By Terry Loving
What does it mean when one claims to be “spiritual – but not religious?”
I get thousands of hits on my web site, http://www.spiritual-side-of-domestic-violence.org, most likely from people searching for “spiritual” – not necessarily “religious” solutions to domestic violence and abuse. The problem with searching for “spirituality” alone, is the danger of embracing beliefs that border on the occult, mysticism, nature worship and the like. Of these things, God condemns – and warns of the penalties for participation in the forbidden.
It is possible as well that many are not searching for “salvation” as it would seem – but a way to live life on earth in a harmonious manner, while embracing inner peace. People are searching for a relationship with a “Higher Power,” but not necessarily the “God” that Christendom serves. Numerous self-help programs offer the opportunity to acknowledge a “Higher Power” of your choosing, without confessing the one and only True God of Heaven – but as you have come to know Him.
Given the climate of American churches today, it is understandable that there is a mass exodus from “mainstream religion.” In many cases, people should depart from religious bodies that promote false doctrine, spousal abuse, homosexuality and whatever is contrary to “sound doctrine.” However, too many people depart from God Himself; based on the actions of the “hypocrites” they perceive to be false worshippers of the Almighty, therefore, as the saying goes, they “Throw the baby out with the bath water.” Out go religion, God, Jesus, and anything that appears to be connected with those “crazy” people called “Christians.”
The Bible speaks of those who are “spiritual” as well as those who are “religious” – or identifying with a “religion.” In our society, many reject the idea of “religion,” especially since it relates to “organized” religion, church attendance, and identifying with a particular group in order to fulfill their “spiritual” needs.
Of this mindset, there are numerous people who have been hurt by a particular house of worship in some way – emotional or sexual abuse – and they disconnect. On the other hand, we have the spectators. They hear of a church controversy, or read about it in the news and often say, “You see – that’s why I don’t go to church!” No, that is not the reason – you had no interest in the first place, and you were looking for an excuse to fortify your rebellion against God. So there!
Pulpit Pimps – false preachers of the Gospel are making it very difficult for people to find God. Their desire for greed and power outweighs the salvation of lost souls, and many people can see through the sham, except those that continue to throw money at their feet. This is a classic case of the “blind leading the blind,” and we know a “ditch” awaits them.
Yet still, is it possible to be a “spiritual” person apart from the Spirit? Is the “Higher Power” as one “comes to know Him” the same as knowing the Creator of life and the world itself? Do the “spiritual – but not religious” have a Savior? A Redeemer – One to seek in times of trouble? Do they have “faith” – if so, in what? Is it dangerous to seek spirituality on your own, making it up as you go along? Are the “spiritual – but not religious” folk just revising the “Burger King” religion – “Have it your way?” Or, are they truly seeking a connection with God, but rejecting mainstream religion?
“A group of social scientists studied 346 people representing a wide range of religious backgrounds in an attempt to clarify what is implied when individuals describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Religiousness, they found, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs. Spirituality, in contrast, was associated with higher levels of interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches.” 1
While I am working towards my own conclusions on the matter – which will be posted at a later date – I would be grateful for any feedback presently. Please weigh in, and let me hear from anyone with an opinion concerning, “spiritual – but not religious.”
“Are there dangers in being ‘spiritual but not religious’?”
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- Faith without Fanticism — America’s Creed (pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com)
- Spiritual but not religious (psychologytoday.com)
February 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm
I’ve heard two types of people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. The first type is much like you outline in your post – “I’m not into church or Jesus or commandments but the idea of a higher power feels warm and fuzzy.” The second type, more rare, actually identifies with Christianity but are wary of labeling themselves as religious due to the negative connotations you’ve mentioned. To some, the notion of religion seems more dead than alive and a Christian who calls him or herself spiritual may want to indicate that it is an active faith being celebrated.
I think the person who describes themselves as spiritual, however, is on to something. At the core, they recognize that there is more to life than material. Something about the design makes this person uncomfortable saying life just happens, and I believe it is up to the Christian to share a worldview onto which they can actually grab hold, as opposed to the nebulous spirituality.
Thank you for your blog. It rocks.
February 5, 2012 at 10:27 am
Thank you for your feedback and compliments. I appreciate it much.
