deep and complex feelings and beliefs associated with the term.

      I was discussing this very topic with a work associate. The old hebrew word for forty and many are very similar. I buy it rained for many days for Noah. I don’t believe it had to be exactly 40 days. Or that Moses was lost in the desert for 40 years, literally.

      Of course I could be incorrect.

      Isn’t part of the walk really thinking about all this?

      My facebook landing picture is me. I have rented a camel. I’m beginning the reverse walk from the Red Sea re-tracing a part of the path Moses took.

      My final rational is too often the name of religion is used to enslave others. I begin each wake up with 1 hr of thanks and asking for enlightenment. That is my version of praying. Not re-peating the words of others.

      Some strongly feel I’m ‘going to hell’ because I don’t things their way. OK. I’ll take my chances since I’m coming from my heart, and with deep faith.

  22. Interesting post and an excellent viewpoint.

    However, do you think most people make claims like, “I am spiritual, not religious,” because the churches have stopped teaching the Word of God long ago?

    Has the love of money, that’s so prominently displayed by the modern church, turned people off from the church? And in an attempt to find God, many have come to know and love phrases like the one you find so empty.

    The original church has long been replaced by, not as you say, “popes,” but by men and women who were supposed to preach and teach the Word of God, but have decided to deface and devalue God’s Word because of their greed. It started even in Paul’s day and has continued through the centuries.

    The whole world is lost. The only road map to God is His word. There is no other place on this planet where salvation can be found, except the Word of God.

    I like your site and I believe it has value. I, too, have a blog where I try to encourage people. I don’t always get it right, none of us do.

    Those that love God, even those who use phrases that are both popular and unpopular, are just trying to find their way.

    For those who seek glory for themselves, they will probably remain searching all their lives.

    Thank you for this spirited post. And congrats on being FP.

    If you get some free time, please visit our family blog:

    http://www.Cop-A-Squat.com

  23. My Aunt Peggy died in her early 70s. I visited her shortly before her death and we talked about this. Both of us were raised as Catholics and left that faith to travel a different road. My aunt seriously studied all the major religions and in that conversation she said she found that Zen Buddhism to be the most peaceful while Christianity and Islam were the most warlike and brutal.

    In addition, I have devout Christian friends that will respond that true Christians do not follow a warlike or brutal path but history shows us that millions that claimed to be Christians or Muslims, for that matter, interpret religion in different ways.

    I understand that there are about 40,000 different Christian sects and that they may not all agree on what the Bible teaches us. And that is understandable since the Bible was written by people that lived thousands of years ago and belonged to cultures that think very differently then we do today, especially in the West where we are more literal thinkers then metaphorical.

    • Well said. As a recovering Catholic who currently lives in an area that Jerry Fallwell once described as “the gold buckle on the Bible Belt”, I freely admit that I react to organized religion (particularly Christianity) with mistrust and, quite truthfully, some disdain.

      From my perspective, organized religion, (again, read Christianity since that is what I am most familiar with and surrounded by) seems to be an exclusionary thing – my way or the highway… to hell. It’s based more on people following man-made laws (the Bible was written by men, after all) than developing a “personal relationship with God” – a favorite expression of local Christians.

      One of my favorite (albeit trite) bumper stickers reads “God bless everyone – no exceptions”. Sadly, I do not see this as a Christian/organized religion world-view.

      • Maureen, trust me, you will find few people who understand being jaded by “organized religion” as I do. I’m sure we have many similarities on this point. But the phrase “organized religion” doesn’t help define the problems with some religious paths. Would one prefer “disorganized religion”? Also, how does one steer clear of man-made laws since the one who embarks on a spiritual journey is herself a human being? Are not the “laws” of spirituality (or whatever) determined by you – a human? Is your judgement better than the next guy, and if so by what standard? If spirituality is simply the ideas that occur to a person as they reflect on the supernatural and their life experience what is to assure that they are interpreting it all in truth and not according to some confused or pathological mental filter? Just some thoughts. Cheers.

        • Eric, I appreciate your views and your reply; however, (there’s always a “however”, isn’t there – it’s one of the things which makes this such a wonderful discussion) I’m not sure I agree with your contrast of organized religion with individual spirituality couched in terms of “interpreting it in all truth and not according to some confused or pathological mental filter”.

          Each of us views all of our existence through what we feel is our own truth and definitely through our mental filters. This applies to founders of organized religions as well as solo soul seekers – think Jim Jones….

          Is my judgement better than the next guy? For my life, I would have to say that the answer is yes, at least in many instances. Enlightened, intelligent or wise at the “other guy” may be – he hasn’t walked a mile in my moccasins – he may be asking different questions, or seeking answers from a completely different perspective.

          One of my “issues” with organized (perhaps “mainstream” is an alternate term?) is that many do not encourage individual thought, but rather blind adherence to dogma. For those individuals for whom this works – I am sincerely happy – and perhaps at times even envious – it seems simpler to be able to say ‘Yes’ and stay that course, follow that path, no matter what (and I’m not over-simplifying this – I know people for whom this is absolutely the case – their faith is never questioned, it is strong, unshakeable and a huge part of who they are).

          Perhaps it is the questioning/rebellious side of me which cannot be content with this answer. In the end, we all must seek our own truths, and how, when or whether we find them is the fabric on which the human experience is stitched.

          Thank you again for this post – you have started an “Important Discussion” which has made so many of us think even more on who we are.

  24. For me, I’ve used that phrase in the past simply to mean, “I’m a stone atheist, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an experience of the numinousness of the universe.” I’ve also used it to mean, “I’m not into organized faith even in the slightest, but I still appreciate Big Questions.”

    I stopped using it when I realized that it had somehow started to mean, “I enjoy thinking about the big stuff but I’m not a member of any organized religion, and please don’t hurt me.”

    At that point, I realized it was effectively an apology for being atheist. I stopped using it then. I am atheist. And I also have an enjoyment of the Deep, Big Questions and the numinous nature of the universe. Those are not part of being religious OR spiritual, although the people on that side of the fence like to act as if they have a lock on it. Those ruminations are part of being human, and they are not the exclusive property of people who go to a special building once a week to compare clothing, whatever that may be.

  25. I think I first heard the phrase being used to identify that faith is a spiritual connection and that religion is could be interpreted as ritual – I felt it was like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s one of those phrases that people adopt thinking it makes their faith more approachable – but I have always thought it to be a bit of a lost leader.

  26. Interesting post. And I say that because, being surrounded by Hindus, and being a Hindu myself, I have heard this phrase time and time again. I think, at least for Hinduism, it has to do with the stigma that surrounds practicing Hindus, especially among the younger generations. We have seen our parents and grandparents practice this religion, and yet we do not see how their rituals and practices lead to a higher realm of knowing God. The younger generation tends to question a lot of these ritualistic forms of practicing the Hindu religion, and naturally distance themselves from it. But that is usually because they do not understand what religion is.

    I don’t mean to write a novel, but your post made me think (success for the day!). The concept clicks when you truly delve deeper into religion (and I’m referring mainly to what I understand of Hinduism – this may be true of all religions, but I am not well versed enough in Christianity or other religions to speak for them). Spirituality is a way of relating to your soul, and perhaps taking it to the level of creating a set of guidelines or values to lead your spirit/soul towards a direction of your choosing. Religion is showing reverence to a God, or higher spirit that will lead you towards a goal, and in the case of organized religion, may include participating in certain rituals and tasks to aid you in relating to this God or higher spirit. Take away all the frills, and spirituality and religion are the same concept – devoting a piece of your mind and energy to pursuing the definition of something that is unknown to you, and a set of principles put forth to guide your journey.

    So separating spirituality and religion, and adding an air of condescension when saying you are “spiritual” may indeed be an indicator that said person doesn’t truly understand either concept. However, I don’t agree with the fact that these people who say they are “spiritual and not religious” are empty – I would say they simply don’t understand, or are afraid to be associated with what they may perceive as those “weak and blindly following” religious people. Everyone defines their journey towards their goal in their own way.

  27. Pingback: “I’m spiritual, not religious” « muddiedwater

  28. I too, have had the experience of finding that phrase to be the herald to a lot of vapid self-centred emotionalism.

    But I also understand that people use the phrase as short-hand for their frustration and bewilderment at recognising that this creation is undoubtedly spiritual in origin and purpose, but they can’t find a form of religion that they can agree with. Like me, they hear the central tenets of the main western religions and just can’t square them with the experience of living.

    I could go on, but that would take us into the consideration of what might form the basis of a modern approach to concepts of god, divinity, purpose and natural order. And this is not the place to try to do that.

    But thank you for an interesting read.

  29. I’m not Christian. I’m Pagan, but even in our community this can be a problem. For us, it’s mostly because people don’t want the stigma of labeling themselves Pagan in a society where that as seen as a weird and scary other, even if their beliefs fall in line with those of (neo) Paganism. Many people misunderstand the faith, avoid the label, or think that it is much more concrete (such as Wicca only) than it is.

    I, too, get very frustrated with the phrase but for slightly different reasons. If people just fessed up to their religion and embraced it, it would help dispel so much stigma and fear. People could just be who they are.

    Thanks for this interesting article and congrats on FP.

  30. Pingback: “I’m spiritual, not religious” « Life Of A Seventeen Year Old

  31. Great post! I too am guilty of having used this phrase to internally define or measure my level of Christian growth. Although it wasn’t intentionally meant to demean one or the other, but I have received or sensed through various teachings and some conversations with others that “religious” portrayed a more Pharisee type of view. Your post was enlightening and I also agree that the term “religious” and “spiritual” are connected and also play a vital role in the foundations of Christianity. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Reblogged this on daniel.favand and commented:
    Eric Hyde offers some thoughts on the term “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) arguing that it imposes a false dichotomy on one’s faith. Most poignantly, he writes “But what I encountered with the historic Church was a religion that was far more advanced spiritually than I ever dreamed of being as a Christian solo artist.”

    Hyde offers some good thoughts so far as he goes, but he remains firmly within Christian thought, not considering that a perhaps those who describe themselves this way aren’t just distancing themselves from Christian “religion,” but also incorporating aspects of other world religions into their spirituality.

    Then, of course, there is the argument that in some ways the SBNR’s are in their own sort of tradition, one of individualism and pragmatism. While perhaps not a traditional “religion” in the Western Christian sense, they are certainly not free of culturally imposed ways of thinking about their faith or spirituality.

  33. That false dichotomy gives you less of both spirituality and religion and puts you on a difficult road where you have to reinvent the wheel for your Christian walk. It’s good to remember we are walking not only in Christ’s footsteps, but in the footsteps of the Christians who followed Christ before us.

  34. I agree with everything you said and I want to hug you. I often feel as though I am the only one in the room that flinches when someone says, “It’s a relationship, not a religion,” or exactly as you said, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” I am so surprised to be on the Freshly pressed page and find this… Thank you. Cheers.

  35. Anyone who is truly spiritual knows that Christianity was a marketing decision. Religion was created not by Jesus, but by a group of people who want to control another group.
    Religion must be abandoned completely to be spiritual. It’s a cute idea, and a nice set of “guidelines” but it doesn’t lead you anywhere. It’s just a label. The “I follow Jesus therefore I am spiritual” is just another one of Christianity’s many slogans. Yeah yeah, we get it, it’s not just about following the ten commandments perfectly and putting your right hand over left when receiving the holy sacrament of communion (I was raised Catholic)… but just believing that a fictitious superhero (jesus) must be “followed” deviates from true spirituality and becomes just another “rule”.
    True spirituality just is. Simple. Nothing added. You don’t need to follow anyone or be “Christ-like”. Humans are spiritual beings already. No heaven, no hell. Just living life and enjoying it while you’re here.
    The Jesus idea is cute. But then again, he’s just the protagonist to a very ancient science-fiction story.

    • I don’t think you can abandon religion and still be spiritual, at least not according to the actual definition of the word: “concerned with religious values”, “of or relating to sacred matters”, “ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal “, “of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena”.

      Maybe it’s kind of like the way we think of the word gay – we all know it can be used to mean happy, but it seldom is anymore.

  36. You’re right. “Spiritual” has become meaningless. I will cease and desist, but on to the tone of condescension–there were a few notes of, though barely detectable of course, in your writing. We all get so hung up on labels and protection of our own label that in the end it does sound like the tower of babel. I’m now left with nothing to call myself without sounding snooty, though I’ve also noticed it’s not truly descriptive of what I think and “religion” is held, well, by religions.

  37. We’re told Russian Communists were neither spiritual nor religious. But things changed when the then, and most famous until now, Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev went on record, saying – religions build nations.

    A good thoughtful read indeed. You bisected the subject so well.

  38. I’ve often regarded being “religious” as a state of following a set of belief system, where there’s usually a higher power (god) and you reach externally for it. Spiritualism is to me, an act of reaching inwardly for strength and goodness where all the power is. Some people are religious while others are spiritual but some are both.

    I was raised as a Christian but I drifted away because (excuse this if it’s weird) I find that Christianity doesn’t resonate with my soul, and I don’t believe there’s a God. I give up church and instead, seek a fulfilling life being ‘not religious, but spiritual’, meaning I adopt my own belief system (call it a religion?) where I learn to follow intuition and beauty and lead a rich inner life and connect myself on a spiritual level with other things in this world.

    I think the difference between me and you is the interpretation of the word ‘religious’. You’re saying not-blindly-following-religion (yes?) while I’m saying I-don’t-have-a-religion. Maybe I should get rid of that word altogether and next time someone asks me, I could simply say I don’t have a religion.

    I confess that your post confused me a little but thanks for bringing me to this new thought.

  39. I share with you three things… I loved your thoughts on the phrase referenced (and now follow you), to the young party just ahead of me I offer this…
    “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”
    ― Kahlil Gibran
    and I’ll share my sameness to point here… (http://wordsthathavemeaning.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/what-do-you-want/ ) a work called,”What do you want?”©

    Thank you for your honesty… it shows through this writing.

  40. Please answer this for me: when I say that I find solace, or sanctuary, or calm…in nature, and if I define that as being spiritual, do you assume that I think that being spiritual is good and being religious is “evil”? I hope not. I was rather put off by your assumption that those who say to you that they are spiritual and not religious are equating the first with good and the latter with evil. Wow. I would hope to see a bit more generosity of spirit than I am seeing in this post.

  41. I love the truth you display in such simple language. thank you for not decorating your thoughts with undue and over the top phrasing. this was beautifully said.

  42. Pingback: “I’m spiritual, not religious” « Welcome to f1solutionslko.com

  43. I usually don’t comment on things like spirituality as it’s an intensely personal thing for most people. I don’t really ascribe a label to myself, but I have given churches their chances over the years.

    I never had a problem with God and still don’t. The problem I had was getting comfortable in a church. Even inside the same sect, each individual church carries its own flavour depending on who’s ministering in it. You get the patient, gentle pastoral types in some; the bible thumping sort in others and everything in between.

    Why do some of the messengers act like it’s more about them than the message? Why must there be an ego at the altar?

  44. It has been months since I checked out the “freshly pressed” section….I am just pleasantly surprised that something on the topic of religion/spirituality has been freshly pressed! Great post, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  45. Pingback: From religious to spiritual | March of the Gypsies

  46. Well written, powerful and thought provoking post. This is a huge topic and you introduce it well…and there’s a lot more to be explored/said here. What about the challenge of teachers to bring some sense of meaning, something deeper into the classroom and into their interactions with children but without using dogma or favouring any particular religion? Can that be done though helping and encouraging people to connect with their own very personal way of knowing there’s ‘something more’? I can’t really describe it in detail here but here’s a link to an amazing book on this topic
    http://passageworks.org/rachael-kessler-3/rachael-kessler-2
    I agree the term ‘spiritual’ can be used in a wishy washy way, but I don’t think it’s helpful to dismiss the term outright or to say it’s always connected to religion in some form. You’ve fired me up…I might need to write on this myself now! Thank you:-)

  47. When I first read the title for this post I was like, “Oh, my. Another we-are-the-world-new-age-spirituality post with 2 thumbs up from wordpress!” Glad to know it was quite the opposite! Loved your post! Couldn’t agree more!

  48. I approach this reply with caution, that said I forge on…
    Spirituality does exist, whether it has anything to do with our conception of religion is another story.I agree that the ” I’m spiritual not religious” statement is thoughtless. Mainly because it shows lack of thought, more precisely lack of honesty.If the speaker is trying to say they don’t believe in God, then say so.

    Spirituality is confused with religion. Attending church or studying the bible doesn’t necessarily make one spiritual. Nor does the absence of either exclude inner peace.

    My family was driving through a deserted portion of a Navajo reservation in the south west. We pulled off the road to watch a massive thunderstorm approach. Out of no where an elderly Navajo man appeared. he started to speak; he told us why earth had sent the storm, he talked about the balance of nature and our lives. His tired old voice voice trailed off; I turned to thank him but he was gone. Desperate to find him we drove back and forth along that road. He had vanished.

    Never before or since that encounter have I felt as “spiritual”.He is responsible, in so many ways for how I now view the world. Spirituality is not religion, rather reverence and thanks for our delicate existence. Spirituality is a personal awakening. Many find it in the bible, or like me – at the side of a deserted highway.

    Although declaring to be “spiritual, not religious” may be annoying – may I suggest a little tolerance. Faith is not defined by God, Mohamed or Buddha. Spirituality on the other hand defines acceptance and open-mindedness Spirituality doesn’t judge or exclude.It may not come with hail Mary’s or commandments, it certainly doesn’t expect donations, or tweet. Spirituality is simply a way of saying our world is a wonderful place full of infinite possibilities. .

  49. Wrong and presumptuous in many ways. a) the phrase does not mean the same thing to all people. b) the phrase does not imply the speaker thinks religion is ‘evil’ (talk about meaningless terms, try defining that one without reference to a supreme evil being, and you will find your self trapped in circular logic), but merely inaccurate and misleading c) ‘religion’ is normally associated with large institutions with much dogma, which many people do not wish to be associated with. d) agnosticism could fit this label although it is more of a statement of belief than any practice, although agnostics may certainly practice. e) perhaps people who use it seek ‘spiritual’ *experiences* while trying to avoid pre-built conceptual systems, belief in deities or the afterlife, etc.

    Your statements may or may not be true of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ Christians you have encountered, but these are a tiny subset of the people using the label, and the things you know about their thinking and lifestyles are a tiny subset of what could be known. ‘consensus reality’ does not look the same even from the vantage points of things very near to each other… so much less so from where i stand to where you stand. groups are not uniform or fungible.

    quantum indeterminacy, psychic relativity, entanglement, sheldrake, cognitive science, blah blah blah

  50. This phrase annoys me too, but I think it depends somewhat on the spirit in which it is said. If it is said in a patronising, anti-tradition, judgemental way then it sucks. But some people just mean that they want a relational faith (where they believe God is close to them) rather than a “religious” (ie based on rules and legalism and rituals) faith. I heard someone say that “religion is man’s efforts to get closer to God, while the relational forms of Christianity are all about god wanting to get closer to man”. Some would argue that all religious effort is null, simply because it is God who has bridged the gap by sending Jesus. Nothing we can do religiously will get us closer to God – we can already go there thanks to grace.

  51. I think you are right about the man-madeness feel to religion that self-described spiritual people think they are side-stepping when they plump for spirituality. However, I think you are wrong that they think religion is evil since it apparently stands opposite to the natural goodness of spirituality.

