'Spiritual but not religious': what does this mean to you?

Many people today identify as "spiritual, but not religious"--Match.com even lists this option under defining views on faith. What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase? What are potential directions for conversation on this topic?  What does this theme look like from cross-cultural and interfaith perspectives?

Betty's Bench is named for Betty Rumford, PSR receptionist from 1969 to 1999. Betty considered hospitality to be her ministry--making each visitor feel respected and valued. We dedicate this Web feature to her and invite you to contribute in her spirit (postings that do not uphold this spirit will be deleted).

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Spiritual but not religious

Spiritual but not religious means, I am searching for God, but traditional religion does not appeal to me.

Free Your Vocabulary, perhaps your mind will follow

If you are searching for God, you are very influenced by traditional religion. Perhaps you should consider finding your own terminology. God denotes theism, and usually specifically monotheism. These philosophical confines are very much the invention of many of the same organized religions that do not appeal to you. I try not to allow the beliefs or ideas of other religious thinkers to trap me inside of a specific terminology (such as God) when philosophizing about existence (what you might call religion). Confusion is truly the beginning of thought, not accepting that any religion has the answers is evidence that you have good instincts and philosophical ambition. Any group that claims to have definitive answers regarding deep philosophical questions (Where did we come from, why are we here, is there a supernatural morally guiding force, where do we go when we die) is usually more concerned with emotional (and or financial) security than philosophical exploration. The vast unknown can be a scary place and the truth is a heavy burden to carry. Personally I would rather carry the burden of truth, which means not knowing the answers, than to accept easy answers to infinitely complex questions. Many people feel the need to have others agree with them to validate their theories and beliefs, hints organized religion. Or they feel they would rather just be told what to believe by some authority. I have never felt this way and consider myself lucky to have that freedom. Your understanding on these matters should be growing every day, if that is true for you, how could you ascribe to one specific theology. If I named my religion, I would need to change it every five minutes or less. When I answer forms regarding religious beliefs, rather than leave it blank, I began writing "constantly evolving philosophy." I believe I grow spiritually with every moment, both waking and while asleep. Try paying more attention to your dreams. Your subconscious knows more than even your conscious mind. When searching for spiritual truth, God as you call it, you might start with your dreams.

I hope this was some help, I will be happy to discus it further if you wish, if you disagree with me, that is a good sign that you are on the right path. Just make sure it is your own path, not a trail blazed by someone who does not understand your needs.
I like this question,
Thanks,
Sean

Don't go to church

Don't go to church

Take us to your leader

Sometimes 'spiritual but not religious' are folks with buddhist leanings, sometimes it is used by people on singles sites who want to hook-up, and look or be sensitive and PC.
Most of all I think it is used by people who have resistance to, or even latent anger toward Christianity. Deep down they have knowledge of, and some experience of Christ and the Bible, but have had a bad experience with religion. This would include a lot of angry catholics, and protestants for that matter. People also use the phrase simply because of peer pressure to be a cool progressive. I say all this because I have done each one of these things.
I think this phrase grows out of Oprah, the Secret, and 'What the Bleep is going on' type spirituality or consciousness. These things often have good stuff and stimulate spiritual thinking in all of us; and they are often limited to the quality of a positive thinking seminar. My questions about things like the law of attraction, and 'spiritual but not religious' in general is that it lacks a devotional aspect. These philosophies don't identify the source of good. They leave open the question, "who is attracting the good?" I know the Oprah type thinkers don't want to deal with theological questions, but metaphysically good is not good unless we spiritually acknowledge within ourselves that good comes from God, not ourself. The above stuff mostly does not allow for this. To internally take credit for the good from our human level, makes it not good, because there is no devotional aknowledgement. God has the wisdom to turn us from what we think is good. In short the law of attraction in its common form does not protect us from our own proprium, because there is not the higher source, that is God, to take our yearnings, prayers, and corrupt nature to for guidance. God's idea of good is often to prune us back.
I hope this is helpful. I think visioning is extremelly valuable, but it only has lasting value along with the spiritual intent to love God with all our heart.
Having said this, I acknowledge only God knows the internal state of a person and their aknowledgement. Nevertheless, we are all forming our believes one way or another, and we must form them from our own rational decisions, and it is invaluable for a human being to express devotion to the true source of good, that is God, in whatever form they see him or her.

Thanks, Steve

I believe in a higher power

I believe in a higher power but not one that is limited by a specific philosophy.

Spirtual but not religious: ponderings from the precipice

Spiritual but not religious?

Prometheus's gift is a myth telling a story of that difference.

