Searching for Community… Again

Last year I found a wonderful church community in a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation. My empty spots that needed spiritual community and the sharing of spiritual experiences found what they needed. I wasn’t able to attend frequently, but I enjoyed it when I could and was glad to interact with church members through social media. Our family joined the church and we were even married there. I was hopeful that we’d found our spiritual home. I really, really like the people we met at the church. They are very genuine and full of love and have shown me a whole new side of what religion and church can be. This summer the interim minister I loved moved on; the new minister, whom I really like, will begin her ministry in September. Lots of changes and exciting times are in store for the church, I’m sure, but I’m not sure we’ll be a big part of it. 

My idea of what “church” looks like or is meant to accomplish has changed greatly from my days as a Baptist. I like sermons about love, peace, religions of the world, and even how the church can be an active force in the community. The church we found seems to put more emphasis on being an active force in the community than anything else. That is what the majority of the congregation has chosen, so it only makes sense that the church would steer that direction. This emphasis on social activism is a bit much for me, though. Today I learned that the Religious Education (RE) curriculum for the fall would be about racial justice and social activism. One of the things that drew me to UU in the first place was the RE program for children – I love the concept! Religious education, from a progressive, open-minded perspective, that introduces children to many ways of thinking is a wonderful idea and something I’m totally on board with. I’m perplexed by this church’s choice of RE emphasis for the fall, though, because I do not see how a curriculum about racial justice and social activism fits the concept of RE. Naturally, this is just my own perception of what Religious Education stands for – the majority of the church feels differently and that’s fine.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Trying to Get Out of the Mud of IFB

The road to recovery out of fundamentalism is long and painful. Sometimes I feel the pain more keenly and I wonder how people who didn’t start as fundamentalists became fundamentalists. Why did my parents, for example, pick IFB as the place to get involved and raise a family? They both have alluded to troubled pasts, particularly during their college years, and seem to carry continued guilt from whatever went on; I think perhaps fundamentalism offered them a way to absolve their sins and feel forgiven. Once we kids came along, I’m sure they thought that they were doing us a great service by raising us in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” because we wouldn’t be exposed to all the stuff they were exposed to in the past. They probably hoped our lives wouldn’t get screwed up because we would be raised in church, in the Bible, etc. I understand wanting to do the best you can for your kids, so I won’t fault them for their good intentions, but I must say that things didn’t work out as well as they’d hoped.

I am 100% certain that being raised/heavily involved in the world of IFB screwed me up in numerous ways. Many of the things that I struggle with today or have struggled with in the past I can easily trace back to something I was taught or influenced on by a particular teacher or pastor within the IFB. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Constant preaching about the end times, the rapture, and how terrible the current state of the world was = anxiety about the future and an impending sense of doom, distrust of humanity, “whatever will be will be” attitude towards the condition of the Earth, our government, and all global affairs.
  • Vilifying of self, self-awareness, meditation, personal experience, any spiritual experience considered Pentecostal = hatred and distrust of self, anxiety and depression, sense of disconnect and confusion, inability to relax and simply experience, need to control/fear of losing control.
  • Rigid rules and strict discipline for not adhering to the rules, rules for everything, persons in authority often needed to assert authority in heavy-handed ways = control issues, fear and suspicion of authority figures in general, and a constant need to defend myself/stay on the defensive.
  • The state of childhood viewed as a lesser state of being, children as willful brats deserving of punishment (even hellfire), adults put so far above children as to allow for easy abuse of power, children should always be obedient, happy, and controllable = I viewed the jump to adulthood as important and sought to reach it ASAP, I internalized the negativity towards and treatment of children as the right way to do things, I have a hard time not thinking I am obligated to control the behavior of children simply because I’m an adult and they aren’t.

Between the rules, the teachers, and how authority was or wasn’t used, the atmosphere of the church school I attended (all the way through) was hardly one of love and Christlikeness. Church/Christian schools don’t have very good reputations, though. Kids can be so awful to each other, as can teachers to kids. I think it was within the realms of school that I learned to keep up a constant defense. I worked hard to control myself and my surroundings to keep myself from messing up and becoming the subject of ridicule. I was an A student, so teachers rarely had reason to ridicule me; it was the other students who seemed to thrive off the misfortune of others. Leaving yourself open, relaxing, just enjoying life and who you really were was a recipe for being torn apart by the other kids. So, I closed up and learned how to put up walls. By the time I hit fourth grade I discovered the pain of betrayal, ridicule, and being left out; I graduated from that school still feeling those some things. How might I have turned out differently if I’d gotten my education in a different setting – one where religion and hellfire weren’t mingled with rules and expectations?

