“I think in a way that kind of cliche ‘spiritual but not religious,’ which apparently is a thing more and more people say to describe themselves, is in a way an attempt to reconcile in some cases with science. In other words…if I say I believe in this highly anthropomorphic God, if I’m religious and too old-fashioned in a sense, or buy into specific claims of revelation, that might not sit well with the modern scientific intelligence.”
—Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God (February 2, 2010)

Young People Less Religiously Affiliated
(graphic: Pew Research Center)

New research from the Pew Forum on Public Life reveals that a sizable slice of the Millenial population (people born after 1981) does not affiliate with a particular religious denomination or faith. We’re aware that people of all ages are defining themselves under the expansive umbrella of “spiritual but not religious.” We see this, in part, through the weekly listener emails that flow into our inbox.

Our contact form includes a question: “What faith tradition, if any, do you belong to?” Here are examples of some recent responses we’ve received:

  • mindfulness
  • none now
  • I defy labels ;)
  • Christian, Baptist… though I refer to myself as a “recovering evangelical” currently not affiliated
  • atheist, with emerging theory of spirituality
  • the teachings of Christ, the Buddha, and my dog, not necessarily in that order

As you can see, it’s quite a spread. In his recent public conversation with Krista, Robert Wright provided some helpful insights about how this “spiritual but not religious” trend might relate to a concern with what he calls “modern scientific intelligence.”

If you consider yourself “spiritual but not religious,” can you help us understand what this term actually means to you? Does science have something to do with it? Is it primarily a youthful Millennial trend, as the Pew Forum report suggests? Are there other terms that you would add to the list above to describe yourself on this “spiritual but not religious” continuum?

Share Your Reflection



I don't think that the "spiritual but not religious" phenomenon has to do with "modern scientific intelligence." I think it has to do with postmodern religious ignorance, what Stephen Prothero calls religious illiteracy. Those who have not plumbed the depths of their own tradition glibly reject it.

That may be true of many people, but there are also many who have plumbed their traditions sufficiently to see what is worthwhile now -- i.e. ethical codes and contemplative practices -- and what is nonesense -- e.g. almost all teachings about women -- which has everything to do with science and modernism's critique of power.

And if those traditions were to be plumbed with the intellectual honesty we apply to any other area where best results are desired, we find that also the ethical codes e.g. tooth for a tooth,turn the other cheek, persecution (thanks to secular humanist pressure now reduced to discrimination) of gays, and contemplative practices e.g. prayer.........are nonsense.

What I find so interesting is how increasing my intelligence of many other faith traditions, helped me appreciate my own so much more. I spent years "plumbing the depths," yet rarely found connections that resonated. Yes, definitely, my own tradition 'had it all in there,' but I couldn't access it. For me, looking outside blew open the myth that one tradition or the other has a monopoly on Truth. I now believe we're all saying the same things in vastly different ways and the proof in the pudding is if my path leads me to peace within myself. (...kingdom of heaven within...) That peace cannot help but find its way into helping me naturally want to do those things I formerly had to be "commandmented" or "script(ur)ed" to do.

I've recently learned that up to 57% of Americans are introverts--by nature we find social activity draining after a short while. Perhaps this accounts for some of the spiritual-but-not-religious divide. For me, religion is more about the people side of the equation, my "spiritual homework," if you will. Spirituality for me is the experiential, some might say metaphysical side comprised of prayer, meditation, contemplation, mysticism, etc. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive, yet the number of religious groups in the world speak to how well that's worked thus far!

I loved the Facebook dialogue, yet long posts have to be broken up. (isn't THAT telling!) I'm thinking if you did a SOF show on the topic, you'd not be able to stop the flow.

Thanks for doing what you do.

I am spiritual and not religious. In my thinking religion is about doctrine and a rigid set of beliefs. I see christians who say things like only a person who believes in Christ will go to heaven which means God will sentence a billion people who believe in Islam to hell. And muslims who condemn christians to the same. All religions are based on writings by men thousands of years ago. Of course these writings have been manipulated by mankind in ways that best fit the writers agenda. God and the spiritual world exists among us in my belief. We are a collective conscious and are 'all' connected in ways beyond my depth of thought . Religion divides humanity and we must be mindful of the oneness of us all.

The "spiritual but not religious" trend has many factors including the belief that scientific ideas trump the truth value of all others. The idea that doubt is more prestigious and intellectually accommodating than faith probably comes from the Scientific Method. I believe we have adopted Karl Popper's idea that falsification is the demarcating boundary of Science, however we have not let go of the idea that verification by inductive reasoning can prove ideas to be true. We continue to look to Science to for proof of what does and does not exist without stopping to think whether or not Science actually has that power.

This phrase interests me as well. "Religious" and even the word "God" have gotten a bad wrap in recent years due a minority of conservative extremists who have been given too many microphones. When people today ask me if I believe in God, I struggle to answer not because of my convictions but because of what that word means today. It is someone else's definition to be verified and not mine. Saying that I am "religious" also adheres to a foreign definition these days. It is a limiting word. Being "spiritual" is more open. To me it embraces the East and values such as wholeness and community as sacred rather the individualism that "Religion" seems to hold dear. The bottom line however, is that we are trying to give words to ideas and concepts that will continue to outgrow them.

This is a topic I could thoroughly discuss but I'd like to hear other thoughts.

Until my first couple years of college, I had a general conception of science and spirituality as existing on opposite ends of a continuum. Science was devoted to logic and empiricism, while spirituality was rooted fundamentally in faith. I actually dreaded the science courses I was to take during my freshman, as I feared their emphasis on concrete answers and logic might cause me to lose touch with what little remained of my sense of spirituality. What I found was quite the contrary. My scientific courses actually inspired me to deeply reflect on my sense of meaning in life and helped me to grow into the spiritual identity I’d been feeling so detached from.
Science forced me to confront the profound interdependence of all of life… I came to realize that there is a force that connects me to everyone and everything around me. I hate the term force, but that's the only word I can think of that can begin to encapsulate the mystery I’m trying to describe. That force, or essence, or whatever you want to call it is what most religions have personified as "God" or “Allah” or “Buddha”. It is the bond between friends, the passion between lovers, the curiosity of a young child, the companionship between man and dog, the substance of life itself! It is ever present in the mechanisms that govern the biological world... it’s what drives the miraculous interactions between the molecules of our DNA and the mutualistic relationship between plant roots and mycorrhizae. It is interconnectedness. We get caught up trying to isolate and define it. It is dynamic. It is not something that can be labeled, rather something that is experienced.
I’m now pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science and feel completely at ease dwelling in the worlds of both science and faith. I’m not sure I even see the two as separate anymore. The spiritual identity that’s emerged is not one that can easily be grouped into the “normal” categories we use to describe religion.

Chelsea, perhaps you could use "life force" or "Life" instead of "force" because, in an expanded sense, every "being" and every "thing" has a life, which is something more than simple existence.

Ah. I quite like that, Carl. Thank you. For all the words we have in the English vocabulary, I often find myself at a loss for terminology when trying to describe such abstract concepts. I guess that is why our religious traditions use symbols to convey the essence of faith.... there are some things that just cannot be uttered in words. :-)

Regarding the PEW research, while I'm no statistician, couldn't the results be showing that the numbers grow as each generation has children of their own? I just found the 13% Boomer to 26% Millenial ratio interesting.

Every religious educator knows the family is the primary incubator of values whether they're weighted toward religion (social/dogma) or spirituality (experiential/soul). Churches that fail the relevance test for their 15-50-somethings will lose any children they may have as well. The thriving churches in the small town I used to live in (14,000 people, 26+ churches) were the ones with a vigorous family ministry component. While the ones who did things "the way we've always done them," mostly appealed to the ones who'd always been doing them! When my children started asking me why the library and toyboxes were removed to make room for (a second) office space...or asked why the "old people" were always shushing them...or why the parking lot was the only place to play--AFTER they'd spent a mostly quiet, wiggle-free HOUR in church....was around the time we drifted away. Not the only reason by far, but important because it was indicative of the underlying problem. And that's not to denigrate the aforementioned "old people" whom I dearly loved.

I found that Boomers and X'ers who had not attended Catholic schools were profoundly unable to articulate their faith in any meaningful way to their children. And even those who had attended Catholic schools (Boomers and Silent gens esp.) believed SOMEBODY ELSE was or should be taking care of it. Maybe in other words, it wasn't important enough or relevant enough for them to bring it up with their kids between Sunday mornings---they weren't getting anything of value out of it.

