Everybody is spiritual at some level. At least seeking answers and meaning. Some have checked out. Where are you on the spiritual vs. religious index? ♦
We’ve all heard people say it, even with unguarded pride, that they are “more spiritual rather than religious.” The listening party will nod their head in understanding that this person is not some kook or tied to some organized religion but on a noble spiritual journey. And that’s a good thing.
It’s also a nice out.
It’s like saying you’re an ‘Independent’ politically. One can take an apparent high road above the fray of pesky ideologues while keeping your options open.
But that’s not to say that this phrase or personal response to the topic of spirituality/faith/religion is not sincere. I believe people are actually very sincere when they say this.
They honestly do not want to be associated with a church or an “organized religion” because they’ve been burned, bored, or feel they’ve outgrown whatever religious dogma they’ve been taught.
Or they just don’t believe it.
“None” Too Sure About Religion
Researchers have branded a new category in religious surveys: Nones. The “nones,” are those people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” In a 2014 Pew Research study, “Nones” now make up 23% of U.S. adults, up from 16% in 2007.1
But what’s interesting in the study is that this fast-growing group of the religiously unaffiliated are not completely non-religious. Here are some interesting stats:
- A vast majority were raised as a member of a particular religion (78%) before shedding their religious identity in adulthood
- Most of them say they believe in God or a universal spirit (61%)
- A third say that religion is somewhat/very important in their lives (34%)
- Less than 10% attend church at least monthly (9%)
- More than a third pray at least once per month (37%)
Lest you be encouraged here, these percentages are coming down significantly over the past 8 years showing the growing secularization of the religiously unaffiliated.
Reasons Why People are Unaffiliated
Here are some interesting quotes from the study:
- “Learning about evolution when I went away to college.”
- “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things.”
- “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.”
- “Lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator.”
Dislike Organized Religion
- “I see organized religious groups as more divisive than uniting.”
- “Religion should be very personal between you and your creator.”
- “Religion now is more of a business – it’s all about money.”
- “The clergy sex abuse scandal.”
- “The church’s teachings on homosexuality.”
- “I feel there is something out there. I just can’t nail down a religion.”
- “I don’t think there is one religion that is right or wrong.”
- “I pray to my God. I do believe in a higher power, but I don’t need a church to do that.”
- “I just stopped going to church in college. I was never super religious.”
- “I don’t practice the rituals of any church.”
- “I don’t have time for church.”
The Spiritual Index
I’m reminded of Oswald Chambers, the gifted Scottish evangelist and teacher, who makes reference to a Spiritual Index in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. He cites the illustration of prayer that Jesus uses in Matthew 7:9 of a good child asking for a good thing:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? – Matthew 7:9
Chambers points out that we look at prayer (and religion) as if God hears and responds to us irrespective of the status or quality of our relationship to Him. That is, we never question our own behavior. Are we rightly related to our wife, husband, children, neighbor or fellow-travelers?
Are we a “good child” ourselves?
Are we living as children of God or something much less and then doubtful, vindictive, and defiant about God because He has not shown himself or come through for us on our terms?
But God is supposed to love me no matter what, right?
Yes, but the Prodigal Son had to return home in humility and utter spiritual desperation to receive the Father’s welcoming and forgiving love – which was there all the time.
The Spiritual Mediocrity of “Nones”
As I consider their statements and quotes in justification of their fading belief and non-religious affiliation, I’m struck at how weak and sophomoric is their stance and reasoning. I suspect that many of the modern-day Nones are light and superficial in their own spiritual research quests beyond their own anecdotal experiences or what they have heard or learned in college or picked up from a secular, even anti-Christian press and social media.
And then one wonders why God does not seem to be respond or show Himself.
So the “Nones,” the unaffiliated, begin to check out on God or do a slow fade. All the more easy if one’s surrounding friends, culture, and even family do not challenge or instruct one to stay on it, diligently seeking and surrendering one’s will as a Good Child to the will of the Good Father.
Yes, it’s a sad trend, but hope is not lost for a spiritual redirect. Particularly when one fairly, heartily, and intelligently reconsiders “the faith of their youth.”
1 Pew Center Research, America’s Changing Religious Study, 2014/2015.
Are you mediocre in your spiritual journey?
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. – Matthew 7:28-29