The part of myself I’ve lost that I mourn the most is my ability to let loose and open myself up to whatever I choose. We start that way as children, and then along the way we learn to avoid pain and shut ourselves up – perhaps more so when religious fundamentalism is involved. I never considered myself a control freak, but I’ve discovered that I do in fact have trouble with needing to control things. In highschool and college (and sometimes even now) I always wanted to know things, have the right answer, be right because it made me feel like I had worth. I went from a carefree child to an anxious, somewhat controlling adult. Why? Someone who struggled with a similar problem recently helped me a shine a light on at least one angle of things:

“My ‘need to be right’ and ‘have control’ was very much linked to the ‘God-Pleasing’ of the IFB as well as the concept that ‘If you are not right, you are wrong and God can’t bless you.’ We control because we fear the future. Wow!!! The whole fundy thing is about being terrified of God and who controls the future?? God does! So….they try to control God!! We controllers try to control in order to please God and earn His blessings for the future. This is actually Greek and Roman belief — not Judeo-Christian.

Regardless of who had what beliefs and when, I think she makes some excellent points that I had never considered before. I particularly like the part where she says, “We controllers try to control in order to please God and earn His blessings for the future.” As a Baptist I felt huge pressure to be perfect, to do a million different things to better myself or others, to find God’s will and do it, etc. Trying to do everything that was deemed good and even necessary was impossible. So you better get control of your life and your time and make sure you can give a good account for it one day to God, lest he call you a bad steward of his gifts. Huge pressure to do everything, and to do it right… very easy to get burnt out and stressed. I still struggle with feeling like I should be doing something productive all the time, must be multitasking, otherwise I’m wasting time and being lazy. 

I have goals I’m working toward. I have spiritual paths that call to me. I have so many ideas and hopes, but until I can relearn to relax, let loose and let go, I will stay stuck in the mud of the past. Through introspection and writing posts like this one, I feel I can begin digging myself out and moving forward. In fact, I hereby make letting loose and letting go my main goal for the coming months. Onward!

New Life

At the end of December my partner and I confirmed that we were expecting a baby; we were both overjoyed! Now, 11 weeks into the pregnancy, I’m finally emerging from the awful symptoms of the first trimester. I don’t feel like I’m in survival mode all the time now, which is wonderful. I’ve been able to enjoy reading and thinking during the past week or so, so hopefully my creativity is returning and I’ll be able to write more. The reading and the thinking has certainly taken a new direction due to the fact that I’m pregnant.

I’m assuming that my parents as well as my partner’s parents are hoping that this new addition will magically transform our hearts and we’ll come running back to the fold. The thought of getting involved at a local progressive Christian church has briefly crossed my mind, actually. Not because I want to be involved in Christianity, but because of the community and support such a church would bring. We’re far away from all family and friends of the past, and our lack of community is scary to me as I imagine life with a new baby. There’s a great UU church we’ve attended a few times… but we haven’t been able to attend very frequentlye. We keep missing services due to sickness, morning sickness, weather, my partner’s work schedule, etc. I sincerely hope that things will improve as we draw closer to Spring. Speaking of Spring, it’s fun to think about how the baby will be growing inside me right along with the growth of Spring, and then be delivered towards the end of the growing season in August.

So yeah… a new baby definitely has me thinking about my community, my home, my family, our spirituality, what the future looks like… so many things. I know this pregnancy will be life changing. One way it is already changing me is by reshaping my spirituality and refueling my desire to learn more and grow. I think I know where I’m headed – to a point – but my IFB background is holding me back. It’s so hard to let go, let loose, and simply feel and do things… because of fear. The IFB instilled within me many fears, one of the chiefest being to fear what other people think. My interactions with other Baptist kids (school, camp, and college) taught me to fear how I look and whether or not what I’m doing will seem stupid or silly. Now I still battle with fearing what others think, how they’ll see me. I also battle with a fear of not being in control, which is heavily tied in with my fears about how other see me. Early on I did my best to hide all tears, possibly even all emotion, in public because it opened me up to ridicule and pain. I never liked being asked to do things out of my comfort zone because I feared failure, feared how I would look. I missed out on a lot of opportunities thanks to all this; it’s only been since I left Christianity that I began finding the freedom to loosen up and have fun. I look forward to being further changed by the experiences of this pregnancy, giving birth, and holding my baby.

Spiritual Experiences

When I discuss religion and faith with other people, I find myself most interested in why they chose their particular path. For some their decision was greatly impacted by their family and heritage. For others, it was a spiritual experience that led them to choose a particular religion and/or deity. Spiritual experiences fascinate me.