Some of the same people could wax poetic about baseball or fishing or golf and spend a great deal of time/money/energy bringing THAT experience to their children......which brings up a different point---the sit/listen/talk/study/reflect mode as well as a view of heaven as a cloudy, passionless place where we wear dresses and sing, is not particularly appealing to the masculine----so we defacto lose men in droves. Who runs the local church? Church Ladies. I was one for years. I suspect this would apply to religious groups other than just Catholic or Christian, although I'm not certain.

Add all that to my other post in this thread and the scandals which broke 25 years ago which are still resonating today and you've got even more cause/effect. I can't count the number of times I've heard, "Well, I was RAISED Catholic, but ___________." And it's really quite difficult for "recovering catholics" to find a good fit community-wise.

I imagine it's similar for all who feel they've "outgrown" their religious traditions. A feeling of ~~Where do I go from here and who can I have this conversation with that 'gets it'? ~~ One that doesn't feel like it's going backwards somehow.

What I find interesting about the Pew poll is that you are Christian, Christian, Jewish , other (which in this poll feels negative), or none. Where does that leave the millions of people that are Bahai's, Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and others that do not fit the above Pew question? The chart shows percent unaffiliated with a religion. Does that mean a Mormon is not religious? I think we should be careful on reporting information like this because it does not show the whole picture and the ideas and beliefs that come from the "data" can be as skewed as the data.

This conversation reflects a very different understanding of these two terms than I usually see. I understand "religious" to be about affiliation, practice, dogma and community, while "spirituality" speaks about a search for meaning and purpose--which can go on entirely outside the realm of religion, or easily within it. I believe that many of us are religious--but all of us are spiritual.

Science is fine, but as Aurobindo famously stated, it will only take you so far. I'm personally not very empathetic to the modern urge to reconcile religion and science, nor to meld religious belief with scientific observation. Once the religious - or spiritual - experience has been encountered, it needs no further justification. If it has any true power, it is experienced as a higher form of knowing, and cannot be undermined by someone else's logic, or someone else's facts. A polite colloquy about whatever issues might be raised by that experience is of course fine, but there can be no real debate. Spirituality is internal - not external - which is largely the opposite of how we might define science.

One more quick point. NASA often justifies its expenditures by pointing to the indirect benefits of its research. If we hadn't gone to the moon, say, we wouldn't have invented Kevlar.

I prefer the direct investment approach. If I want a tough new material, that's what I'll work on. If I want a deeper understanding of the immaterial cosmos (assuming there is such a cosmos), I'll place my focus there, and not on going to the moon. True, I might learn something tangentially important to higher understanding by my moon-launch effort, but not without a lot of wasted motion.

So in my opinion, go first to where there are purported answers. Read, or at least investigate, the Pali Cannon, the Adi Granth, the Hadith, A Course In Miracles, the Q'uran, Meher Baba, The Urantia Book, Conversations With God, The Upanishads, Ken Wilber, The Life Divine - or perhaps even The Bible. In my opinion such efforts will be rewarded, and you will leave the astrophysicists in their own material dust.

"Once the religious - or spiritual - experience has been encountered, it needs no further justification. If it has any true power, it is experienced as a higher form of knowing, and cannot be undermined by someone else's logic, or someone else's facts."

Precisely the mindset of those those who fly planes into buildings; those fathers who kill their own daughters; brothers who kill their own sisters; mothers who mutilate their daughters genitals; one group who seizes land and expels another group from it; those who persecute and discriminate against those of a different sexual orientation or different skin color; those who don't understand that though you might be entitled to your own opinions you are not entitled to your own facts and if the facts you base your opinions on are flawed so will your opinions be.

The mindset of those who commit such acts is just that - a mind set. The mind can justify anything it chooses to justify, and the mind most typically operates from a basis of fear which is a common response of the ego to all that it does not fully understand. The misguided actions of those who terrorize, persecute and discriminate all arise from fear filled egos who's mind tricks allow them to claim a spiritual or religious basis for their actions.

True spiritual experience, on the other hand, is a heart based experience founded in Love - unconditional Love. There is no way such a true spiritual experience can be transformed into acts of terrorism, persecution and discrimination. Unfortunately, organized religions very often practice fear based mind games for the purpose of gaining and maintaining control and power, rather than always teaching, leading and promoting heart based practices in order to serve the purpose of helping everyone experience and spread Love and create greater Unity in the world.

"Once the religious - or spiritual - experience has been encountered, it needs no further justification."

This is precisely the phenomenology of what has lead to the great religious and dogma driven atrocities of history be it the Inquisition or the War in Iraq -the presumption of having encountered the religious - or spiritual - experience thus becoming the possessor of absolute truth: evidence be damned and/or manufactured.

Notions of "True spiritual experience" being "a heart based experience founded in Love - unconditional Love." can hardly be surpassed in meaninglessness.

Who is the arbiter of Truth in Spirituality, you? Who are your designated teachers, leaders and promoters of "heart based practices"? Mormon missionaries? The Dalai Lama?

Do you know what Love is? What it feels like? Have you experienced Love in your life? Are you Loving? Do you have any concept of how it feels and what it means to have every thought, feeling and action arise as a manifestation of Love? Do you know, through experience, the way of tolerance, acceptance, inclusiveness, support, trust, respect, generosity, mercy, compassion, inspiration, warmth, softness, etc.? These are descriptors of a truly realized spiritual being.

Or do you only know the way of doubt, distrust, suspicion, exclusiveness, separation, fear, dislike, judgment, contempt, anger, hate, greed, justification, logic, reason, infatuation, covetousness, coldness, hardness, etc.? These are descriptors of a spiritually unrealized person.

Or perhaps you are somewhere along the continuum between these extremes, as most of us are. Realization is far deeper than knowing, understanding or even wisdom. It is that which is most real for a person that serves as the source of that person's every thought, feeling and action - most especially in difficult conditions and situations, which often brings out the worst in us. Who we really are is determined by the level of our spiritual realization.

There is no authoritative arbitrator necessary, nor is one even possible, to determine who is or is not spiritual, yet it is not at all difficult for an open and loving heart to recognize a spiritually realized being by his/her radiant presence. My path is a universal one that recognizes the Truth as represented by every religion, by every spiritual path, even though it may be well camouflaged beneath dense veils of rituals, rules and creeds, as well as by the misdeeds of self-proclaimed practitioners who might fall far short of any and all religious ideals. I'm striving to follow a path along which there are many guides who inspire, encourage and support others towards the recognition, awareness and manifestation of the ideals of Love, Harmony and Beauty, as well as towards unity in Oneness. It's not a path of concepts but rather a path of experience that brings realization. Although, in practice, there are some who are designated leaders, there are no authorities and, in reality, we are all simply fellow travelers of the way - a way that is as ancient as humanity yet that is new with every breath, with every heartbeat.

A perfect storm of clichés straight from the enlightenment guru industrial complex playbook. Complete with "descriptor" tagged hierarchical levels of spiritual realization (the author's, obviously, is higher -a veritable black belt, if you will), radiant presences, paths (plural - indisputably an upgrade from standard issue bible (t) humping). Love, Harmony and Beauty and the Truth all capitalized for extra heft and of course the golden oldie: Oneness™.

This stuff sure ain't evolved much since they first rolled it out in the 60s.

I recently had a conversation about spiritual vs. religious (Christian) with an evangelical, semi-literalist friend. Her opinion that I could not be spiritual without being a Christian, that God only could be defined via Christ and that one could not have a relationship with God except as a Christian through a Christ centered belief served to reinforce my personal exile not only from Christianity but from all religious doctrine and dogma.
As John Shelby Spong writes about being in exile when one leaves 'the church.' Wright refers to his own inability to totally shake the invisible man in the sky mentality that is so deeply engrained in Christian and other religious thinking.
I would disagree, however, with Wright's opinion that as the world has become more global in its interdependence that the concept of God becomes more compassionate. As American politics have become more politically aligned with Christian right, the divide and condemnation of "right" thinkers vs. "left" thinkers parallels doctrine.
My friend was quite dismayed when I "came out" about no longer being a Christian or sharing Christian belief. When I raised the question posed by Epstein in his book "Good without God", "Am I immoral without a belief in God, or more specifically, a belief in a Christ-based God?" my friend side stepped the answer. She replied that morality can only be defined in Christ based teachings of the Bible.
I am currently reading Stephen Batchelor's new book, "The Autobiography of a Buddhist Atheist." He writes about his internal conflict- a trained and practicing Tibetan Buddhist monk who could not believe in the fundamental Buddhist precept of rebirth and reincarnation. He was told he had to believe in what the higher enlightened monks told him was "true". As I have been reading this, if I substitute "salvation" and "heaven" , his process is much the same as mine.
I think it's essential to ask the question "What don't I believe." and "Why" instead of "What do I believe."
The total rejection by Christians like my friend, who remains a cherished friend of mine, that I can not have a deeply personal and spiritual life without believing in the Christian God is the repeating theme in this ongoing debate of spiritual vs. religious. She rejects my claim that I have a spiritual practice through mindfulness and metta meditation, through QiGong practice and walking meditation, and personal reflection. This total ownership attitude only serves to mark the divide that will continue to exist and widen between Christian ownership of God and the potential of spiritual awakening that lies outside its narrow doctrine. I don't think it's about science vs. religion, but about rational thought, personal reflection and experience of self vs. brainwashed, supersitious non-thinking required by all religions. I have come to believe that if "it" is recorded in some kind of scripture, if "it" is organized by rules of participation and greater rewards for such participation, if "it" includes only the selected few to lead the multitudes, then "it" is dogma. "It" was created by men to control people, to control ownership of real estate, property and wealth, and to control political power. That ultimately is religion.