    I think much more likely in most cases is that spiritual people feel that religion has either been debunked (they probably can’t be bothered to go into why and how) or that it has simply gone stale from centuries of musty decay in cold churches. In short, it is old-fashioned and in today’s world, at least for people attracted to ‘spirituality’, nothing could be more off-putting.

    I also disagree with you that it is impossible to uncouple genuine spirituality from religion since you will simply be making things up to suit yourself. I am neither spiritual nor religious, but I can imagine someone staring out of the window and sensing the hugeness of space and time. This is closer to what I imagine a real spiritual experience to be, rather than what people often mean when they say they are spiritual i.e. that they aren’t as interested (or so they think) in money and material stuff. I think a lifetime of quiet thinking about your life experiences and mistakes, the almost painful nostalgia for time lost and ebbing away but all mixed with a profound sense of the richness and colour of the experiences you had is as spiritual as anything religions and New Age nonsense have to offer. And this can be had outside of organised religions. You just need to have had a rich life and a sense of fondness for it.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your article.

  52. Pingback: What People Say

  53. That’s pretty intense…I’m glad there’s really something “new” featured today. Anyway, in connection to what you have said there, can I just say “I’m not religious, but I follow the golden rule?”

    See, I’m definitely not the person to talk to regarding this stuff. Just sayin’.

  54. For a while when I was questioning my religion, I said this. And yes, I did stop and think. I think it just meant something else to me than it did to everyone else.

    To me, it meant, “I don’t believe in the religions, but I believe in… something”. Meaning that I was so sick of Christians telling me that I believed in nothing ie I have a hole in my soul, detached from humanity etc etc, that I wanted to hit back by saying that wasn’t true. By ‘spiritual’, I meant that I believed in things that held heavy significance in the world, that I wasn’t hollow or shallow, but people just took it mean ‘I believe in religion, just not strictly’.

    I cannot tell you how much it pissed me off. So I stopped saying it.

    Now I realise I was never spiritual. And what’s wrong with that? It doesn’t mean I’m discompassionate, or shallow… It certainly doesn’t make me nihilistic. It just means I don’t believe in god or deities.

    I think it just means I have more sense than most, who I view as living in fairytales. It just means I’m grounded onto earth.

  55. I enjoyed that read, thank s for your blog, really well thought out and written and in a sense helped redeem the meaning of the words spiritual and religous.I to struggle with peoples misconceptions of what these phrases mean and can make one somewhat reticent in using them so as not to be associated with the negative conotations of the word.In the end we shouldn’t judge, but if we are to make conclusions ,i would suggest it is better to observe the fruit ,deeds and actions of someones life rather than the word we might or are attributed to them…

  56. I love it here, in Russia, when 6 out of 10 say they are Orthodox Christians, who do not go to churches because they believe in god, but not the god that can be found in the Russian Orthodox Church. Such a mess in the head…

  57. I totally agree Eric. I tend to simply use classical christianity in place of spirituality or religion simply for contextual reasons.

    Our society is getting more aggressive over all religions. Fueled by New atheism movement that started on 9/11, which paints all religions as evil and anti-science. Gradual acceptance of homosexuality, abortion on demand, exploring your sexuality before marriage also hugely contribute towards negative view of those religions that stand in opposition to sexual liberty.

    Spirituality often get a free pass, because like Bhuddism, and other mystic eastern religions, of finding peace, inner-self et cetera appeal to spiritual hungry people because they are a form of freestyle soul seaking often without being bound by dogmas.

    I am sympathetic with a Christian who claim to be spiritual and not religious, because religion as understood by our culture is not religion understood fews years back nor in early church.

    So for contexualization sake, I think I would agree with the use of the tearms, but if one knows what religion is, in its proper form, then I see no need to separate the two.

    Prayson

  58. Rather than assume you know what people mean by the phrase, why not just ask?

    The notions of spirituality and religion are deep oceans that can lead to fascinating dialogue when you are not quick to judge.

    • Bar none, in my experience, every single person I’ve come across, either talking to directly or reading/listening to them describe their spirituality is in fact NOT spiritual. Most have delusions and ignorance about faith, theologies and belief, the world and their place in it, but above all, their interaction with God.

  59. Before this blog I didn’t realize how others interpreted that statement. To me that statement means, I have faith in God, but not so much in man so I do not regularly attend a specific organized service. I do however, have discussions with Christians and non-Christians about our mutual interpretations of the Bible. That’s where the word play gets confusing, because whenever two or three are gathered in His Name is it not a “church”. Can one have the goal of distancing herself from the mess that human’s make (pedophilia, wars, discrimination, hatred) in their misguided understanding of religion and still adhere to Christian faith?

  60. Reblogged this on Diary of An Ugly Kid. and commented:
    And I know that this article is the what which can describe my every thoughts about religion and spirituality. The so called religions are failed to cater my spirituality and at this phase, i know that all are made by minds.

  61. I’ve always thought this, but from another side: I’m an atheist. And as an atheist the idea that people could be spiritual but not religious just seemed odd, as I equate the two. Then again, my ex, a catholic turned atheist, used the phrase himself, in what came to mean, as far as I know, “I don’t think I have any answers to why we experience things the way we do, but sometimes what we experience transcend logic and what seems possible.” He was also a nut, though, so I didn’t entirely take it seriously.

  62. “spiritual not religious” aka “I don’t want to take responsiblity for what my religion is so I’ll use the word spiritual and feel superior to everyone.” It’s also comes in the form “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”, “I practice “x” Christianity which is the only real one.” and “Those parts of the bible I like are the ones that God really meant, and those other inconvenient ones are “obviously” not meant for me”.

  63. I have found that pretty much anyone and everyone who claims to be spiritual – but not religious – usually says that specifically against Christianity. I’ve also found that if they do claim to be a Christian, but spiritual – not religious – their knowledge and walk is about the same as a wet dishrag on a sandy beach. It’s mostly for show, and as you point out, pride. I think they’re largely blind to their own ignorance.

    As for clearly nonChristians who claim to be spiritual and not religious, they’re not just wet rags on a beach; they’re like a windsock, poorly tied during a windstorm. A little bit of Buddha, a little bit of Tao, a little bit of this, and a little bit of Gaia, etc. to the point that I can only pity them in their delusions of “piety and wisdom”.

  64. when people refer spiritual or spirituality they specifically like to detach themselves from the institutions of their religion whether it is Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism etc. Religion generally indicates the traditions and many don’t like to follow traditions hence they refer spiritual.
    Current new jargon on the block is “practicing christian” which raise many eyebrows.
    I prefer the term “Conscious living” which accommodates all the people who live by the rules and have a fellow human consideration and that is what is missing in this current world!

  65. Interesting points, and It’s really cool to see an article about this. I am one of those spiritual but not religous people, you speak about. In my opinion, there is a difference. I do go swimming, and I do get wet, lol!! However and this is just how I see my own belief- it is the organization that makes it religion in otherwords, I am swimming with no direction or plan whereas one who calls himself religous usually has both plans and direction.

  66. YES! Right on, friend! An eloquent and bracing dissection of a vacuous and vapid phrase — all the worse for usually being delivered with an unbearable air of condescension and a nose propped high in the air. People who claim to be spiritual and not religious are really saying, “I want to be taken seriously, but I don’t want to actually work at my relationship with God or devote serious thought to taking any faith tradition or church teaching literally. I’d like to reblog this, with your permission.

  67. I hear that phrase more and more these days, but I think it points to a deeper issue rooted within today’s religious practice.

    I’m not saying religion itself is the culprit. But I think that when people think of “religion”, they perceive the very type of religion that Christ himself condemned. The pharisees in the world… those who were so caught up in rules that they created that they missed the very essence and purpose of that religion: the love within ourselves and others, and spiritual fulfillment it that religion was originally meant to produce.

    And so the issue, truly, is within ourselves. Each person is responsible for their own spiritual fulfillment. Whether you call it religion or spirituality, the real question is are you genuine? Do you really mean it? And does it really mean anything to you?

  68. “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.” – Mark Twain

  69. I think the truth can be expressed through words or spirit. I think many people relate religion to spectacle, tradition, imagery, literature and scripture. I think many believe spirituality, though eternal, is internal. The truth probably exists somewhere between these two extremes.

    As Hafiz wrote: “If you think the Truth can be known from words, If you think the Sun and the Ocean can pass through that tiny opening called the mouth … O, someone should start laughing! Someone should start wildly laughing. Now!”

    Of course, he used words to describe this thought. :)

    Very thoughtful post and thought provoking, as witnessed by the fervent response. Well done.

  70. The thing that I find most intriguing about this whole issue is that no one really knows, apparently. Whether we call it religion or spirituality is of little consequence. What we are trying to understand is, what is going on here or what is this all about? Here we are aware of our existence in a very complex but orderly and balanced universe that surely must be authored by a Creator or much higher intelligence. Yet, no one really knows. Why? If this Creator created us, it must have been for a reason, yet we don’t really know. Of course, many will be very quick to jump up and claim such knowledge but there is little agreement.

    Consequently, it seems to me, we can conclude that God did not intend us to know. Yes, different versions of, so called, “God’s Word” exists but they are all so ambiguous and diverse nothing definite can be deduced.

    There must be a much larger purpose than we are currently able to understand. And I do not believe it is terribly significant what our interpretation of it all is at this point. If it was, surely a loving Creator would be quite clear about it.

    I suspect we are each a story book of different experiences and at different stages of completion. When the final chapter is written and the book closed we will advance to much greater understanding of what we really are.

  71. Love the reasoning in your article here.

    I don’t like it when I hear that line either, or when I hear them describe me as “spiritual” almost in objection to my admitting that I am “religious” because they happen to not to be religious and also happen to like me at the same time. Do people not know that religion is from a belief system which is spiritual in nature? Saying that I am religious means that I am spiritual, and the reverse is common as well.

    I wish they knew.

  72. The only reason I identify myself this way is because I do not belong to any “religion” in the organized sense, so it’s happened to be a good way to clarify my beliefs. I don’t use it to say that anyone who identifies/is identified as religious is evil or bad or wrong; it’s just simply a difference that people understand as speaking more to my individual choices, as, in my experience, religion most commonly denotes someone as belonging to a group. However, I recognize that each person belonging to a religion practices and interprets it at least slightly differently than the rest, so maybe, I ought to stop using that distinction. Until there’s a better way to describe it, though, I will keep using this phrase, though I will likely be a little more mindful of what it can be taken as in the future.

  73. The statement is one that’s long troubled me, too, for far more reasons than we’ll touch on in the back-and-forth here. For me, the entire debate hinges on whether one has had profound, transformative experiences of the Holy Spirit, however we name it, and then found a circle of others also grounded in similar encounters and an ensuing discipline. It’s something that hopefully leads to a living faith tradition where our assumptions and expectations can be tested and validated or reshaped, and our self-delusions and excuses stripped away (preferably gently).
    Without the experience, one faces dry intellect or ritual or custom and habit, which is likely what is being derided as “religion.”
    Without the circle and its spiritual discipline, though, one’s outlook will likely remain self-centered, the insights fail to take root and bear fruit, and one may remain unchanged in his or her daily conduct. This, then, can sit under the smug claim to be “spiritual.” It can even have more to do with an aesthetic than any encounter with the Spirit of the Holy One.
    I’ve been blessed with such circles throughout my adult life, and the friendship of many remarkable men and women. Not all of them, I might add, have been Quaker or even Christian, but all have been filled with the Light described in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. And all have been part of living faith circles.

  74. Whether the person is born to be spiritual is shown on the palm line = between the top-line (which is the reflection of the person’s emotion) and the second or center line (shows intelligence) —–
    (incidentally, the third line, around the bottom of the thumb shows
    the physical life) —– there should be the line called [Spiritual line]
    which is the X mark or the cross in the center of the palm between
    the Top and second line. (got to be independent line = not a part of another line)
    I’ve seen this line on 4 palms which convinced me the person’s
    credibility. (I met number of the leaders of their religious sect though, non of them had one = they are sham)

  75. Only when asked will I say I am agnostic. I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else about something this personal. But that aside, this is an excellent blog on the subject, well done.

  76. I believe “spiritual but not religious” is a category invented by those Americans who have left the Christianity of their birth and embraced Hinduism and other Eastern mystic practices. They can’t call themselves Hindus because they are afraid of being clubbed with the cows, the caste system and other unsavoury aspects of Hindu culture. Consequently, they proclaim their freedom by resorting to this subterfuge of being “SBNR”.

  77. I think that “spiritual” is the experience of the divine on an individual level, and “religious” is the experience of the divine on a group level. Spiritual is good because it keeps the experience safe from potential judgments of the community, but bad because it potentially only reflects the ego, right or wrong, with no checks. Religious is good because humans need community and need to connect on deep matters. However, everyone knows that religion is rife with judgment.

    BTW both spirituality and religion can be rule-based and dogmatic, and both can be enlightening. I think that Americans are becoming more spiritual and less religious for the same reason that all our communities are breaking down. Americans don’t stick well to communities like they used to.

  78. Very interesting points in this article. You have made me consider exactly what I mean when I use that phrase, and yes, I do use it.

    I think religion is a beautiful, peaceful and an altogether enviable way of living. I am not religious in that I believe in one specific God, or any kind of God. I explore how to develop the inner self and inner peace – this in some regards is spiritual.

    I agree that people use the phrase out of term, but it means different things to different people.

  79. I’m catholic, and proud. And you’re right. People who claim to be spiritual, not religious, seek comfort. The comfort of “believing” in Jesus, while not being obliged to do anything special. Catholicism is really, really beautiful.

  80. Congratulations on receiving so much interest your post. I guess for me I find the terms spiritual and religious particularly irksome as they are both gross generalisations of very subjective experiences. I myself would consider myself as devout as any Christian in my own beliefs although I am not a practising Christian in ‘conventional’ terms. Some might consider me to be quite ‘spiritual’ because of the work that I do, but from my point of view my beliefs are unique and stem from a lifetime of experiences that are again uniquely my own. In fact there are few words that can adequately express my own experiences and set of beliefs without painting a very vivid and often incorrect picture of who I am and what I do, as is true of us all to one extent or another. Words, terms such as these are semantic bridges, and they serve a purpose in conveying ideas in a digestible way that can be broadly understood. However, they do not justify the individual, nor should they. We are each who we are, and words are words. The intent behind the words is ultimately what counts, and what is conveyed.
    I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. Lots of food for thought.

    Warm regards!

  81. I’ve just read the blog I’m spiritual, not religious. Well when I say I’ve read it I have to admit I’ve just come home from a brief visit to the pub and checked my emails,as you do and what should I find but a link to this.
    I have no religion myself although always at school one was encouraged to admit to C of E ( Church of England, for those of you not from UK) which meant we were taught the King James Bible which contained many parabels which were taught to us.
    It wasn’t until some time later that we realised that it was not actually bible studies but a lesson in life skills which was being taught.
    Take for example the story of the good Samaritan who comes across a man who has been beaten and robbed, he is preceeded by a priest and a Levite who both pass by on the other side and yet this Samaritan goes to the aid of the man who has in modern parlance ‘been mugged’.
    Now in modern terms, would you rush across a road to come to the aid of a fellow human being mugged, risking being beaten up or stabbed yourself.
    Thank fully I’ve never been put to the test in this way and I hope I never am.
    Modern life leaves us all a little jaded and so many times I’m reminded of the biblical quote from John 11.35 ( the shortest verse in the bible, so I’m led to believe) which is of course ‘Jesus wept’, I don’t believe it. Although the ‘I don’t believe it’ part of the quote is obviously from Victor Meldrew.
    However I digress, as usual and finally have to make the point of this interjection, which is; that I find it hard to be religious or spiritual, in fact the nearest thing I can do to be spiritual is to order another Bombay Gin and Tonic and having had a few, walk home hoping not to come across the victim of a mugging on the other side of the road.

  82. I just wanted to add the following to my comment above:
    Language is a tool for conveying ideas and as such we choose to use certain words and genres of language that are adequate within our social context. So in added response to Eric Hyde’s blog above, you are naturally not going to use words that do not describe you in the best possible light, or that you know will be misunderstood by those around you. So it’s fine to be ‘Spiritual but not religious’ if it fits the occasion. I guess that would be my academic view of it as a student of language and linguistics, but also my own personal view.

  83. I respect the religious, anyone trained, ordained and organized, be it the clandestine paedophiles, be it the champions of hot morale air blowing, each pandering to his respective paying crowd, be it the autistic, dry or simply very lonely men because they all have learnt how to read great books and will fantasize along with it.

    I regard the spiritual, the hippy dippy cosmorgastic otherhugging selffinding ego- and world-therapeuts because they have learnt how to fantasize soul-nourishing pipe dreams and come up with something colorful in regular intervals and then they read up on “it”, whatever the read to their respective “it” may be.

    I am delighted to hear who is spritual, not religious, or vice versa, or rather non, or perhaps both because thus the human game continues to engage my concern and entertain my folly.

    But to this day I can detect nothing devine in so spirited heave and ho, nor can I fully detect where the righteousness stays and only selfrighteousness continues. But then, who cares? You do? Well, by all means do care, you are entitled to a good romp around the playground of human experience, certainly just as much s any other.

  84. Great.This is great.

    Here is something else that bugged me last week. Bill O’Reilly claiming that “Christianity is not a religion; it is a philosophy.” That’s like having a religion but denying the power thereof.

    Those who worship God, must worship in spirit and in truth.

  85. I’m confused by the statement: “If one is taking scripture as a guide, religion can be either pure or false.” Is this the position you advocate? I agree that the “Spiritual/ Religious phrase is meaningless, so is the “pure or false” dichotomy. All religions are true in their way. And while I prefer a religion founded in compassion, it doesn’t mean it is true and not false. I may not relate to Scientology, for instance, but I would not feel qualified to to proclaim it a false religion.

  86. Reblogged this on The Daughter of Zion and commented:
    A well-written post by someone I don’t know personally. Where he mentions Tradition, we’d point first to God’s Word, but he is correct that the teaching of the apostles is referred to as tradition (or what is handed down — etymological meaning) in Scripture. Worth a read.

  87. hey! check out waiters union or some books of dave andrews, like “christi-anarchy” /http://www.daveandrews.com.au/publications.html) n if u have time, go to the 2 week training course: http://www.waitersunion.org/training.htm
    it talks a lot about spirituality stuff n open ups some real good stuff. it helped me a lot. check it out, honestly. x
    (being christian n not facing christian history n the power of the church, which the church uses to oppress ppl is just wrong. social justice. equality. doing the radical revolution like the way jesus did it. what is church? does god really know everything? why does he repent then? (ninive) is hell just something church invented to oppress ppl? I consider myself as a christian and I love to question everything especially myself in order to find the way to jesus… let’s not do stop questioning everything, let’s search, let’s find him, let’s build a church not for the poor, but OF the poor n give the rich the opportunity to change, amen.) so far from me.

  88. I could not disagree with this article more. This is so full of assumptions about what others are thinking that it has no merit whatsoever. It sounds like FOX propaganda preaching to those who already agree and nod. ( lots of nodders )

    I have made this statement recently after experiencing such a strong connection with nature, that I could only describe it as spiritual – and yes I did think about it a lot. I may mean this in a different way than you, but there are different meanings to words, and I don’t think of it as relating to God at all. This also does not contradict religion, it’s simply a different meaning of spiritual than you intend. Your second part of the second paragraph is the part that makes sense to me.

