“Sober people say that religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who’ve been there. And I think faith, for me, is a word that speaks much more to a belief and an interest in matters that are spiritual rather than the institution and creeds that you associate with religion.”

Anne Lamott by mdesive/FlickrWe’ve been thinking about Anne Lamott a lot lately as we continue to build a dialogue about what it means to be spiritual but not necessarily religious. (We’re looking to make a full-fledged production out of your responses, so add your reflections here — and please share this link with others.)

Krista interviewed the writer back in 2003, during the earliest days of Speaking of Faith. Now for the first time, we’re making Krista’s unedited interview available. It’s a wonderful listen chock full of audio gems (stream in player above or download).

Lamott described herself to Krista as a spiritual “woman of faith” who disdains dogma and “the great evil” of religious fundamentalism. She calls out fundamentalism as a terrifying peril of our time: “a conviction of being right and of feeling that we are chosen and that other people can be denied a seat at the banquet table.”

We’ve noticed some conversation threads emerging on our blog and Facebook page that illuminate and expand upon Lamott’s ideas about being faithful, spiritual, but not religious. As Elissa Elliot commented on our Facebook thread:

“‘Religious’ (to many people) implies abuse, hypocrisy, and shortsightedness…Perhaps the world ‘spiritual’ is a more ‘open’ and ‘embracing’ term and that’s why more people are using it. It implies that although I believe certain things, I’m not set in my ways, and I realize that God may work in ways ‘outside the box I’ve been raised in.’ AND I want to hear what the next person is saying…”

But if “spiritual but not religious” feels more expansive and embracing to some, others experience it as isolating.

“We can’t just be spiritual individuals all by ourselves. The tension is the tension between the important need to form communities within which to share our spiritual journeys and the impulse to organize these communities efficiently to expand and grow.” — Brant Lee

“Individualism is highly prized in our culture, but when it comes to matters of faith, community is very important.”
Sanna Ellingson

In her book, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott has a passage that squarely hits on this need for a spiritual community:

“Most of the people I know who have what I want—which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians—people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful. I saw something once from The Jewish Theological Seminary that said, ‘A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.’”

We’d like to know how are you finding and creating communities that enrich you spiritually? Share your story with us.

(photo of Anne Lamott by mdesive/Flickr)

Share Your Reflection



It is my religious community that helps me sustain a strong spiritual base. It is not so much the creeds or specific beliefs of the community that help but rather being able to travel with fellow strugglers on this journey called life that calls me to newness of life and service to God and humanity. Is not conversation about the differences between religion and spirituality the creation of community that begins to organize around a set of principles in the speakers heart and mind?

This "spiritual but not necessarily religious" space seems to be filling up with more and more people desirious of a real connection with whatever is ultimately real. Its hard to put your fingers around all the unique characteristics of this emerging demographic, but I can relate to the frustration that many have with their religious traditions that have obfuscated the truth.

People, for varying reasons seem to be trying, in their own ways, to seperate, and distiguish the institutional fluff, one mired in a motivation for self preservation, from the organic message.

For me, as of late, Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulation of a religion-less Christianity, seems to speak to this(My knowledge on Bonhoeffer is still just growing, but he seemed to predict a time when a "new language" would emerge).

Here's a Youtube clip of a scene in "Agent of Grace" concerning "Religionless Christianity" ---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

It's all very interesting to me, and I really look forward to what you(SOF) will bring to this new show. I'm all ears!!!!!!

I had completely forgotten about Bonhoeffer's words, which I will now revisit as we think of ways to frame this dialogue and the show. You also reminded me that I haven't listened to our show on Bonhoeffer in quite some time (http://speakingoffaith.org/pro.... If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

We're beginning to receive a healthy amount of personal stories that we're evaluating for the radio/podcast. And some of the real, interactive discussion is taking place on our Facebook fan page. Cheers.

Lately, I have been wanting to take G!D out of religion. G!D does not fit there any more as religion is about structure and order and lines and doing it right and buts and G!D is about process, relationships, spirit, love, connection, circles.

The beauty of those on the path of "spiritual but not religious" is that their sense of community is much broader than the putative parochial notions many of us hold. What both sets them apart and draws them together is a deep reverence for human belief and a desire to find a common thread of truth. From this perspective, even the atheist can be engaged with respect and openness in the pursuit of meaning.

Thank God for Anne Lammot. Such a powerful message of surrender and freedom from the non- sentimentality, syrupy stuff usually associated with American religion. She's so real and an inspiration to follow Jesus' core teachings - messages of love, look to the disenfranchised.