"Spiritual but not religious"

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by path_of_one, May 12, 2009.

  1. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    An increasing number of folks in the US, and I would imagine in some other places too, are saying they have no religion but are spiritual.

    What do you think it means to be "spiritual but not religious" and why?

    Do you belong to any religious institution (church, synagogue, coven, whatever)? Do you think you are religious? What about if you are spiritual? Why or why not?

    This phrase is used all over the place on surveys, but what the heck does it *mean* to people? :confused:
     
  2. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    I believe it to mean that they feel connected to something bigger than their own individual minds. Because of the social conditioning of this area of thought being monopolised by the religions it sort of gets tied into the whole mindset of superentity. And it may well be our connection to the web of life on Earth is why we all feel this sense of something greater than our individual parts. I think so.
     
  3. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist In Galt We Trust

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    It means different things to different people. For Christians who declare themselves "spiritual but not religious", they often mean that religion is just about "ritual" (and perhaps "institutions"), and they want a "relationship" with God instead. They see "religion" as getting in the way of their spirituality.

    I regard myself as a spiritual atheist. I suppose I could describe myself as "spiritual but not religious", but this means something vastly different to me. I mean that I am on a path of self-improvement. I seek to improve my mind and the quality of my life.

    I don't mean that I feel "connected to something bigger", unless that "something bigger" is my own personal potentials, which is a power that is my own.

    It's not that I don't see myself as part of a larger system, but that's not something I associate with my spirituality. So the universe is bigger than me. Big deal.

    I'm a member of the Fellowship of Reason. I regard this as a philosophical community, not a religious one, but the group does provide some of the benefits traditionally associated with religious institutions.

    I personally associate "religion" with those practices that pertain to human interaction with gods, so as an atheist I don't regard myself as religious.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  4. nativeastral

    nativeastral fluffy future

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    lt has evolved into a phenomenon for the masses with the negation of the institutes of religion ['to bind'] since the rise of individuality [particularly in the west].
    A reaction against dogma of religion and a realisation of mysticism or connection with All [therefore higher than the solipism and separation of the you]; so really another word for animism.
    Not necessarily a belief in a g#d or 'super' natural entity or 'creator' but awareness of an interconnectiveness with all life, including the stars above on a dark night, or the heat of the sun whilst sun bathing 'in' it.
    Like religion it is now becoming elitist in some spiritual 'circles' hence the hackneyed term has many meanings-polysemy.
    l think lt means there is no boundries no 'right' way to realise the transcendence we intuit naturally.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Namaste all,

    Nice contemplations.

    na, What if that is G!d, 'the connectedness of everything'? (not everything, but the connectedness of everything) Interesting you included stars and warmth as life, intentional? 'nother thread topic I suppose.

    I am a member of a religion. Christianity. I am a member of a subset of that religion. New Thought. I am a member of a nondenominational denomination of that religion, Unity, the people that print 'The Daily Word', and attend a local church regularly and teach Sunday school to 6-12th graders.

    I used to say I was spiritual but not religious as I had not found a church home or a belief system that resonated. I now am quite comfortable following the teachings of Christ despite the fact that many other Christians call me a heretic and my understandings blasphemous.

    Unity teaches us to study the teachings and follow the Christ spirit within, not to rely on the belief and dogma of any religion, including Unity. Unity requires that we prove our beliefs by the way we live our lives.

    Of all the things I gave up to become a Unitic, I miss blame the most.
     
  6. GlorytoGod

    GlorytoGod There is a River

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    I am a born again believer and I attend a Partners in Harvest Church which is totally amazing :)

    But I am not at all religious :)
     
  7. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Probably encouraged by our highly individualized culture, people feel that organized religion constricts them and does not allow them the full expression of their spirituality. I can agree with this in part, but I also think that a little pruning and training can produce better flowers and fruit. :)

    I think also people are (rightfully) appalled by the things done in the name of organized religion, things throughout history and the actions of violent or aggressive fundamentalists today. We don't want to be associated with that. A good many people are hostile to religion and want to distance themselves as far as possible from an oppressive religion of their birth, or a religion that fuels division or hatred in their society.

    2c
     
  8. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Luna has pretty well defined what I think about the issue... Today people can do pretty much what they want at least in most secular societies say in Europe and North America.. Individualized spirituality is very common.. and I think can be part of a person's seeking and what we Baha'is call "the independent investigation of truth", and while this is true another truth is that truth itself is one and so many of us will arrive at similar conclusions and find a greater unity..

    - Art
     
  9. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Thank you all for your participation! This is quite interesting to me. :) There seems to be quite a bit of diversity in how this would be understood. Some seeing that spirituality points toward interconnectedness of beings, or Something More (whether the web of life or God or whatever), and others seeing that spirituality points toward a higher human potential. Religion too, seems to be varied in its interpretation- some seeing it as an institutional affiliation, others perhaps as a tie to ritual and tradition?