Prometheus was the Greek god of inspiration, engaging craft, soul, integrity, and perhaps most importantly, creativity. According to the myth, Prometheus was a Titan, a giant of the gods. His demise and downfall, however, was his compassion for suffering and his sympathy for human beings, most likely because the myth tells us he had a hand in creating them with the help of Zeus himself. Prometheus was concerned with the quality of life of humans, he observed them shivering in the cold and struggling with life's problems, mostly though, he felt sorry for them.

He knew that if they had the gift of fire (which the gods kept for themselves) they might forge tools, keep themselves warm, and assist against their struggle for a better life. On a symbolic level, the fire that Prometheus wanted to bring to humanity represents creativity and inspiration, because it illuminates and transforms. It allows us to dream with originality and authenticity.

Prometheus stole fire from the hearth of the gods and bestowed it upon humankind. As a result, Zeus (a representative symbol for patriarchal forces) became angry. While the patriarchal god could not rescind the action of Prometheus he decided to punish the offense by chaining Prometheus to a rock, where his liver would be consumed by an eagle every day, only to have it grow back each night so that the torture could perpetuate itself.

Prometheus endured this torture for years until Hercules came along and freed him. But the story tells us more, it was Prometheus who taught humans to defy the gods, which represents another gift. It represents the ability to think original thoughts and the ability to create for oneself. And it was the audacity of Prometheus act which so offended the patriarchal forces and led to his disproportional punishment. In the Greek pantheon of gods, it is only they with the power to create. By granting humans god like powers it is the same as being god like.

Interesting how most patriarchal religions like Christianity have taken the same attitudes toward individuals who encroach on God's domain: Adam and Eve did so and were banished as the story tells us. But like every act of defiance, propel humans into mature beings and place our feet upon our authentic path.

All great creators were shunned by the patriarchal forces who fear originality above all else (or what Jung called individuation) and thought for themselves, not needing their hands held by some collective power who knows what is best for everyone else. Even Einstein could not find work at any university since his professors (the patriarchal forces of academia) refused to recommend him for skipping their classes, because Albert had bigger fish to fry wanting instead to do independent work far more visionary than anything they could ever contemplate.

van Gogh was ignored in the art world for his somber paintings selling only one painting before his death. Johnny Depp created and crafted a character called Jack Sparrow and was immediately called on it by panicky film executives who demanded to know what he was doing - they thought his portrayal was bizarre and he was ruining the film. Yet the film went on to huge success and brought Depp an Oscar nomination for the character he crafted.

Culture ignores creative efforts that leave others uncomfortable, and we treat those who abide by their own inner vision, norms, or activism, as abnormal only because it challenges their own entrenched and comfortable lives, void of the creative impulse, and call to individuation. Many hear the 'call' but few if any ever act on it. No one wants to take the risk of thinking outside of the cultural box. True creators suffer punishment for breaking someones rules about what is, or is not, acceptable in any realm of engagement, just like Prometheus did.

When we worship at the alter of the petty tyrannical gods of culture, we become unoriginal and uninteresting people whose soul has long been stolen by the forces of conformity.

The creative individual is a master of courage not afraid to upset someone else, and his or her confining borders of irrelevance. Such people are those who shout out, "The emperor has no cloths" when everyone else is either too afraid to speak, or has a vested interest in the status quo. Jesus of Nazareth liked to rock the boat of entrenched elites. Methinks, so did the author telling the story of Prometheus.

Spirituality is an original and creative act that does not abide by collective norms. It is the sojourn of the free spirit in contact with life giving waters. It does not reject compassion; in fact, its very freedom is a clear manifestation of holding compassion and empathy for others it chief focus. After all, there is no higher calling than service to others. The story of Prometheus tells me this.

One reason I choose PSR for graduate studies is precisely because of its boldness to take on the entrenched powers of our day; the faculty and students who shared my classrooms were boat rockers of the highest caliber. I note from arrests of faculty and staff recently, that boat rocking is still a norm highly valued at PSR.

I am proud to call myself an alumni.

Very little

I think this tends to mean "I have a sense of wonder at the universe [or multiverse, as the case may be] but I don't adhere to any particular brand of religion represented by a group." I am atheist, and I have a deep sense of wonder at the universe, but don't subscribe to any religion. I choose not to call myself "spiritual" only because the root word "spirit" tends to connote a sense that there is an immortal soul in us. I don't think that's so. I think we are natural beings in a natural universe, and that fills me with the wonder and awe that we sadly attribute only to "spiritual" matters.

Spiritual but not religious?