It seems to me that true morality arises in each of our hearts as manifestations of Love - the kind we often call unconditional love, but which is the only love there really is. There are many formulations regarding how to manifest this love that have been offered up through spiritual texts as well as through various philosophies, the essential nature of which is often called The Golden Rule:
It certainly is not unique to Christianity. And spirituality, also, is certainly not unique to Christianity.

Regarding your closing "That ultimately is religion." statement, I would say that what you have described is really best called organized religion. A commonly accepted etymology of the word "religion" suggests that it derived from "re-" and "ligion" where "ligion" means to join and bind together as one and "re-" means again. For me, that indicates that religion is actually in essence about us being drawn together and joined and bound together in Oneness ... again.

From a theistic point of view, this suggests we were, once upon a time, in Oneness with God or in God, but we became separated from God and need to find our ways back to God. From a secular point of view, this suggests that we are, in our essential nature, united by what we all have in common, which could simply be viewed as Life, but that our awareness and view of our commonalities has become unclear in the confusion of our multitudes of diverse individualities, and that we need to rediscover our commonalities so we can re-unite in Life.

A most unfortunate aspect of organized religion is that it has resulted in more division and greater separation between us on all levels, from neighborhoods to world wide, which is quite contrary to the essential meaning of "religion" according to its very wisely inspired etymological origins.

I will also reject your claim that you have a spiritual practice but for entirely different reasons.

Just to name a few: the "spiritual" is a construct so vague that it conveniently lets you massage it into anything you want it to be rendering the term as good as meaningless. There exists nothing but anecdotal evidence for it, which has been manufactured and handed down through the ages and tweaked for the western market by the enlightenment guru industrial complex. And most if not all of which, upon closer scrutiny, is found to effortlessly match monotheistic preachments in both speciousness and dogmatism.

Spiritual, but not religious to me means that I can view God in many, if not any, faith traditions. It means that I don't care if God is being claime by the Catholic Church's Pope, the Synagouge's Rabbi, the Mosque's Iman, or the Shaman of faith traditions for which I don't know the proper name. God, in my mind, is not small. God is larger than any religion. I believe that there are so may ways to God & that in the final analysis, it doesn't matter what you label yourself. It matters much more what you do every day to exhibit your belief in your God. After all, all faith traditions/ religions that I am aware of have something akin to the Golden Rule. And if we all did that, I believe the world would be a better place - because that is what God wants us to do (no matter what name you give God).

Spirituality is a state of Being. It is a recognition that the only purpose for Being is love. So spirituality is living love. Religion is comprised of rules and regulations. Spirituality doesn't require any rules. Spirituality isn't divorced from the rest of one's life. It's lived moment by moment. To be spiritual is to see the interconnection of all life and to live as if every act mattered because every act transmits love or transmits fear and separation. I'm studied many religions, and yet no religions calls to me. The only calling I have is the calling of heart to love.

I described myself as spiritual not religious for about eight years after I left a religious community (I spent 14 years in a Sikh ashram) and before I became an Episcopalian Christian. An important part of the religous/spiritual dichotomy has to do with one's involvement in a community of faith. After 40 years 'on the path' I've concluded that while parts of the journey must be taken alone, the journey of the spirit is ultimately social. If your experience of the divine does not have a social manifestation, I think you've not yet grasped the meaning of incarnation.

We've all let words become whatever we want them to mean and forgot either by ignorance or by choice that God created us all. All that has been said here is that spiritual means love and God where as religion is more of the laws and dogma. I believe that God put a spark in us all. Spiritualism is inherent. We know from a young age what love is and how it feels. We know right and truth from its absense. Yet in the world of the material, we also learn that we can do as we please. This "free will" given to us lets us determine our own best course. How has it turned out so far? Wars, poverty, disease, politics, prejudice, intolerance, hatred and the list goes on. We stopped listening to the spiritual side of us and religion became just the rules and dogmas of a few to control the many so it was said. But what is religion? For me, religion is comprised of two parts. The first being the spiritual. The reaffirmation that God loves me and that He will never leave me alone. The second, is the harder part of how do we put this into practice within ourselves and with the rest of society. The Golden Rule, the elimination of ego, the laws of marriage and divorice, the eating and praying habits to be followed are but a very few. These are but the doctor's prescription for a better world. The prescription has changed over time for each new illness of the world. The spiritual and the religious are the two wings of a bird. Both have to be strong in order for the bird to fly into the heavens as it was meant to do. The spiritual side feeds our soul and allows us to open to the possibilities. The religious shapes our behaviors and that of society so that all can benefit from the teachings. We don't all have to be Christian, Muslim or any one religion to understand the teachings and to apply them to our lives. If each of us followed the true teachings as sent down by any one religion, the world would be a better place. I say pick a religion, read and study for yourselves to find what God wanted for the world. Religion without spirituality is dogma, Spirituality without Religion is superstition.

I received some direct but polite criticism of my earlier post via email, and I thought I would share it here. I’ll keep the source of the criticism confidential, but would welcome a response by that same critic – if he or she were inclined to do so.

In my earlier (actually first) post here, I made this claim: "Once the religious - or spiritual - experience has been encountered, it needs no further justification. If it has any true power, it is experienced as a higher form of knowing, and cannot be undermined by someone else's logic, or someone else's facts."

My critic had this response: “Precisely the mindset of those who fly planes into buildings; those fathers who kill their own daughters; brothers who kill their own sisters; mothers who mutilate their daughters genitals; one group who seizes land and expels another group from it; those who persecute and discriminate against those of a different sexual orientation or different skin color; those who don't understand that though you might be entitled to your own opinions you are not entitled to your own facts and if the facts you base your opinions on are flawed so will your opinions be.”

And my response: It’s easy to confuse one’s level of conviction with the actual quality of one’s beliefs. They are of course not the same thing at all. Baha’u’llah, the great Baha’i leader, believed fervently in many things – among them the perfect equality between men and women. With a similar level of conviction, anti-gay-rights activists in our own time protest loudly and angrily at the funerals of gay – or suspected gay – soldiers. It is true that Baha’u’llah and these protestors have a certain level of conviction in common, but the similarity between them seems to end there. And it would of course not be fair to condemn Baha’u’llah, based on this one area of similarity.

But I understand my critic’s concern. He (or she) doesn’t know me personally, but does know that Conviction – as opposed to Uncertainty – can lead to destruction. I respect his (or her) concerns, and can only affirm here that my particular outlook is not, as near as I can tell, of a destructive sort.

Putting it another way, my god is of the New Testament type, not the Old.

But please do not ask me to replace my confident opinions with those based on your experience of the world (your facts), or with Uncertainty itself. Heisenberg notwithstanding, the world would quickly become dysfunctional if we were all paralyzed by doubt.

I kind of understand where he/she is coming from on this response to your comment. My question would be that if there is new truth discovered, are you not willing to take that into account or add that to your expirience? I am not saying to replace your beliefs but to add to them to get a better understanding. My concern here is your statement about other peoples's facts. As your critic stated facts do not belong to a person, group or an ideology. It is when facts belong to an ideology that we have the problems stated by your critic. "I'm right and you and you are always wrong" regardless of the truth involved. My truth trumps your truth because I am not even willing to look at your side. I believe this type of thought is the reason for independent investigation of truth. Truth belongs to us all regrdless if we want to follow it or not. My belief in or of a truth does not change the underlying truth at all.

