Friday, June 27, 2008

Spiritual But Not Religious

We have all heard the phrase, "I am spiritual, but not religious." Perhaps we have even used that phrase to describe ourselves or our practices. Typically, people attended whatever church or religion their parents chose. Usually they would take us to church with them or send us to schools or Sunday schools operated by their church. It was just expected that we would follow along in this way.

However, as we grew and changed, many of us have changed our ideas about religion and spirituality. Some of us changed churches, and some of us adapted various spiritual practices from different religions, cultures or traditions, creating our own unique blend of concepts and practices that work for us. Another word for that way of doing things is eclectic.

A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted in 2007, published in February 2008, depicted a fluid and diverse national religious life marked by people moving among denominations and faiths.

According to that report, more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion. The survey indicated that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated, accounting for 16 percent of American adults.

Who are the unaffilliated? These include minor, but growing choices, such as Wicca, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, Taoist, Druid, Asatru, Santeria, Bahai or Native American, to name just a few which have grown significantly in recent years. A person can practice these religions or incorporate aspects of them into their eclectic mix without officially joining anything. These practices can be done in the privacy of your own home, or on your own property without having to follow strict rules set by an organization or tithing to professional clergy. So there is no exact number of people who practice these things, only estimates based on surveys such as these.

However, the percentage of people who responded in this way has doubled in size in the last 20 years. If you choose to use a little of this from one tradition, a little of that from another tradition plus some parts you have improvised to synthesize the different parts that work for you, then you are a part of this growing part of the population that relates to spirit in a more universal way.

If you identify yourself as "spiritual, but not religious," you are not just being faddish, you are part of a steadily growing number of people who are using their own experience to engage in a spiritual life that blends into their everyday life.

Do whatever works. In fact, for a country that is made up of people from all over the world, rather than one ethnic or religious group, it seems quite appropriate to me that increasing numbers of people are being practical and eclectic in their spiritual practices.

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