Sunday Morning Musings

Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest for Christians, but for most of my 20 some years as a Christian, Sunday was far from restful. The day started out with my family scrambling to all get showered, dressed, and out the door in time for Sunday School (at 9:45). Three out of four of us were not morning people. My mom tried to have a special breakfast for us on Sunday mornings plus she needed to prepare the lunch we would eat after church, so she had added burdens that required more time and less sleep. Getting out the door was incredibly stressful and hardly helped at least me to be in the right frame of mind for spiritual things. The Sunday events at my home church consisted of 9:45am Sunday School, an 11am service, 4pm teen meeting (for the few years we had that), 5pm choir practice, and a 6 pm evening service. The 11 service often ran until 12:20pm or later, but we didn’t get home until close to 1pm because we socialized with friends. By the time lunch was made and eaten, there really wasn’t much time left in the afternoon. We made the best of it, though, by taking walks, playing games, or watching something together. As we kids got older we discovered the joys of Sunday afternoon naps. Some families didn’t allow any activities on Sunday (based on Old Testament principles); I was very thankful my family wasn’t that hardcore. When I reached college I did begin to question spending time on non-spiritual things on the Lord’s day, but quickly abandoned my questions.

My Sundays in college were rarely restful. I chose to attend churches that were at least an hour away all four of my semesters. The first two of those semesters were spent at a church where I did what I could to help the pastor by teaching a Sunday School class, knocking on doors (even in the snow), and working on whatever odd projects came up. The next two semesters I attended a different church, largely so I could be with some new friends that I had made. We spent our afternoons crashed at the pastor’s house, at a nearby mall, or otherwise having adventures together. It was during this time that I began to question how conducive to a day of rest the model of church I was used to actually was. My friends brought this up and I found myself in agreement; if one of us was sick or just feeling wiped out we chose to come back early or, rarely, skip church altogether. The college would have never approved of what we did, but to an over-tired (and very ill, as I was experiencing a mystery illness that would turn out to be fibromyalgia) college student, it hardly seemed important. My body, mind, and spirit needed rest; God had commanded that we observe a day of rest, so I rested.

After I left college I returned home to be with my family. My illness kept me miserable 24/7, so I missed a lot of church, particularly Sunday mornings (mornings are the worst). My parents couldn’t understand and gave me a very hard time about how much church I missed. It became a source of stress and pain in my life and put a kink in our relationship. I spent the time sleeping (I suffered from killer insomnia at the time), doing personal devotions, or listening to the church service being broadcasted online. I discovered that I felt more spiritually refreshed when I had the time by myself than if I attended the Sunday morning services. One Sunday morning in particular stands out to me. By that point in time I preferred to use the ESV translation (my background was militant KJV only). I sat outside in the sunshine with my Bible, a journal, and a cat to keep me company. I read the beautiful words from my ESV Bible and then wrote in my journal. I encountered the Divine that day in ways I’ve rarely felt in a church setting. It was so perfect and healing to my soul. I tried to tell my father about it, but he did not share in my excitement because he felt I should be in church on Sundays. A few months after this experience I left my Baptist beliefs and Christianity as I knew it.

I still attended church as I was able, at least for awhile. I grew up in that church and its school, so it was a huge part of my life. I remember the Sunday my father told me I needed to leave the choir because it was hypocritical to be up there when I didn’t believe what I was singing about. I knew he was right, but I hated to leave because singing in the choir brought me such great joy. Church services became fuel for what I wrote on this blog; what I heard brought me to anger and disgust. The awkwardness of being an unbeliever amongst fervent believers also made it hard to enjoy church. Very few people knew my lack of belief at that point, and I was deathly afraid of how they would react to me if they did know, so did my best to smile and nod and maintain my secret.

When I moved away from home and was no longer pressured to attend church, I found great relief in spending my Sundays as I saw fit. There was no rush or bustle, no need to dress up, no shouting preacher… it was nice. I did try to keep the principle of a day of rest because I thought it necessary for maintaining good health. I toyed with the idea of a low-tech or no-tech day. I spent time outside when I could; Nature has always felt like a spiritual place to me. I also spent time exploring new ways of viewing spirituality through a variety of books. I never wanted to attend church again – I was tired of oppression and embracing my freedom wholeheartedly. I discovered and claimed the title spiritual but not religious; I was definitely still spiritual but wanted nothing to do with organized religion and churches. Things went south with my then-husband, I moved back home for a time, and I was again thrust into the world of busy, Baptist Sundays.

