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Spiritual But Not Religious


Published 2017-03-16


Just the other day I went to a meeting where the topic was people who are “Spiritual but not Religious” (SBNR).  It seems the number of people who identify as SBNR has grown exponentially in recent years.  It now includes most young people and an increasing number of the whole population.  SBNR includes those who are called the “Nones,” that is people who have had no religious participation in their lives.  It also includes the “Dones,” those who have been involved in organized religion in the past but have left for one reason or another.  It was a good meeting, even though the speaker was peddling a book in which she lays all of this out.

One can speculate about the reasons for the growing number of people who want to find ways to express their spirituality but want little to do with the traditional church.  I think a lot of it points to this being a time of great change.  I don’t believe there are any fewer faithful people now than there have ever been, it is just that we are in the middle of a time of cataclysmic change in the way people express lives of faith.  Something is dying, but something new is being born, whose name we don’t even know yet.  Our roll is to midwife what is being born.  And as a midwife who has attended many births told me, the main thing a midwife does is simply to wait for the right time to help the new life into the world.

The painful truth is that SBNR’s have rightfully judged that those in the church have often been guilty of being “Religious but not spiritual,” (RBNS) that is that all too many church folk have been faithful at keeping the institution humming along, but have little to show for it beyond balanced budgets and a full slate of programs.

What I wonder is that if what people long for is not simply belief (ideas with which they can agree or disagree), but transformation (real transforming experience of the holy).

Some days I think I am SBNR—the greatest nourishment of my soul comes from wells deeper than traditional religion provides.  Some days that are full of meetings and trivial complaints I feel RBNS and only come to the church because they pay me to.  But most days the thing that keeps me going is I feel “Spiritual and Religious” (S&R) because I experience the deep, abiding transformative love of God through a church that is often clunky and quirky, yet nonetheless beautiful, but that’s just me.  What do you think?  How do you see yourself—SBNR, RBNS, S&R or something else?  Why or why not?


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