I agree with your arguement about condemming one based solely on a given point or our limited understanding of that point. I do not believe that the critic is aguing conviction but application. His point appeared to be that the application of justice and equity based on the "facts" of the latter people in your arguement is what is in error. I do not believe that Baha'u'llah would have stoned to death gays or suspected gays. But there are those who even today push this very point. I also do not believe that Baha'u'llah would have kept them from being in the military or being of a value and service to society. There naturally would be limitations on their conduct.

Be open. We are not saying to replace your certainty with doubt but your doubt with certitude. Be willing to look at and question all answers given to you. I have no doubt that I will not know the next manisfestation but I am still looking and studying all of the religions so that I do not miss Him if God chooses to send another before I think He should arrive. Is this wrong? I do not know, but to not investigate every possibility leaves me in doubt and uncertainty.

First off, a few apologies. I’m new here, and did not quite realize how this particular forum, with it’s particular software, displayed its messages. I now realize that the response from my seemingly discrete critic – who I shall now reveal as (da dah) Bah Humbug – was not at all private, but very public. Somehow, I couldn’t seem to figure out where to look for that response on the forum.

Secondly, let me also apologize for the confusion centered around this “facts” issue. I think I can explain, although probably not to the satisfaction of BH, but possibly in a way that might help Mark understand my position a little better.

My initial post was meant to convey, among other things, the idea that there are avenues to knowledge that transcend scientific investigation. This, I realize, is for many people a non-starter; since without verifiable outside sources, how can one claim to know anything? But I would argue, a la Descartes I suppose, that there are no truly verifiable outside sources. Everything in what we think of as the outside world must first be processed through the electro-chemical mechanism of the human brain; and the brain, believe it or not, manufactures pretty much everything we see, hear, touch, etc., out of mere packets of data. And who knows, frankly, where that data comes from? – or, if it is in fact “real”, what its true nature might be?

A quick example. The color blue. I might argue in a court of law that "the defendant was wearing a blue sweater", and that would be deemed a legal fact. But what is blue?

Blue (or really all color) is a complete fabrication of the mind, with no correlative in the “outside” world. The brain completely makes blue up. (This is not an uncommon insight, but in my opinion it is not stressed enough in our educational culture.) We know this when we deconstruct the process of sight.

By every appearance, when we “see” something, we do so in this way. Light strikes an object – a chair, say – and is then reflected off that object and into our eyes. The pupil and lens then work their magic, and focus an image onto the retina. The retina, with even greater magic, converts the light, with its various frequencies and intensities, into electrical impulses , which are then sent through the optic nerve, and into the sight-producing centers of the brain. The brain then somehow assembles an image – but out of what? Out of what are essentially electrical dots and dashes! The brain, in other words, has only dots and dashes to work with. It knows nothing of “blue”. It has never heard of “blue”. It has never seen “blue”. It only knows signals.

The brain CREATES blue from the signals, as a way of interpreting a certain frequency of light which was somehow previously measured, presumably at the retina level. Blue is what the brain has come up with as a way of distinguishing one particular frequency from many (but hardly all) others. Of course most frequencies it conveniently ignores, assigning them no happy colors.

Continuing this analysis, shape and form are no less a creation of the mind, which creation it manages to project out in front of us, nicely colored, as “the real world”. But again, it’s all from packets of data, the “reality” of which can all very reasonably be put into question.
Do you see why I’m rather suspicious of other people’s facts? I can’t even be sure of my own!

Jumping back to Descartes, he famously claimed that existence could only be found in thought. He didn’t talk about facts – just thought.

I make a further distinction. I distinguish what I consider to be my own thought with Divine thought. In my experience, I think I’ve encountered both, and I think I’ve noticed a distinct difference.

Now, hopefully that Divine Thought won’t tell me to fly into any buildings! (But it seems I do remember Him whispering something in my ear about Bah Humbug’s house). (-:

But all that would be for another post, if there’s any further interest. I realize I haven’t really addressed the issues yet, but I’ve done what I can for today.

Thanks both to BH and Mark for taking the time to express interest in my thought.


For any who might be interested, let me briefly continue my defense against the very reasonable charge that I am too cavalier about “facts’, and too willing to dismiss them when they come from others with whom I disagree. The charge against me was made in reference to this earlier statement of mine:

"Once the religious - or spiritual - experience has been encountered, it needs no further justification. If it has any true power, it is experienced as a higher form of knowing, and cannot be undermined by someone else's logic, or someone else's facts."

The first leg of my defense, outlined in my last post (above) written about a week ago, points to the odd “fact”, seldom discussed in our society and culture, that facts themselves – and by that I mean ALL facts – are actually a creation of the mind. Each of our five recognized senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – rely on a complex process of taking in “data”, breaking that data down into coded signals, and relaying those signals via the nervous system to the brain. The brain receives the “dots and dashes” if you will, and turns them into seemingly “real” concrete reality.

The fragrance of a flower, for instance – as well as an image of that same flower – is fully a creation of the brain. With only dots and dashes to work with, the brain could conceivably do anything! Ostensibly (and according to the beliefs of some) there is no Being out there (or in there) making up the rules, telling the brain what to do. Dots and dashes come in, and an image (or smell, or sound, or tactile feeling, or taste) comes out. All of these images, smells, sounds, tastes, etc. are simply interpretations of Morse code-like signals, and have no provable external counterpart. The signals could come from anywhere, and be interpreted in a billion different ways of course, or in no way at all.

Nonetheless, they are wholly interpretations, and represent a single brain’s “decision” as to what to do with the incoming data stream.

(Of course, that there is such a thing as the Brain, which can both literally and figuratively make anything of these various signals, is remarkable in itself; but another topic entirely.)

So in my opinion, this analysis brings the very existence of facts into question. If the brain is making it all up, who anywhere or at any time has any corner on Truth?

The second problem with “facts” is more commonly understood, and involves their selective use and application. It’s almost as if Belief comes first in this world, and Facts come second. All of us (Bah Humbug, Mark, and myself as well) tend to search for those particular facts which support our beliefs. The beliefs themselves seem to come from a bias – or perhaps just from a more innocent Tendency – that we each have to view the world in a certain way. That Tendency of course in a very major way defines us, and is experienced as an essential core aspect of our existence. It also separates us from those who we now perceive as “The Infidels” – that is, those who have greatly different emotional or intellectual Tendencies from our own, which if accepted would deny the validity of our own current existence.

And so we very reasonably search for “facts” with which to bolster our own views, and which render the views of those who oppose us null and void.

In other words, my facts are Constructive, in that they help to flesh out a world that I already believe exists, and that I know I am suited for and can live within. YOUR facts, however, are Destructive – because they create an alien world for me – one which I can’t understand, and can take no effective part in.

Even if we could agree that facts are real – that blue really is blue – I still can’t abide a world based on another’s facts, because those other facts are in truth based on another’s Tendency, which is to say another’s actual being. And I am not “the other”, unless and until – according to the beliefs of some – I can relinquish my belief in Self, and fall into a belief in One; where we All are the Other, and we are all (at the same time) the self-same Being.

But that’s a big step, and again, I’m not sure it’s even the topic of this particular conversation.

Allow me to rest my case at this point, and wait for the criticism. I’m sure there are areas within this analysis where skepticism (hopefully short of scorn) is well deserved.

Peace/out - P.

One place where this formulation is often heard, and where it is of crucial importance, is in the 12-Step recovery community. In the 12 Step process, addicts find strength through a "higher power" - and discovering the nature of that power and our relationship to it is one of the primary foundations of finding that source of strength that allows us to do what we know we cannot do alone. We say it is a "spiritual, not religious, program" to emphasize that recovery is possible to all regardless of the religious traditions we may have grown up with. Many of us are scarred by repressive religious traditions, possibly debased through cultural practice or family dysfunction. In recovery we seek a loving and caring power that we need not define, but which when we surrender our will can help us to make and maintain changes that have eluded us otherwise.

It is often the case that as we continue this spiritual journey we may find deeper connections to the traditions of our ancestry, or of another culture, or simply an increasingly profound private understanding. The important thing is that it is our own process, that we go through with the help of the experience of the group and our sponsor - and the most important thing is that it works.

As the recovery movement gains in numbers in our culture, certain of its insights begin to spread. Our traditions limit how much an identified individual should say in "press, radio, and films," because of the life and death nature of the program. For the same reason, I should point out that this comment is my own experience and thoughts. "Your mileage may vary."