When I left home the next time, I remained content with church-less Sundays for several months. I didn’t spend much time looking for the Divine at that point, but eventually found myself on the path of searching once again. I found spiritual connections in discussions with other people, time spent outside, books and the internet, and within myself. I found the Divine in everything if I took the time to look for it. I also found spiritual healing. With healing I found I was ready to give church another try and began looking for an acceptable church. I became familiar with Unitarian Universalism (UU) many months ago, but never had the courage to attend; I was also afraid of the concept of church and what it might entail. A few weeks ago I found a local UU congregation that fit what I was looking for and found the courage to attend. It was wonderful! I’ll have to dedicate another post to tell you about it. Anyway. I was missing the community that comes with church, the experience of group singing, and hearing words of inspiration. I have found these things again, but they are better than they were in my Baptist church back home because there is no judgement present. There is no pressure, no negativity, no guilt-tripping about lost souls going to Hell. There is support, love, and acceptance. I didn’t attend the service this morning because I needed the rest, and that’s totally fine – nobody will get on my case. My spirituality is my own, and the UU church respects that. I am pleased to be reclaiming my Sundays, church and all.


Article: Goddess with Us: Is a Relational God Powerful Enough?

A very interesting approach to the concept of an omnipotent divinity. Read it here.
Previously, I had never heard of a relational divinity. The beliefs I was raised with taught that the God of The Bible was omnipotent, and, if he were not then he would be a sham not worth worshiping. Indeed, I found him unworthy of my worship because I could not accept him as both good and omnipotent.

A Realization About Spirituality

A thought struck me earlier today and I haven’t been able to shake it, so I will write about it. 
My spirituality has never been allowed to be about me.
The strict Baptist upbringing of my first two decades did not allow for anything that even hinted at selfishness. We weren’t Puritans by any stretch of the imagination, but we were taught that our lives weren’t about us because they belonged to God. We were born because God had a purpose for us. This purpose might include many things (pain, ridicule, sacrifices as huge as dying), but it ultimately culminated in bringing glory to himself. All that we said or did was supposed to please him and bring glory to his name and cause. How we worshipped, what we wore, and even the secret things we pondered late at night belonged to him. To do things because you wanted to was selfish and sinful. Rebellion was “as the sin of witchcraft,” (1 Samuel 15:23) after all. Most of the Christians I have known toss around the phrase, “it’s God’s will” or “the Holy Spirit is leading me to do this” or something similar to that to justify the decisions they make. I’ve seen those phrases used to justify some pretty terrible things, but that’s a topic for another time. 
Fundamentalism removes the individual’s self. An individual (in the sense I’m speaking about) is comfortable in their own skin and is quite happy to find his/her own way in life. An individual is empowered and free. Individuals don’t last in fundamentalism (unless they become cult leaders or the like). Fundamentalism must break down people’s sense of self, tell them it’s evil (play on past guilt, etc.), and then insert a controlling measure (strict adherence to particular teachings, lifestyle, dress, etc.). The Bible often uses the imagery of sheep needing a shepherd to illustrate humanities’ need for the Christian God. Sheep are very stupid animals, or so I’ve been told, and will get themselves into all kinds of trouble without the guidance of a shepherd. People often act like sheep; sometimes we like being told what to do rather than having to make our own decisions and then being responsible for them (and sometimes it’s necessary, to a degree). Individuals don’t fit well in flocks of sheep, though.
I’m an individual. I’ve always struggled with fitting in with the flock or going off on my own. I have many vivid memories associated with this struggle. In childhood I tried to blindly implement the rules I was taught, but kept finding them to be silly and impractical. I fought violently against the herd as I grew older, but kept being pulled back and shepherded into conformity. I earnestly believed but struggled with who I was as an individual. I worked at packing away my individuality, thinking it to be sinful, and tried to be a good little sheep. Keeping one’s self under control was prized, so I worked and worked at that. All this packing away and control did great damage to me on so many levels, though. 
  •  My ability to love and accept my body was trashed. Fleshly bodies are evil, after all, and only of this sinful world. To this day I still have a hard time separating what I look like (my weight, what I’m wearing, how sexy or frumpy I am) from who I actually am and what my worth as a human being is. I should be confident enough about my worth to not care how I appear in other people’s eyes, but I’m not. What other people think about me (must constantly worry about my testimony!) still runs me ragged at times.
  • My growth into a mature, emotionally-healthy human being was stunted. Keeping control of yourself, never letting loose was supposed to be a good thing. Instead, emotions and experiences I should have worked through as a young person (when the repercussions would have been smaller) have caused extreme pain and heartbreak now. I didn’t allow myself to be “crazy” as a young person. I thought I was really “out there” the first time I wore my Converse high tops in public, when I started listening to Josh Groban, and if I wore anything that was sleeveless. I didn’t allow myself to go through any of the phases most Americans deem normal because I wanted to be mature and Christ-like. I didn’t allow myself to process emotional pain or trauma correctly, because to do so would have involved expressing pain and needs to others, which was selfish and showed my relationship with God wasn’t strong enough.
  •  My understanding of what spirituality meant was monopolized, causing my spirituality to be shallow.    
    • My former spirituality was starving me. It was about making an invisible being happy by doing and saying the right thing. Everything was about him. I didn’t matter, and I told myself that was good and should make me happy. That sort of relationship between humans isn’t healthy and doesn’t work in the long run (I know from personal experience), but it’s exactly what many Christians teach and promote. Complete denial of self is a form of starvation, like anorexia. A strong, healthy personality doesn’t stem from an anorexic sense of self. I starved my self for many years and my personality and life suffered the side effects. Now, I’m trying to feed it and make it healthy, but it’s insanely hard. It’s easier to nibble on guilt and feelings of worthlessness than to stomach empowerment and self-worth.
    • My understanding of spirituality was so deeply tied to exclusively Christian things that I couldn’t separate spirituality from my religious beliefs. The spirituality of others was confusing to me, because they too claimed happiness and satisfaction, even if they didn’t associate with a particular religion. I was taught to discount the happiness of others and to call it blind ignorance instead. Because of that, I learned to judge others and discount the truth of what they said about themselves if it didn’t line up with what was “right.” I’ve come a long way here, but I still struggle with being judgmental and dismissive about other people’s thoughts and lives.
    • My spirituality was so bound up in Christianity, with its rules and scrutiny, that I wouldn’t let myself seriously consider other belief systems until very recently. Having the belief that everything outside of the KJV Bible is evil and a lie pounded into your head 6 days a week is incredibly effective. My Baptist upbringing also taught me that religions and spirituality were an all-or-nothing deal – everything was to be taken seriously and literally. Now, my spirituality allows me to explore, question, and piece together my own set of beliefs from whatever sources I chose. I don’t need rules or parameters.
Now that I’m free to be me, the possibilities are endless! My body is mine. My sexuality is mine. My intelligence is mine. My thoughts are mine. My life is mine. My spirituality is mine. My own! Where should I go with myself? The realization that I am my own person is deliciously freeing.