    I don’t see religion as evil, as you stated, although it has driven man to do evil things.
    I don’t agree that a small group a people are in charge of the rules that dictate how we should live. What’s acceptable to one religion is blasphemous to another, while praying to same God. I actually have no issues with religious people until they try force it upon me either through laws or just trying to convince others they have the right details of the story, and all the others are wrong.

    Maybe you need to accept that many people have spiritual feelings but do not like what they see as arbitrary rules of ORGANIZED religion. I’m amazed at the wonders of nature and feel a strong connection, contemplating on my own. I also do not think all the wonders of the planet were put her just for one species to enjoy. If there is a God he will surely be very upset at a lot of very religious people for there actions all week, not just on Sunday or Friday or Saturday or before sunset or after sunset, with wine or absolutely not.

    What you really mean at the end of this religious article, is that this statement has no meaning TO YOU! Just as your organized rules of the day have no meaning to me.
    Maybe I’ve taken a swim, gotten wet, enjoyed the water, but did not get stuck in a giant school of other fish swimming in the same direction – maybe toward a beautiful sunset, or maybe a wide mouth humpback whale.

    Ciao,

  89. There is plenty of meaning in the phrase! First of all Eric, your presupposition is incorrect, too broad a stroke. I’m glad you admitted that to M. Josiah. It’s not good vs evil at all. Your condescending statements tell everyone that not only are you not a True Christian but you are not spiritual either!
    By definition the two are interrelated yet that is not what is meant by most of the people I have met including myself who use it.
    “I’m Spiritual,” My beingness is not material or tangible and is sacred, all life is. “not Religious.” I will not push my beliefs on you and tell you that you are going to hell if you don’t believe like i do.

    Next time ask what they mean by that instead of thinking they are brainless and afraid of commitment. Thanks for getting people to think though the 50 responses I read don’t show they are thinking very much~lol
    Love Always~

    • Les, so you believe that I think certain “spiritual” folks are brainless, and then you proceed to label my first 50 readers as essentially brainless (i.e. thoughtless). Interesting.

  90. Reblogged this on friarmusings and commented:
    Today, as I write, is the Feast of St. Joh of the Cross. In his work, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, St John writes (to the effect), ask no more questions of God, but rather look to the person of Jesus – all the answers are there. To which I would add, and be humble about what you understand – “religion” and its adherents have been thinking about this for two millenia – and celebrating its revelation in ritual, traditions, Traditions, and all things peripheral to the core of Jesus – but (in my experience) all things that lead to the center.

  91. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Very well-written as well.

    As an atheist, I feel it is similar to saying “I’m an atheist, but we just don’t know.” which is called agnosticism.

    I might add that I think there is a certain amount of arrogance from people who say “spiritual, not religious” like a lot of new age concepts, it seems to imply that you just don’t understand something.

    Great Work.

  92. Good job! I didn’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if you’ve heard this one already.

    I like a joke Daniel Tosh has that says “I like it when a girl says, ‘I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.’ I like to say to that ‘I’m not honest, but you’re interesting.” I think that fits.

  93. Nicely written. I agree with you to a large degree and love what you say about saying you are spiritual and not religious as being like saying that you went for a swim without getting wet. You do clearly seem to operate from the standpoint that to be religious is to be “Christian,” which I think is the same bias by which some people try to differentiate themselves from being religious as not wanting to be taken for Christian. On that note I have nothing against Christianity, per se. I think that when people who dislike religion and are in reality disliking Christianity, they are then lumping all of Christianity into its most negative image. Negative from their point of view. That it is all anti-science fundamentalism, and intolerant, to say nothing of hypocritical. Then the media supports this view as well. When do you ever see a news story about an honest priest who is not a predator of some sort? If I believe that you have a valid over all point about a lot of people who say they are spiritual but not religious, I would say that I more like the expression that “My God is bigger than your religion.” To some degree I think that every believer has something of an individual experience, and on top of that there are so many variations of Jude o-Christian beliefs. Then in addition there are so many *other* beliefs, any number of which, as far as I’m concerned, have validity. Personally I think that religions are imperfect human attempts to grasp something much larger that is ultimately valid. But that’s just my opinion.~Mike.

  94. I don’t have a problem when people say that they are Spiritual but not religious-to me, spirituality is a deep feeling of knowing God-understanding and feeling the love of God in a place that is not my flesh
    RELIGIOUS people are who killed Jesus-they practice the letter of the law without the love of God (Religiousity)- whereas Religion is, of course, the practice of your set of beliefs based on your interperatation of what the bible says-(as in Baptism)
    Therefore it is very possible to be Spiritual by reading the word of God while not being involved in a ‘formal’ church/religion

  95. Dear friend, I’m an Indian n by birth I’m Hindu. I’m poor in English, but anyhow I try to express my thoughts on your post in a simple style of English as much I know.
    See, there are many religions in the world n each of them has its own views about Almighty,the Supreme power n the entire universe. But we know all the views are only based on that particular religion n nobody can claim them “they are the only facts”
    All the religions n relatted activities are only “Leelas”(in SANSCRIT)/”THIRUVILAI YAADAL”(TAMIL) of the Supreme Power.
    But the Sprituality or Real Divinity is ABOVE ALL RELIGIONS. “SELF REALISATION” [which is called as ADHMA DARISANAM in Tamil] is the acheivement in SPIRITUALITY nthen only one can realise the Supreme Power. One need not be religious to attain this stage. We must first getrid of all the bindings n rituals of our religions try to realise ourselves.
    Thank you for the inspiraton you gave me to express my thoughts. Kindly forgive me if anything you feel wrong in my comment.
    With kind regards,
    A.S.RENGANATGAN, India.

  96. Then there is the question of how religion is to be defined. One definition, and one that really upsets some people, is that a religion is “a set of strongly held personal beliefs.” I kind of feel that everyone has faith of some kind, too. Like if you are an atheist, that involves a degree of assumption and is in its way a kind of faith. I used to be an atheist myself.

  97. In my case, I don’t have a religion and I am not religious. I do however have a personal relationship with Jesus and recognise Him as my saviour. I am not religious but out of my love for Christ, I do my best every day to live right by Him and in accordance to His Word. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say the phrase has no meaning. In this day and age, people are quick to judge you based on your religion. It’s not easy trying to explain a deep personal relationship versus a religion or religiou tradition.

  98. I love your style of writing… but I do not agree with you. I have a background in a religion that has hundreds of ‘Gods’ and ‘deities’ not to mention lots of superstitions entwined with religious ‘traditions’/rituals/rules. So when I say “I’m spiritual and not religious’ I believe that I’m actually contributing a bit towards removing some of those superstitions and I like what I am doing. But that does not detract in any way from the fact that I believe in God Almighty and I do have my favourites from those hundreds of ‘Gods’ too :)

  99. Spirituality is like religion in the sense that there are different beliefs and methods. But unlike religion, spirituality has not been the cause, and neither does it continue to be the cause, of so many deaths and so much hate. Man created religion, God didn’t. So to believe in God / the Creator / Allah doesn’t necessarily mean that you are religious.

  100. “I’m educated, not academic” — someone who reads and is informed widely, but has not graduated with a degree.

    “I’m a worker, not an employee” — someone who is self-employed, or freelance.

    We live in a rapidly changing, globalising culture, in which some people happily, effectively and gracefully find ways forward without the assistance of institutional life, as found in universities, corporations… They find their niches and are judged according the value of the work they produce. It can be a harder road than employment or academia, which inevitably ‘plot routes’ for people, to some degree.

    I use these examples from ‘secular’ life to illustrate that there is also a spectrum of experience with regard to both “the Divine” in the broadest sense and the institutions of faith and religion, on the other hand.

    I think this is what people are sometimes trying to express with the phrase “spiritual, not religious.” Great idea to explore this spectrum and how it’s referred to in every day life. Poor deduction to insist that anyone who uses it has a definite or particular agenda.

    Just as surely as there are loose cannons outside of institutional life, there are also lazy and manipulative people inside institutions. But to use the worst examples to define the whole, or the “typical” is unwise and unnecessary.

    Hope this helps to separate a bit more of the wood from the trees!

    I wrote a metaphorical analogy of the difficulty of “navigating the narrow path that leads to life” avoiding both the ‘bog’ of compliancy and the ‘desert’ of cynicism, which might interest some readers. (It can be found on my blog, linked via my WP avatar)

  101. (It seems my avatar links to another of my blogs.

    The article referred to is entitled “The Narrow Path That Leads to Life: Discovering a walk of faithfulness apart from both institutional compliancy and cynical posturing” — An analogy exploring institutional pressure to conform, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, for those resisting institutional conformity, the temptation to embrace a destructive cynicism. Between these two extremes is a path that embraces both human community and speaking truth to the strongholds of power.

    It can be found at http://eternalpurpose.wordpress.com/article/the-narrow-path-that-leads-to-life/

  102. I found this interesting how you suggest there is no difference between spirituality and religion; I disagree. I personally believe that they are / can be – perhaps this is a language usage issue. For me, religion is an activity and it’s organized by human beings that have an interest in control, but spirituality is what I feel when walking through a forest hugging trees or staring into the sky. I assume one could argue that the walk through the forest and the hugging of the tree is an activity, organized by plan and hence a religion – WHATEVER – do and think and love and play and enjoy as you like :-)

  103. While you were writing your long, strong condemnation about Spiritual people did you ever conceder the fact that in most, if not all religion, one must side with their church and everyone else is wrong!
    If you are Spiritual, you get to pray anywhere in anyplace with anyone wishing to pray with you to one’s own Supreme being without fear of repercussion?
    Native Americans have one church, ( FEAR, LOVE, CREATOR)!

    • Sachem, you’ve actually illustrated my point brilliantly. You have defined your own spiritual awareness/journey according to a specific people group – Native Americans, and provided a short but beautiful creed, “Fear, Love, Creator.”

      Your Spirituality is the product of a religious tradition passed down to you from your spiritual elders and its in your bones! Difficult to separate the two, isn’t it?

  104. Pingback: Difference between Spirituality and Religion? « Jason Howard Peterson

  105. I appreciate your post and that it contains actual intelligent thought, Eric, but I don’t agree with your “throw the baby out with the bathwater” concluding lines.

    “No meaning whatsoever” is an absolute, and does not fit.
    “One of the emptiest phrases ever” may fit with your experience—and it would certainly square with my experience as well. I would agree that the vast majority of people who I have met who have used that phrase do not seem to be very interested in leading spiritual lives—at least not anything I can recognize as spiritual.

    What I take the phrase “Spiritual but not religious” to mean, in the best sense of the phrase, is that the person using it is investigating several different religions or religious traditions—Buddhism, Zen, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Taoism—and is studying or reading from various religious and spiritual texts and books. The person is a searcher, a spiritual seeker, and his or her life shows it. And the person is trying to understand or reconcile his or her temperament and personal beliefs with the challenges to them offered by this or that religious tradition.

    It’s a developmental phase in a person’s psychological and spiritual development.

    That’s what I take “spiritual and not religious” to mean, or what the phrase is supposed to mean.

    Very nice and well-written post, Eric.

    Kindest regards,

    John

  106. A biblical viewpoint of religion in the words of Werner Gitt: “…any and every human concept of God, as well as every philosophy with indisputable statements of belief and norms for behaviour, which consciously or unconsciously replaces the Creator God mentioned in the Bible” From the book “What about the other religions?”

  107. Hi Eric,
    Very thought provoking.
    I haven’t read all the posts so you may have already answered previously.
    I would like to approach your statement slightly different by defining what I mean by “religion” and what I mean by “Christianity.”
    For me “religion” means a man made belief system and for me “Christian” means a spiritual relationship with God the Father through Christ Jesus and having experienced the love of God. Christianity is all about your (two way) relationship with God and with one another.
    You express your love for God by loving man.
    Michael http://www.frm-inc.org

    • I guess my reaction is, why throw out humanity in one’s personal spiritual journey? Christianity has always been essentially a Church – Christ as head and we as His body. Christ’s incarnation is also the most intrinsic and important doctrine we have – that God became man and dwelt among us. If God Himself became man it means humans – dwelling in flesh and bones – are not evil. Human nature is not evil. We are evil when we follow our own selfish ambition, and we can do this alone just as easily as in a group, perhaps more so alone. Christianity is a tradition based on the Apostles who were all human beings. Our faith is not a gnostic faith where the material world including mankind are evil and our journey is performed strictly in our cerebral world. It is a community made of both divine and human, just like our Savior.

  108. Is helping widows and fatherless
    religion? Or is that merely being a nice person? Can’t atheists be nice like that too? Did Jesus perform miracles out of religion, or out of a spiritual connection? If I follow the teachings of the Old Testament am I a Christian? Did God want us to create a religion in order to have a spiritual connection with him?

  109. I think the letters to the 7 churches…pretty much sums up the “church” then and the “church” today…with 6 out of 7 of them needing change to be where they need to be with God. I also believe that the letters could speak to the “church” as a body of believers as well as the individual believer. I think the reason so many are preferring the term “spiritual” over “religious” is in an attempt to separate themselves from the wrong kind of “organized” religion. There are so many churches today that appear to be more in the “entertainmen” business than in the soul-saving business…and qenching the Holy Spirit at ever turn. I also personally believe that hardly any churches today, meet the test of true religion…if they were we might not have so many fatherless children without real role-models! We also wouldn’t see so many “widows, indeed” with homes rundown, lawns unmowed, sitting alone in nursing homes. The Word does NOT say you must gather in a building…but simply to gather together…and it actually says not to sit and warm a pew…but to “GO”…I think when the church gets its act together…maybe more Christians would consider using the term religious…but right now…the church itself has lent it a negative connotation. I don’t say I am religious OR spritual…I am simply a Christian who tries very hard to live my life pleasing to the Lord and by His Holy Word…hopefully succeeding more than failing. Twenty-five + years of being a believer…and still discovering more about Him than I could imagine…and love Him more with each passing day! Churches without walls…that’s not a bad thing. Many parts of the world don’t have buildings…like Amerca does…but that doesn’t stop people from gathering together…caring for widows and ophans…and anyone else in need. I don’t care what you call me…for me it’s not about spiritually or religion…it’s about my personal daily relationship with Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. Just sayin’

  110. ***Hi, this is my 3rd time trying to post a comment to this blog. For some reason every time I check to see if it’s up it says, “Comment awaiting moderation”. I’ve noticed dozens of new comments be posted after mine, so I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t want to think you’re excluding my comment for some reason, but I honestly don’t know why my comment keeps getting overlooked while so many others are being accepted and posted…

    Hey Eric,

    Just stumbled upon your blog through a WordPress e-mail highlighting your post. I’m so glad I did! I feel called to say a few things:

    1. I think your post is right on and I’m glad you had the guts to post it. You’re obviously swimming against the current with your analysis, but hey, when isn’t following the not-so-comfortable truth counter-cultural?

    2. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the countless number of people who went crazy last year over Jefferson Bethke’s viral YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus”. It’s right up there with “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. So much sense mixed with so much nonsense. And the the majority of Christians took it all hook, line, and sinker…

    *If you’re interested, Fr. Barron (who has a boatload of incredibly insightful, thought-provoking YouTube videos) tackles this topic much in the same way as you did. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLta2b9zQ64

    3. Not sure how familiar you are with G.K. Chesterton, but your post above and your background story certainly sounded very Chestertonian to me (I mean that as the highest compliment). http://www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/who-was-this-guy/

    4. Lastly, I noticed in your “About” section that you enjoy philosophy. Not sure if you’ve heard of him or not, but Peter Kreeft is a stellar Catholic philosopher with all kinds of outstanding (mostly free!) resources (audio talks, articles, etc.) on his webpage: http://www.PeterKreeft.com. He is one of the big reasons I came back to the Catholic Church after exploring both agnosticism and subsequently Protestantism. With only reading a little of your writing and background story I think you’d thoroughly enjoy what he has to offer.

    *Three of my favorite audio talks from Kreeft are:

    a) How to Win the Culture War – http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/01_culture-war.htm

    b) Christ’s Version of Happiness vs. The World’s – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/happiness/id482067862?i=482068045

    c) A Refutation of Moral Relativism – http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism.htm

    **And two short articles that I can’t help but share:

    a) Christianity and the New Paganism – http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/religions_newpaganism.htm

    b) The Uniqueness of Christianity – http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/christianity-uniqueness.htm

    Thanks again for this post, Eric. Keep up the great work, and God bless!

    In Christ,
    Greg Aitchison

    • Hey Greg, I have no idea why your comment was sitting in moderation mode. I have no filters set up so it must be a glitch. Thank you for your comment, excellent links. I’ll do my best to get to them, the Peter Kreeft stuff for sure. Cheers!

      (Btw, I’m a huge Chesterton fan)

      • Thanks, Eric! And no worries about the comment not posting right away. I probably could have had a little more patience as well.

        Peter Kreeft is also (of course) a huge Chesterton fan. He always says, “Not quoting Chesterton is like trying to not eat more chips” (or something like that).

        Thanks again, and keep the good thoughts coming!
        Greg

  111. I really enjoyed this article, and think that the spiritual without religious is sort of like the icing without the cake. Or looking for the orgasm without the human relationship… For those who really want to live life and make it work, it leaves you feeling empty. But I believe it comes out of a great resentment towards religion. As strange as it is… it is very much a part of ‘post modern’ attitudes.

  112. I agree. I HATE the cliche too. ALL establishments have some level of authority, be it church or mosque. As a christian, I know God is a God of order, so to think I can be ‘free of bondage’ is a false cliche. We are all in some sort of strait jacket because we need to be. The leader of my church is Jesus and I can talk to Him whenever I want. However, that does not give me the reins to do,say and act how I want and not feel any consequence for my attitude because “I am spiritual and free”.

  113. Hello Eric

    I have found your post to be interesting in that a lot of people have found the same thing in deeper study. I have been a believer for 58 years and have found that if the truth of the word of God does not get into the persons heart with understand and have a living experience with it then it is dead. The knowledge of God is more than mere words.

    Our hearts have to connect with the heart of God on his terms based upon his word from a repentant heart based upon conviction not just words. It takes the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost to bring us to that place. If we could have done this by ourselves we wouldn’t have needed Christ to come and take our sentence of death upon the Cross and be our propitiation or substitute.

    The words were meant to bring us on a quest meet Christ the person the living Word of God. Jesus in his day said many things most of which were very profound in the sense that the natural mind or nonspiritual minded person can not understand the things of God because they must be spiritually enlightened.

    Most studies on the Word of God are from a theological basis or theory about the Word of God and lack the true enlightenment to be able to convey truth in it purity because they are unrenewed men or men with out the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them.

    The Words of Jesus the Christ speaking to the Religious teachers and leaders of His day: “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you will find eternal life but you don’t come to me.” The word of God itself is just knowledge until it is given light to or untli the person seeking has the ability to see the truth in its purity untainted and undefiled.

    God uses symbols, shadow and types to speak to his people this is why they in their day couldn’t figure it out. They were mere men who had not repented of their ungodly ways. Key scriptural verse to this is 2 Chronicles 7:14-16. That must be done first to be able to see. Look at John 3:16-20.

    The one who does that enlightening is the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians he is called the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. In the Old Testament he was called the presence of God on earth. He was the one who enlighten the prophets and scribes eyes to see so they could write down the things that were conveyed from heaven. With out him we are all most miserable men.

    God the Father is not on earth and neither is Jesus Christ. But the Holy Spirit is of whom Jesus spoke often about during his ministry in the Gospel of John especially John chapters 14 through 16.

    Knowledge in itself is nothing unless it is proven true through experimenting or experience. I believe you would agree with me there. There must be some substance that comes out of knowledge for it to mean something to us.

