Monday, December 1, 2008

Religious or Spiritual?

In a sermon preached at my church once, the minister commented rather snidely about people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” He seemed to be saying that to label oneself simply “spiritual” is a serious cop-out, and that without the discipline of a structured belief system, it wasn’t possible to have a true faith.

His comments were phrased in such a matter-of-fact, offhand way that it was clear he thought he was preaching to the choir – after all, everyone listening had dragged themselves out of bed on Sunday morning to come to church, and what better evidence of religious discipline is there? Ahem. Well, I, for one, was rather irritated by his words. Despite the fact that I’m fairly active in my church, I don’t actually consider myself to be terribly religious. That probably sounds a little weird.

In my mind, religion is merely a concrete belief structure, complete with things like rules and creeds and holy texts and worship of a higher power. Spirituality, on the other hand, I experience as a connection to something larger than myself, even when what that larger thing is remains mysterious. An effective and meaningful religious practice, of course, will have spirituality behind it, but I don’t ever feel that I’m striving to be better at my religion. What I am striving for is spiritual connection, and for me that does not solely come out of religious practices per se.

If I want to think of myself as spiritual, not religious, what’s the big deal? I suppose this is one of those chicken or egg issues: Is all spirituality that I feel somehow based in my religion? Does it rise up in spite of it? Do I accept the idea of religion only because I feel something spiritual? The only thing I know for sure is that, within me, the two are not one and the same.

I’m curious whether this is something other people struggle with or if these definitions come naturally to everyone else.

Would you call yourself spiritual or religious, or neither, or both?


Original Designer Woman said...


what an interesting blog, because just recently I was thinking the same. I must admit while on a dating site they posed that question; whether I prefer a man who was spiritual or religious and I was like huh? I understand what they mean but wow to be asked that question threw me off for a minute.

Anyhow I consider myself spiritual because I don't practice any type of religious belief. I read the Bible and pray to a Higher Power but I cannot call myself any denomination honestly.

As long as one is content with who they are, in which I am very content I don't feel the need to label that.


Pauline Karakat said...

I definitely consider myself spiritual much more than religious. History and common sense shows us that each religion was created by those who desired a connection to the divine, on their own terms. I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, but I see myself as a student of all faiths. They are all paths to a Higher Power.

I respect other people's right to believe what they want, and I expect the same from others, at the very least. It annoys me when people try to cram their particular religious belief down your throat. We should all respect each others' religious and/or spiritual convictions, or lack thereof. Some of my family members are atheists and agnostics, but I would never preach to them about how they should believe in God, or in my own particular belief system.

Ultimately, I believe that everyone has to find God in his or her own way.

Great post!

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