Spiritual but not religious? Pros and cons of the majority view 

Source: LiveLoveFruit 

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Most people think there is something greater but are not religious. 

Perhaps you think atoms accidentally colliding don’t lead to morals, logic, mathematics, values, beauty and love. Or you weren’t sold on the idea that order comes from pure chaos. Or you felt you could control aspects of your brain during meditation. Or maybe there were too many strange coincidences in your life which strangely seemed to tie together. Or maybe you experienced a moment of love or beauty which felt as if it transcended time and space. Perhaps marvelling at the stars or the depths of the ocean or the inner workings of the human body had you doubting it was all an accident. 

According to renowned brain psychiatrist Iain MacGilchrist, “If you ask people in this country… ‘do you follow a religion?’ – I think about 11% or 12% say yes..if you ask people, ‘do you think there is more to the Cosmos than is contained within the reductionist materialist position?’ – about 95% of them say yes. Everywhere I go, I find that young people are very receptive to these ideas.”

What are we to make of 80% of the population that believe there is more to the universe than atoms colliding with no overarching purpose, yet do not follow any religion? In other words people who would likely consider themselves spiritual but not religious. 


Before we break things down let’s define what we mean. 

The term spiritual can be hard to define. Quantum entanglements might seem to defy natural laws but are not spiritual or supernatural. It might seem unscientific that consciousness is fundamental, rather than matter, yet eminent quantum physicists such as John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner have argued consciousness is fundamental on the basis of conclusions drawn from quantum physics. 

What do we mean by spiritual then? Perhaps the following might be helpful. There is something greater than us. There is meaning to our existence. There is value. We have a level power over our minds and are not merely dancing to chemical collisions. We aren’t here by accident. There is more to life than animalistically propagating your DNA for survival purposes. 

How about religious? Interestingly, the word religion is based on the Latin word religionem. Religionem had a much broader meaning than the what we ascribe to religion or religious. It commonly referred to conscientiousness, moral striving with an emphasis on treating others well. Many associate religion with the major world religions such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. 

Religion is often stereotyped as an attempt to make oneself morally right or please God enough that you will be accepted by the divine. If we define religion this way then Christianity would not be a religion for Christians are saved by the work of Christ, not their own works (Eph. 2:8-9), saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Acts 15:11). Good works cannot get you to God in Christianity for all have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Redemption is through Jesus’ gift of grace not your own works (Rom. 3:24). Good works are a fruit of salvation not the root cause of salvation (John 15:1-8). Yet are we really to say Christinaity is not a religion? The Christian emphasis on a relationship with God rather than rules could still be the form the formal religion takes.  

To keep it simple, let’s say someone who is spiritual but not religious is one who thinks there is something greater to the universe than mere atoms colliding but does not hold to the viewpoints of any major religion. 

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Being spiritual but not religious has benefits. 

  1. Acknowledges the meaning, depth, beauty and value of life while avoiding the politics and corruption of organised religion.  We all know countless stories of corruption, abuse, fraud and sexual assault within organised religion. This view acknowledges the greatness that lies within humanity but avoids the politics. 
  2. Recognises there is more to the world than coincidences. Some like to call these synchronicities, the term Jung used to describe these events. 
  3. Flexible, not bound to rigid systems of thought. Humans through history have imposed rigid rules and systems of thought on others leading to oppression and a narrow view of the world. 
  4. Encourages freedom, uniqueness and pursuing one’s own path. It doesn’t push for unnecessary conformity but encourages freedom, experimentation, iteration, personal development and growth. 