Some thoughts…

This is not written as a formal paper or argument, so do not judge it as such.

Christianity and its many forms call for proselytizing, as does Islam (and many others I’m sure). Throughout history, both religions have held a viewpoint of “Convert or die!” Sadly, that viewpoint is still in existence today. The holy books of both religions give examples of such ideology and/or call for the death of unbelievers. Thankfully it is only the more extreme, hardcore believers that would still put that ideology into practice today, but such an awful concept is displayed and put into the minds of all who read/hear. My knowledge of Islam is limited, so I shall now speak about what I know – Christianity.

The Old Testament is full of stories in which people, such as the Canaanites, are slaughtered (usually without being given the chance to convert) simply because they aren’t Jews, they don’t believe in the right god, and they own the land the Jews want. As a child, I found the OT both fascinating and disgusting. The bizarre stories it contained were largely skipped over by my teachers and pastors (probably because of the confusing and even horrendous nature of said stories) at both church and school (I attended a Christian school), but I still read through my Bible and found them. When I attended a Christian college, and we worked through the whole Bible in two survey classes, the bizarre stories came to light again, and were passed over by the teacher either entirely or after he’d only said a few words. We discussed the children of Israel and their long battle to claim Canaan, but no-one ever said a word about how awful it was that they were being ordered to massacre people. During the time of the OT, if you weren’t a Jew, tough luck – you’re either going to be serving the Jews, distant enemies, or massacred for your land (unless you were lucky enough to be a virgin, and God said they could take you alive, which didn’t always happen).  Once you hit the New Testament, this ideology largely disappears, because now Jesus is telling the Jews to love their neighbors, enemies, and everyone else. The Jews of the OT were an exclusive bunch and did very little proselytizing. In the NT, Jesus seeks for converts, but focuses on the Jews. It isn’t until after Christ’s death that the conversion of gentiles is sought after. From that point on, history is full of Christian attempts to proselytize the rest of the world, be it with love or force. Heretics are burned at the stake (even by such illustrious leaders as John Calvin), those suspected of witchcraft are tortured and killed, and on the list of things done in the names of Christianity and God goes.

