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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.