10 years ago, I didn't understand what people meant when they said they were "spiritual." Today, having been guided by a wonderfully spiritual pastor, I'm beginning to understand it more. Here are some of my thoughts. Many more young people are in mixed (religious) marriages or the product of same. In the past few decades there have been numerous news reports of religious leaders involved in unsavory practices which certainly do not follow Jesus' teachings and are sometimes blatantly illegal which leads to cynicism about religion. Some Christian churches have been very vocal about their support of the wars in the Middle East, which can lead to pondering about the meaning of religion. I believe that all of these trends (and many more, I'm sure) can lead to moving away from organized "religion" and to defining oneself as "spiritual but not religious." It's also a convenient way of being able to say "I believe [something] but don't attend church." In my own journey, I'm currently comfortable being part of two churches of different denominations.

Someone explained to me recently that religion is for those who want to avoid going to hell, while spirituality is for those who have been there.

Now, that is the voice of some courageous and humiliating experience. :)

I gave up religion when I discovered spirituality. For some reason these two worlds, or states of mind, clashed. One had to go. I have encountered, in my Baptist upbringing, those who claimed that spirituality cannot exist without religion.
“Spirituality is rooted in religion,” my dearest Christian friends claimed.

What a limiting belief it was, as it produced a regression in my journey to a better understanding. Contemplation was almost out of the question. A sense of joy and wonder diminished greatly. I started to believe that my Christian fellows were not what they claimed to be. They were either Religious or Spiritual, or they clutched to one side more than the other. In their case I believe it was religion. But then I cannot be sure.

In my case leaving religion meant abandoning tradition to the observers. However, I never saw it that way. In this sense, even those who were not religious followed the tradition prescribed by their religion. I sensed some hypocrisy or a societal double standard. How can some individuals use the Lord’s name in vein, and then praise him through songs and prayers? Is there really one way, one God? How can everybody else be wrong?

Religion surely can lead to separatism. By letting go of religion, I became a spiritual person, appreciating other religions from which, when combined, a lot of words of wisdom derived.

Spirituality, for me, can be summed up as humanity. We are humans that should try to understand each other. No more claiming that one religion is the sole truth that should dominate over others. No more brainwashing, no more separating groups of people through such things as religion.

I also see spirituality as a continual progress through science, exploration of the universe, and a feeling of admiration and amazement in a sense that there is so much to discover. This is what spirituality means in my life.

As long as we cling to the scriptures, and as long as we strongly identify with them, we will not be able to see the world from another perspective, nor will we be able to understand or appreciate other humans and their rich cultures.
What saddens me is that my Christian fellows no longer wish to associate with me due to my beliefs. I miss them very dearly and I hope that they will understand me one day.

The Anne Lamott audio was wonderful. I listened through it several times, & I have read two of her books. I would love to see more/hear more of her here or anywhere. I would love to be a part of a "church" like hers, & I am not sure there is such in my area (Moreland, GA). Her words made my day, & I am grateful for your having this available.

Spiritual but not religious! This has been my creed for several decades. Born in the 50's, I was raised Catholic. My mother was Irish Catholic and my Father was a convert. I started to drift from the church at a very young age. I loved all the mysticism, allegories and rich fantasies, but I just couldn't accept or reconcile all the hypocrisy, sexism, and contradictions. I recall at an early age feeling that so much of the Bible was being taken too literally and therefore rife with extensive misinterpretation. I was told to stop challenging these notions and instead just surrender my faith. I was told to be thankful that I was born Catholic, for I'll be saved while the rest will be damned. I was told that my questioning was the mark of a bad, disruptive, petulant child. I was instructed to conform or risk damnation. I put up a mask as long as I could.

I am spiritual, but not religious. I find religion repugnant. Religion preys on the weak. It manipulates and distorts. It's narrow minded.

As a neo-Vedantist mystic who follows Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, for me, the phrase "spiritual but not religious" means that I constantly engage in an inner battle to conquer my own lower nature and allow the Divine within me to manifest itself through me. In short, the purpose of spirituality is to transform human nature so that it is more and more able to express a higher Divine nature, liberated from desire, biological conditioning and the limitations of the human mind.

This transformation is brought about through a growing inner relationship with the Divine, which transcends both the sense-perceptions and the rational intellect, for which, indeed, the senses and intellect are mere instruments. This is really the key difference between spirituality and organized religion. The former is transformative and independent of any specific mental creeds or beliefs (indeed, once you understand that spiritual experiences are transrational, you realize that you can express the existence of God using both mental affirmations and mental negations).

Religious texts, creeds and beliefs may, at their best, be an asset facilitating this transformation (or an obstacle if they are irrational and unjust), but ultimately the inner transformation and liberation that seekers strive for transcends any mental formulas that might have facilitated it.

I had left another comment here which hasn't gotten published (perhaps it was too long). I just want to add that at least in the Eastern context, the "spiritual but not religious" movement does not have much to do with a modern scientific intelligence (though it is at least partly related to it), but more to do with the idea that living spiritual experiences trump religious texts and creeds, and the inner conviction that the Divine is too vast, tremendous and infinite to ever be contained in any one religion, text, set of rituals, or creeds.

As my teacher Sri Aurobindo once put it, responding to the fears of a religionist in moving away from traditional religionism: "Thou mayst be deceived, wilt thou say, it may not be God’s voice leading thee? Yet do I know that He abandons not those who have trusted Him even ignorantly, yet have I found that He leads wisely & lovingly even when He seems to deceive utterly, yet would I rather fall into the snare of the living God than be saved by trust in a dead formulary."

At least in the Eastern context, "spiritual but not religious" is not something entirely new. The Bengali renaissance of the 19th century was a major reform movement in Hinduism that sought to separate actual living and transformative spiritual experiences from organized religion with its creeds, rituals and dogmas.

I think this idea is perhaps partly related to modern scientific intelligence, but it has more to do with the inner conviction that the Divine is too vast and infinite to be restricted to any one religion, text, creed, or code of ethics. I leave you with a poem from Swami Vivekananda, one of the Hindu reformers from the 19th century:


He who is in you and outside you,
Who works through all hands,
Who walks on all feet,
Whose body are all ye,
Him worship, and break all other idols!

He who is at once the high and low,
The sinner and the saint,
Both God and worm,
Him worship — visible, knowable, real, omnipresent,
Break all other idols!

In whom is neither past life
Nor future birth nor death,
In whom we always have been
And always shall be one,
Him worship. Break all other idols!

Ye fools! who neglect the living God,
And His infinite reflections with which the world is full.

While ye run after imaginary shadows,
That lead alone to fights and quarrels,
Him worship, the only visible!
Break all other idols!

(Written to an American friend from Almora, 9th July 1897.)

— Swami Vivekananda

"spiritual but not religious" grew up Southern Baptist, am a recovering alcoholic, I believe in something I have no dogma
or no dogma for claiming to have no dogma, if there is a God
he is all powerfull, I am powerless, I pray I claim open mindness,
and a willingness to listen, I also pray and am gratefull for life.
I hope I meet Jesus when I die but I hope all Buddist do to.
My mother tells the story of a traveling show that come to school
and some didn't have the quarter to see the show, after everyone paid they let the ones in that didn't have the quarter thats the way my God is he let's you in wether you pay your quarter or not.
That's all God is to me, life is not a proving ground to please God it is
something that I'm not totally sure. The only absolute is I have no absolutes.

We host a page on Facebook for almost 2000 people that consider themselves SBNR. Come by and say hello! www.facebook.com/sbnr.org

We posted a link to this page there.

I find it interesting that you pose the question of whether or not "spiritual" is an attempted reconciliation with science. Though that may be part of each individuals choice to become "spiritual but not religious," I think what the SBNR title comes down to is a rejection of a rigid belief system. To say that one is religious begs the question, "well, what religion are you?" People are slowly realizing that matters of faith do not fit into tiny boxes with neat labels. Saying that "I am X religion" is a dogma in itself. Things are more complicated than the Buddhists, the Catholics, Hindus, Muslim, indigenous beliefs, ETC. can claim to know within only their /own/ frame of reference. A more well rounded "spiritual but not religious" person is open to possibilities, and can read between the lines of religious doctrines, finding truth the way it is supposed to be found - in a highly personalized, direct experience of their own life. (That's why it's great that one of the people on this site commented: My Dog!)

I go under many labels, sbnr is one of those. I define myself as a "spiritual atheist" more than any other label. I am not bothered if some think I am more of an agnostic and choose to call me that....it will not bother me. What I say "tomay-to" another may say "tomah-to". It is almost defining the same thing, just under different labels.

Spiritual touches more on the soul than on the doctrines. Spiritual tells me I am willing to listen to various religious teachings to learn something about myself, to understand the world and the way it "thinks", rather than being dismissive of other teachings that I may not agree with. Religious, to me, means I might be more dismissive of other religions' teachings, and that isn't who I am.