While I was a Christian I had very few spiritual experiences, perhaps because the IFB world I was raised in downplayed personal experiences and the Holy Spirit. I suppose that’s why we were fundamentalists, though, because we stuck to what we perceived to be the fundamental teachings of the Bible – people of the Book and all that jazz. I had a friend in school who was a member of a Pentecostal church, where the Holy Spirit and personal experience was emphasized more heavily. I never attended any of their services, but the stories I heard were certainly interesting! I imagine the ecstatic fervor that is a hallmark of Pentecostal services would have been scary because it was so far from what I thought was normal. I’ve been to several church services (of varying denominations) over the years that made me very uncomfortable because the church members felt comfortable enough to show honest emotions while worshiping. I’m secretly jealous of how genuine they allow themselves to be while in public.

After I left Christianity I began to study other religions more in-depth than I had previously.
I began to recognize that spirituality and spiritual experiences were universal things… and that the non-Christian forms were not evil and Satanic. Fundamentalist Christianity tends to make the horrible claim that all forms of spirituality that aren’t Christian stem from Satan and his demons. Even as a Christian, I was puzzled by such claims, because plenty of people in other religions had lovely experiences and did wonderful things. They weren’t evil and certainly didn’t act like they were being mislead by a demon! It’s very liberating to no longer feel obligated to label people’s faiths in such judgmental ways. Instead, I am coming to respect the variety that exists in the world – different doesn’t mean wrong or right, just different.

I’ve had several spiritual experiences since I left Christianity, and each has nourished my soul and made me a better person. When other people tell me of their spiritual experiences, I feel no need to discount them if they don’t line up with my brand of faith. I feel that the Divine works through all religions. My mother, who had a spiritual experience when she chose Christ and Christianity, is confident and happy in her faith. I have no desire to pull her out of her faith. I do desire that she is as accepting of my spirituality as I am of hers, though. Fundamental Christians are often quite loud about salvation experiences, because they feel that these experiences prove they have found THE path to the Divine. I take issue with that mentality, and think it’s a bit ridiculous given the fact that people all over the world have had spiritual experiences for thousands of years, regardless of their chosen faith.

So… what are my beliefs these days? I rather like Unitarian Universalism, because it embraces respectful recognition of all beliefs (including atheism and agnosticism). I believe there is a Divine presence in the universe, and that this presence manifests itself in many forms – male, female, both, genderless, etc. The Divine exists in all of us. I also believe the Divine can be reached through many paths – there is no right or wrong way. As many others before me, I too hope that interfaith love and peace will be achieved one day.

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.

Meditation

Meditation used to be something I misunderstood and viewed with a mixture of skepticism and awe. Some Baptists/Christians say meditation is too New Agey and invites the Devil in… or something silly like that. I think they say such things because they don’t actually understand what meditation is. See the definition here and/or allow me to sum it up for you.
To meditate is to focus on something, particularly something spiritual.
Prayer is meditation. Thinking about Scripture (as commanded in the Bible) is meditation. Mary meditated as she “pondered these things in her heart” after she found Jesus in the temple speaking as a learned adult rather than the child he appeared to be. Quoting passages like The Lord’s Prayer or the Twenty Third Psalm is meditation. Meditation is Biblical.
Anyway. Growing up I viewed meditation as some weird thing Asian monks did. Pastors and teachers warned against the evils of meditation, yoga, and anything else “New Age” so I saw these things as negative. Negative and mysterious. Fast forward to my post-Christian days as I explore forbidden fruits and discover the truth about them. In looking for ways to help myself heal from and cope with chronic illness, I read a lot about meditation and guided imagery. What was this nebulous thing called mediation? How did people sit and think about nothing for hours upon end? Was it just craziness? I looked into it some, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I came to understand meditation.

