Honestly, How Can One Be “Spiritual But Not Religious?”

Think About It.  Does God Want a Spiritual But Not Religious Faith?

Written with great charity, which makes this article perfect to be shared and discussed.

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing on my Head;

I’m Spiritual but not Religious.

I’m Spiritual but not Religious.

“I’m spiritual but not religious” is one of the catch phrases you’ll hear a good bit these days.

My question about this is, “How do you do that?”

Just exactly what do you do to be spiritual without being religious?

Do you kind of sit quietly from time to time and think beautiful thoughts?

Maybe you go for a hike and think, “Gee this is really a nice day!” Do you smile at folks and think to yourself, “I can see the sunshine of eternity in their smile!” Maybe  you feel warm when you read that poem about walking on the beach and there was only one set of footprints and that’s when the Lord carried you?” Do you maybe light a candle from time to time and turn out the lights and feel spiritual for a time? Do you sit cross legged on the mountaintop and watch the sunrise?

I just can’t figure out how a person can be spiritual without being religious because wouldn’t you have to be religious (at least a little bit) to be spiritual?


Spiritual But Not Religious Analogy

Saying you’re spiritual but not religious is like saying you love sports but you don’t play a sport and don’t watch it on TV or go to any games, because once you tried to play the sport or even go to the games you would have to be taking part in the rules that make sport actually happen.

Saying you’re spiritual but not religious would be like saying you love music, but you don’t play an instrument, never took music lessons, don’t go to concerts and don’t listen to music through your headphones even. Because if you were to do any of those things you would be taking advantage of the rules and regulations and structures and strictures that actually make music possible.

The root of the word “religious” is “to bind”. That means you bind yourself to a certain rule or way of doing things. It’s not all free flowing, do as you please and make it up as you go along. Just as there are rules to the game, music on the page and a map for the journey, so there is religion to make “being spiritual” possible.

Surely as soon as a person starts to try to “be spiritual” they start being religious.

Do you get spiritual by lighting a candle and having a little statue of Buddha in front of you? Well, that’s being religious. Do you get spiritual by reading a poem that means something to you or by reading a book with a collection of quotes or beautiful thoughts? Well, that’s being religious because you are treating those books as your sacred text.

So maybe what the “spiritual but not religious” person means is that they do not go in for organized religion. They mean they are not members of an institutional church. That’s possible, but maybe they misunderstand what the purpose of organized religion actually IS.


Religion Maps the Journey to being Spiritual

Organized religion with all its devotions and duties, with all its doctrines and dogmas, with all its rules and rubrics and regulations is simply the rules for the game, the music on the printed page, the map for the journey and the instructions for how to be spiritual.

The organized religion is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

Organized religion is really only a group of people who want to be spiritual getting themselves organized. They gather the experience and tradition of the past, they gather their community together because being spiritual is easier with a group, and they share and care for one another and share the necessary disciplines to “be spiritual” successfully.

Spiritual But Not Religious

But of course, this gets messy because it gets real. I suspect being “spiritual but not religious” is too easy and too unreal. Getting spiritual in a religion, on the other hand, means you have to get to work. You have to climb the mountain. You have to scrape your knees. You have to learn how to love, forgive and help other people who are on that same journey and part of your team…and all that is tough.

Lest it seem like no more than an inspiring version of the Boy Scouts or the Rotary Club, it is the supernatural dimension that fires them up, inspires them supernaturally and helps them to get organized so their desire to “be spiritual” can achieve lift off.


Honestly, How Can One be “Spiritual but not Religious?”

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