    I came to a very true and real experience with God that kind of experience that brings the word of God alive in me. As it was in the beginning so it is through Christ today.

    My only question to you is this: Did you ever find the Living Christ the one that is spoken of in Revelations Chapter One the one that John the Apostle saw face to face? If you did not then you are missing the true essence of true spirituality and religion.

    True Believer

    • I thought I was done with this thread having been thoroughly entertained by this rather lengthy overhaul of people’s beliefs. It has sparked a lot of good debate. But The comment above by ‘Anonymous’ is just awesome! How can you argue with Truth? I agree! Thanks for bringing joy to my day, all of you!

  114. I have never used the phrase, “I am spiritual not religious.” However, a slight twist of the phrase “I am not religious but a Christian.” Religion is nothing more than a set of manmade rules or behaviors to gain favor with a supreme being otherwise known as God. A Christian is the exact opposite. It is God who first reached out to man through Jesus and redeemed us to Himself. Therefore, true Christianity is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and we have eternal life through Him. John 3:16. It is grace based (unmerited favor from God) While, religion says that one must earn one’s own salvation through works. Therefore, I am not religious but a Christian.

    • Well said my friend. I too believe that religion is made-up by the world and is not a part of Christian integrity.
      Self agenda is the origin of all religions and are not a part of the inspirations form God as to how those in the world is required to go about serving Him. Be bless and stay strong.

      • Apostle
        I believe the world gets it backwards. The world tells us that we have do things or follow religious standards to earn our salvation but the Scriptures prove this to be untrue. As Christians, we first believe in Christ and become in right standing or righteous through grace then our works should follow after the conversion. It is not the other way around. After we are transformed into the image of Jesus, then our actions should line up with our faith and our works will be evident.
        See James 2:14-26: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
        But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

  115. ‘These phrases are almost always accompanied by a corresponding lifestyle where the rules are made up as you go and all things are ultimately justifiable in the light of “personal revelation.”’
    All I can think of is Calvinball, where he and his tiger Hobbes make up and revise the rules of their game as they go along. It is amazing how differently various people…even on this comment thread… define ‘spiritual.’ It almost makes me revise your equation to religion=good; spiritual=bad. Scripture tells us God is a spirit, but the modern usage of the term seems to have nothing to do with such a narrow concept.

  116. Btw, one cannot really talk Christianity, at least historically, without at some point talking about dogma and dogmatic theology! And true Christianity will always be connected to the Judeo, i.e. the Judeo-Christian reality. For Jesus was a Jew! And “religion” is just another moniker for spirituality, as too godliness, the latter is at least again Judeo-Christian. :)

  117. A long time I coined the phrase “spirit whore” to refer to my choice of respecting all religions and sometimes participate, although I mainly practice Christianity. That said, I’m not a fan of “spiritual not religious” either. It’s like a “keeping up with the Joneses” type thing and those who say it are afraid of being “non-hip.” It also comes across as sounding ashamed or defensive, not proud of where a person is coming from.

  118. I do state that I am not religious. I don’t like religion, but I see why it is needed everytime there is a shooting rampage from an empty vessel. I love Jesus and he warned about “well swept houses.” It is not enough to be exorcised, but you must infill with what is right and good or risk more problems. You cannot be blank, empty. You have to be filled with the work. Most people that say they are spiritual, are hippy skippy and very vague about love and “believe.” Believe what? I believe that I can move a mountain with my faith, that I can do all things through Christ’s strength and teachings. Religion is needed to teach those that need to be taught the truth and there are definate but simple truths about our life.

  119. It is to my knowledge that all religions are more materialistic and is base on self agenda than it is of a spiritual introduction.
    Christianity is not a religion but a matter of salvation…a deliverance from evil…and base on the spirit and reconciliation thereof to the Almighty God as a convert back into the image in which He first created our spirits.
    Humankind lost perfect connection with God when the sins of Adam and Eve committed sin in the garden of Eden.
    Christ was predestine by God to come forth to the world to restore the spiritual connection and perfect unity to the spirits of humankind.
    Therefore it is not a religion nor a matter of self agenda….but a salvation of spirit from the captivity of evil that have put 99% of the world in a type of bondage that can only be lifted by being spiritually Born Again.
    Believing is only the first in that process of reconciliation and rebirth of spirit.
    Christ was not sent to wash away our sins, but to show us the way out of sin that we as Christians can live a victorious life as spiritual beings within the terrestrial bodies of what is call the flesh.
    I agree with the fact you said we are spirit and not religious but the definition thereof is a matter of perspective consideration and not personal agenda of what is call religion.

    Be bless

    • Jack, just out of curiosity, what religious organization gave you the title “apostle,” or did you grant it to yourself? Avoiding “personal agenda” sounds important to you, so it would be ironic if you gave the title to yourself.

  120. OK, now why don’t you tell us how you really feel? You were too subtle. ; – ) THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! I CAN’T STAND IT WHEN PEOPLE CLAIM THEY’RE SPIRITUAL, NOT RELIGIOUS! It was long overdue. Amen, brother. (and by the way, I’m not spiritual OR religious.)

  121. I am a member of a Church but I have NEVER felt controlled, except by God. I believe Jesus is the truth, the light and the only way to Heaven. Religion or spirituality….it doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is your personal experiences with our Lord. Thank you for you article.

  122. Hey Eric, I like the general thrust of what you say, but I don’t get why you lump “I follow Jesus” in with “religious” and “spiritual”. I don’t refer to myself as a Christian because it has become a meaningless term, whereas “follower of Jesus” is descriptive. We don’t have to wonder what it means. It precludes
    “a corresponding lifestyle where the rules are made up as you go and all things are ultimately justifiable in the light of “personal revelation.”…a world of Christianity where there is no human authority, save oneself; where millions of individual “popes” abound, but the Church is nonexistent…”
    Thanks

    • “I’m a follower of Jesus” is descriptive only if one is clear about which Jesus they follow. There are 1000’s of different Jesus’ available today in our spiritual stock exchange.

      • What 1000s of Jesus’? There is scant historical reference to Jesus outside of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, other than a few “lost gospels”, and a few later “revelations” such as the Islam & Mormonism, all of which contradict the canonical gospels and apostolic writings. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say there are 1000s of Christianities? Any religion which centers its theology around Jesus can rightly be called a Christian religion. This would include not only Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant religions, but also Mormonism & Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, I say the heart of the matter is neither religion nor spirituality, but the person of Jesus as He is revealed in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. This Jesus never claimed to establish a new religion called Christianity. He claimed to establish the kingdom of God as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets who came before Him. If you can demonstrate from the scriptures that this was not his central message, then I will personally give you a back massage.

        • I was raised Mormon. We were taught that Jesus was not a Person of the Divine Trinity but rather a literal offspring of Elohim, the Father God. This Jesus was the spiritual brother of Lucifer, later satan. He is our brother in a literal sense in that we too were literally conceived of by Elohim with his many wives in heaven. And Mormons also claim to believe in the Bible you and I both read.

          Is this the Jesus you believe in?

          This is only one example of the various Jesus’ on the market today.

          • Hello Eric:

            This is a very good question and one of which I will try to answer in truth. I have met very many Mormons in my lifetime having been involved in sharing the faith of which I believe to have based upon the Bible and that only.

            Concerning the Mormon faith there I believe are two books that are used. the One is the Bible and the other is the Book of Mormon. of which it is my understanding that Joseph Smith the founder of this religion was involved with.

            But while the Bible is present with the Mormon Church I find the interpretation as it pertains to the Bible some what flawed. There are so many contradictions as it pertains to God and Jesus that don’t align themselves to the original cannon of scripture from the Bible whether your flavor is Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or English 1611..

            Concerning multiple wives I find no evidence from Scripture. But I do find that in Creation the Lord creates the family using one male and one female. While I will not try to debate this subject because I have little to base any reasonable conclusion other than what the Bible speaks of having one wife in Timothy and in the Epistles as well.

            While it is true that the Sons of Isaac had more than one wife through the use of maid servants due to certain cultural beliefs, there is no authorization given to us by God himself concerning this matter.

            The word of God says one thing that makes sense to me referring to the following passages:

            Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. (Mat_22:28 KJV)

            In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. (Mar_12:23 KJV)

            Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. (Luk_20:33 KJV)

            I would strongly read these verses of scripture in context and mediate upon them for deeper understanding. However ….

            The Lord responds to these inquiries with this answer: “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Mat 22:28-30 KJV)”

            There seems to be this mystery then about God is he married or not. It is my understanding having spent years of genuine study of the Word of God to resolve myself to this statement given to us by God himself and that is:

            “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 KJV)”

            We were created in the image and likeness of God himself so my belief is this that if God had multiple wives than why didn’t he give Adam more than one. Instead he gave Adam one wife. The Old Testament law prescribes one wife also. So with no real basis to put my faith in I must conclude that we are to have one wife and that God is not married as some think. God gave Adam a help meet not meets.

            I find personally that debates are so often started because of opinions rather then truth so I will usually stay away from such babbling because they are endless and a source of strife and contentions..

            The Jesus I believe in as described in scripture is this: John 1:1-5, John Chapter 6, Revelations Chapter 1, every reference to his coming from the Old Testament, Acts Chapter One in his ascension John Chapter 20 in his resurrection. Everything the Bible says about Jesus and who he is is what I believe.

            Before Jesus came he was the Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us. The name given to him was Jesus which being interpreted Savior, Deliverer, Redeemer and God incarnate.

            I hope and pray this has answered your question satisfactorily.

            Dean

          • Thanks Eric. I can’t imagine how you are keeping up with these replies. Here’s my response in case you have the time:
            This is my point – there aren’t that many possibilities; only the few that I mentioned. Of course I refer to the Jesus of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. To say I follow him is, in fact, descriptive. The Bible presents a linear, unfolding, harmonious revelation. The Jesus revealed therein is alive and well and knowable. The Jesus of Islam, Mormonism, & the Jehovah’s Witnesses re-interprets & contradicts the Bible with later “revelation” that is considered authoritative within those group. But when I say I’m a follower of Jesus, it is assumed I’m referring to the Jesus of the Bible. Therefore this phrase has much more meaning and clarity than to say I’m a Christian.

            • My point is a little more nuanced, and is difficult to explain briefly. But, in short, we all come to the text with our own set of ideas, opinions, social conditioning, etc (“presupposition” is a good single word to use here), that influence the way we understand who Jesus is. If you are familiar with the ancient heresy of Arianism, it was a belief that Jesus was created by the Father God. This caused enormous turmoil in the Church and divided it for many years. Arius made his argument strictly from Scripture, as did his Orthodox opponents. Eventually Orthodoxy won out and declared that Jesus was a Person within the divine Trinity and was “begotten” of God eternally. One understands Trinitarian theology due to the great Ecumenical councils, not because of a casual reading of Scripture.

              Whether or not Christ is a created being, if God is Trinity, if the Holy Spirit is God, etc, etc, are issues that can go either way if one does not have the luxury of holy tradition guiding him. I imagine that you have gravitated towards the orthodox rendering of the faith, but this is not happen-chance, it comes from a long line of reasoning within the Church. It only seems like a “no-duh” to us because we are so use to it.

            • Thanks for the thoughtful reply Eric.
              I’m open to being proven wrong here, but until then I will say that I absolutely disagree that:
              1) Arius made his argument strictly from Scripture
              2) One understands Trinitarian theology due to the great Ecumenical councils
              3) …issues [that] can go either way if one does not have the luxury of holy tradition guiding him.

              1-Arius wasn’t making his argument “strictly from scripture” because nowhere do the scriptures say that Jesus is a created being, and in many places it says He is divine.
              2-It is the authority of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that reveals the triune nature of YHWH. The ecumenical councils were only codifying what had already been revealed in the Bible. To say that…
              3-…these issues can go either way w/out tradition is false. You’re essentially saying that the councils created Truth if you think these issues could have gone either way. The councils functioned as a Supreme Court interpreting a constitution that was already written. But the constitution existed first, and is preeminent. Likewise, the Bishop’s interpretations are valid only insofar as they agree with God’s written revelation, which has ultimate authority. So Church tradition is of value, but even the early councils contain errors. It is the Word that judges tradition, not tradition that judges the Word.
              Btw – congrats on getting out of Mormonism!

  123. Sri Sri compares religion to skin of the banana and spirituality to the actual fruit inside. Most of the times we get entangled with the skin failing to relish the essence.

  124. This is a terrifically engaging post. Still, the comments are even more intriguing. It is amazing that we live in a country that has more churches than any other country in the world and most of us still do not know the difference between religion and spirituality.

    I do not pretend to be a know-it-all, but as I understand it. Religion is a collection of belief systems. One is free to choose whether one wants to be Hindu or something else.

  125. To write, “The next time you hear the phrase, or, God forbid, say the phrase, remember that it has no meaning whatsoever. It is perhaps one of the emptiest phrases ever developed in the English language.” displays the mis-understanding and possibly fear associated with not belonging to a man made cult that professes its origin in some divine entity. The fear of one individual human actually undertaking a unique self fulfilling spiritual journey alone to face unknown terrors and go against cultural and community paved paths is often seen as impossible.

    We as humans often find our selves criticizing uniqueness and the display of strength by individuals who are not political party flag waivers or cross bearing lip flapping religious holy than though artists,

    because the phrase is very simple to say it is said rather than to have to sit and hold someones hand and explain the realness behind it. This explanation may take years for some. In its catch all meaning it is a phrase that describes a very unique state of being in an individual.

    cbardouille.wordpress.com

    • Perhaps, or its a fear of “the other” and/or “fear of intimacy.” There is nothing particularly challenging in branching out on one’s own spiritual path in a society like ours which praises radical individualism and not “cultural and community paved paths”.

  126. If you assume that being spiritual means to believe in a deity, then you are right. But spirituality has many layers and it differs from one person to another. I, personally, claim I am spiritual but not religious and I will tell you why. Religion is man-made and it imposes people how to believe and in what to believe, without explaining why. It implies to follow a holly book and so on. I don’t do that and I won’t explain here why because I don’t want to offend religious people. But I am spiritual meaning I believe in things like destiny, reincarnation or positive and negative energies. I came to believe in them in time, after certain experiences so this made me spiritual. Each person is unique and their spirituality is unique also. We all need to believe in something. Some choose God, some choose Allah, some choose a tree in their back yard. As long as we feel comfort in the spirituality we choose and harm no one, we should be free to believe in whatever we want.

    • “Religion is man-made and it imposes people how to believe and in what to believe, without explaining why…”

      Lavinia, if this is your experience with religion then I totally understand your point. My experience in the Eastern Orthodox Church is anything but, “do this and don’t ask why.” Rather, there is a continual stream of explanation not just in formal study but in the very act of liturgical worship.

      Your point about religion being man-made, is this not true with personal “spiritualism”? I’ve made this point to others on this thread, but isn’t the individual also “man” and his or her spiritual belief and practice therefore “man-made”? I find it difficult to remove the human element in spirituality and religion for the simple reason that we are human.

      • Individual spirituality is built on each person’s experiences, needs and personality. The center of spirituality is not a god, like in religion. Religion is addressed to a mass of people while individual spirituality is custom made. Individual spirituality is personal and intimate while religion is to be shared with others. Spiritual people accept all kinds of beliefs while religious people reject any beliefs if they can’t give them a religious meaning. Religion is not the beginning nor the end and religion doesn’t exist in everything :) I find spirituality and religion different like North and South, the only thing they seem to have in common, in my opinion, is the need to believe in something. From this point on, these two concepts go on two separate ways.

        • Fair enough. I see religion and spirituality not as polar opposites, i.e. “north and south,” but rather as a circle and line. What is more opposite than a circle and line? True, until the circle is a wheel and the line is a road, then suddenly they work in perfect unison. One can have spirituality without religion (in the version you present), and one can also have a wheel without a road, but its a shit ride. And, granted a particular road may take you in the wrong direction, but one shouldn’t blame that on “roads” in general, but rather one’s choice of roads.

          Are you sick of the analogy yet? :)

          I enjoy your thoughts, Lavinia. Cheers.

          • Great analogy, I must admit. It makes sense when you put it like this. Probably it is a matter of perspective. In fact, one thing can lead to another, either we ( or I ) see the connection or not. I enjoyed your thoughts also :)

      • Bravo! As best as I can tell, those who claim they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ are perhaps more man-made than the religious.
        Christianity, at least, claims it is NOT man-made even though some bring it back to a man-made system of works.

  127. I think this is a reaction to the unfortunate reality that most American churches have lost touch with the Holy Spirit. If you can walk into a church service/mass and walk out untouched by God’s presence then something is terribly wrong. People feel more of God’s peace looking at a sunset, the ocean, or the stars than they do during a “worship” service in church. They want something real and they are entitled to expect it. We need to hear the heart cry underneath the language…people are hungry for God and can’t find him in church. That’s why Jesus was such a big hit…contrary to the religious leaders of his day, he brought the reality of God’s love and power to the people…they were desperate and hungry for Him, just like they are now…

    • I would argue that the reason most people aren’t finding the Holy Spirit in church is because what they are calling “church” is often just a business, I mean, church that some self-informed, know it all, who read the Bible, decided to open in order to preach his version of the Word. It takes more than a music team, ushers, parking attendants and preacher to make the Church (can you tell I’m reflecting on my own church experience in Evangelicalism?). The Church is the mystery of union with Christ. It is both a spiritual and a physical phenomenon that happens at baptism and the Eucharist.

  128. Well, as a person who claim to be spiritual but not religious, I feel the need to step in and rectify a few things. First, when I say that I am spiritual but not religious; I’m not judging you or anybody who thinks differently than me. I am reflecting on my own personal journey.

    In a casual discussion, I would also clarify what it means to me. I do believe that most religious persons are spiritual which mean that they are capable of having a critical approach towards their own church. They choose to stay within the group. Personally, I simply choose differently; I choose to reconsider and, only then, to reconnect with the belief of one part of my ancestors who happened to be Native Americans/Canadians. Their belief is a lot more respectful of others, their believes, their rights to be different; of our lands, our sources of water and, overall, our environment.

    To me, religion is the junction between spiritual and politics, where free will turns into dogma, where belief turns too often a crime if you have the misfortune of thinking differently than your religious leader, where you feel the need to burn someone else’s Holy book to believe that yours is better.

    I was born and raised as a Christian. Do I believe in the value of Jesus Christ’s message? Probably more than those of His so-called disciples who choose to point the finger at the others who are different, who choose to condemn instead of listening and understanding. You do not need to agree or approve (this message or any other statement made by a spiritual person); we only ask you to listen quietly (without being on the defensive and preparing your next argument), understand that someone can have a different opinion and respect their choice.

    I am a swimmer and I know we have to get wet to be able to swim. I know I would rather swim in a pool instead of a lake or the ocean. I also know my limits. However, I will reuse your metaphor. To be spiritual is to be able to swim on your own, without having someone’s of the pull who is constantly screaming. I know when I am swimming, I am on my own; same thing when a spiritual person is talking to God. The person screaming on the side is just not aware of the fact that the swimmer can barely hear him or her, he can barely decode any lengthy message. This person perceive himself or herself with the highest altar of ego that the human kind can come across. Instead of teaching others how to swim on their own; they like to build the insecure that will push them to come back and see them as a vital intermediate between them and their ability to swim.