I first tried meditation as an aid to help me fall asleep. Then I sought to use it as a balm for the stress of life. It was quite helpful, but I found it difficult to calm my effectively. Life got busier and I forgot about meditation. I needed its calming influence in my life, though, and reinstated it in my life recently. In lieu of focusing on “nothing” (clearing my mind is hard!), I began using guided imagery. Guided imagery (or guided mediation) has worked so much better for me! Having someone else guide me – via a recording or in person – is easier than guiding myself, but I think guiding myself is good exercise for my brain. I try to meditate daily, even if it’s only for a few moments. The more I meditate the more calm and stress-free I feel. Meditation feels spiritual to me. It nourishes my spirit and helps me find balance.
I find a quiet spot where I can be alone. Peaceful place outdoors are especially nice. If I’m indoors I like to light a candle or some incense to help me relax. I find a comfortable way to sit or lay down and then begin by counting backwards from 10, inserting the names of colors between each number. Focusing on that task successfully guides me into a state of meditation. If I’m in pain or feeling tense, I find it helpful to focus on relaxing each part of my body until my body feels soft and heavy. This feeling is remarkably peaceful. Then I may turn my focus on any specific things that need my attention – problems, concerns, etc. When I used to pray as a Christian I often discovered answers/solutions as I focused on what was going on in my life – I experience the same thing now, which is not surprising since I was meditating before. If I am struggling with guilt or other negative emotions I remind myself of positive things through stating affirmations. Affirmations have been very helpful! In the past I found comfort in affirmations such as “I am a child of God,” “my sins are washed away,” or any number of other things Christians tend to say. My affirmations may have changed since then, but the power of positive thinking has not! Sometimes as I meditate, I do end up thinking about nothing other than the fact that I’m breathing, and it is quite nice. It’s all quite nice and is something I look forward to every day.
Many, and perhaps all, religious traditions call for or incorporate meditation into their practices. I see it as a universally-held spiritual practice that is of benefit to everyone. I’m very glad that my hyper-conservative, fundie background did not ultimately prevent me from enjoying this peaceful practice.

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.

Learning Along the Way

This blog chronicles a journey of spiritual discovery and personal awakening. I spend most of my words writing about Christianity and the Bible’s fallacies, so perhaps to the outsider this blog seems negative in spirit. I see this blog as a very positive thing, though, because it is proof that we came, we learned, and we changed. Too many people are afraid of learning something new, because then they might need to change – horror of horrors! 

Since I made the decision to abandon my previous faith, I have seen and learned many new things that have opened up a broader world to me. As I read about people across the world, and the many faiths and worldviews that exist, I find that many things I was once told by Christian leaders are/were far from the truth. People outside of Christianity are in fact full of happiness and, gasp, joy (I still find it silly that Christians claim that only they can experience this “unique” emotion of joy).
Talking about normal things, like making love, as if they truly are normal is not bad and can in fact be a very healthy approach to take. Witchcraft and other such religious beliefs don’t actually worship the Satan of the Bible, because, well… they don’t believe he exists (major oops on the part of so many who taught me that witches were evil people who made sacrifices to the Devil). Eastern religions, such as Taoism and Buddhism, are not full of mumbo-jumbo that is “wise” but useless – much of the teachings are more deep and truly spiritual than the Bible’s teachings. Loving everybody and working towards world peace is not something to be feared because it will usher in the supposed coming of the anti-Christ – it’s the humane, mature and responsible way to live. LGBT people are not “dirty perverts” who choose to defy God by “sinful lust” – LGBT behavior is actually common in animals (google it!), and is determined by body chemistry and not personal choice. Men are not divinely ordained to “have the rule over” women, neither are women silly creatures who should never be in authority or out from under the “guidance” of a man – that’s all part of one of the biggest and most harmful lies to be perpetrated throughout history. 

Humans should be free to be free. We have voices and must be able to speak out. We have appetites that must be sated. When we are hungry, it is our body’s way of telling us it needs fuel. Why, then is humanity’s sexual appetite cause for suppression? All things in moderation works for food, why not lovemaking? Are we so afraid of our own bodies that we must hide things like sexuality? To some of you reading this, the concept of hush-hush sexuality is foreign and antiquated, but to those in the Christian faith, namely fundamental Baptists, you know what I’m talking about. My parents never let me see or hear anything about sex growing up. In fact, “sex” was a dirty word. My Christian school/Sunday school teachers, the pastors at church, and the teachers at the Baptist college I attended all approached the topic of sex as if it were a great evil to be struck down. Sex was only to be partaken of after marriage, because once you said vows in front of a minister, it somehow made it okay to fulfill the urges you were designed to have. I came through all this teaching with the conclusion that love was somehow more pure if it did not include sex. I now know that such a view is very much in error. The physical manifestations of love, the making of love, give a whole new dimension to the love two people have for each other – it is beautiful, not something to be feared. If sex is not engaged in with the end goal of producing offspring, who cares! Bringing pleasure to yourself is not evil. If eating pleases you, wonderful – just don’t become a glutton or you will harm your body; if making love pleases you, great – just do it in a responsible manner so nobody else is harmed. I could keep going on this subject, but will stop here.

I found this anonymous quote to be very accurate: “There is no religion greater than love and there is no weapon greater than the sword of truth.” 

I will now leave you to ponder that statement and come to your own conclusions about what has been said here.

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.