“I’m Spiritual, but Not Religious”

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  • #6112
    Avatar photoDan Marcum

    Consider the statement, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Our evangelists often hear this statement when evangelizing college-age people. Often, people in college believe in doing good and avoiding evil, and they think maybe there’s a God (or maybe not), but they don’t go to church or think anything having to do with religion is really important.

    So, imagine you’re evangelizing at a college and you have the following conversation:

    Evangelist: Hi, would you like a free rosary?

    Other person: Sure, thank you!

    E: No problem, did you know the rosary is a prayer?

    O: It is?

    E: Yeah, it’s a powerful meditation on the life of Jesus. Are you Christian?

    O: Well, I was raised Christian, and I’m still spiritual, but I’m not religious.

    So, what would you say next?

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    • #14818
      Avatar photoJane Gootherts

      “Well, I was raised Christian, and I’m still spiritual, but I’m not religious.”

      Praise God! I am spiritual also. Do you believe in the spiritual world? Have you had any experiences with God’s love for you?
      If you have not, let me assure you that God loves you and desires perfect relationship with Him as your Heavenly Father.
      So often our lives do not have peace, may even experience loneliness or isolation. God is always close to us and desires us to be close with Him.
      God so loves the world, you and I, that He gave His only Son Jesus to die on the cross so that we might live with God forever.
      I experienced this love from God when I was 14 yrs old and learned about Jesus. I learned that my sins kept me separated from God but through repentance and confession I would receive salvation through Jesus. When I was baptized I felt the fullness of God’s cleansing love bring me into His perfect relationship. Would you like more information about how to receive God more fully into your life?

      Other questions to pursue:
      Have you had a negative experience that hurt you in church?
      What do you believe happens after you die?
      Would you like to go to this church which is open and experience God’s presence in Adoration?

    • #14792
      Sheila Rost

      “I’m spiritual but not religious,” is a very open statement, meaning that spiritual could be believing in Jesus, having faith, and praying, and not wanting to go to Mass or church of any kind or it could mean the person follows Buddhism. I follow the thoughts above in probing into how the person defines spiritual and religious, and to what their history is that led to their current beliefs. A friendly, respectful dialogue with options for follow-up seems like a great path for starters.

    • #14517
      Ray Smith


      I’m relatively new, but here’s my thoughts. I look at us as doing the healing work of Jesus. First, we have to diagnose, then we dispense spiritual prescriptions. Maybe handing out a rosary (the prescription) without knowing what they’re ailing from is instead something that should come after the diagnosis.

      I might try a different conversation starter: “Friend, we are out here today blessing people with a quick prayer to help them grow in their faith. Can we bless you?”
      They say “No, thank you, I’m spiritual but not religious.” Here’s what they mean: “I’m involved in a demonstration of faith not associated with my younger years. In other words, my parents brought me to a formal church of some denomination, but now I go to what feels like an uber-cool experience of Jesus, and I don’t want to go back. I didn’t know what I had before, but what I have now feels like more.”

      I would respond with “Friend, the word ‘religion’ actually comes from a Latin word that means to bind together into a relationship. Religion actually ALLOWS that relationship to grow. If you don’t mind, where do you worship now?”

      And, they will respond with some megachurch with a great coffee selection, casual clothes and a Pastor who’s uber-hip. I would think about “build on what they have, and offer them something more.”

      I would say “That’s great that you go to Viacom Stadium Church of God. Wow, the crowds they on the weekend! We’re out here today, focused on Jesus, and if some Jesus is good and more Jesus is better, wouldn’t you like to get the most Jesus you could?”

      They say “Well, sure.” You say “Now, although Jesus was a carpenter, when He gave us a Church, it wasn’t a BUILDING, but rather a set of BELIEFS, which are a matter of historical record. Are you aware of that?”

      And, that’s when they’ll say no, and you’ll tread lightly so as not to make them feel shame, but rather keep Jesus out front, and “if they could experience the most Jesus they could get, would they be interested in that?” Behold, the crossroads: cool…or faithful to Jesus?

      And, then I would give them a pamphlet that summarizes the beliefs of Jesus’ Church and ask them to meet for coffee in the next week, here’s my contact info, I’d like to answer the questions that will naturally come up. If they’re evangelicals, rosaries, medals and all that will trigger them. Keep the discussion on the most Jesus they can possibly get.

      Your thoughts?

    • #14040
      Avatar photoMelissa Manning

      It sounds like maybe you don’t like organized religion. Is that it? Have you always felt this way?

    • #7335
      Allison Schoonover

      I’m with Michael and Mark – the first thing I would do is to ask them to explain…I would think that people can mean very different things by saying that they’re “spiritual but not religious.” When my adult children say this (and they have), I’m pretty sure it means “I don’t really care enough to figure out what I think about God; I’ll worry about it later.” To be honest, I don’t know if I’m capable, as Michael said, of getting “into the issue of objective truth, and begin to explain why we believe Jesus is divine, a historical account of the establishment of his Church, and then show that the Catholic Church is that historical church.” I think I would spend most of the conversation listening and clarifying. Maybe at some point, I would find the opportunity to share the Kerygma. I read a really interesting article the other day about reaching young “nones” (no religious affiliation), and how some of them have absolutely no context for understanding ideas like sin and salvation. That’s kind of overwhelming to me. One thing that occurs to me is that these people need to be encouraged to keep seeking; to keep thinking. There is real, objective truth; there are real answers to questions like, “Is God real?”, and “What’s the point of human existence?”. There is a right way to live and a wrong way to live, and they both have eternal consequences.

    • #6353
      Avatar photoMichael Miller

      I like the way Karlo Broussard from Cathoilc Answers handles this question. Like him, I would ask some clarifying questions… “what do you mean by that?”, and “how does your ‘not spiritual, but religious’ view play out in your day to day life?” If they are willing to talk about their personal spirituality, they’ll likely share that they don’t think it’s important to belong an organized religion, but it’s OK to pursue “God” and spiritual truths (however they view truth.)

      At this point, I would get into the issue of objective truth, and begin to explain why we believe Jesus is divine, a historical account of the establishment of his Church, and then show that the Catholic Church is that historical church. If Jesus, who is divine, founded the Catholic Church, then we are obligated to be a part of it.

    • #6352
      Avatar photoMark J Hornbacher

      I’d say, “Tell me about that. What do you mean when you say, ‘spiritual but not religious’?”

      After they give their answer, I’d ask them “How did you come to those conclusions?”

      Depending upon how they answer all this, I might do something different — but I think in some cases I would follow up with something like the following:

      “This is the way I think about it: Everybody, or most people, are spiritual in one way or another — but spirituality can be good, bad, or very often, it can be mediocre. Religion is organized spirituality. It helps us to be more consistent between belief and action, and accountable to others, in our spirituality. It gives us the insights of others — not just of some small group of individuals, but the collective wisdom of people over centuries. And then there’s the question of true religion and false religion: if spirituality can be good, bad, or mediocre, then religion also can be be good, bad, or mediocre. It’s not enough to say that we’re spiritual. If we want to benefit from our spirituality, we want to have the benefits of religion, and more than that — we want the benefits of true religion.”

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