I lead one of the largest spiritual-not-religion congregations in the nation, with over 1000 of us gathering each Winter Solstice. It's been a challenge to find the highest common denominators that unite this group, but a few demographic studies have been helpful to find three words can define them: mystic, animist, agnostic. It's that last one, agnostic, that comes from immersion in science. Members of my congregation joke that we belong to the Church of the I Don't Know. We've learned to live with ambiguity, even dance with it. The view of the Earth from Apollo 11 changed our perceptions, turned us toward being global beings and birthed an environmental movement. The Hubble Deep Field Photograph is shifting us again 40 years later, with its revealing in a blank spec of space thousands of galaxies. Whatever the future of spirituality is, it will have to keep up with that photo.

The difference between spirituality and religion has to do with the absence and presence of rituals. In the former it is absent, while in the latter it is present.

Wrong. Many, many "spiritual" individuals, or groups, posses ritual.

By and large I have found that religious people are afraid of going to Hell.
Spiritual people have been there and weren't that impressed.

I believe myself to be religious, but to the outside world I describe myself as spiritual. I think that for many of my generation (I am currently 21) conventional religion is increasingly difficult to stomach, and so in a way we distance ourselves from what we see as the worst parts of "old fashioned" religiosity through language.

For me, living near Seattle it is impossible to separate myself from difference. In this area you can walk down the street and hear half a dozen languages - go into a well established coffee shop and you might hear even more. What happens then is a broadening of our human perspective that makes condemnation of traditional outsiders, which was and is an important part of group cohesion in some traditions, much harder to stomach. Taking the label spiritual is partly a way to signify to others an openness that still is not a part of the general conception of what religion is.

I also describe myself as spiritual because of a perceived lack of social acceptance for my personal beliefs. To many people there are criterion that have to be met before something can be considered "religion" - things like a meeting place, a book written by men claiming divine revelation, a creed, dogma, etc.. For those of us whose beliefs or ways of worship and reverence do not live up to these generally accepted norms, calling ourselves religious feels disingenuous. I feel as though calling myself religious is misleading to the person I'm talking to, because I am not speaking to their conception of religion and so are not leading them to a correct understanding of who I am, and what my practice is. There is also a simple fear of people attempting to invalidate my beliefs; there is a fear that if I call myself religious, that creates the opportunity for ridicule by those who would not accept my religious convictions as "legitimate" religion.

Overall, however, I do enjoy the label of spiritual. I find it to be much more inclusive and it does not carry much of the violent, oppressive, or close-minded associations that religious does.


People can band together with others to serve humanity and God, attend regularly scheduled meetings which may include rituals they find inspiring and empowering, and support the organization which sponsors these meetings (that might be called a church or temple), and still be "open at the top". My church certainly allows me to be a thinking, growing person. If it didn't, I would find another group that did. But going off on my own in search of spiritual growth would be too difficult for me to keep it up for very long.

Religion has always been nothing more than an attempt to describe the spiritual experience. Each time a person has a spiritual experience, they attempt to describe it and thus a religion is born. For those who have a profoundly significant and very deep spiritual experience, they are the creators of major religions. But the fact is there are as many personal minor religions as there are people on the planet. Notwithstanding your affiliation with another religious group, your own interpretation is unique to your self. If you look at the derivation of the word religion, you see that it means to tie up, to tie fast, to connect, in other words to validate your particular belief and create a sense of certainty in life. Even the atheist is professing a religion of denial of primal cause. Science in a way is also a religion, just couched in carefully prescribed creeds and rituals to give it the appearance of more objectivity. Double cross over, randomized, reproducible just illustrate that if you consistently believe something, you will get consistent results. Most scientists like to kid themselves that they can perceive something without any of their own beliefs and thoughts being involved. Only a truly spiritual person can do that, and when you do, you discover the difference between religious and spiritual.

The term means that I believe deeply that God exists and cares about all life, including human beings; that "God" is a term we use to describe a universal force bigger than ourselves and vastly greater than we can imagine; that any doctrine promulgated by a particular religion is inherently self-limiting and has only partial truth; that no one has the best or only truth, and anyone who thinks so is deluding themselves and possibly others around them. Science has everything to do with it, since it is the area of human thought that most dares to grapple with the scale of the universe and our place in it. Most religions are too concerned with their own survival to face the inadequacy of their theologies. As JB Phillips said, "Your God is too small." I admire religious organizations for what they do to better the human condition -- up to the point where their theology gets in the way. As one of your guests said recently, "[Christianity] answers questions I didn't ask." And it, and others, are silent on the questions most important to me. I have fond memories of my tradition (Episcopalian) but their theological language is alienating to me. The best I can say is "I don't know;" I wish I could say more about what I know but that would not be completely honest.

I am an elder. For me, spirituality transcends religion. It has nothing to do with science, dogma or creed. It has to do with walking the path to awakening to our true identity as Spirit.

Religious means there is a person, or people who can tell me I am wrong and can kick me out for asking questions. Spiritual means I am open to ideas and possibilities of a greater life than human; of a life or lives beyond the one I and all of us live now.

My father was a minister when I was younger, so I'm a preacher's kid. Although I was an altar boy for a time in the Episcopal Church, I gradually fell away from attending services. Late in my adolescence, I went to live at The Farm, a commune in rural Tennessee that drew on many religious traditions, both eastern and western, but I washed out after nine months.

I endeavor to live in a righteous way and I sporadically make attempts to learn about spirituality. I feel fortunate to live in an age when the teachings of many traditions are available to those of us who live in industrialized countries. On the other hand, I realize that I have a lot of trouble making a place and serving a useful purpose in any particular community. Churches give me the creeps. Christianity, the religion I was raised in, is discredited by the harsh bigotry that characterizes many of its believers and the harmful policies that they get enacted into law. Christians also tend to purposefully ignore the fact that their myths draw upon older traditions, and fundamentalists insist that their book is the only valid revelation. I once figured that that Paganism might be a more openminded alternative until I got to know several uptight, rigid pagans: their prejudices and harsh judgements resembled those of the Christian fundamentalists I detest.

I've been lazy about increasing my spiritual development and seeking a spiritual home. I'm informed by a number of concepts and traditions; some that I learned early on and others that I learned later. I tend to think of 'religion' as being the theoretical and institutional structure that perpetuates a tradition or a particular version of truth. At its best, religion fosters community and serves as a focus for coordinated action; all too often, it serves as a justification for chauvinism and a locus of self-righteous hypocrisy.

I do not believe in god or gods -- that is, I do not believe in some omnipotent being or beings who created the world and who must be appeased or worshiped. However, I also have trouble with the materialist mindset that what you see is all there is.

For one thing, there are still huge gaps in our knowledge. It is possible that at some point in the future science will be able to explain everything, but we are not there yet. Besides, physics at its most advanced points is pretty much indistinguishable from mysticism; it could be that actual reality is quite different from what it appears to be to ordinary human minds at present.

For another, while intellectual reasoning is very valuable, it has its limits. Meditation, ritual, and related practices that tap into subconscious and unconscious parts of the human mind provide a level of understanding and truth that cannot be found by reasoning alone.

I consider myself to be "spiritual but not religious" because I don't feel that my spiritual beliefs fit easily into the category of any of the major religions I have explored. I don't like the idea of limiting myself to the dogma of any one specific religion because as I continue to explore, I find truth in all the religions that I encounter.

As a part of the "Millennial" generation, I have often heard similar sentiments among my peers. Personally, I believe this may have something to do with having been raised to be more open-minded and accepting of differences than previous generations. I've also noticed that those in my generation tend to resist being pinned-down or pigeon-holed and instead take pride in walking new and different paths than those who came before us.

I am a 50 y/o female physician who grew up Catholic but dropped it in my youth for many reasons. I use this term spiritual but not religious because no organized religion describes my beliefs or helps me explore a meaningful spirituality. My beliefs are informed by a combination of Buddhism, yoga, Native American and liberal christianity, as well a a smattering of other wisdom traditions. I wish there was a community that I could practice with, but find the Unitarians too intellectual, leaving the direct experience of spirit behind; the Unity folk are too non-scientific and given to fads. There are a few indiosyncratic churches scattered across the country that are both intellectually rigorous and spiritually rich, but I haven't found any near where I live.

Well spoken, and AMEN!!!

If you experience empathy you are feeling the world of the spirit. Religion is the branding of this experience. In our time the fog of branding has eclipsed religious faith in technologicaly rich culture and made it like another thing for sale.
Also the voice of the spirit is lost intranslation when delivered by dogma. Thank God for the internet and the satillites of love that make it possible to share whitness without need to sell it. Stay tuned!