Most modern Christians focus on the aspects of love found in the Bible, rather than try to work out the odd and awful things. Modern Christians want to embrace the rest of the world in love, acceptance, and peace. Having studied the Bible, I can say that modern Christianity is not really Biblical, but it’s a heck of a lot better than hardcore, fundamental Christianity. Those who seek to live in obedience to all of the Bible, and all at the same time, will eventually realize it’s not possible and settle for focusing on the areas that they deem most important. Every group of Christians, and every individual Christian, has favorite parts of the Bible they champion and pet sins that they preach against (this principle is true of any aspect of life, as we are all human and therefore different). Some believers pull from Scripture ideologies that are extreme and far from loving.

I will not give any names here, and ask that any who comment refrain from identifying the parties involved, but I will give an example of extreme ideology from a Christian that ties in with what I’ve said here. A woman leaves Christianity and chooses to post her decision on facebook. A friend of hers, who is still a Christian, says some nasty things to her via commenting on her post. They have a heated discussion about the usual things Christians and non-Christians discuss – people going to hell, what the Bible says, what a reprobate the non-Christian is, etc. Finally, the Christian friend posts on facebook a status in which he calls for Christians to pray for the death of this woman who has left Christianity and now speaks against it. Other Christians join him and approve of his status, while many more, Christians and non, disapprove and are appalled at the thought of praying for another’s death. Many who read the status thought it sounded very much like the Islamic stance of convert or die. This, readers, is an example of extreme ideology in proselytizing.

I said all of the above to say this:

I don’t care what you believe in, I just care that it makes you happy and gives you peace. If you’re happy, that’s wonderful, and I’m not going to hand you an anti-Bible tract on the street and tell you why leaving Christianity was the best decision I’ve ever made. Do me a favor, Christians, and offer me the same respect. You may believe I’m totally wrong and on my way to hell, but don’t force your beliefs onto me. I think your beliefs are totally wrong too, but I won’t stand on the side of the road holding a sign or knock on your door to inform you of your errors. Christians wonder why people get so offended when they’re told that they are awful people who need to depend on Jesus for everything and “get saved” so they won’t go to hell and writhe in flames for all eternity… because God loves them. If you’re a Christian reading this, please realize that, no matter how wonderful your intentions are, people deserve respect, so if they say they aren’t interested in Christianity, don’t push them or try guilt trip them. Yeah, the Bible tells Christians they are the only ones who have it right when it comes to their faith… but take a look around you… is the rest of the world totally wrong while only the Christians are right? If so, then what kind of God chooses to save a few while leaving the billions to perish? Maybe the God of the OT, but not the God of Jesus.

This world isn’t going to get anywhere until people choose to accept others, complete with their differences in religion and lifestyles, and seek a community of respect and love. Aren’t we tired of genocide and holy wars yet? Racism and the subservience of women are ancient problems, yet we still can’t get over them. Why, people… why? Get out of the box and start thinking for yourselves – don’t stay confined within the walls of exclusionary traditions.
Okay, I’m done for now. Yes, it’s unpolished and even scattered, but it contains my soul. Read it carefully and see it for what it is, not what it isn’t.

Brief Thoughts on "The Will of God"

She has a very good point…. 
When anyone (my past self included) presumes to know the will of God – be it from a sudden realization, from a passage of Scripture they read, whatever – their knowledge is tainted by their personal views, desires, experiences. So, what is the difference here between Christians and non-Christians? Non-Christians have sudden epiphanies and then tell people, “Hey! I just had a great idea! I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and after a lot of research, counsel, and trouble-shooting, I now know what I should do.” Christians have the same epiphany experience and tell people, “Hey! Guess what God showed me today! Yup, He definitely revealed His will to me. Praise God for showing a sinner like me what He wants for my life!”
It’s not that they have a very different experience, just that one person has the guts to take responsibility for their work and ideas while the other group claims it’s divinely inspired and now a holy quest. Conversely, when the non-Christian discovers he/she was wrong about the former decision/action, they can take responsibility for the mistake and change the course of action. If the Christian feels he/she was in the wrong, either they must think God had a bad idea (blasphemy!) or His once-so-clear guiding was grossly misunderstood, and if the Christian so grossly misunderstood things, well, he must be “living in sin” or something, right? 
Personally, in my past, I would read through the Bible regularly, study it through outside writing about it, and pray to God every day – I wanted to know His will. As I read and prayed, I thought about everything I saw and felt, and from those experiences I drew conclusions about what was the right thing to do, and considered it to be God’s will. Then later on down the road, when I realized that my original conclusion was wrong, I would feel confused (it had been so clear before, and that was what Scripture had said) and then feel a sense of guilt for being such a sinful idiot for misunderstanding things. After all, God wasn’t cruel and vindictive enough to lead me on or hide His perfect will from one of His children… was He? If I sought Him earnestly and did as His Bible told me to do, was I not following Him and considered to be His child? Consider this passage:

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” ~ Luke 13:23-27

Ah, so apparently Jesus does not accept all those who seek Him out, which contradicts other passages in which He clearly states that all those who seek Him will be saved. A contradiction? Heavens no – it cannot be! Sadly, the contradiction of free will and predestination is very real, and has been for centuries – it has divided the supposed Bride of Christ into multiple camps, each claiming to be correct and warring with the other camps. If God were so loving and kind, why would He leave such confusing words in His book, because surely He knew it would divide His children and hurt the soundness of His words? After all, Paul teaches in I Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
All of this is a small part of why I have denounced the Bible and Christianity as being totally man-made and therefore not worthy of following. It claims perfection and divine authorization, yet its text is riddled with contradictions, confusing passages, and historical references that are not historically accurate. It is not what it claims to be, therefore it is a lie. 

A Brief Book Review (with quotes)

The following paragraphs are quoted from Christopher Hitchens’ book god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (capitalization as printed by the author). I discovered this book at my local library, and found it to be a very interesting read. The author is a staunch atheist, so I disagree with him there, but his overall look at religion was both intelligently written and fascinating to read. I would highly recommend reading it (if you are an open-minded person and not one to have your feelings easily hurt, as he is not “nice” at times), particularly the chapters on the Old and New Testaments. I typed out these particular sections (all italics are the author’s), but would have liked to type out the whole chapters he wrote on the Old and New Testaments – they were that good.

“Ask yourself the question: how moral is the following? I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgive me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life.
Let us just for now overlook all the contradictions between the tellers of the original story and assume that it is basically true. What are the further implications? They are not as reassuring as they look at first sight. For a start, and in order to gain the benefit of this wondrous offer, I have to accept that I am responsible for the flogging and mocking and crucifixion, in which I had no say and no part, and agree that every time I decline this responsibility, or that I sin in word or deed, I am intensifying the agony of it. Furthermore, I am required to believe that the agony was necessary in order to compensate for an earlier crime in which I also had no part, the sin of Adam. It is useless to object that Adam seems to have been created with insatiable discontent and curiosity and then forbidden to slake it: all this was settled long before even Jesus himself was born. Thus my own guilt in the matter is deemed “original” and inescapable. However, I am still granted free will with which to reject the offer of vicarious redemption. Should I exercise this choice, however, I face an eternity of torture much more awful than anything endured at Calvary, or anything threatened to those who first heard the Ten Commandments.”
~ pg. 209-10

“This pathetic moral spectacle [previously he was discussing a Catholic pope who was luring in youths to his festival by claiming to resolve their sins if they came] would not be necessary if the original rules were ones that it would be possible to obey. But to the totalitarian edicts that begin with revelation from from absolute authority, and that are enforced by fear, and based on a sin that had been committed long ago, are added regulations that are often immoral and impossible at the same time. The essential principle of totalitarianism is to make laws that are impossible to obey. The resulting tyranny is even more impressive if it can be enforced by a privilged caste or party which is highly zealous in the detection of error. Most of humanity, throughout its history, has dwelt under a form of this stupefying dictatorship, and a large portion of it still does. Allow me to give a few examples of the rules that must, yet cannot, be followed.
The commandment at Sinai which forbade people even to think about coveting goods is the first clue. It is echoed in the New Testament by the injunction which says that man who looks upon a woman in the wrong way has actually committed adultery already. And it is almost equaled by the current Muslim and former Christian prohibition against lending out money at interest. All of these, in their different fashion, attempt to place impossible restraints on human initiative. They can only be met in one of two ways. The first is by a continual scourging and mortification of the flesh, accompanied by incessant wrestling with “impure” thoughts which become actual as soon as they are named, or even imagined. From this come hysterical confessions of guilt, false promises of improvement, and loud, violent denunciations of other backsliders and sinners: a spiritual police state. The second solution is organized hypocrisy….”
~ pg.212-13