    I leave you with something to think about… Look around you, look around the world, go back in history, and tell me how many wars have been initiated by a true spiritual person and how many have made in the name of religion? Before you even think of justifying any of these wars, stating that religion is a legitimate cause of war, tell how can you possibly make it fit into God’s mouth?

    To conclude, before you go out witch hunting again, take a look in a mirror and ask yourself how many did you give hope, did you contribute to peace, did you offer your hand to help the other, how many time you stood up to defend diversity or the freedom of speech. Maybe you don’t believe in it; if this is the case, how can you so certain that what you claim to be God’s words are not simply the ones that you like to hear and perpetuate?

    • Rolland, I love, love, love your swimming analogy and wish I had thought of it first. I experienced the same thing when running track. I had the loudest mouthed coached you’ve ever heard, yet no matter how loud he shouted at me to “pick it up, Hyde!” during a race, I could barely hear him and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since I had already “picked it up” when the gun went off, and had no more to give.

      In response to your overall point, my experience with church in the independent Evangelical movement was quite similar to the kind you describe. Somewhere along the way I lost total trust in my own ability to decifer the truth. I went to a private Christian college to study theology and was exposed to all walks of life in the Christian paradigm among my professors – Lutherans, Calvinists, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc. The experience taught me that even if you attain a PhD in theology and dedicate your whole life in the pursuit you will wind up disagreeing with the PhD whose office is next to yours. This shattered my hopes of “figuring” it all out on my own. I realized that I have built in mental filters from years of conditioning that prevented me from coming to the truth via my own experience and “brilliance”.

      I know you may not accept this, but the New Testament, contrary to many Protestants you may hear from, declares the Church to be the ground and pillar of truth (1Tim 3:15), not Joe Blow preacher who “got a word from Jesus” last night over dinner. I took a long look at the historic Church and discovered that it was still around – the Eastern Orthodox Church (as its usually called in America).

      In short, I don’t pretend to create the truth of God as it occurs to me, rather I receive the truth as it has been given to the Church for the last 20 centuries. God wasn’t waiting for me to come around and figure out the Christian faith so that I could inform everyone else, as so many today seem to think their “calling” to be.

      I appreciate what you said and believe you are speaking from your heart on the matter. Cheers.

  129. Eric, thank you so much for sharing on this topic. I’ve seen that you’ve gotten quite the response in the comments, which is also great to read. There is truth in what you say, and also in the comments that have been inspired by your words. I’m grateful that I’ve come across this post, as I have said that phrase in the past many times. I guess alot of what I say, is said with a lack of understanding and revelation. You’ve most definitely stretched my mind into new thinking.

    “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (John 16:2)

    Something that I’ve become aware of in my own life, is to be careful of not doing or following a way of belief or instruction, and feel that I’m doing it for the good of others, or myself, or God, when in fact my act is completely off the perfect will of God, yet is being done under His name.

    As was said earlier, Religion means ‘control’, and Spiritual means ‘freedom’. With regards to being born again into a relationship with our Heavenly Father, both of these apply. As we surrender ourselves, and die to the flesh, we ask for God to guide us through His Holy Spirit. This could be seen as a form of control, as we are set free from sin, and become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18) We also become spiritual, as it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)

    I will no longer say that phrase, as my understanding has now grown. Be blessed brother : )

  130. Interesting point of view… Personally, I see it a bit differently. Spiritual = I am the source of wisdom, I am the one who discovered the truth. So, it is more individualistic and me-myself-and-I-oriented. Religious – seems like a more humble approach, following some tradition and trying to listen vs teach others. Not bad or wrong here I guess, all depends on the values that currently are “trendy”. And we do live in very individualistic society…

  131. Your post was good and very well written. I totally disagree however, like most people that believe there is only one path you wrote a great post. Religion is just a dogma that has rules and is meant to keep human kind in darkness. Spirituality has rules and traditions. You just have not taken the time to discover it. I am proud to say I am spiritual open to all the wonders of the universe. I am not religious and don’t ever want to be chained to a book and a promise.

  132. I agree with you to an extent…both religion and spirituality are getting a bad name…they’re appear to be millions of hypocrites on both sides. I tend to look up at the sky and see a million stars, and my gut and heart both tell me there is a God. Even Einstein proved it with ‘for every action there is a reaction’ and vice versa theory. Something intelligent and mighty had to start it all. So really who cares. We are humans with little humanity, we’re the stupidist species on the planet, the ONLY one who destroys his own habitat, and basically, if it weren’t for Jesus setting such a wonderful example, we’d all be lost. People battle and kill all the time in the name of their religion and their god, so religion is not for me, but yes I am very spiritual. I pray to my Lord daily, sometimes hourly, and He takes care of me each second. Jesus taught PEACE and LOVE, about the Father, the son and the HOLY SPIRIT!! so yes, I’m spiritual and I’m stickin to that! and may God Bless You and Yours and have a wonderfully SPIRITUAL MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

  133. AAaaahhhh!!!! Religion & Spritualism,the greatest fraud & corruption on humanity by the charletans who purvey this load of “ol croc”. Learn to have faith in yourself & stop deluding yourself that there is more to life than there really is.I read some of the aforementioned rhetoric & dogma & undertstand why the world is in the mess its in….Common sense,where has it gone ? the cargo cult mentality is alive & well as most of you push each other further closer to the abyss.The amusing thing is that many of you profess to be “well educated” :-))) Its as though you desire to be manipulated

  134. Based on your previous comments,I now realise you could not have said anything else…you seem to have nothing more intelligent to say than to denegrate those with an opposing point of view. Your thoughtless comment that Capitalism is a greater fraud & corruption than Religion demands why you think it does ?

      • Eric,you are a greater “joker” than you realise. I assume you are an american which is a distinct impediment to any rational debate on religious bigotry & charlatanism.,hence your thoughtless “joker” responses. Put a smile on my face & state something factual instead of Waffling on with nowhere to go like so many others on your page desperately seeking explanation or need for their existence.

  135. There is no “official” meaning of “spiritual,” even though words generally have agreed-upon meaning in a given culture. “Spiritual” is a hard one, because there isn’t much agreement on it. But, I consider it to be related to the human “spirit,” which requires no supernatural or religious implications.

    Also, broad-sweeping assertions about religion or spirituality are hard to take seriously. It seems “religion” is an ever-increasing sore spot for people, which leads to very blunt assumptions about the extremely varied.

  136. I understand the point you are trying to make, but it seems from a limited perspective. The tone seems one of judgement, some intolerance, and lacking in love. Surely that was not you intention.

    Spirituality is deeper than simply following institutionalized religion. They may aid each other, but are not required of each other. It can be from studied texts and writings from various religious institutions which expand thinking, and when coupled with spiritual practice such as contemplative prayer, can take that expansion to many levels, including the wonder of personal relationship, in and outside institutional religion. Spirituality should not be imprisoned in dogma or doctrine of a specific religious institution.

    If one is guided to participate in the church community, that is wonderful, but it is not the criteria for authenticity of spirituality.

    The fact that some people feel embalmed by the dictates of religion, and here I mean institutional religion, does not mean they are any less in relation with their God, or Higher Power, or Creative Source, than anyone else. The witness is always based on Love. Is that the manifestation of the person saying they are “spiritual”?

    It also presumes that the individual is guided by Spirit, discerns the S/spirit behind actions and statements. The best way to know what a person means by “spiritual” is their lives. However, we know that we are not to judge. Judgment tends to bring a heap more judgment on ourselves.

    If anyone has a moral superiority in their religion or spirituality, they may have a long journey ahead of them that books cannot teach with understanding. Surely the lessons will come if one is open to the purifications we all need. They are blessings which fill the vessel with Love.

    The best way to relate to a “spiritual” person is with the Love we have received, and to accept they are on a journey, as we all are. Trust in God to know what each individual needs and to supply it. We don’t need to cause a detour by our own judgments.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful post, Suzanne. I’m curious about this: “Spirituality should not be imprisoned in dogma or doctrine of a specific religious institution.” I wonder why you believe dogma and doctrine to be a prison. You have made a number of statements that easily pass for doctrine, indeed looking back over your post, nearly everything you said was said dogmatically (I mean that in a good way, after all I am in favor of doctrine and dogma).

      How does your personally held doctrines and dogmas of spirituality and religion differ from “institutional” religious doctrine and dogma?

      • Eric, I was responding to your opinion, but did not claim to be free of the influences of doctrine or dogma.

        I have learned to see that there are many ways in which people are guided through spirituality of many different forms. Some of these put religious to shame.

        I don’t want to get into criticisms of churches. Most people know the problems. I do wish to elevate the faith communities of all religions, which may be the heart of the institutions.

        melanielynngriffin’s comment is beautifully put from a Christian perspective.

        “Jesus was more concerned about cleaning the inside of the cup than the outside. I’m concerned about personal transformation, leading to changes in outward behavior, not about rules & regs, per se. Jesus didn’t come to found a religion, he came that we might have life to the full and be free to become who we were intended to be. Since each of us is unique, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to get us there,”

        I think that while doctrine and dogma may be specific to some religious institutions and not others, spirituality can move freely from Spirit to soul, without prejudice as to the indoctrination they might have received at some point in their lives, or not.

        • In short, you use your standard of dogma and doctrine as you see fit. My point is that you use them because you cannot do otherwise. To not have a set of dogmatic assertions concerning ones spirituality is to have no spirituality at all – its simply “flighty emotionalism without a core.” My article is not so much a commentary on spirituality or religion as much as it is a commentary on using “spirituality” as a tool of thoughtless superiority over undefined “religion.”

          • OK, Eric, you can’t help yourself at judging others. Perhaps one day you will understand what I am saying. I trust Spirit will help you with that. Love and peace to you!

            • How did you take what I said as judgmental? I feel that I have understood you perfectly, but I fear you have not understood me at all. It’s not a bad thing that you use a set of dogmas and doctrines, its a good thing, I’m only trying to help you see that your path differs very little from those involved with a recognized religion in this respect. I worry that your instinct to drop the “judgmental card” on those who disagree with you will prevent you from hearing opinions you may benefit from.

              Cheers.

    • Spirituality devoid of a relationship with the one true God through Jesus Christ or, in other words, religious devotion to the Christian God is, as stated in the article, empty. That is not judgemental. That is simply the Christian faith expressed.

      • Mattimuck..”the one true god” :-) What about the other nine thousand nine hundred & ninety nine man made gods hardly referred to here :-),or dont they count :-)

          • Eric,I Obviously dont believe in any god,Im stronger & more confident than the need dictates. The false promises over the centuries should convince even the most unfortunate simpleton that they have been let down miserabley. Why so many continue with the fraud is bewildering when its so easy to find peace & contentment from within,For most that is a task too difficult when so many milions of scurrilous ratbags are on the bandwagon promising everything beyond all reasonable sense of belief. Its madness…Eric…Im still waiting on you stating something worth consuming….C’mon…let it out :-) No waffling please

            • Why blame someone for not including the other 9999 when you’re not willing to include any of them?

              Tony, I’d be happy to debate you on any of my articles dealing with atheism. You may find a couple of them worth your while, but this article is not oriented that way. I appreciate you’re lively posts, but thus far in over 300 replies no one has become uncivil. Please don’t spoil the fun.

              Have a good night.

    • that was stated beautifully. I truly feel if we could stop judging long enough to realize we all have problems, we could all begin to cooperate and mostly, just love! and yes, I wear rose colored glasses! lol

  137. I appreciate your thought-provoking post. I, too, am annoyed by the “spiritual but not religious” phrase, because of the judgment contained in it. Since re-legion basically means to “reconnect,” what’s not to like?
    However, I’m not a big fan of dogma and doctrine, because it seems to me that Jesus was more concerned about cleaning the inside of the cup than the outside. I’m concerned about personal transformation, leading to changes in outward behavior, not about rules & regs, per se. Jesus didn’t come to found a religion, he came that we might have life to the full and be free to become who we were intended to be. Since each of us is unique, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to get us there, I think. My two cents. thanks again, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed. I’m always excited when spiritual/religious/Christian WHATEVER people are tagged. Blessings – Merry Christmas

  138. Truly… spiritual arrogance is how you term those who claim to have this deep connection with the divine with the absence of religion. The two were never mutually exclusive.

      • says history, says experience, says the natural order of the cosmos. It’s just baffling how people equate religion to something so worldly and shallow. The two are separate entities but are expected to go together.

        • In the best possible circumstance, I agree. But can you deny what pain religion has caused humanity? In the name of our perfect Creator, “witches” have been burned, Christ was crucified, the Towers decimated. If religion grants “specialness” to one group, it separates. And that is NOT of God. If you can re-read the above blog with a completely open mind, you will see the obvious distain this Christian woman has for people who chose a different path to God. What business is it of hers how other people celebrate the Almighty?

          I apologize for my quip. I was ticked. Happy New Year to you.

          • Alright, on to the concessions: First, nothing is perfect in this plane… not even religion. Indeed, even to the present many utilize dogmas to advance personal or political agendas; no wonder organized beliefs divide instead of unite. Second, it is faith/personal relationship to your God which is the basis of one’s spirituality— no argument with that.

            Point being, which I believe was also claimed by the blogger, is that religion is a tool to attain some level of spirituality. You need somehow to begin somewhere in your quest to be one with the divine, and religion does the job. Good for the people who attained Nirvana or Moksha or however they call it without the aid of religion but for the average struggling person living in this harsh world who wants to have something to anchor on his beliefs, his sanity, his soul— this is the very purpose why religion is created.

            Yes, I do not have any spiritual ascendancy to assume and conclude the ultimate truth on this matter, but I do realize your take on this… and to debate on who is right at the end of the day would be pointless.

            Happy Holidays!

  139. I should not be surprised at the narrow perspective, but I am.
    I do get wet when I swim, yet I have the temerity to claim to be spiritual without being religious. The converse of spiritual is corporeal, not religious. Spirituality is having a conscious existence and awareness outside of the body. Religion is simply following dogma. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they can and do exist independently.

    The narrowness of perspective I refer to is the original author’s religious position, and the overwhelming majority of respondents having the same baseline of some sort of faith. It can’t be anything but religious if it’s faith-based (no respondents have any personal knowledge of the religions’ founders, so it must be from religious instruction or dogma) but they may or may not be spiritual.

    No of these factors presuppose “goodness” or “badness” – that’s a matter of an individual’s value systems which may or may not be derived from religious dogma.

    I personally claim to be good (by my own and my society’s standards), spiritual (that’s mine alone), and totally irreligious. I go a step further to claim that all religions have an inherent flaw that makes them as dangerous as standing armies and banking institutions (apologies to Thomas Jefferson for the paraphrase).

    Take what comfort you may from your personal faith, but when you start organising as a religion I become wary. All the major evil events in human history have some religious element, even when faith is not a component. As examples I offer nazism, fascism and communism as religions that are not faith-based in the usually accepted sense of that term.

    • I would say one can have religion (formal teaching and practice) without spirituality (internal engagement), but one is hard pressed to have spirituality without religion, for reasons already mentioned many times in this thread.

      “All the major evil events in human history have some religious element, even when faith is not a component.”

      Perhaps because every event in human history involves humans, and humans are religious creators through and through. But, how is it you link communism with religion? Take a specific example of a communist movement – the Bolsheviks. This was a strictly militant atheist revolution whose first victims were the Russian Orthodox Christians, to the tune of 30 to 50 million slaughtered. How’s that a religious evil?

  140. ” I appreciate you’re lively posts, but thus far in over 300 replies no one has become uncivil. Please don’t spoil the fun.”
    By George, I think you’ve got it!
    As I have stumbled through the hundreds of comments, disagreeing strongly with some, feeling sad for others, and applauding a few, I realize that the majority were devoid of the negative adjectives that express the writer’s judgmental attitude towards others…one group…lots of groups…or the entire world except himself (or herself if gender neutrality is expected…the writer in me still struggles with what pronoun to use here)..

  141. I cringed everytime I heard that phrase said in churches and fellowships. It did sound like spiritual pride like you said. I always say there is a thin line between testifying and boasting. Now,this is what I think of the phrase. There are many people within religious groups who merely follow its rules and regulations without understanding what they actually mean. I think that spirituality is a part of religion. What I believe is simple, do what you do not just because it is expected but because you understand why you are doing it. I am a Christian and one of my favourite scripture verses is Nehemiah 8:12.
    I also believe that sometimes it’s a question of understanding of the terms but more than often,it’s just pride and ignorance talking but who are we to judge?

  142. Above all else I have found this discussion to be humbling and calls me to a deeper level of hearing and acting. I wish to be proactive in extending invitation to all to enter into a connected relationship in which we can connect and share “some spiritual gift” which will be mutually beneficial.

  143. Wow. You sure got a lot of comments on this. :) I bet you have your hands full responding to everything. I have recently taken to not calling myself a Christian because so many people do but they seem to trust in the religion to save them. I don’t believe any religion has the power to save. Only Jesus and His sacrifice that He made for all of us.

    Even apostlistic religion does not save in my view. It is something that many wish to do to please God. But only faith in Jesus as the Messiah can save you.

    What do you think of this?

    • I actually agree with everything you said. The question is, what does one mean by “faith”? The Orthodox understand faith as a complete devotion of one’s being, loving God with all his “mind, will, soul and strength.” One must also “worship in spirit and in truth,” and what is spiritual worship? Among other things it is, according to the Apostle Paul, “presenting your body as a living sacrifice, holy and well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).

      The Church is Christ’s body and one must be grafted into His body to be truly united with Him. This is accomplished by faith, yes, and Jesus gave us the mystery of the sacraments to accomplish this in both body and spirit. “Take eat, this IS my body broken for you… take drink, this IS my blood of the new covenant shed for you.”

      That’s the shortest version I’ve got. :)

  144. Eric, there is no need to worry about me. Since you don’t know my history, my associations, my background, or spiritual relationships, you make assumptions that are erroneous. You judge without facts or knowledge, using your assumptions. That is not a very good way of having a dialogue. This is not a courtroom, nor the Inquisition.

    • Suzanne, I know that you have learned to discover beauty and love through art. I know that your art is intuitive and that you’re damn good at it. I also know that you are learning to adapt your intuitiveness to traditional forms of art.

      This is almost a perfect reflection of my “spiritual” experience in independent, isolated Evangelicalism before coming to the historic Christian faith where the true spirit of Christianity has been alive and well for 20 centuries. This article is just a teeny piece of that journey.

      I’m actually very glad to have met you, even if you typecast me as a judgmental religious person (indeed, a judgment on your part). I wish you the best.

  145. Gosh – what a discussion following a thought-provoking post. Thank you.
    I think I use the terms “religion” (the practices we follow) and “spirituality” (what inspires our heart and mind) a little differently. If I may use an analogy: “religion” in our life is like bones to the body in that they give it shape but bones on their own are merely a skeleton – of curiosity value, perhaps. “Spirituality” is like the flesh, alive, and gives the body movement. You can have a body without bones but moving around and communicating is more difficult (but not impossible). Whenever we express our spirituality we use some kind of religion – even a disorganised one, maybe.
    The conversation could go on and on…
    I guess what most of us are trying to get to grips with, is about getting what we believe, feel, say and do to act in concert – to integrate them into a whole. Personally, much as I may aspire to that, I need the help of God and of his people just to make a start on that.
    Peace be with you.

    • Its a good analogy, and its a shame that so many people want to throw away the bones :) But, I get it. Many have been stung by this church or that church, but I believe just as many get stung by isolated spirituality, they just don’t realize it because they are the one’s stinging themselves by cutting themselves off from community. We are communal beings fashioned by a communal God.