I consider myself "spiritual, but not religious". I usually take "spiritual" in the sense "concerning the breath", in the sense of an unseen force that moves things. I know, that may not be too useful, but I think a lot of human experience isn't really scientifically explainable (at least not currently), or even easy to discuss. Spirituality is one way people attempt to make sense of life, in all it's messy details.

I also tend towards, for lack of a better term, the mystical. I am much more concerned with meditation and directly experiencing reality. I'm not especially religious in that I'm not too concerned with following some religion's doctrine, and disregard teachings that are obviously nonsense. (For example, I rule out Christian fundamentalism as I just can't see how it could possibly be true).

Basically, I think that there is no easy answer, and it takes a lot of work to understand things. I try to be open to things that I don't understand. I think that automatic skepticism is just as bad as automatic belief, and it's important to keep an honestly open mind. It's also important to think clearly, and be aware of your own emotions and motivations when trying to understand spiritual ideas.

I consider myself to be spiritual, not religious. Spiritual, for me, is about the individual and what goes on in the mind as one tries to grapple with the unknown and intangible. Religion involves ritual and formal organization, and it is ultimately about how the collective agrees to address the spiritual. I am in my 50's (so I am not young), and my experience with religion has led me to be suspicious of the religious, and yet not abandon the spiritual. Science - most notably the scientific method - has given me courage to question existing religions; and to the extent that science is theoretical, I think it overlaps with the spiritual. But I can't think of any scientific finding that has influenced my position on religion.

In this age "Sprituality" and "Science" are very much connected and "Humanity" is in need of both, in fact many of our daily problems appear because we take one and ignore the other, many times we chose to live in a "duality", taking one and rejecting the other, either we deep into the Spiritual world so much that it becomes "Blind Faith" or we gravitate 100% to the material existance and we lose hopes for a better future of the Human race. Lets consider "Humanity" as a bird with two "Wings" one has to be the "Science" and the other "Spirituality", both wings and equaly need to be strong. I cordialy invite the readers to visit a small book called "The Paris Talks", talks given by "Abdul Baha" in the city of Paris in 1911.

I beleive in God. I believe God was created by humans and resides in the minds of humans. God the spark of humanity in everyone, which is just a nice comforting thought. Not one I care to study, talk about, or share with others in a religious setting. Science is vital to me - I am a geologist. Science gave us the real story of our creation, which is a nice comforting thought. Not one I care to study, talk about, or share with others in any formal setting. As I study the earth and spend time in nature I strip off the crust of modern life and explore my self. That is me being spiritual.

For me, born 1978, it's not to do with making space for sciencific explanations so much as removing the need for a religion based identity or a religion based experience of spirit. I was raised with time spent in both catholic and Protestant worship, with an atheist father and former Catholic, still with spirit but without Church, mother. Work ethic and service ideas I met seem to arise out of Protestant roots. Whilst an experience of human spirituality was characterized as intellectually bankrupt and ludicrous. My lived experience disproved this idea; I found human spirit as vital, life giving and fundemental. So I say I am spiritual. I clarify that this experience is outside religion because I don't see myself as Christian, the requirement to see Christ as the singular route to God is my lauded rationale/excuse. Morally I practise living in accordance with the core idea behind all the worlds religions - love others as yourself. Tribally I am confused, I live in a country far from my birth tribe, surrounded by people from many different and unknown tribes. I am unsure if tribal identity is a useful urge. I equate becoming religious with joining a tribe, so it becomes something I cannot do.

Thanks for asking the question.

No doubt the SBNR statement has become an off the cuff cliché for a lot of people. However, for me and a lot of others the SBNR label has serious meaning. I am a very proud Deist and philosophical Buddhist. I don't believe Buddha was perfect and I certainly don't worship him as some do. Having said this, I think SBNR has much more do do with including logic and not science regarding our spiritual lives. I can give compassion, respect, and service and not believe in The Genesis story of a talking snake in a tree or in burning in hell for all eternity because I don't accept Jesus raising people from the dead.
As far as being a spiritual Lone Ranger, I certainly do not consider myself that. My " church" consists of anyone who is a loving and logical person. I have many friends and family that are this way. Just my two cents. Thanks for reading.

I was born in 1960, have never been religiously associated myself but have had lots of rewarding conversations with acquaintances who were. I consider myself not deistically inclined. The natural world, with all of it's mysteries, including my own existence within it, inspires all the awe I need.

I belong to a religion and its Holy Scriptures say this:

"Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles—and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God."

My understanding of being spiritual is bringing God into all areas of your life. That is mean the principals of your faith are the standard you live your life at all times and all places. I am a Christian, I also known many people who are of different faiths who are spiritual.
Religious folks are more interested in following rules than faith.

I am one that is spiritual but not religious. Religion is the politics of spiritual practice. Like the politics of governance, personal or tribal selfishness misguides the power is spirituality.

I consider myself a follower of Jesus. I'm not religious, don't go to church, and am not a Baptist, protestant, Lutheran, etc etc etc. Just a follower of Jesus. If people ask if i'm religious I say "no".....i'm a follower of Jesus.

If I were The Creator of the Universe, and had a human-like personality, too, I would probably have a meta-human like one, and have no need at all for vanity or pride. I made it all, after all, who would I need to impress? I find it difficult to believe I would care if some called me Joe, or Jose or Judith.....I am the Creator, why would I care what names I was called by, as long as maybe, sometimes I was called at all?

Religion, by definition ( I looked it up) is an organized set of rituals, beliefs and customs set up to worship a god or gods by a group of people. Spirituality can indicate concern for religion, but is not limited to that. It can also mean simply the quality of being spiritual. If human beings are truly all animated by something called "spirit" then we are all spiritual, regardless of what believe or don't believe about it. A friend used to deny, whenever he was asked near any kind of furniture, if he believed in God. He would vehemently say "NO" and bump immediately into the nearest piece of furniture. "Did my belief or disbelief in that table cause it to exist or not exist? That is the difference between knowledge and belief. Of course, I can keep ignoring the table, too, but it would not be to my advantage."

"Spiritual but not religious" for me means not buying into a single doctrine or dogma. All religions teach similar ethics, yet they threaten you with damnation if you don't accept their dogma/myths and ONLY theirs. That simply flies in the face of logic. If you consider logic a science, then I guess my views are related to science.

First, I have come to understand that God is the Master Scientist!

From the depth of despair religion failed me. In the depth of my soul spiritual awareness emerged. It is an awareness beyond mind and behavior yet gives awareness within though, regulating thought and action.. Religion came in to being attempting to literalize and institutionalize the mystic spirituality when cannot be.

Nothing to do with science in my view. Raised in a very strictly religious Catholic family, I learned first hand the constrictions of scripture had little to do with nourishing the spirit and much more to do with the power of man over man. Spirituality is its own realm, not requiring any written or repeated dogma to verify its value or existence. In my view, religion offers the patina of a shared communal experience for most (as in being one's brother's keeper) while spirituality is a more individual and thus more difficult path.
With a nod to Teilhard here, I think spirituality requires personal evolution, while religion requires personal conformity/stagnation. Another way to think of it is like mountain climbing. If you imagine a 14'er before you, and you accept the challenge of climbing towards the peak, you can make some choices. As you look around you can find any number of folks standing under bright banners saying "this is the correct path" and indeed, they have laid out steps or gravel which many have followed. Each offers a different path up the same mountain. Each requires some form of payment to enter their path, be it obeying, tithing, or maybe not eating fish on Fridays. These paths pretty much guarantee you will find your way up as long as you keep trying, and keep breathing.

However, a spiritual person looks at the same mountain and rejects all those groomed paths, seeing instead that s/he can make an individual way up that is not marked, but rings true for that person. The mountain is the same, the choice to ascend/evolve is the same but the decision as to what constitutes an honest, fully engaged ascent is individual. As such, the path a spiritual person makes is not blazed wide open, but simply traversed, leaving only footprints.

I doubt this ascent/evolution has any particular age requirements. I'm a middle of the boom boomer.

It's very simple. I'm 58 and I have a deeply spiritual inner life. I believe in God, praying my own prayers, meditation, and the power of the unseen. I have a "working relationship" with the spiritual world. BUT, I don't follow a particular religion, its dogma, its customs and rules, because every single one of them, by virtue of naming itself is--must be--ultimately exclusionary to anyone who is not one of them. Religion, as an institution, creates divisions between people and I don't want to be a part of that. Can you guess that I was raised Catholic? I left the church when I was 12 and consider myself a recovering--if not recovered--Catholic.
The study of esoteric Christianity, in my 30's, went a long way toward redeeming my upbringing where every question was answered with, "That is a mystery we are not meant to understand." But by then I had had enough direct spiritual experience to begin to establish my own relationship to the spiritual. AND I see ABSOLUTELY NO CONFLICT between modern scientific discovery and belief in God. John Lennon said, "There's nothing you can know that can't be known," and there's nothing you can discover that can't be contained by the Godhead...unless your concept of IT is too small.