I agree with some others' assessments that religion doesn't appeal to many, though they do respond to the reality of spiritual energy and values. However, I have observed that some friends who have strong social networks may experience difficulty integrating with a congregation and ultimately decide to forgo that connection in favor of continuing to nurture and rely on the friends they already have, cherish, and relate to.

This may or may not be a problem. If I accept that the church (or other religious group) is one of many ways of making and sustaining the meaningful human contacts needed in our lives then it follows that some people will opt for other communities and networks.

If we are concerned that religion "should" be more appealing to a broader audience, then we are probably on the right track with efforts to be more inclusive and socially relevant. This would, in my opinion, include broadening social concerns and involvement - and also an assessment and adjustment of "worship" forms that appear strange and archaic to many. It's not necessarily a question of value - and may be primarily a matter of taste (or training?) similar to one's interest in or aversion to classical music. Here again, having different styles of services may help, though I suspect that much of what passes for "contemporary" is now either outdated or overly identified with conservative religious groups.

I am delighted to see PSR and other seminary folks attending to the "spiritual - but not religious" point of view, as it seems to be growing and is widely adhered to in college and affluent urban environments.

Spiritual but not Religious

Religion is nothing more than rules taught by man. Being spiritual is a broad term. Spiritual can mean a higher calling than religion, or a belief in a higher power or energy that exists outside of religion. Many people from all faiths are spiritual. As far as Christianity goes, Jesus doesn't want us to be religious. When someone says Spiritual but not religious, they are basically saying "I hold my beliefs, but I am not a fundamentalist". Religion is not appealing, feeling that higher calling of spirituality is appealing and sounds good. A spiritual Christian realizes that God cannot fit in a box, a book, or religion. God excedes even our our expectations of what He excedes. Jesus said some strong things about religious people. Jesus didn't realy care for them. He wants us to be spiritual, in a sense of having a higher calling than following religion.

"Jesus said 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"-Matthew 15:8-9

"...How terrible it will be for you experts of religious law! For you crush people beneath impossible religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden."-Luke 11:46

"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law- justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the most important things. Blind Guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel."-Matthew 23:23-24

Being Spiritual is the search for answers and the deepening of a understanding of God.

Being Religious is following blindly what someone has taught you. Religious types add to the Bible by saying "dont dance, don't chew, don't smoke, don't drink, etc. religion makes lists of do not's and can not's. By doing this Religion is losing the relationship with God.

Spiritual but not religious

I was once working for a conservative editor who asked me for a brief etymology of the word 'religion'. I was sorry that I gave it to him, because he then turned and trashed what I always thought was a perfectly good word to describe ordinary human activities. I did not grow up in a fundamentalist setting, so I have not objections to restraining myself at times for the sake of self-improvement, and when connected to a spiritual quest or the noumenous awareness, I cannot conceive of sustaining any progress or holding any community without some form of the religious life.

re: Spiritual but not religious

My spiritual journey continues strong and unabated...after having been separated from the bulk of the religious community. Yes, there are times when I feel a bit disconnected from the rubrics and the community, but not so much that it inhibits my relationship with the God of Creation,Redemption and Sustenance. One can be done without the other..it's a bit of a more of a challenge at times, that all.

Acknowledge a Higher Power

Spiritual but not religious for me means: I definitely believe in a Universal Source and it's power, however following one dogma feels very limiting for me. Why does one group have to be wrong? There is something to be learned from all points of view that opens a better communication with the Divine. Metaphysics does that for me. Everyone is different yet we find community in those that FEEL the same.

A thanks for this site,and my own thoughts on Spiritual .

I Was wondering if there was a site on the web and was glad to see it and others thoughts,It gives me hope that I may connect with a woman that shares Like feeling and thoughts.I my self can except Being Spiritual but not Religious.To me to be Spiriual means to have faith in God,and yes my God has lots of names,but the names mean little to me,what matters is God reaveled to me his existance,to give me a sence of trust,with out the revealing I would be with out hope that there is a unseen force that cares for me and has plans beyond my understanding.Yes I also use the Bible as a tool to perhaps,understand God better,Not to hopefully be more of a socalled sinner,but perhaps know more and be more understanding towards God and people and even myself.Religion to me is For the means of financial gain or power to control others and gain fame small or large,Im not ashamed of my beliefs in God or even the Bible,but Im dissapointed with Religions,What has and will probly continue to puzzel me is the Religions dont read or explain things that pertain to them in the Bible.But Christ said liers would go worse and worse.Like I said I dont have a problem with God or the Bible just Religions,SO if there is a woman that reads this thats interested in a white male 50 years old that has like thoughts please reply.and yes Im supost to let the blind lead the blind and leave them alone,thanks agine for this site.Lynn...

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