“In any case, one may choose to be altruistic, whatever that may mean, but by definition one may not be compelled into altruism. Perhaps we would be better mammals if we were not “made” this way, but surely nothing could be sillier than having a “maker” who then forbade the very same instinct he instilled.”
~ pg. 215

“It is not possible, in the religious totalitarian vision, to escape this world of original sin and guilt and pain. An infinity of punishment awaits you even after you die. According to the really extreme religions totalitarians, such as John Calvin, who borrowed his awful doctrine from Augustine, an infinity of punishment can be awaiting you even before you are born. Long ago it was written which souls would be chosen or “elected” when the time came to divide the sheep from the goats. No appeal against this primordial sentence is possible, and no good works or professions of faith can save one who has not been fortunate enough to be picked. Calvin’s Geneva was a prototypical totalitarian state, and Calvin himself a sadist and torturer and killer, who burned Servetus (one of the great thinkers and questioners of the day) while the man was still alive. The lesser wretchedness induced in Calvin’s followers, compelled to waste their lives worrying if they had been “elected” or not, is well caught in George Eliot’s Adam Bede, and in an old English plebeian satire against the other sects, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Plymouth Brethren, who dare to claim that they are of the elect, and that they alone know the exact number of those who will be plucked from the burning:
We are the pure and chosen few, and all the rest are damned.
There’s room enough in hell for you – we don’t want heaven crammed.
~ pg. 233

Spiritual but not Religious

“Spiritual but not religious” is a term I stumbled across a few months ago (when I was searching for an appropriate term to describe my religious views). It’s a rather vague term, and it probably leaves most people scratching their heads and wondering “Well… what on earth does that mean?” When I first saw the term, and then read it’s definition, I knew it was the correct description of my beliefs. Before I write any more, please read this definition found in Wikipedia’s online encyclopedia:

Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) is a popular phrase and acronym[1] used to self-identify a life stance of spirituality that rejects traditional organized religion as the sole or most valuable means of furthering spiritual growth.[2] The term is used world-wide, but seems most prominent in the United States where one study reports that as many as 33% of people identify as spiritual but not religious.[3] Other surveys report lower percentages ranging from 24%[4]-10%[5]
Those that identify as SBNR vary in their individual spiritual philosophies and practices and theological references. While most SBNR people reference some higher power or transcendentnature of reality, it is common for SBNR people to differ in their ideas of the existence of God as defined by the Abrahamic religions.
SBNR is commonly used[6][7] to describe the demographic also known as unchurched, none of the above, spiritual atheists, more spiritual than religious, spiritually eclectic, unaffiliated,freethinkers, or spiritual seekers. Younger people are more likely to identify as SBNR than older people. In April 2010, the front page of USA Today claimed that 72% percent ofGeneration Y agree they are “more spiritual than religious”.[6]
The term has been called cliché by popular religious writers such as Robert Wright,[8] but is gaining in popularity. It has even spawned a Facebook page[9] where members discuss the attributes of the SBNR lifestyle.

The SBNR lifestyle is most studied in the population of the United States. Books such as Robert C. Fuller’s Spiritual but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America (ISBN 0-19-514680-8) and Sven E. Erlandson’s Spiritual But Not Religious: A Call To Religious Revolution In America (ISBN 0-595-01108) highlight the emerging usage of the term.Those that identify as SBNR vary in their individual spiritual philosophies and practices and theological references. While most SBNR people reference some higher power or transcendentnature of reality, it is common for SBNR people to differ in their ideas of the existence of God as defined by the Abrahamic religions.SBNR is commonly used[6][7] to describe the demographic also known as unchurched, none of the above, spiritual atheists, more spiritual than religious, spiritually eclectic, unaffiliated,freethinkers, or spiritual seekers. Younger people are more likely to identify as SBNR than older people. In April 2010, the front page of USA Today claimed that 72% percent ofGeneration Y agree they are “more spiritual than religious”.[6]The term has been called cliché by popular religious writers such as Robert Wright,[8] but is gaining in popularity. It has even spawned a Facebook page[9] where members discuss the attributes of the SBNR lifestyle.The SBNR lifestyle is most studied in the population of the United States. Books such as Robert C. Fuller’s Spiritual but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America (ISBN 0-19-514680-8) and Sven E. Erlandson’s Spiritual But Not Religious: A Call To Religious Revolution In America (ISBN 0-595-01108) highlight the emerging usage of the term.Comparison of religiosity and spiritualityHistorically, the words religious and spiritual have been used synonymously to describe all the various aspects of the concept of religion.[10][11] Gradually, the word spiritual came to be associated with the private realm of thought and experience while the word religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in a religious institution with official denominational doctrines.[12] Zinnbauer and Pargament (2005) write that in the early 1900s psychology scholars such as William James, Edwin Starbuck, G. Stanely Hall, and George Coe investigated religiosity and spirituality through a lens of social science.[13]In the field of psychology, spirituality has emerged as a distinct social construct and focus of research since the 1980s. With the emergence of spirituality as a distinct concept fromreligion in both academic circles and common language, a tension has arisen between the two constructs.[13] One possible differentiation among the three constructs religion, religiosity, and spirituality, is to view religion as primarily a social phenomenon while understanding spirituality on an individual level.[14] Religiosity is generally viewed as being rooted in religion, whereas this is not necessarily the case for spirituality. A study of the differences between those self-identified as spiritual and those self-identified as religious found that the former have a loving, forgiving, and nonjudgmental view of the numinous, while those identifying themselves as religious see their god as more judgmental.[15]The practice of spirituality without religiosity has been criticized by representatives of organized religion. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, has called the SBNR lifestyle “plain old laziness”,[16] stating that “[s]pirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community”.[17] Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College, points to the community aspect of religion and teachings of forgiveness.[16]Lillian Daniel [18] writes: ‘Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.‘”