If someone would like to discuss this I could but it's not a simple post. Feel free to email me at e.waldkirch@gmail.com. I'll be happy to share my experiences. Simply put, LACK OF POWER is the problem all these posts are discussing. WHERE AND HOW TO FIND POWER is what needs to be faced. The only thing that answers the question posted is our own experience. Otherwise we are taking someone else's word for it. Don't be afraid to have your own experience and find your own answer.

At 86, II should be about as far from the miillenial tendency to claim spirituality without religion as one could get, yet I do identify
with the desire to distance myself from "religion" which has become instituionalized and, in the process, sometimes fossilized,
but to keep close and safe the sacred the essence which starts "religions" in the first place: the genuine experience of something higher than ourselves which holds out to us the belief in purpose and the hope of a better future.

Many factors play on this loaded word: Religious.

An explanation of Spiritual but non Religious it's no different than to define the word Religious .

Many different definitions can be provided by almost every person you ask, since each person hold a concept unique to his/her idea of what the word means to the individual in question, which almost certainly will be different to each individual. Words as labels carry too many implications or associations of preconceived ideas, why then be surprised that calling yourself Spiritual but non Religious can yield so many different meanings according to the person you ask?

Unfortunately calling yourself anything you wish to name yourself has little, or none of what you want to convey. A more likely outcome will be that most people would give you a label and throw you in one of their many labeled mind compartments according to their own beliefs, and opinions, like: Nutcase, moron, bigot, fanatic, irrational, hypocrite, ignorant, simpleminded, well meaning, but misguided, live in lalaland, kumbayah, etc.

As a matter of fact that last word Kumbayah a simple a spiritual song first recorded in the 1920s. It became a standard campfire song in Scouting and summer camps, and enjoyed broader popularity during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s.
The song is originally a simple appeal to God to come and help those in need, but more recently it is also cited or alluded to in satirical or cynical ways which suggest false moralizing, hypocrisy, or naively optimistic views of the world and human nature.

Ultimately Religious, or Spiritual but non Religious are labels, with a different meaning, by those who like to box in, and define people, for their beliefs, rather than focusing in tolerance and acceptance, words as labels, and beliefs should not, and do not define us, but our actions do:"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"

Personally, I adopted the phrase "..spiritual not religious" with the connotation of loosely believing in selected concepts I have been introduced to through religion, philosophy, science and experience but not completely adhereing to any one teaching or theory. I believe that this allows me to be aware of contradictions in my own explanation of existence and grow my "spiritual" outlook on life. I very much like the jesuit concept of trying to find god in everything.

I have just launched a website that seeks to validate those who consider themselves 'spiritual but not religious'. www.confluentialism.com

For me, it was almost reverse. I was practically born atheist. I never believed any one religion even if I had a christian upbringing. I had a respect for religion and even studied it extensively out of academic curiosity. I noticed it had good effects on those who believed while also creating a group think. A few years ago, I noticed atheists were also doing many things that always bothered me about religion. In fact many treat science like someone who never reads the bible quotes religion. I do now believe in something. Religion gives it a specific form. But to believe in any of them means denying the others it seems, which to me is proof none of them are true.

My spirituality is more trying to find the commonality between faiths. Religion to me is a cultural answer to faith. They have everything to do with people of the time.

In my view if God is real then there can be no chosen people. The spirituality of the Ancient Mayans is as valid as Christianity and Islam. They all have mistakes because while all are moved by faith, they are all answers made in cultural and historic context. I tried being Christian but it is so culturally irrelevant when taken literally, whole books no longer apply to my modern culture. Taking it metaphorically has often led to using it as a mallet. To be religious, my culture would have me be Christian, but my views only allow solitary worship which really negate the cultural relevance of having a religion at all as it is a groups response to faith. So I have faith, but I am unable to take Christianity as a solitary religion seriously enough and honestly, relevent in a modern context to accept as my religion.

I feel America is very much where the ancient Greeks were before Christianity. Our current religion is too old to apply to us and we mostly believe it out of a lack of a proper cultural substitute. We need something new if religion is to survive. As it is now, Christianity has more relevance to the ancient greeks than it does to me. So I have faith, but lack a believable religion to apply it to.

I believe in a creator of all life, but not in a creator who controls beings like puppets, judging and punishing, because those are human 'traits.' I don't believe that the creator could be human or have human emotions etc. because the creator's existence is not coporial, but I believe all humans (and all life in the universe) are part of the creator and that when we pass we go back to the creator and exist as pure energy. As we are all part, and connected to the creator, logically it follows, that what I do to my fellow live being, I do to myself. This is what I consider to be a natural law (no religous dogma needed). It is illogical also, to believe that our creator gave us free will BUT then laid out things we could not do. I believe we have to figure out for ourselves what is the best way that we can achieve the status of becoming the best 'person' we can be.

Too many societal boxes they stereotypically fill. Our interconnectedness through the internet is opening our minds and hearts to the interconnectedness of our true nature. We are learning to love ourselves more and others from all walks of life. We are learning impermanence and gratitude.
Quantum understanding of oneness and false separation. Law of Attraction with a Divine chaos. Buddhist acceptance and loss of ego with Hindu/Jain respect for all life as precious. Christian love for all and elimination of judgment with Native American/Wiccan respect for Earth and nature.

I fall on the label of spiritual but not religious. I grew up as an Pentecostal christian and when I became an older teen I was an atheist. Now that I'm a little older I say I am spiritual, because I have developed "spiritual thirst", which I would describe as the need to take refuge, understand and connect with the divine. The "spiritual but not religious" label applies to me, because I have found that christianity, islam, hinduism and buddhism which I have studied have very beautiful and powerful philosophies and practices, but at the same time this systems also have a very bad side which usually promotes some sort of injustice. So my logic is to take the good and discard the bad from this faiths,

I am definetely spiritual but not religious. Some of this comes from science and feeling. I feel that way back hundreds of years ago. We were all spiritual. But thanks to religion our minds were made to evolve and shut down that part of the brain. However, Native Americans and recent Indegenious tribes were not forced into that evolution and so that is why we still have our Spirituality. I for one feel beings around me down to the littlest creature. I feel that Earth and Atmospere are in great need of me and my help. I can feel the pain of all of it.
I pray to my Creator. My "architect" for others. When I pray to the Creator I feel cleansed.
I have been raised catholic. I tried many christian religions. I always felt nothing. Like a fraud. The people also seemed superficial and fake. I stopped fighting the feelings and spiritualness I have had since I can remember. Going back to that, It felt as natural as breathing. I turned to my Native Culture and felt as one again with everything. Absolutely everything. But I do not worship at an alter like a Religion. I do not force my beliefs on any one, like a religion. I respect others and their beliefs, unlike a religion. My culture sends me on a path to find my own spirituality. It is mine and mine alone. Unlike a religion, that puts your path down for you and tells you "this is how you follow". So this is how it works for me. I could expound more but I do not have the time.

There is a clear understanding in the science behind life but a spiral (feeling or connection) to the unexplainable. These two things are not to be combined according to religious groups and scientist. Yet more of us believe they are. Many of us like the proof of science but we can denied the connection and the unexplainable of a spiral option

I want and need spiritual contact with positive goodness

This phrase might refer to me, but I can't be sure. I am not a Christian in the same way I'm not Muslim or Buddhist, but I'm not an atheist either. I believe everyone has the right to believe what they choose and I do not believe anyone is wrong or right. For all I, or anyone else knows, everyone could be wrong or everyone could be right, or one select group of people could be right. I do not identify myself with anything because I believe anything is possible and, maybe, we are lucky enough for there to be a heaven or some great enlightenment.

I was raised, Christian. After attending college, I found out many of the things I had been told were simply lies; religion being one of them. However, I know there is something more than just this life. I have witnessed many miracles etc. When I talk to "god", I still receive answers. Spiritual to me, means simply being responsible for my actions, accepting others for who they are, and doing what I can to take care of the life around me (people, nature etc.) Being mindful of my thoughts, being more concerned about myself and my own actions. I hope this helped.

not to be orthadoxed as old way, of thinking but to have action. To realize we find God once willing to let go of being Him. Practise building a relationship with Him not acts of religion. But to realize we are one with Him by Faith and action as 1. its real simple yet real.