  146. Eric – I find everyone’s spiritual journey beautiful, including your own, and I’m happy that you’ve found a path that fulfills your soul. However, I don’t think your personal path should be the standard for everyone’s path. I was a Christian for 15yrs. I studied Theology alongside you, in the same classrooms, under the same professors. But my spiritual journey resulted in quite the opposite outcome. I’m no longer a Christian, but I still seek Truth. Some, like myself, don’t find peace and fulfillment within organized religion and, instead, choose to seek God in other ways. It’s not a “better” or “worse” path…it’s just different.

    We call ourselves “spiritual” as a way to communicate to others that, while we don’t subscribe to one particular religion, we still truly seek a higher power. In fact, one reason why I don’t follow an organized religion is illustrated in your post: it’s closed to other ways of thinking. You believe that someone like me is going to hell or, at the very least, has been “led astray” or is “misguided”. Thus, not sharing your personal convictions results in a “lesser than” attitude toward my own spiritual journey. It’s that superiority complex that exists in religion that repels people like me. It’s not about making our own rules, or being undisciplined. It’s about being open and free to allow God to reveal Himself/Herself to us in everything. Just as Moses experienced. As David experienced. As all those whom you follow as examples, they found the Truth outside of the society’s organized religions of the time.

    Apologies for a long, soapbox post. But I wanted to add an ounce of clarity to your perspective and hopefully help you see that being “spiritual” is just as beautiful as being “Christian”. Wishing you peace and love in your continued journey.

    • Mystery ex-fellow-classmate, thank you for your post.

      I don’t believe I explicitly or implicitly implied that my path was the standard for everyone, that would be absurd and would completely destroy any idea of “the individual.” I am a raving existentialist, such a thought would run counter to the very fiber of my soul.

      I think you have my argument backwards. I’m am not claiming that those who claim to be spiritual lack religion, I’m saying they create their own. They follow their own dogma rather than established dogma and then often claim that the established dogmas are man-made. My argument is that the person claiming such things is himself a “man,” thus following oneself is in fact following yet another set of man-made dogma. My point is, what is it that makes the individual man-made religion superior in spirituality to the spirituality of the man-made religion of a particular community? (though, historic Christianity does not claim to be man-made, but for the sake of argument…)

      “One reason why I don’t follow an organized religion is illustrated in your post: it’s closed to other ways of thinking.” And is your spirituality open to other ways of thinking, or is the rejection of Christianity barred from inclusion in considerations of closed-mindedness?

      You end with: “spiritual” is just as beautiful as being “Christian”. This implicitly says that the two are mutually exclusive. Is this what you meant to say, or am I reading you wrong?

  147. Apologies if I got your argument backwards…I think my perception was very much impacted by this statement: “I have found the phrase, “I am spiritual, not religious,” and its redheaded stepchild, “I follow Jesus, not tradition,” to be manifestations of spiritual pride, not spiritual enlightenment.”

    I read that phrase to mean that my spiritual journey, and my explanation of it, is deemed prideful to you and lacking enlightenment. But your entire post assigns one meaning to “spiritual” and then proceeds to tear it down, building an effigy made of your own perceptions for the purpose of tearing it down to prove your point.

    My reason for commenting was to introduce you to someone who considers herself “spiritual” after already exploring organized religion, and to argue that my “spiritual not religious” journey is neither prideful, nor lacking in enlightenment, but instead was chosen through extreme prayer, insight, study and struggle.

    I agree that essentially any method we choose in our pursuit of God (or a higher power, or the Universe, or whatever we choose to call it) is dictated by a largely man-made dogma.

    But the huge difference is: my spiritual dogmas are tailor made for me, designed from my own experiences with God, man, and morality. Whereas, when I was following Christianity, I was following a religion dictated to me by others. That sounds very simplistic, but that method didn’t work for me. It does work for many. Many find comfort in the history of their religion, and many find God through it, but I didn’t. And my point is: that’s ok.

    I do think Christianity is beautiful. I think Islam is beautiful. I think Buddhism is beautiful. And I think spirituality is beautiful. I don’t reject Christianity as a means to finding God, I reject it as MY means for finding God. But I find beauty in anyone’s journey.

    • I’m curious what church affiliation you were a part of?

      Btw, I have a fairly well evidenced theory that ORU’s theology department accepts mostly Word of Faith, Pentecostal, independent, Evangelical types and graduates mostly Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox or agnostic types.

      • I came to ORU from Assemblies of God. And it’s interesting, I’ve noticed the same trend. I wonder what that says about the Theology Dept? Sidenote: I do miss the deep theological discussions. I still find it enjoyable to hash out the hard questions.

        • I think it says that the theology department is doing its job :)

          Ohhh, do I miss the discussions. If just I knew then what I know now they would have been so much more fun.

  148. I wanted to drop a note of thanks to everyone who has posted. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading through them and my apologies to those I was unable to answer personally. Hundreds posted in a span of a couple days and there was no way to keep up.

    Thanks again, Cheers!

  149. I wonder frequently if those who claim spirituality over religion, just prefer the sensationalism of experience over faith and fact and reason. It is easier to say that you are spiritual than to admit the shortcomings that you possess, and how they don’t align to the standard set forth in the Bible (or any other religion, for that matter). It is an easy cop out that prevents any real acceptance of depravity.

    Jesus was a man of absolutes. He’s the only way. Only His name is the one by which mankind can be saved and reconciled to God. It is an extreme delusion to claim that experience can triumph over the knowledge and reality of the standard of holiness that Christians are called to subscribe.

    Those words are easy to say. It is easy to say that you follow Jesus and not some archaic, barbaric, exclusive sets of rules. But, Jesus didn’t chase after those who refused to follow when he confronted them with truth that illuminated their stains.

    A very incredible read, thank you.

  150. Religion is not the opiate of the masses, misguided “spirituality” is. A vibrant spiritual life can only thrive when it is rooted in fertile religious soil. Excellent post.

  151. I very much enjoyed your post. Religion itself is simply whatever you believe. Which is why I find it hilarious when atheists condemn “religion”, not realizing that the belief in nothing but yourself IS a religion too.

    Now, I’m not going to lie, I’m not crazy for “Organized Religion”, where men (mankind I mean) sometimes take liberties with what God has said in order to play God themselves. I don’t attend a specific church, but that’s because I’ve never been in a church that taught explicitly what I believe — that God is Truth and Love, and Jesus is Truth and Love made visible in flesh — the One True God taking off His immortality and clothing Himself with mortality, come, crucified and risen, His body immortal once again. For me, that’s the deal breaker, whether someone believes that Jesus is God Himself, or just a man.

    So I personally don’t have a problem if someone says, “I follow Jesus, not tradition.” I understand that. The Bible says that where two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, there He is with them. So even if I’m just sitting with a friend, taking about God over a cup of coffee, to me, that’s Church. If anyone wants to go to a brick and stone church and fellowship that way, I certainly don’t have a problem with that at all. As long as wherever you are Jesus is the name on your lips, that’s what’s important.

    But you’re completely right, spiritual/religious… those two things go together, they aren’t mutually exclusive. Great post.

  152. I think where most people make a mistake is confusing ‘religious’ with ‘dogmatic’. And in that sense, I can understand if someone considers themselves ‘spiritual’ rather than slavishly following a religious dogma.
    I’ve had similar responses from my Christian in-laws, who thought that my Agnosticism meant that I was waiting for a sign from God in order to become religious. What they didn’t understand is that I’m not interested in an answer to every question. I enjoy the mysteries of life too much to have them explained away with platitudes.

    • This, this, this. Yes, yes, yes ——> “What they didn’t understand is that I’m not interested in an answer to every question. I enjoy the mysteries of life too much to have them explained away with platitudes.”

  153. Very heavy message. I have always been confused as to why someone would say they are spiritual, assuming it had something to do with not claiming a denomination or not having a home church. You have given me something to seriously think about.
    Great post!

  154. This article reminds me of the question that comes up within the game we know of as ‘dating’. “Spiritual, not religious” is a safe vanilla response for those who might be apprehensive to reveal who they really are. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I pray, but that doesn’t mean I buy into the story about Jesus. I think there are excellent morals in any religious sect and its really up to the individual to interpret them and apply it to their own lives. Religion is merely a resemblance of common thought throughout the age of humans. Metaphysical relationships are extremely hard to explain and understand just as ‘God’ is hard to understand. It’s an easy route to take by saying ‘oh, I’m (insert religion here)’. It’s a lot harder to say ‘oh, I’m in tune with my own spirit and how it interacts with the world around me’. I think some people in our societies are better off claiming a specific religion. It might suit them just fine. Lets not be afraid to stand up for what we really feel in our own hearts though.

  155. Pingback: More Encouraging Words | Will Write for Food (and maybe dental)

  156. Just, omg, all i can say to this post! :) I’ve been hearing this phrase ‘spiritual & not religious’ for decades already, well, since I learned English fluently :D
    And I was always wondering what dp ppl mean my it?
    Coming myself from an Orthodox Christian environment, and having learned what it is about, I now consciously transcended to what I can call ‘spiritual’, at last!
    And you are so right – one won’t get smart about spirituality unless she/he knows what being religious is about.
    Thanks! Great post!

  157. To “art & life notes” above.

    1. Arius did make his case strictly from Scripture and convinced nearly 1/2 of Christendom at the time, causing perhaps the largest splits in history. This is not proof that Scripture teaches Arius’ heresy, but rather that “evil men twist the Scripture to their own destruction” (2Pet 3:16). What broke Arius’ back was Orthodoxy’s reply from Scripture but also evidence of the earliest baptismal confessions of the Church, which testify to the triune nature of God.This was evidence the Arians couldn’t resist because there was no tradition in the Church of Christ being a created being up to that point.

    2. “It is the authority of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that reveals the triune nature of YHWH. The ecumenical councils were only codifying what had already been revealed in the Bible. To say that…”

    Almost right. The Council “codified” what was truly revealed in Scripture AND the way they knew this was the correct interpretation of Scripture (Trinitarianism) was thanks to the Apostolic Tradition which was alive and well in the Church – the Tradition from which Scripture itself came.

    3. “these issues can go either way w/out tradition is false. You’re essentially saying that the councils created Truth”

    Incorrect. The Holy Spirit doesn’t change His ways from generation to generation, hence the “tradition” of the Church remains constant, because the Spirit remains constant. Think of it: If there is continuation of the Holy Spirit in the earth we will only recognize it as something unchanging – Holy Tradition is unchanging. The Councils did not create truth, they defended it. They helped to draw the boundary line of orthodoxy (i.e. right worship and right thinking).

    I think where the misunderstanding is happening is when you attempt to remove Scripture from the Tradition from which you received it. The Apostolic Tradition includes Scripture. Orthodoxy believes in Prima Scriptura as opposed to the Protestant invention of Sola Scriptura. The reason Paul says that the Church is the “ground and pillar of truth (1Tim 3:15) and to “keep to the TRADITIONS delivered to you” (1Cor 11:2 and even encourages true believers to “Withdraw from a brother who does not follow the traditions” (2Thes 3:6) is because the apostles emphasized Holy Tradition as ones guide through the faith – not one’s personal opinion and interpretation of the Church’s holy writ (the Bible).

    Does that make sense?

  158. Eric – I would like to read something of your explanation of ‘Apostolic Tradition’ (vs. those who wish to disassociate themselves from religion). Pehaps you can supply something in a brief reply herein?

    • Dichasium, sure. Though it will be far from all inclusive, I’ll give a short summary the best I can.

      The Apostolic Tradition, or Holy Tradition (both terms are used in the Orthodox Church) is that tradition which was delivered once and for all to the saints, the same tradition Scripture makes many pleas for the faithful to follow. It is, as Florovsky put it, “the continuity of divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.” It is an appeal not to abstract theological formulas, but an appeal to holy witnesses.

      These witnesses are intrinsically connected to the Orthodox faith being found in both the “kerygma” (preaching) of the Apostles and the dogma of the Church Fathers. But its not merely “right teaching” but also “right worship” (“orthodoxy” has both meanings in the Greek, it involves a unity of thought and spirit).

      All that said, the Apostolic succession, or as it is sometimes referred to “the canon of bishops,” and Apostolic teaching are both required for Apostolic Tradition. The main presupposition being: the Holy Spirits work in the earth has never ceased to be, and the gates of hell have never prevailed against the Church, as Christ prophesied. The Church is never “created” by people, it is only received. Thus, any movement which claims to have restored the ancient church is blowing smoke up your backside. They must claim that the Holy Spirit is inept to keep the Church and Jesus would have prophesied falsely.

      In short, the Apostolic Tradition teaching has as its primary text Holy Scripture and as its primary interpretive and exegetical method that of the Holy Fathers, via both their writings and the great Ecumenical Councils. And the Apostolic Tradition has as its worship the liturgical life virtually unchanged since the Patristic era. This continuum is found in the Holy Orthodox Church.

      For more I recommend “Aspects of Church History” by Florovsky, “The Orthodox Church” by Timothy Ware. There are many others one could suggest, but those come to mind first for me. Also, the true guts of the faith of the Fathers is found in the Philokalia. Hope this helps. Here’s a good link as well:

      http://www.antiochian.org/content/scripture-and-tradition

      Cheers.

    • This is absolutely correct if one claims to be a Christian. Christianity wholly resists renegade travelers. One must be grafted into the “body of Christ” to be a Christian. As the Scripture makes clear, the Church is Christ’s body on earth.

  159. Eric, finally made the time to read your post, having seen it in the Freshly Pressed (Congratulations on that!). Thanks for throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons! I don’t have enough time or experience at Word Press, but I’m guessing the number of comments is far outstripped by the views you got – when our feathers get ruffled, it’s a good thing! It means something warrants our attention. I’ve said “I’m spiritual, not religious” in response to someone asking me about what religion I practice. I didn’t feel I could fairly claim a religion as I wasn’t attending a church.

    Your comment re having a “profound ignorance about the historic Christianity” struck a chord with me and my desire to learn more about the religion I was born into, Catholicism. Back in 1996, I took a five month course entitled “Introduction to Judaism” that was taught in Los Angeles at the University of Judaism. I loved it. I considered it a course in the bones of a religion – why Jews practice certain traditions and I learned to appreciate Judaism. I would catch myself thinking, “Hey, they stole that from us!” – laughter – and then realize, no, we borrowed it from them. There was so much beauty and light in it that it made me curious about my faith – the bones of it, what is behind the prayers, the mass, the symbols. So, I’m diving back in to find out. As I wrote in one of my posts, I miss being with people who believe in God and are willing to stand up and be counted. Incidentally, Mike, in one of the comments above, mentioned the videos of Fr. Barron. That was the first touchstone recommended when I contacted my local church. Just a short video and then a discussion. The Catholic Church has lasted 2,000 plus years and the Bible much longer. I want to appreciate why.

  160. I like the way universalist Quakers think about this matter. The Light — the Holy Spirit — God — is directly available to everyone. A person may find a spiritual connection to the Divine by following any of a variety of religious traditions: Buddhism, the best of Christianity, the best of Islam, the best of Judaism, etc. If the rituals of a certain religion help you feel connected to the Divine, then practice them. If they feel like useless or destructive rules that lead to rigidity and condemnation instead of compassion and forgiveness, then leave them behind you.
    Finding a community of spiritual seekers who support your spiritual growth, through or without long-established rituals, is wonderful.

  161. Virginia, I agree with you. Yet, no spiritual person has to limit themselves to one tradition only in writings.

    If one has a deepening spirituality and appreciation for their chosen religious institution, they can still avail themselves of learning of other spiritual traditions and writings.

    It has always been a great joy to me to discover the Oneness of Truth. The Holy Spirit guides us through to the vision of Truth, as our foundations are ready for building upon. The various stones build a beautiful edifice of Grace.

  162. Hi Eric.

    I like the way you state your argument, although, personally, I don’t agree with it – spirituality implies a belief in something immaterial or incorporeal (it doesn’t define what ‘it’ is, that’s up to the person who has these feelings); whereas religiousity implies a belief in the same thing, but with the added codes of conduct that a religion adds – if you like, spirituality is the belief that comes first, and religiousity is the specific forms that that belief takes. A person cannot be religious without being spiritual first, but a person can certainly be spiritual without being religious. Many of the world’s tribal peoples are animists – they believe in spirits living in water, trees, rocks, etc. It’s a very basic form of belief, and it neither implies nor produces any specific forms of worship or codes of conduct. These people are spiritual but not religious. Similarly, any small child that hasn’t yet been exposed to any religion may well have spiritual feelings – they may wonder what happens when we die, if we have a soul, if there’s something other than what we can physically sense, etc. But they haven’t yet developed or codified that belief into something more specific.

    On another note, perhaps if there weren’t so many religious people doing such horrible things, or taking their beliefs to the extreme, or using those beliefs to justify their abhorrent opinions or behaviour, perhaps more people would be happy to admit to being religious, rather than just spiritual?

    A very interesting post, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    John.

    • Thanks, John. Sorry for the late reply; been on vacation with family.You made a few points, let me hit what I think are the major ones:

      You said, ” if you like, spirituality is the belief that comes first, and religiousity is the specific forms that that belief takes.”

      This actually isn’t far off one of the points in the article. A person may develop spiritual beliefs outside of any specific codified religion, however when one attempts to practice and understand their beliefs further they develop their own sort of “small” religion that differs very little from “big” religion.

      Next: “A person cannot be religious without being spiritual first, but a person can certainly be spiritual without being religious.”

      I would say it directly reverse – a person can be religious without being spiritual, but a person cannot be spiritual without being religious.

      Then: “perhaps if there weren’t so many religious people doing such horrible things, or taking their beliefs to the extreme, or using those beliefs to justify their abhorrent opinions or behaviour, perhaps more people would be happy to admit to being religious”

      Interesting insert at the end, the part about “admitting” to being religious, because, after all, humans are religious beings by nature. Those who resist this part of human nature resist their very existential core. And, I’ll agree there are a lot of people doing terrible things in the name of religion, but why do you suppose people avoid this title due to the fraction who abuse it verses all the other titles people take which have just as many or more abusers? For example, why would someone assume the title of “anti-religious” when militant anti-religious types in the form of Russian Bolsheviks slaughtered upwards of 30 to 40 million people in a single generation (most of whom were my fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters)? Or what about those who stand for the supposed right for women to kill their womb dependent children? 3,000 babies are exterminated daily in the US by their “mothers.” I don’t know of any abortion activists who claim a religious backing.

      That’s my initial push-back. What do you think?

      • “…humans are religious beings by nature.” That is completely misguided and fallacious, and makes an assumption not able to be proven either way. People may be spiritual about anything, but they do not have to be religious to any one specific Religion. This is a roundelay you keep trying to make so by putting it in different words. It is not true, and never will be true; no matter how you dress it up. Move on to another topic that’s worthy of your time.

        • Robert, if it can’t be proven either way then by calling the idea fallacious you either contradict yourself – inferring you can prove it false – or your judgment is mere personal opinion and thus on no higher plain than my own, though I can give far better evidence than you to make my case. Btw, I stole the basic phrase from Mark Twain, “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal.” Twain knew a thing or two about human nature.

      • Hi Eric, thanks for your reply.

        I see what you mean about ‘creating your own religion’ (for want of a better way of putting it) – I guess, when we attempt to put our own beliefs into practice, we do start practicing our own small religion.