Yet being spiritual but not religious can have downfalls too: 

  1. Broadly categorising all religions as being the same when they are not. In Christianity you cannot save yourself, God is personal and Christ meets humanity in his death, offering his saving grace for all to access. This is unlike anything in any other major religion. Islam has an emphasis on works, offers no assurance of salvation while in Buddhism, “God” is more of an energy or impersonal force. This is not to say there are not overlapping truths but only that there are fundamental differences.  
  2. Acknowledging there is something greater yet can be prone to focus inwards rather than look outwards. If there is something greater, there might be part of the greatness in you, but you most definitely are not the source of it. You didn’t choose where you were born, you aren’t the source of all around you. You aren’t the source of moral goodness or the foundation from which laws of logic and mathematics naturally flow. In God we “live and move and have our being”, his fingerprints are within us, there is greatness within us, yet he is beyond us. There is overlap but we are not identical with him. We are also fallen. Our track record is tainted. You aren’t uncreated. You aren’t Source. You are different from Christ. 
  3. Viewing Source as an energy or frequency not a person. The “something greater” is not a microwave or a heat wave or even a “spiritual” version of a 5G phone signal. Energy is not a mind, energy is not a person, energy does not have intentions, energy does not have moral or character traits. You are greater than energy as you are a person. You have intent. You have will. Yet, claiming Source is only an energy makes no sense. For a person is greater than energy, yet the “something greater” is not you. Plans, intent, meaning, purpose and morals are all associated with personhood not energy. Microwave energy doesn’t feel, heatwaves don’t contemplate, 5G signals don’t assess morals and value or have intentions. Hence, the “something greater”, the Source must be a person, a mind, who is not you. 
  4. Acknowledging the greatness of human potential yet can downplaying the limitations of human darkness. Humans are capable of remarkable things. Read history and see what sort of devastating situations people can bounce back from. Read what creative, literary or scientific feats we can achieve. You’d be excused for thinking we have fingerprints of divinity inside us. If Source exists and is a perfect person, you cannot connect with Source no matter how hard you try. Why? You’re imperfect. Christianity makes a way forward with Christ taking on flesh, experiencing human suffering and pain yet offering the perfection of divinity for a way forward. In the words of Hindu, Gandhi, Jesus’ death was the “the perfect act.”
  5. If consciousness is fundamental, Source must be a mind and a mind is a person not pure energy. If mind determines reality, consciousness is greater than particles colliding and “Source” is something greater, it logically follows Source must be a personal mind. 

Christ Consciousness Debunked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjvGYwU6Y6I


The spiritual but not religious have a point. Be wary the shackles of organised religion. Focus on your unique gifts and journey. Admire and appreciate the beauty in the world.

Yet don’t ignore the darkness in the world either or the darkness in yourself. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself for all the answers. Pressure to achieve divinity. The greatness within you is a sign something greater exists. That something greater, is a person who has a mind, not an impersonal energy. 

You’re imperfect, Source is perfect. How do you unite and be one with Source? Look no further than Christ who embodied sacrifice and love. Oppressed by the religious. Rejected by organised religion. Rejected by politicians. Cursed for following the divine path which broke the shackles of the limiting beliefs promoted by the leaders of his time. Staying true to his path of self fulfilment and unique purpose, rejected conformity with the masses and suffered for his greatness within to be shared with others. Look inward, be self aware. You have fingerprints of greatness within but need to be made whole to be accepted by Source.

Look outward, look to something greater. Look to Christ to be made whole. Not an impersonal energy but a person. A person who embodied sacrifice for your sins so you could be made whole, flourish and grow. He was more than just an example. He was the pathway for you. 

Christianity is not about following man imposed rules to get you to heaven. That is fake news. It is about God imposing humanity and suffering on himself to cover your imperfections and connect you with something greater, the Source. Find rest. 

“Jesus, a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” Gandhi

For more on this read our other articles:

200 Questions for Sceptics and Truth Seekers

The Gratitude Myth: Affirm Goodness and Forget the Source

You’re a Christian because of your dad: Discussing Freud and the connection between belief and upbringing

Not everything we write gets posted on Medium. To make sure you don’t miss out please subscribe to our newsletter or provide feedback or questions at streettheologian@protonmail.com


Visit our Medium page https://streettheologian.medium.com/

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