Spiritual, Not Religious – Further Thought


“She does it religiously.” Whatever “it” may be, she does it regularly rather than occasionally, and she does it faithfully with an apparent sense of commitment and purpose. This use of the word “religiously” implies a discipline.

My previous post led a friend to question whether I might have been too hard on my fellow Christians and too easy on those who reject “organized religion” in favor of a spirituality which may, for some or many, be far less than a discipline of life and mind. My friend is right, of course, that Christians have not all been smugly closed-minded and judgmental toward people who have struggled to fit into the churches without abandoning their own uniqueness and integrity. Neither are those who proclaim themselves spiritual without religion all nearly so concerned with being spiritual as with being simply not religious. I suspect, though, that the Christians who would be least offended by my call for the humility of recognizing and accepting our shared humanity would be those already least dismissive of the irreligious. Likewise, I suspect the non-religious who most seriously seek spirituality might be less easily dismissive of religion than their fellow “unbelievers” who more honestly just don’t want to be bothered with the quest for meaning in life or with the struggle for a more humane human community.

I do not, however, think the main concern should be with suspicions about the each other’s possible lack of integrity and serious-mindedness. Rather, let us look to our own houses.

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Spiritual, Not Religious


In the process of writing the first draft of Sunday’s sermon, I saw a little more clearly, I think, what people mean when they say, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I’ve been puzzled by their definition or understanding of “spiritual,” but that’s not the point. What I think they are saying is, “Back off, and leave me alone.” I don’t need or want your religion’s judgments upon me and my life. I don’t care what you believe, no matter how certain you have convinced yourself you are of those beliefs. I don’t need your rules or prohibitions. I can be ethical without your commandments and spiritual without your rituals. I can share life with other people, be their friend and love them, without learning your “lord-talk.” And I don’t have to tell you what being spiritual means to me, because I don’t care if I pass your entrance exam or not. Whatever you’re selling, peddle it somewhere else, and I’ll find what I need for myself, my way.

Can we who are Christians understand that we have worked quite hard to earn that rebuff? If so, maybe we can rejoin humanity and find our own anew.