        You took my statement and said it in reverse – so you think a person can be religious without being spiritual? Is that like saying ‘you can practice the rituals, but you don’t have to believe the faith behind them?’ I’m sure there are people who are like that, who don’t necessarily have any real belief or faith, but who practise a religion nonetheless. But doesn’t that make their practicing of the religion rather hollow? For example, I was brought up a Christian, and went to church when I was younger, and read The Bible. But I never really believed any of it. So did that make me a Christian (because I practiced the religion), or an Atheist (because of my lack of belief)? If a person is religious without being spiritual (which, I agree with you, is possible), then what are they practising a faith for? I would say that spirituality is like the questions, and religion is the answer (or one of many possible answers) – surely you need a question before you can have the answer, and, if you know the answer, but you’ve never really been interested in asking the question, then what good is the answer to you really?

        You say that human beings are religious by nature. I’d say that we’re curious and inquisitive by nature, and we certainly have a spiritual side, but I don’t know if that’s the same as being religious. It’s a natural human instinct to question and to wonder about things, but many things I’ve questioned and wondered about have been answered by science. I certainly don’t feel less human by not being religious (I would feel less human if I never had any curiosity about the world, I’ve just got my answers from a different place than religion/spirituality).

        I admit that, as an atheist, it’s very easy for me to look at the various awful things that a small minority of religious people do and think badly of their religion, or of all religion. But I know that those people are wrong, or stupid, or evil, and they would probably be doing bad things even if they were never exposed to religion. And I’m happy to say that I’m lucky to know many religious people of different faiths who are fine human beings (although I think they’re good people at heart, and I think they’d still be good even if they were never exposed to any religion). But you have to admit, Spanish Inquisitions, witch-hunts, and Islamic jihads don’t exactly make for great PR for their respective religions! But you’re absolutely right, many non-religious atheists have done awful things too.

        • “I would say that spirituality is like the questions, and religion is the answer ”

          Bam!

          I love that! Though I would say that spirituality is ultimately the goal of any legitimate religious practice, thus also the answer. And yes, absolutely someone can be religious without being spiritual, and that accounts for the many negative replies you see on this thread. We’ve all either been a part of cold, calculated ritual or have know others who are and the sort of Frankenstein-like results it produces. Unfortunately I think many were raised in a religion that made sense to their parents but they (the kids) never had any affinity for it, but were still forced to participate “for their own good.”

          Thanks for the hearty response. I wish I knew 100 atheists with your depth and honesty. Cheers.

  163. It will be interesting to see if you (Eric) have a reply for John’s response above. Also, I was enjoying thinking about your phrase’s ‘my little universe of self-taught Evangelism’ and ‘as a Christian solo artist’ and I recalled some old thoughts of mine. This being, that we do criticise this kind of self learning but I think it is a good thing because we usually come to personal opinion through thinking for ourselves, with the limited knowledge we have received, which at least means we are thinking for ourselves. But, if we care sufficiently about truth, we keep an open mind, and, in due course, we discover that there is more information which can alter our stance, as indeed it did for you. This can be used to reduce our arrogance and increase humility. Without this stage we would simply believe what we have passed onto us, which, could well have more damaging effects? Of course, the problem is if we arrogantly stick in the mud, act on these opinions, and do not remain open. Do you have thoughts on this and to John above, Eric?

    • Dichasium, I actually agree with most of what you said. I would argue, however, that simply launching out on your own is no test for “open-mindedness” or “truth-seeking.” When I was an independent Evangelical I prided myself on my initiative and self-informed theology. I think this is a far more dangerous path then sticking with an established course, and it gets you nowhere nearer the truth. I could demonstrate this in a number of ways, but just consider, for starters, that every nut-house and prison are full of self-starting, self-informed, independent types, whereas universities are full of people who are learning to learn from those who went before them. Imagine physics, medicine, law, biology, psychology, etc, without set “doctrines” and historic experience gained through a community of like-minded travelers. Why is it all of the sudden proper to jump on the independent track when one crosses over to spirituality and religion?

      This is what I don’t get from our popular modern thinking.

      • Surely the desire to have independent belief is due to several things, such as, most other subjects provide evident facts and foundations that have not been found wanting, or their errors have been clearly proved wrong as we become enlightened, so we feel we can proceed on good enough ground. With religion and the church, we fear being one of the blind led by the blind because modern life has been free to point to much error in the church leading to doubt and a strong feeling that belief must, therefore, be arrived at through individual personal experience and cannot be taught to order. This sounds perfectly reasonable. So, if changes are to occur anywhere, it perhaps needs people of your own experience to show that the foundations are there as ever, and we must see beyond SOME of its representatives to remain with the real thing, and not, instead, to take the encouragement to look to ourselves or elsewhere!

  164. I have been a patron of “organized religion” since before I can remember. One day I was attending a Bible study on the issue of “Justification”… as I sat listening to a 45 minute discussion on how we are saved? Are we saved by our own works? Are we predestined to be saved… on and on and on… I was thinking why all the discussion the Bible tells us very simply in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” As I listened I realized that “organized religion” is not for me, it robes us of the beauty of God’s word. It contaminates it, flaws it and complicates it. I belong in the study of God’s word and following the teachings of Jesus Christ does that make me “spiritual” or “religious”?

    • Davies7, I almost agree with this line just as you wrote it:

      “As I listened I realized that “organized religion” is not for me, it robes us of the beauty of God’s word”

      Though, I think you meant to say “robs us” not “robes us.” But I agree that it “robes us” in the beauty of God’s word. After all, didn’t the apostle Paul claim that the “Church is the ground and pillar of truth” (1Tim 3:15)? How does the individual arrive at the truth without the Church? According to the Scripture you believe in, one can’t.

  165. davies7 – I expect you’d like a reply from Eric, but meanwhile here’s my quickie – I have always understood that the word ‘religion’ stems from a re-joining together. It seems to me that if we believe in Jesus Christ we are doing just that. We are joining in his spirit, so I think we are being spiritual in that way. Therefore both apply. But, clearly those who only want to be described as spiritual are not wanting to be associated with anything they find wrong in religions (which of course exists), and sometimes not with Jesus Christ specifically. But we all sin, whether part of organised church or not. So, I think it’s just a fear, all stemming from our ignorance. But we must all beware of judging, mustn’t we? (That’s not directed at you! It’s general).

  166. I don’t see the connection that you´re making between defining yourself as either religious or spiritual, it´s like apples and oranges, they´re not necessarily linked. Not to Christianity nor any other religion out there. There´s a broader definition than the small portion that you´re hinting at. And just because someone says that phrase doesn´t mean that they share the same definition of it as you do. Or myself for that matter.

    In my opinion, defining oneself as Spiritual just means trying to see the magic in the world, to try to believe in something without any ties to an authority figure such as a god or something similar. If that now means believing in yourself, your loved ones, mother nature, or a god. then that´s fine. Because it´s something that you shaped yourself, you´re given the room for personal development within your own parameters, without external absolutes that states what you may and may not believe in.

    I agree with John´s statement that “A person can certainly be spiritual without being religious”.

      • I won´t claim that I I have extensive knowledge on Christianity, because I don´t. But I have studied Buddhism and Shinto, I´m also living in Japan. and I believe that any of the western religions are a lot more written in stone than they have to be. I like Shinto because it´s more of a Tradition than a Religion. And instead of worshiping gods, it´s a lot easier to just see them as metaphors. Tradition leads to a tighter community that relies on themselves, while Religion relies on an external savior. I really don´t think that you have to look outside of yourself and your loved ones to find what you need.

        I don´t have anything against Religion if it´s the path that an adult chose. But I really don´t think it´s healthy for it to be pushed/introduced to a child. Even though this falls straight under what you wrote of Religion as “bad” and Spirituality as “good”. I see Spirituality as free thinking and Religion as having a partial initial belief which is than followed by having beliefs pushed onto you.

        • Our understanding of religion is vastly different, hence we come to vastly different conclusions on what it means to be spiritual, not religious. I understand those who have been hurt by an adult or spiritual “authority” figure regarding religion, but one is wrong, in my estimation, to categorize all of religion due to such an experience. It’s like taking the wrong road home, winding up in a ditch, and then blaming “roads” for your condition, forgetting that the “right” road would have led you home.

          • I´m sure that Christianity could, or any other religion for that matter could be a great place to call home if one would just let it. But my accepting oneself into a religious community. Then you´re not only responsible for your own thoughts but everyone else´s as well.

            I don´t believe that any religion out there represents some sort of an absolute truth, I´d much rather accept them all as misinterpretations. Spiritualists will generally not discriminate. but religions do. It´s not just the discriminator which is at fault, the community as a whole has a responsibility. Thankfully, most countries have now separated Religion and Law, but there´s still countries where they´re one and the same which is unforgivable in my opinion.

            Even though there´s no state church in USA, there´s still a lot of religious opinions which influences laws regarding homosexuality, abortion etc which it has no right to do. You ask not to categorize religion based upon the acts of few, but how can one not when it unjustly oppresses people all over the globe due to the fact that one doesn´t share the same practice that Christianity is built upon?

  167. Most of the post here are (excepting Mr Hyde’s) based on a Christian outlook on religion and spirituality. Well, I guess that would come as a big surprise to all the rest of Mankind who AREN’T Christian. If you are going to make any sort of argument on the subject, you have to realize that the world does not revolve around your Christian beliefs. Take an abstract point of view, remove yourself from the equation, and then look at what is around you. A great deal of the world does not even recognize the history or reality of Jesus Christ, yet you (the plural here) seem to want to cram your Bible quotes down everyone’s throats just to make your point. What if your Bible is wrong? What if it is just fiction? All of it? In the old World, if you weren’t Christian, you were Jewish or Muslim. There were few other choices, let alone the idea of being spiritual. Period. What makes you ‘religious’ also binds you with blinkers that obfuscates all other beliefs, and if noticed at all, condemns them as fallacious. It’s the “my religion is the only true one, and all you others are going to burn in Hell” belief-system. The only problem with that is all the other religious belief systems don’t believe in ‘your’ Hell and are laughing at your presumption.

    • Robert, my blog is representative of my experiences, thus they have have heavy Christian themes. However, most of the responses on this article, I would argue, are not from a Christian outlook on religion, as you stated. But, regardless, my saying that man is a religious creature by nature is not in reference to him being Christian but rather “religious” in general. If there were only 3 Christians on the planet it would not change this.

      To be honest, I’m not sure what to respond to since very little of this reply has to do with me personally. I guess I’ll just have to make a couple of observations and leave it there.

      1. Mankind is incurably religious to the core. This does not mean they are all Christians… It means they function in a religious manner. Again, think of “religiousness” as spiritual beliefs “dogmatized” and put to practice, not as organizations run by people wearing black carrying rulers waiting to crack your knuckles if you get out of line.

      2. The “old world” options were not Christian, Muslim, Jewish or bust. Please consider the fact that hundreds of other codified religious beliefs existed, including non-theistic ones, for example, Buddhism.

      3. The whole world is not laughing at a particular belief system’s assumption of the reality of hell. Rather, they mock the belief that nothing exists after death. The vast majority of our contemporary age, and every age before us, believe(d) in an afterlife. This is part of the religious core of mankind. You may think that atheism is the norm, but that only reflects your personal limited experience. If you were a practitioner of your own philosophy of “removing yourself from the equation and taking a look around” you would know that atheism is the extreme exception in the market place of ideas, not the rule. Get away from the isolated pockets of atheistic echo-chambers found in the west (particularly in academia), and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

      • Whatever the merits of the various…and never-ending… arguments, I applaud your awesome literary skill…”atheistic echo-chambers found in the West” has to be to be the most picturesque phraseology I have seen in months!

  168. Little late to the party here but I see religion as dogmatic. A defined structure that props up a belief system. It exists in Reiki circles and new age programs as much as it exists in Catholicism. Being told what to believe or how to worship or not worship is the religion. Experiencing something larger than ourselves or feeling something that is hard to explain as part of everyday life is spirituality.Spirituality exists within all religions and forms of worship as long as we don’t label it. Just sayin’

    • Scott, I agree with your definition of religion, but I would apply that definition to anyone who endeavors to understand and practice their said ‘spiritual’ beliefs. “Religion” is not the sole property of large organized forms of theistic belief systems. Thus, religion and spirituality, in my paradigm, go hand in hand.

  169. Dear Eric: You are correct I meant to say robs. However, I do not believe that the Church is the pillar of truth; I believe that the Bible is the pillar of truth. I believe the Church as an institution is something else entirely. I do believe that one can arrive at the truth without the Church. What about Abraham, Moses? Did they attend church? But I guess I am getting off the subject of “religous vs. spirituality” .

    • Davies, forgive me, but I’m struck by the fatal contradiction of your post.

      You say the Bible is the pillar of truth, yet you disagree with the Bible when it says the Church is the pillar of truth (1Tim 3:15). How is it that you believe the Bible is true if you disagree with it?

      • I do not disagree with the Bible or the truth that it contains. As dishasium says, when I refer to church I am referring to the “manmade buildings” and the person in the pulpit telling the listeners their interpretation of what the Bible says. Obviously you have spent more time in the New Testament; whereas I started at the beginning, Genesis and have read methodically, researching and reading other texts on my journey through this amazing book. Yes during my life on this earth, I have read much of the New Testament as well, but as with any other book, to understand the true theme you must start at the beginning, not at the end. As you read the Bible from the beginning you will learn more of the nature of God. I did not learn or gain this insatiable appetite for the word of God by attending any manmade church.

        • I started with the OT as well and I can read it to you in Hebrew if you like. But this deflection does not solve the contradiction. No one is claiming the Church is simply a building made by man. If you believe St. Paul then believe what he says about the Church. It is a major theme in his entire teaching. Cheers.

          • I see that the issue is often due to THE Church (whichever!), all too often has claimed to be the ‘be all and end all’, as this has alienated many, whereas, you have acknowleged in the blog that God’s people may well be also outside of the Church.
            (Some of my comment is missing from sight in this box! I wonder if you’ll see it all?)
            I would be interested to know why the Old Testament is considered essential, if one believes in Christ and His message of impartial love and ‘the Kingdom of God’. I have yet to appreciate the OT, so I’d be glad of reason which can encourage/convince me of its essential nature in my life, such as Anonymous above (davies7?) has stated. Any help welcome.

            • dishasium, maybe I am way over my head in this discussion. You people are obviously much more educated then I. I certainly cannot read the OT in Hebrew or any other language then English, so I will shut up and relieve you all of my dribble. I think the OT is just so fascinating. I love it. I love to read any texts that concerns the ancient times, bc, the creation, God as I AM and will be for evermore. Maybe I need to find a blog regarding books. Have you read the Book of Jasher or the Book of Enoch? I mean “Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.” It does not say that Enoch died it says that God took him away. Does that not blow your mind? Don’t you want to know more?

            • davies7, I’ve just lost my fuller reply to your two questions, so I’ll try a briefer one. Whenever I’ve delved into the OT I have interpreted the old use of language in the most straightforward spiritual way I can, and it does not present problems for me. In the same way, I just see the ‘original sin’ as a story to explain our lack of trust in God’s way. I see Christ as showing us how we misinterpret it still and what guiding principles we need to learn to apply as best we can. He gave His life to show us the way forward, and, it applies just as much today as it did at the original ‘sin’. What I mean. is that we can see it all working out today in the same way as the original, but the original story is necessary if we are to believe by faith rather than understanding. Some can do that, others need to ‘see; it for themselves in their own life, which I have. So, I feel that I understand as much as I need to and there are not unanswered questions bothering me. But you must recognise that I have never been arguing anything, I am merely ASKING if anyone can tell me why the OT is NECESSARY for me. Hope this helps. diChasium (not dishasium!) :-)

            • Sorry I missed this till now, Dichasium. My reflex answer is the OT is important for all the same reasons the NT is important – it reveals God’s economy of salvation, it reveals who and what we humans are, it reveals who God is, His attributes, etc, etc. When the apostles said that “all Scripture is profitable for reproof, correction and training up in righteousness” they were speaking of the Scriptures that were in existence at the time – the OT. The Church Fathers use the OT extensively for illustrating the nature of God and salvation, as do all the Apostles. The Orthodox Church is not big on separating the two books but rather do everything to preserve the true nature of Scripture, that is, it is one continuous work.

              Hope that helps, just my two cents. Cheers.

            • Thanks for your two cents Eric. From them, it seems to me that whilst it may well be a continuous work, the first half is not necessarily essential to an understanding of the second. And, whilst it may be profitable for reproof, correction and training up in righteousness, it is not necessarily the only method for this. Nevertheless, I’ve had a long urge to look closer, perhaps I’ll do so eventually. With your next cent, have you any not too complex helpful books to recommend?

            • Oh man, the Church Fathers are replete with citations and explanations of the OT texts. I’m not aware of their being a compilation work produced, probably because it would be too vast an undertaking. It might be best to just start reading through the OT, take notes where you have questions, and then find a good ancient commentary on it from a Church Father, that’s my method now. Before I would attempt to do my own interpretations as one is taught to do in formal academics. But, using that method you’re sure to interject your own opinion and presuppositions on the text. Long answer to a short question, sorry. :)

  170. I disagree completely. If there is one thing free individuals should figure out for themselves if is their relationship with eternity and this can take shape in as many ways as there are human beings. You are implying a limit to the human imagination and soul. This is always a mistake. Who are you to tell anyone else what they mean? Did God tell you?

    • “You are implying a limit to the human imagination and soul”

      How’s that?

      And, in keeping in line with your thinking, who are you to tell me what I’m implying? And, if you have the time, could you tell me what it means to have an unlimited imagination and soul and how that benefits one in his spiritual journey? I would imagine that if one’s soul is limitless they are a god, why would they need to worry about being spiritual.

      • Infinity doesn’t mean divinity. The universe, as best we can understand it, is infinite, but not holy. As to your ‘who are you question,’ if you don’t want what you say commented on, shut up. Or grow up. If you’re looking for affirmation and pats on the head, go see your grandmother.

  171. I did not reply to one comment you gave in response to me on Dec 30 about not necessarily getting nearer to the truth with ones own thinking, because I felt I had qualified myself previously by adding ‘if one cares sufficiently for the truth’. So, interestingly, I can now explain this a little further – When people show arrogance in various ways, I often do not feel inclined to engage further (that doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t), as I feel a genuine enquirer would not fall into these ways. It is in this way that I feel a genuine seeker is given true answers, ultimately, if they persevere, in good faith (ie., as said, ‘if one cares sufficiently about the truth’), even if they are, at that particular time, simply thinking about things for themselves (and who knows where that may lead them at any future time).

    I always enjoy hearing fair sounding opinions wherever they are from, and weighing them up against my own experiences (just as I have with the words attributed to Jesus).

    On that note, I would like to put a suggestion to you and to hear your thoughts on it please, if possible. I have often wondered if the church referred to in the bible could actually be represented by some (perhaps all, whatever their failings), of the people who attend those man made buildings we call churches but, every bit as much, also be many without the building, who support the word of Jesus Christ anywhere that they be, without being visibly associated with the organised building/place. (Somewhat like the resistance army in wartime – we do not know who or where they are, but God would know them and make good use of them!) How would your church answer or deny this?

    • The Orthodox have a saying that we know where the Church is, but we don’t know where it isn’t, meaning the Church as a visible entity exists in the form of the Orthodox Church which has remained faithful to the Apostolic Tradition for these last 20 centuries without deviation in doctrine or worship. However, this does not mean that everyone who is baptized in the Orthodox Church is necessarily taking their baptismal vows seriously, nor does it mean that God is incapable of reaching those who never step foot in an Orthodox Church. His mercy endures forever. We believe the Orthodox Church contains to fullness of the faith for those who would accept it and that it exists as a sacrament for the life of the world.