For me, a “higher power” is too generic, and non-specific in relating to the God that I serve. I find it difficult to use that term, and therefore I do not. In my humble opinion, this term is used by people that choose to design and describe their idea of their god, or God of choice. And that is OK, for God gave us all free will to use freely. Many people seek “Higher” governance, but not the God of heaven that most Christians embrace – again, their right and their choice.
It is a tragedy that many professed Christians have turned non-believers away from the one true God of heaven. My soul testifies that He does exist, and He is very much involved in the affairs of my feeble life. He has shown Himself to me too many times for me not to believe that He is the – I AM. I don’t mean to say that I have seen God with my own eyes, but He has shown His love for me in many ways through circumstances, people, and promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The danger I see in being “spiritual” is the beckoning of the dark side. Meaning, many people who seek spirituality are duped into believing that New Age spirituality for example, is of the true God of heaven. Satan can make anything not of God seem like it is. Mixing a little truth with error has always been palatable in Christendom, and even more so otherwise.
Also, many former professing Christians choose to identify with spirituality, but have no need of corporate worship. They left for various reasons, which often times is understandable. The danger is as the saying goes, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Many times, leaving church fellowship leads one down a misleading spiritual path – which is not necessarily concerned with the afterlife. Peace and tranquility on earth is super great – and I for one welcome it. But I also know that my soul with go somewhere when my body dies.
Religious – I am not in the sense of how modern Christendom defines religion. Every corporate church has their religious practices, and quite frankly – many church arguments occur over such matters. When those who profess Jesus Christ open their eyes and see the Word of God as it should be understood, then and only then will Christendom be fit to help the masses in this life, and lead them to peace in the next. I am not ashamed to call Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. I am not ashamed to wear the name “Christian” – which bears my Lord’s name. However, I am ashamed of how Christendom is presenting the things of God to the world.
The Bible does speak of one being “spiritual.” Here I have included a link to many passages in reference to, SPIRITUAL. After reading these passages, it is difficult to see how one can be “spiritual” in the Biblical sense without God in their lives, or embracing His Word. OK, well it looks like I may have to write a post about this one soon. It may take a while for the research, but keep checking back. I have a feeling the Holy Spirit won’t let me rest until this one is done.
Again, thank you Joan. Stay strong! I will be praying for your recovery and direction from God to help others.
February 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm
I agree that the term “Higher Power” does not refer to our Creator, but is a created deity; in whatever image worshiper may choose. Indeed, there is danger in dark forces as well. The irony lies in the fact that this person will likely say, “to each his own!” in reference to worship, but when you present the I AM, the Wonderful Counselor, as the Way, Truth, and Life, “that” way as “the” way couldn’t possibly be correct and the so-called spiritual person will balk.
As far as the responsibility of the church, I see this as both an institutional and individual problem. Where have the leaders been to prevent churches from getting caught up in worldly foolishness that detracts from the message of Christ? Why don’t people take individual responsibility to read the Word so they know that when this foolishness occurs that it is not of Christ? There is a lack of humility all around, a sense of “I would never do that/allow that to happen.” We make it too easy for nonbelievers to make the error of mistaking correlation for causation when we look the same as the rest of the world.
I pray for a day when Christians go to church looking to serve than to be served – I can start with myself first!
Keep up your writing! Your posts inspire me to look to the Lord.
February 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm
In my opinion, “Higher Power” is just enough of a “god” to cause one to feel that they are “spiritual” – in their own way of defining spirituality. Then again, most people do not desire and reject a Deity that commands or expects anything from them – especially telling free will humans how to live. And yes, “to each his own” may simply mean, I have my god and you have yours – “Leave me alone!”
“Institutional and individual problem?” – I agree. If more people read and understood the Bible for themselves, false preachers would have a difficult time peddling their spiritual nonsense. The modern church has become too much like the world for unbelievers to see the truth of Christ. The world mocks Christianity because of our un-Christ like behaviors. American Christendom is far removed from walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. There are some who strive to live like Christ, but most do not. We set a very bad example for the world.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Putting others before self is very difficult when one has lived a life of expectation. And yet, living a life of service would lessen many of our social ills. Satan has blinded the world, and believers to accept the notion that you cannot be happy unless you are personally gratified in some way – especially materially. It’s funny how people claim to follow Jesus, but pick and choose what He taught to claim as their own personal theology.
Joan, thank you so much for your kind words and inspiration. Yes, look to the Lord from which cometh our help. Stay strong!
American Standard Version
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.