          ~ Robert Fuller, as quoted here.

That’s quite a lengthy write up, for such a small phrase, eh? Anyway…You’re probably wondering how people can consider themselves to be “spiritual” if they don’t affiliate themselves with any religion. As Wikipedia said, spirituality and religion have been hand-in-hand for a very long time, but that once-“fact” is starting to change. I believe there is a clear distinction between the ability to be “spiritual” and being, in any way, “religious.” Humans are spiritual beings. Spirituality, in its most basic sense, can be defined as: “Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issues of how our lives fit into the greater scheme of things. This is true when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is “spiritual” when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.

In other words, I don’t have to be a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu to ask why I’m here on this earth, or why this earth even exists in the first place. I just have to be spiritually aware of something bigger than myself… be that a god, goddess, gods, spirit of love, whatever. And no, being aware of something bigger than self does not mean I or anyone else must be subservient to or love whatever creative force exists or once existed. It also doesn’t mean we must join an existing religion or create our own. No, spirituality is an intrinsic part of humanity, a part that allows us to think deeply and inquisitively as we view the world around us.  Spirituality also allows us to love and be loved, to create and appreciate beauty, and to feel things deeply. The term “spirit” is used to describe many things – from the soul that lies within each person, to the level of vivacity a person exudes (i.e. attitude). I think our soul is tied to our spirituality; and, in many ways, our attitude is also connect to our spirituality.

So, why do I consider myself to be “spiritual but not religious?” Well, I do sense something bigger than myself, I do wonder how the world got here, and why I’m on the earth at this very moment. I do believe something or someone created this universe – who or what, I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters… to be honest. I think love is the greatest force in existence, and is something every person should give/partake in during his/her lifetime. In the end, it’s love – who/what you loved/who loved you, what you did/didn’t do for love, etc. – that really matters. It is my nature to ask questions and look for a deeper meaning, to be sensitive to what is happening in the world and how I fit into it all. Yes, I consider myself to be spiritual. No, I am not religious. My days of church, following holy books, and being bound to exclusive ideology are over. 

In the earlier Wikipedia definition, a lady was quoted as saying: “Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.” She makes some interesting statements, and while I think she makes some good points, I disagree with her. She makes an excellent point when she says, “There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you.” Communities certainly can promote accountability and intellectual integrity, but community is not a trait exclusive to religion. I find this statement to be very interesting: “Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.” Apparently, this woman finds great satisfaction in being a part of tradition, part of a community… which I think aptly sums up why the majority of people join churches and seek to be religious. I see religions as nothing more than man-made traditions (including Christianity and the Bible); and churches are social clubs, complete with members-only benefits and the whole shebang. I understand the need to identify with other people of like-mind. Everyone seeks out their own, including me. I do not, however, need a holy book to tell me who I’m supposed to be, how I’m supposed to act, and I don’t need a god to worship and emulate. I am happy with my identity. I am me. I have a lot to learn in life, and while I may not always enjoy criticism, I honestly wish to grow and become the best person I can be. I don’t try to attain perfection, and I shouldn’t expect it from other people, because we’re all human. I strive to be kind to all, love people, forgive wrongs… but I am not religiously obligated to turn my other cheek when people strike me. I am free to be me, to make my own way, to do my best without guilt; instead of such knowledge being a weight or worry, it is a great joy. I shall never be tied to religion again. 
I am spiritual but not religious.