      I came from an Evangelical background and the number one turn off for me when first exploring the Orthodox Church was its claim to be the one true Church as spoken of in Scripture and in the Nicene Creed. But the more I looked into it the more I realized they were only staying true to the claims of historic Christianity. It was me who was wanting the Church to contradict itself and forsake its deep ecclesiological roots. I hope that answers your question. Thank you for asking it. It’s an important point.

  172. Thank you Eric. I’d lke to understand these words of yours – ‘We believe the Orthodox Church contains to FULLNESS of the faith for those who would accept it and that it exists as a sacrament for the life of the world’. Any help on offer?

    • For instance, we believe that when other churches perform baptisms (if done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are performing a legitimate “form” of baptism, but they lack the “filling.” Thus, many Orthodox priests will not re-baptize a new convert if they have already been baptized elsewhere, but they will still perform the Charismation part of the service for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

      In a like manner, we believe the Eucharist is only fulfilled in the Orthodox Church, thus we don’t disagree with Protestants when they deny that their communion elements lack the true body and blood of Christ. These are the best examples I can think of off hand, but there are many more.

      It’s sort of the idea reflected in Scripture when the apostles told the Lord of other people who were casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but were not followers with them. Christ told his apostles to not stop them because no one who witnessed the power of God could easily speak evil of him. If people do not follow with the apostles, yet are not against them, they are “for them.” Here you see the mercy and love of Christ extended to all who would call on his name.

      As far as being a sacrament for the life of the world, there is actually a book by that title written by Alexander Schmemann (an Orthodox priest and professor). I highly recommend it if you’re even halfway interested in understanding Orthodoxy. in short, the Orthodox liturgical life is not just for the Church but it functions as a sacrament for the life of the world in that its presence in the world is the active and continual presence of the Holy Spirits work and the body of Christ offering prayers for all of God’s creation with the hope of the redemption of all things.

      • As a Evangelical Anglican, (raised Irish Roman Catholic in the 50’s), I am somewhat read in some of the EO, and yes Schmemann to Bulgakov, with thankfully Georges Florovsky in the middle, as others! ;) At one time (years back now) I was an Anglo-Catholic, and then very Orthodox friendly. But now (and for many years now), I am Reformational and Reformed, yes with both Luther to Calvin! (Yes, I am an Augustinian and something Calvinist! Ou them tough words today! ;) Yeah, I am an old “theolog”.) Though the Anglican Communion is a mess, the beauty and truth of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles (see too the Irish Articles 1615) still are great truth, in this very broken, sinful & fallen world! I fear that we don’t realize the great depth and power of sin upon us, and now this once modern to postmodern world! To quote St. Paul, “In whom the god (Satan) of this world (age) has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. 4: 4)

        And the hour is late! (Matt. 25: 1-13)

        Btw, who reads any John Calvin here?

        • Haha, awesome collage of experiences Fr. Robert. Who reads Calvin? I just bought his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” and began reading it about 2 weeks ago. Though, I think the title is misleading. It should be, “Institutes of Augustine.”

        • @Eric: Rock on! ;) Yes Calvin, (as Luther) were Augustinian. And btw, I am somewhat close to the EO on the Trinity of God (the monarchy of the Father in the Godhead! Augustine also btw held this this too. I should note and say, I taught theology and some philosophy in Israel in the late 90’s. I am 63, and somewhat semi-retired now. I was in Gulf War 1, I was a RMC, Royal Marine Commando, officer (retired there, reserves). I say this, for without the GW1, I would no doubt never have gone to Israel! I miss it there, and the people, Jewish and Arab, etc. That war, was a real providence for me (then in my early 40’s).

          Yes, I am a “Calvin” guy, but hey he is/was certainly fallible, as of course Luther too. But if you want to chat “Calvin” books, his as too others about him, then e-mail me? I have actually read the latest (1559) Institutes several times, as the first (1536). There is a nice book by Frans Breukelman, edited by his students (since he has passed), called: The Structure Of Sacred Doctrine in Calvin’s Theology, (Eerdmans 2010).

  173. Am I correct in assuming that you are proposing noone can have direct contact with or knowledge of the source/consciousness/higher power (what ever you like to refer to as god/goddess/spirit) without a sect or a certain religion? :-/

  174. Tha’d be a negative, Kristina. I’m saying, “Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition in the attempt to understand and practice it.”

    Creating one’s own boundary lines to capture her spiritual beliefs and practices is the creation of a religious confine not unlike large religious institutions. The difference between the Roman Catholic and the individual spiritual sojourner is that the former has a pope whereas the latter becomes her own pope. Both are “man-made” organizations, if you will.

  175. “In the Cross of Christ, as in a most splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God has been displayed before the whole world.” (Calvin, Comm. on John 13:31)

    But, what do WE personally think of it? That is always the great question! And shall become even our judgment to degree!

  176. I also think that what we think is due to our personal will and therefore accountable.
    (I have just read a different blog of Eric’s (can’t be sure of its title but think it is ‘Riding the Philosophic short bus), about a neuroscientist, Sam Harris, who tries to suggest that we have no free will).

    • In a Judeo and Christian anthropology we have a responsible will before God, but we are always sinful beings, so in ourselves we always choose our way, which is just NOT God’s way! But Christian obedience is itself, driven and given by God, Himself, and this is grace! In biblical theology, repentance & faith are themselves “gifts” of God!

  177. Pingback: God, Church, and the Unknown « The Daily Headache

  178. Indeed we can see plainly the loss of the doctrine and teaching of Original Sin, in the Western culture and church today! And in reality Sin is like a ‘Helpless Guilt’ in humanity, even today, but sadly some have a “sheared conscience” in this our time of postmodernity!

    • Hello irishanglican, I think I understand what you have said but I do not know who/what you are responding to. So, would it be possible for you to elaborate on why you have made these three comments please? I am interested.

  179. Hello irishanglican, I think I understand what you have said but I cannot see who/what your are responding to. So, would it be possible for you you elaborate on why you have made these three points? I am interested, thanks.

  180. @dichasium: Sorry mate, I am just an old theolog type ;) I was responding to the theological nature of Original Sin. I am myself an Augustinian as to the nature of sin and salvation! (that’s one that follows somewhat the teaching of Augustine of Hippo, at least as to sin & salvation).

  181. Indeed my first, and really long lasting love of the OT came first in reading Genesis, in fact I read it over and over again for months! That was over 40 years ago now! Along the way, I learned with a concordance that St. Paul loved the Book of Genesis also, quoting from it so very much in his NT Letters! See his Letter to the Romans. for example, and how important Abraham was and is…Romans 4!

    Here is one of my favorite verses from the pen of Paul: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4: 6) Indeed the NT is based upon the revelation of the Old, but Christ is always that revelation from both… HE is always the Logos and the Rhema!

    • Dichasium: In reference to your inquiry to Eric concerning helpful books regarding the OT. See if you can find a copy of The Heart of Hebrew History, A Study of the OT by H.I. Hester, you might find it helpful. If you are a history buff you should find it an interesting read.

  182. I disagree with your statement. I believe spirituality is possible without religion or any deism whatsoever. For a large part of my life I tried to find a religion that worked for me. Or at least one I felt part of. But after analyzing them I found myself in disagreement with the tenets and basic concepts over and over again. Finally, after a long time I realized that religion and spirituality didn’t need to go hand in hand. For many they do. For a few they don’t. We like to pigeonhole ourselves and others into labels and concepts which work for us. In my own journey I came to understand that the creative force that shaped our plant amongst all the others of Infinitum, isn’t something one can name, label, assign gender or creed to. It is also during that journey that I came to realize that Infinitum doesn’t even realize that I exist, our planet exists, the universe exists as a separate part because we are all part of it. I may not pray on my knees. I may not worship a name, but I am spiritual. I do call the quarters, I do cast a circle, I do call on the moon, but all as nothing more than a tool to bring me into a meditative and spiritual frame of mind.

    • Marlis, thanks for your reply. My point about spirituality requiring religion is captured in this line: “Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition in the attempt to understand and practice it.”

      Truly you do not need a formalized world religion or theism (I think you meant to say) to engage in spirituality. We are spiritual beings to the core. However, one cannot help but create their own private religious tradition in order to live with their spiritual beliefs (and if one does not care to attempt to live their beliefs then he/she is merely window shopping and deceiving him/herself).

      Your phraseology is interesting too: “For a large part of my life I tried to find a religion that worked for me.” I believe this statement reflects overwhelming western preconditions of radical individualism as a presupposition of true spirituality. This is the exact opposite of the historic Christian faith, which says we are communal beings by nature and require others on this journey. For the Orthodox Christian this “other” is the mystical Church, i.e. the Body of Christ.

    • Dear MarlisB, I hope I am welcome into your conversation because I would like to raise this question after reading your comments. What is the point of bringing oneself ‘into a meditative and ‘spiritual’ frame of mind’, (if not to connect with something that we feel a need for)?

      • Good question. Connecting with the Energy which surrounds me. Connecting with the Energy which is in every single natural thing on this planet and in Infinitum. I feel no need to connect with an ‘entity’ or ‘personality’. When I meditate I connect with myself as well and it allows me to center and focus myself better. At the end of the day real prayer, not the kind where you bargain with your chosen god, but real prayer is essentially a form of meditating and very effective.

        • Thanks. That brings to my mind my cause for accepting that there is a particular benevolent force that I want to connect with, rather than a fundamental force inherent in life. I once decided that if there is no good reason for life, then the pain inflicted one way or another was too terrible to justify life (if life served no better purpose than mere existence). I had to put something good in it to make the pain worthwhile. For me, that is simply to learn to place love for each other the priority. If I pray, (The Lord’s Prayer is adequate), or if I attempt meditation, both are done to support my desire to have love placed above just life and its inherent force. I believe this force for good is eternal and I believe I am linking with that. This force for love is of course what is commonly referred to as God and I have no issue with this noun. I can do without all the issues that men put into it.

          That is how I can briefly explain my position (and without covering my views on the bad/evil in life and its cause/purpose – that would be quite a bit longer!).
          Hope you are glad to hear it! Kind regards.

  183. Wow did you ever get alot of replies. I guess it is like they say you should never talk about religion or politics…. I know what you mean about I am spiritual religious. I am 50 this year and i have been questioning my Religious up bringing. Roman Catholic.. reading the background of R.C. omg it is bloody and awful to the core… I have I have decided to have a look at other religions…. the main ones that is . I find that everyone has its finatics. They all have a certain sect want to go a bit tod far for their religions….

    I believe in one god, alll others are men that followed there teachings. And the greatess teaching of alll the number one rule is “Love each other as you would like to be loved….” If that is spiritual then count me in….

    • Linda, something that helped me was the acknowledgement that the Church is the mystical body of Christ. As an Orthodox Christian, I believe that Christ was (is) both God and man. As such, the Church is both God and man, and just as surely as man will fail, the Church will fail from time to time. But, this human element is critical. If the Church was God and only God what place would there be for humans?

      One cannot have a Church without the human element otherwise it is not of Christ, at least, not the incarnate Christ.

      • I my opinion , i believe that like muhhammod , and jesus were prophets , spreading the good word of GOD. And their is one god… No matter if you are black or white, No matter what your relgion is.. God is one god. U don’t need to pray in a temple or whatever , he is always there for you thick and thin.

        • The trouble with this idea comes very quickly when one realizes that all of these “prophets” disagree with each other concerning this one God. If they were all prophets speaking about the same God then one of two things must be true: (a) we must decide which of the disagreeing prophets is correct, since “prophet” engenders “hearing from God” and if they disagree then they cannot all be hearing from God, or (b) God is internally divided and hence not God.

          Opting for the first choice, since the latter is ridiculous, one must be discerning with which prophets they will believe, and if one of those prophets claims to be God we must be even more discerning. :)

  184. Tonight I viewed a beautiful documentary on Spiritual Activism. I think it is something that adds insight into the thread. It demonstrates that Religion and Spirituality are joined, as well as separate.

    Personally, I believe that people grow within the light of one or the other, or both, until they are united. I also believe that the Love that grows within them leads us to and expression of that Love in someway. Love is an act, the direction of which is outward.

    This documentary expresses that Love and the inspiration of the continuing growth in Love. Religion and spirituality can be expressed in many ways. As long as they lead to Love and Unity through acts of both, there is no separation. Each of us finds our expression of the Grace that has filled us.

    Perhaps the way to finding deeper Love and Unity is to stop dividing them up in ownership of truth.

    http://www.linktv.org/programs/fierce-light

  185. Pingback: On My Reading Desk This Week (02/17/13 – 02/23/13) | Word Vomit

  186. “I’m spiritual, not religious” says everything about me. I never put anyone down on their religious beliefs. Because the way I see it If you were born catholic you’d be catholic if you were born muslim you’d be muslim. Its as simple as that. What gives someone the right to say their religion is right and yours is wrong. It just depends on where you grew up.

  187. Finding the “right” way to discern spiritual truth (biblical truth) is indeed a lifelong endeavor. New Testament study, and true reflection of who we are in Christ Jesus, should bring each person into a relationship with the Creator of this world, the Great “I Am”. After reading much of this entire blog, I see many of us trying to find the thing that makes us “feel” happy or satisfied.
    That is not the purpose of a relationship with God, but only an outcome. The purpose of our Creator to created relationship should be to exult and reverence the Almighty. This “feel good” type of theology has it’s roots in old time spiritual wickedness (satanic). There is nothing new under the sun. We are coming full circle back to Adam and Eve being deceived in the Garden when they listened to the serpent begging the question, “Yea, hath God said,…”

  188. I’ve been away for a while. Your blog provokes me to ask dangerous questions.

    I resonated with the part you wrote about your first 10-20 years in Evangelicalism. That is my story too.

    Thank you for blogging, even if I have to take breaks for a while.

  189. Great Blog !! I also like to add eastern phylosophy gives less stress to religion, Buddha said religion is liek a boat to cross teh river of sufferings, after crossing one should abandon the boat, if you are still on the boat you are still on the river of suffering, that means you still give importance to religion then you are not free and you are suffering

    • Hello Meditation Instructor. It’s an interesting point you make. After I left the Mormon Church as a young teenager I dove into the one thing I knew better than anything, which happened to be Eastern philosophy due to many years of involvement with the martial arts. I found so much peace and satisfaction in zen, but always knew that I was missing something. I had a “born-anew” experience when I was 16 that changed everything for me. I began attending a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church. This church experience, which lasted for almost 20 years, was disappointing from the start. Eastern philosophy had effected me in ways that made sham Christianity unable to conceal itself from me. It was not until finally discovering the Eastern Orthodox Church that I found the peace and satisfaction which Zen had once given me a shadow of. I feel that I have found the fulfillment I could never find in Eastern philosophy within the Orthodox Church. And to be sure, the EO Church is by all accounts a formal religion, but also the most mystical path one could ever venture on. It sounds like a paradox to modern ears, how something can be structured yet utterly mystical, but this is the reality of true Christianity.

  190. Pingback: About the Term “Christian,” & Being “Spiritual, Not Religious.” « Art & Life Notes

  191. Sorry this is late – catching up on Freshly Pressed emails from the year past.

    Every debate on abstract topics (i.e. without mathematical or empirical base) comes down to semantics eventually. From my perspective, “spirituality” is the personal exploration of universal questions, philosophies, higher powers, moralities et cetera, and “religion” is organised spirituality, whereby some or all of your philosophy/morality/belief adheres to that of an existing group who share that view – a church, a sect, a cult, whatever you call it.

    For what it’s worth, I’d deem myself an agnostic atheist existentialist – I have not seen sufficient evidence of a deity to believe one exists, though I feel it is not within man’s means to determine one way or another. I also believe that a person is defined by the choices they make, and that the world has no -ultimate- moral values, though “love one another” comes pretty close.

    I think religion does a lot of good in terms of being a focal point for communities, maintaining a good set of general moral guidelines, and providing an external face for people to approach with problems they cannot deal with internally. However, when it comes to legislating on more specific issues, such as homosexuality, or “kosher” foods, the stubborn and seemingly arbitrary application of these guidelines puts me right off. Condemning other people for their private sexual activities doesn’t make the world any better. Eating or not eating pork doesn’t make you a good or bad person.

    This is where spirituality and religion differ, in my opinion. The former is flexible, personally tailored to fit with changing experiences and societal perspectives; the latter is rigid, a series of rules determined by another person telling how you are to behave whether it appeals to your personal viewpoint or not. I’m spiritual, not religious.

    In any case, thanks for sharing.
    Adam

  192. I totally agree with you. I get sick and tired of that phrase, too! It makes no sense at all. Without Apostolic tradition, one can say anything is right. We could say getting high on drugs every day was holy, and could follow suit, since, if we are making our own rules, who is to say we are wrong?

    No, the Bible, Apostolic Tradition, the Church Fathers, he Ecumenical Councils and the Eastern Orthodox Church are all there are for one reason: to teach us how to live our lives properly in God.

  193. I am spiritual, not religious. I say it is not empty. It is just an interpretation and a definition of how I see my relationship with my God. I don’t think it is empty or pride. If those two roads lead me to be closer to God, then so be it! God bless you!

    • My only follow up question is have you established boundary lines as to what you believe and don’t believe and how you’ve chosen to practice those beliefs? If so, you have a religion. It may be a religion of one, but its no less a religion than a religion of one million.

  194. I agree, though it never upsets me, think of me as spiritual or religious, I don’t care. people love to judge, you only have to mention the word “God” and they think you are a bible basher. leave people to their judgements, it is them who are lost not you.

  195. To be spiritual means to have ” a relationship with god ” . People seem to want to express spirituality as a distance from religion these days . But how can they ?

    • There’s an answer to your question in the 60 Bible Verses about what a true religion is:

      The first one is from James 1:26-27

      “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

      Then there’s Matthew 24:1-51

      Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

      http://www.openbible.info/topics/true_religion_is

      Nowhere does it say a religion has to have Cathedrals and churches led by Popes and patriarchs.

    • Many people do not want to be connected in any way with the word ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ because they associate it with the many things have been done wrong in the name of religion. To avoid that, they prefer to be known as spiritual. They find this easier that to keep explaining all the things they dislike about organised religion. The trouble is that this clumps all of religion together which makes many miss the true religion.

      • “The trouble is that this clumps all of religion together which makes many miss the true religion.”

        I laughed. They all claim to be the “true religion”, and that’s what the Bible warns us about—all the false prophets claiming to speak for God. There is no true religion unless you are referring to the Jews because in the Old Testament God makes it clear long before there were Christians or Muslims that He was excursively their God and He even encouraged the Jews to fight and take land away from anyone who wasn’t a Jew.

        • ‘They all claim to be the “true religion”.’ It seems you may have missed my point due to my wish to be brief. I cannot reply in scholarly terms, but my point is somewhat the same as your earlier one. I also do not think that any of the ‘they’ (who you speak of), own true religion. I am referring to the love described by Jesus, no matter who it is participating. There is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water, that is, the word religion, just because you are in disagreement with the many who think they alone have the rights to it. Naturally, the contributor ‘peterdoswell’ does not have to agree with my choice of true religion being found in Jesus Christ.
          BTW, I like the link.

  196. Sadly, its individual inclination to uncertainty, and we all do at a few focuses. I have observed that the more we concentrate on God, the more he extraordinarily uproots that doub.

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