Why it’s Okay to Be Spiritual But Not Religious

Updated: Feb 15

I was born a teacher, a healer -- an old soul. It was both a blessing and a curse. At 6 years of age, I couldn’t relate to the Sunday School teacher because I craved the intellect of adult Bible study. I couldn’t wait for tent revivals in those backwoods Baptist churches where I sat mesmerized by the traveling preachers and their stories of salvation and sin.


Now, over 50 years later, what has become clear to me is that I was always walking away from religion -- I just didn’t see it. That is, I didn’t see it until the God I was finding in church was simply too small for the calling on my soul.


This feels like a good time to insert the disclaimer that this is my story and my experience. Without you having to take the time to write that not “all” churches are like the ones from my spiritual journey, I can assure you -- I already know this.


Some of the most loving, giving, and compassionate people that I have known I met in church. They were pastors, lay leaders, and members, and they worked for the good of the whole. Even so, there were others who were toxic, judgemental, and hypocritical who suffocated the tenets of Christianity with their actions and words. For years, I struggled within a broken system that insisted that the church could only look a certain way and forced myself to stay quiet as I saw people come and go and be summarily dismissed as unbelievers if they could not abide by the rules humans had placed around God.


I’ll be the first to admit that leaving my religious heritage to traverse the unknown paths of spirituality outside of religion was incredibly hard, and it is not for everyone. It often has left me lonely and in tears as I lost friendships and family members who could not separate faith from love.


On this side of the spiritual unknown, I became a statistic -- one of those leaving religion at an alarming rate. I considered trying to suppress my burgeoning beliefs and return to church, although I’d be doing what I know many others do: fake it in the pew for the sake of community. Yet, the thought of returning to corporate worship in a church that excluded my LGBTQ+ family and friends from baptism and had caused so much pain to others (myself included) compelled me to stay the course and continue the path of the spiritual sojourner.


Eight years passed, and I prayed, studied, and listened. After seminary, I sought to quietly find my spiritual place in the world without disturbing the status quo. However, what is now becoming clear to me is that the status quo will never accept that spiritual but not religious is a sacred and Holy path to God. My calling is not to convince them otherwise -- it is to connect with those who are also on this path and help them on their journey, assuring them that their soul is not leading them the wrong way.


There is indeed sacred peace and connection out here.


That doesn’t stop the ones who consider their faith walk is about condemning others’ spiritual journeys, so I’m often bombarded with a literalist’s view of the Bible, inserted with a healthy dose of sarcasm which has no place in spirituality. Some must’ve been absent when that lesson was being taught in Sunday School. I ignore them and bless them on their journey, as I hope someday they will bless me on mine. Engaging at that level of discourse serves no one, and they’re not throwing any beliefs at me that I -- at one time -- didn’t believe myself and now reject as toxic theology.


There’s room for all of us here at this table of humanity, and I count among my friends and followers church-goers, the spiritual but not religious, the atheist, the agnostic, the Wiccan, and the pagan. I know no other way to live the highest commandment to “Love your neighbor” than inviting everyone to be in community so we can learn and grow together.


No doubt this blog will signal the end for some of you who find my spiritual truth out of alignment with your beliefs -- for that I am sad, but also respect you on your journey.


For the rest of you who stay, and for the many who are now finding me -- welcome. I am honored you are here.


May I leave you with these final thoughts as we begin to explore the spiritual but not religious journey together:


Church does not own God

The Holy is found in religion but is also found in sacred and meaningful ways in the world.

There are many sacred paths.

Your spiritual path is not contingent upon another’s approval.

Your soul is God’s home.

and

God is big enough to share.


Blessings to you all,

Rev. Karla


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