    For Glory to God-

    Out of curiosity, what does being religious mean to you? That is, how do you know you are not religious, even though you attend church and have beliefs? It's not a challenge- I'm just curious about how you define being religious. Who would be an example of a religious person (not a particular person, mind you LOL- just what type of behavior is religious)?

    For Luna and Art-

    I find this very interesting. I have also noticed the individualism of the West coinciding with an increase skepticism about belonging and conforming to a religion. I do question this, because I can see Luna's point that when we are entirely individualistic, we opt out of the capacity for a religion to be a check on our ideas and behaviors. We also fail to have a community to encourage us on our path. At the same time, Art suggests there is plenty of room in some religions for individual searches for truth... having faith that communal practice and support will lead us to experience truth/ultimate reality/the Divine and that this engagement in the individual search will eventually lead to consensus.

    The sort of "Seek and ye shall find." Of course, it requires sincere seekers...

    It makes me wonder if there are entire religions that would fit the descriptor of "spiritual but not religious" in some way. In Druidry, for example, it is quite DIY. You write your own prayers, your own rituals. There is tradition and myth and symbolism aplenty to draw from, but diversity in belief and interpretation are entirely acceptable. It's a religion that inherently encompasses a high level of individuality. Sometimes I wonder if it's that a bunch of "spiritual but not religious" folks got together and formed a new religion. :)

    But then I think... so what makes it a religion???

    I have no answers here. But I have a lot of thoughts and questions. LOL
     
  10. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    "This is so cool I want to share it with someone!"

    "Yeah, it is awesome, and I've discovered there are other people who see it the same way!"

    "When we get together and share this we gain even more from the relationships, and in the ability to do more for others."

    "How do we come to a consensus on where we most want to put our collective energies?"

    "How do we resolve conflicts without splitting up?"

    "Where do we get together and what do we do, now that our community has grown so large?"

    "Oh no, we're becoming organized!"
     
  11. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    LOL, too true. :p

    I was long accustomed to my Christian side, if you will, being religious. That is, there is a church where I can go and I understand (even if I don't agree) what the beliefs are and where they came from, there is a common ritual, and so on. There is organization behind it.

    Then I started practicing Druidry alongside Christianity- in someways, trying to understand the Christianity of my own ancestors (the Celts). But the Druidic order I belonged to and studied with was out of the UK and there was no local group. It didn't feel much like a religion. Now, for the first time there will be a US gathering of the three biggest world Druidic orders. A good chunk of the topic of the gathering is for the scattered Druids, particularly on the West coast, to come together and determine if and how they wish to organize into smaller local groups and larger state groups and what they want to do. LOL So, it's taking a bunch of people who mostly practice solitary and we're basically gathering as a religion- for most of us for the first time.

    It's really a bit of a mind boggle for me, as an anthropologist and as a practitioner, to watch a religion form- and perhaps even be involved in the process. And then I wonder, was Druidry a religion for everyone practicing solitary anyway, linked through the 'net to the larger and more established groups in the UK and Australia and New Zealand? Or is it only a religion when people actually get together face to face? In this day and age, can religion be only online? What separates spirituality from religion, anyway?

    As someone (forgetting who at the moment) suggested, religion to him/her has to do with god(s). But Buddhism doesn't have much to do with god(s) and is a world religion. So would all Buddhists be spiritual but not religious to that person?

    I think that it is probable in the West that all our ideas are tainted with only half the world's religious conceptualization of religion- that is the Judaism-Christianity-Islam spectrum that is quite different from the Hinduism-Buddhism spectrum and the animist spectrum.

    Makes me go... :confused::D
     
  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I've oft heard it said that Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy. Don't know how that equates, I'm not spiritual, but philosphical? or vice versa?

    So love reading the discussion thou...and it is funny if someone were to ask I'd still say I'm more spiritual than religious, but only to seperate myself from mainstream...where point of fact it seems I'm religious.
     
  13. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Well, I am religious...it is a large part of how I express and develop my spirituality. I just wish being religious did not have the negative connotation that it does these days. </whine> :D
     
  14. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Is it a bad word? I don't think so, it may be to those that aren't but those that are shouldn't have issues.

    I exercise religiously. Now that isn't bad. I don't but it isn't bad, as a matter of fact I'd like to work toward that.

    I meditate/pray/worship/attend church religiously. I do, and have no issues.
     
  15. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    One observation I've made- OK, two:

    1. The fundamentalists I know started to think religion was equated with the ritual/liturgical type stuff that Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans do and now don't want to be called "religious" because they see all that as rote tradition. Which is untrue to anyone who is any of those things, as ritual is only thoughtless if one practices it that way. But anyhoo, it gives "religion" a bad rap in fundamentalist Christianity.