I’m Free

I’m not a Christian anymore.
I don’t believe the Bible is inspired, without error, THE guidebook, etc. I don’t believe in so many things that were ingrained in me through church, school, college, and my home. My life has changed. I am free. I can live my life without fear, without willingly being down-trodden in the name of love, and without the guilt of the eternal souls of the world. The knowledge that my God died for me and now holds me responsible for telling the rest of the world will no longer drive me to despair and confusion. I no longer have to see the pain and wrong in the world and try to find ways to explain why God is in control AND good. I no longer have to find a way to convince myself that the conflicting passages of Scripture somehow add up to create a unified, perfect picture. It doesn’t matter what people think about me now. I don’t have to sit and wait for God to tell me what He wants me to do. I am responsible for my life. I can now do my best and know it’s okay. I no longer feel the weight of being unable to attain the perfection demanded by the Bible. I’m free to say that Paul was a sexist, narcissistic, controlling jerk. I’m allowed to think and search for the truth, without having to make it fit the Bible. I see reality. They always told me there was no love, no beauty, no truth, nothing apart from Christ and the Bible. They were wrong. I’ve found all these things in abundance in “the world.” Instead of finding darkness, pain, and emptiness I’ve found light, peace, and joy. Life is more simple, the world is brighter, and hope abounds. No, I will never go back. It is impossible. Some things cannot be unlearned, and once you’ve tasted freedom you don’t voluntarily go back into slavery.
I am not a Christian anymore.
I am free.

Brief Thoughts on God

Who is God? People seem to make Him what they want Him to be, whether it’s holy and loving or vengeful and incredibly strict. Mohammad obviously thought God was in tune with his sexual desires when he wrote that men in heaven got so many virgins for their pleasure. The men who wrote the Old Testament wrote of a God who demanded blood sacrifices and chose them – Israel – to dominate Canaan and slaughter those who got in the way. The God written about in the New Testament is partially the same God from the OT, but He’s suddenly more loving and merciful. Perhaps this is where the confusion over the love and mercy of free will vs the strict, harshness of predestination comes from, this apparent duality in nature, but that’s a topic for another time. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity do share some characteristics in the description of their god, but each religion puts its own spin on who he is, what he expects, and why he did/does things a certain way. Most religions seem to claim that their god is perfect and holy, which, if nothing else, shows mankind’s universal desire to attain perfection. Also, mankind worships the most perfect people and things it can find – that is true all throughout history and very obvious still today. People have varied ideas of perfection, and many times it simply reflects who they are as well as who they wish they were. The religions of the world seem to reflect this observation, as the religions are as varied as the people who propagate and follow them.

Does Belief Matter?

What makes a religion, or any other belief, good or valid?
People of all faiths can talk about their experiences, the good feeling or peace that their beliefs bring them. So, the question that always bugged me is: Are all of the experiences, emotions, whatever that people have valid, or is only set’s real? Christians claim to be the only truth in the world, and other religions make similar claims. If only one set of beliefs is the truth, then the experiences of everyone else must be invalid. To a Bible-believing Christian, the happiness of the Buddhist or Muslim is somehow fake, because the only “true” happiness is found in Christ. The followers of Christ should, by default, be the happiest people in the world. All of their problems are simply explained as happening in order to bring glory to God, right? Then Christians should welcome their every trial and tribulation as just another opportunity to bring God glory. People with chronic illnesses and debilitating conditions should just accept them with joy, since they have such a great opportunity to bring glory to their God. Their beliefs sustain them, and are the source of their happiness. Everyone else in the world has beliefs, and their beliefs also bring them happiness and fulfillment. But, only one set’s happiness and fulfillment is real… or is that just an exclusionary lie? Is the rest of the world simply faking their happiness and fulfillment? Or, horror-of-horrors, could be it be true that all beliefs are valid, in the sense of bringing the believer happiness and personal fulfillment (along with all the emotions and experiences associated with “discovering the truth”)? Is all truth set in stone, or can it be relative? History is full of people who found joy and contentment in believing what we now know to be lies. Was their joy lesser than anyone else’s?
It seems to come down to the act of believing in something, rather than what that something is or isn’t, is what brings fulfillment and joy in one’s life.