Confessions: Religious But Not Spiritual. #planted

I am reading Patrick Mason’s Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt. I had hoped to have a review up today, but the week has gotten away from me.

I love it so far, but today I wanted to point out one item.

Something I have been thinking about for sometime is the phrase “I am spiritual but not religious.” I do not want to dismiss the phrase because it likely has significant meaning for some. However, I am the total opposite.

I have not really taken the time to describe why I view myself at “religious but not spiritual,” but I like how Mason describes it briefly (on page 37) while surveying the variety of religious experiences within Mormonism:

Others still, whom we might call religious but not spiritual are drawn to and anchored by the community, tradition, and structure of Mormonism but infrequently have transcendent “spiritual experienced” to bear testimony of.

This fits me well.

Rosalynde Welch similarly described herself as religious but not spiritual a few years back. Here is one excerpt from her explanation:

Part of it, certainly, is the sense of social connectedness that these practices create for me. I suffer from some mild social anxieties, though I like to think I hide it well, and I have difficulty creating and negotiating close relationships from scratch. The knowledge that I am sharing an experience—a holiday, a traditional food, a daily routine—with my friends, family, and forebears gives me a feeling of commonality, security, embeddedness. It’s a basis for connection that is always available and mutually meaningful.

I think Welch’s approach places more emphasis on tradition and ritual than I would (see her full essay). I think my emphasis would be more on community. Again, something I need to more fully develop.

I will be engaging a bit with Mason’s book over the next few days. So more to come.

This is the first of my “Confessions” columns, a new feature in 2016 at Approaching Justice. Confessions are, or will be, daily thoughts about what I am thinking about. They will often deal with what I am reading, teaching, or writing about. Other times, they will be about my experiences.

3 replies »

  1. Rosalynde’s account of her own faith life are powerful and insightful, but I remaining, despite having talked with her and others about this very topic multiple times, somewhat uncertain of the “religious but not spiritual” phrase. Like its opposite, I feel as though it is phrase used to signal something, more than an actual description of a personal religious/spiritual/moral attitude. But since I don’t know exactly what it may be signalling, I don’t know where to take my uncertainties with it.

    • I hope to further develop what I mean by it. I do not think that one can actually be religious and completely not spiritual. Likewise, I do not think on can be spiritual without being religious…even if one thinks that they are. In a way, I think that I am really just saying that I am spiritual in a way that is different. For now, that will have to do. I will more fully address your point soon! And I am not just saying that.

  2. I feel that I am too religious but not spiritual. I am a rm, served in most callings, remain active and faithful but I hear of others experiences of feeling prompted do something or receive an answer to a question in prayer, I feel like I don’t have those experiences. I pray for them and want so much to feel that I hear the voice of the lord in my heart, but it doesn’t happen. I long for it but don’t know what else to do to receive those spiritual prompting.

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