    2. The so-called liberal Christians I know seem to think religion is equated with the fundamentalists and having dogmatic belief systems. So now they don't want to be called "religious" because they think it implies a lack of personal, critical reflection and commitment to contextual study. Which I must confess I understand, because the couple of fundamentalist churches I attended were not at all amenable to critical thinking about the text or straying away from conforming to whatever the pastor said. But I attended three out of oodles, so I dunno. But at the end of the day, the "liberal" ones frequently dislike being called religious too.

    It would seem some atheists consider themselves spiritual, but I am not sure how this "spiritual" would differ from "philosophical." If one doesn't believe in spirit of any type, then spirituality is just a sense of grooving on life? Or am I missing something?

    I think it's one of those oddball plays on words that happens as society wrestles with different factions justifying their position and trying to push away from other groups.

    It's like how I meet women who tell me they are "just a mom" meaning they are a SAHM. It implies a certain view of motherhood. I always tell them don't say "just a mom!" That is like me saying "just an anthropologist." Being a mother isn't trivial.

    But it's all those social assumptions about what something means and whether we try to distance ourselves from it.

    I wonder if all this spiritual vs. religious talk is just due to Christianity? Do Buddhists have that sentiment? Jews? Hindus?
     
  16. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    In the US I think it is much 'cooler' to say you are a Buddhist or Taoist than to say you are part of one of the Abrahamic religions. New Age is losing its charm and is perceived as being shallow. Wiccan/Pagan/Druid I think are all still fairly cool.

    'Christian' (alone) I think gets viewed as 'fundamentalist.'

    'Catholic' often draws fire just because it was the biggest fish in the pond and there a many disgruntled ex-Catholics.

    Again, these are all just what I've encountered as perceptions...not what I think of the various systems that might be called 'religious.'
     
  17. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    In my experience, it depends on the subcultural group I'm with.

    Most people know nothing about Buddhism, Taoism, or Neo-Paganism. I guess maybe they have some vague idea but really, most people are clueless.

    In some intellectual circles, it's cool to be Buddhist. Most Christian circles I run in seem entirely confused by Buddhism. There is no ground to understand it, and they are almost without any knowledge of what it is whatsoever. I don't exactly know if it's cool, since I've never considered myself a Buddhist. I just find Buddhist teachings very useful.

    I face utter incredulity if I present myself as Neo-Pagan. I don't know if it's cool outside of a few select circles. Maybe it is cool or maybe people just think Neo-Pagans are interesting but crazy. I've faced both outlooks when I say I am part of a Druid order. And in some Christian circles, they are positive I'm going to hell. So I don't think they view it as cool at all. LOL

    Christianity- well, considering most Americans consider themselves Christian, that crowd seems to think it's very cool. But it depends on what kind of Christian. Doesn't seem to be cool to be Catholic or Anglican or Lutheran- all us stodgy traditional sorts. On the liberal end, New Thought is groovey. On the fundamentalist and mega-church end, nothing is cool or even OK (usually) but their own.

    The Jews got a shot of the "cool" factor when Madonna got involved in the infamous Kabbalah Center, from which you can buy red string bracelets and bottled water that is somehow super special. I don't think it was the cool factor most Jews were looking for, if they ever cared.

    Of course it is not at all cool to be Muslim in the States, and perhaps it is the worst in the boat because not only do people tend to know nothing about it (like Buddhism), they are often threatened by it even though they don't know what it is!

    Ah, the fads of religion in the US, where everything is for sale and nothing sticks around long. You never know, though, what religion will emerge as the cool one next. There was recently an article in my university's newsletter about how it's cool to be Lutheran again. I find my Anglican priest to be a pretty hip guy and was wowed by a recent documentary I watched in which the Archbishop of Canterbury played a prominent role.

    My overall experience is that my own combo seems a cool and exciting one to open-minded people, until they realize I'm a nerd who reads and writes too much and whose beliefs tend toward the "get to work" variety. I then cease to be interesting. :eek::rolleyes:
     
  18. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Good points Path, and I was just painting in broad brush strokes. It is a lot more varied than that. I tend to think Eastern Orthodox is very cool. EO would probably be my next choice after Episcopalian. I don't think Episcopalian has a strong image in most people's minds these days. Some may associate it with Spong-ultraliberalism, others might think it is stodgy. I, however think it is...:cool:.

    :D

    Added: Archbishop Rowan Williams is great!
     
  19. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    LOL- yeah, I love Rowan Williams. The documentary was "In God's Name" and it was fantastic. Rowan Williams said all sorts of things I found brilliant in a subtle way.

    I can't really tell his brand of Anglicanism from Celtic Christianity. Perhaps that's partly why I find him so appealing. :)
     
  20. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    He's brilliant...I'll have to look for that documentary.

    Along the same lines as your OP, for some reason it is cool to be a 'mystic,' but not to believe in the 'supernatural.'

    To me these both refer to the same thing: experiences that can't be tested and measured scientifically, yet are quite real to those who experience them.
     

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