Religious vs. Spiritual – They Aren’t The Same, But They Are Damned Close

In a recent podcast, Dr. Robert Mather took a question from a listener about the trend in the United States away from religion toward secularism.  Dr. Mather, in that podcast, points to studies indicating that people that identify as religious tend to live longer and be happier.  Dr. Mather researches such topics for a living and I will not presume to challenge those conclusions here.

Toward the end of his podcast, Dr. Mather made what I found to be an interesting comment.  Discussing the idea that we should all have more conversations about faith, he said it is important to realize that many people have put a lot of thought into this topic and that it is not as simple as “accept or don’t accept.”

I think Dr. Mather is right.  The “accept or don’t accept” dichotomy falls right in line with my last post.

I think it is beyond question that we see a moral decline in this country.  It is now “ok” to loot Target and Walmart.  And it is now “ok” for law enforcement and prosecutors to ignore this.  In my state (Washington) it is now “ok” to break all traffic laws and to steal cars – no worries, no one will come after you.

I’m not religious, I don’t call myself Christian – or any other religious denomination or following.  But I do consider myself spiritual.  Some of my closest friends may not understand that statement (others of you do), so I’ll try to break it down a bit here.

I’ve been fortunate to be born and raised and lived my entire life in western Washington.  By almost any measure this should be paradise (ignoring of course the political climate).  The streams and rivers are full of fish, the ocean beaches are loaded with clams, and the forests are full of deer, elk, and bears.  The Cascade Mountains are the stuff of postcards.  The climate is mild – it rarely gets above about 80, and rarely below 20.

Plant a garden.  Till up the soil and plant some seeds – and watch the corn, peas, beans, carrots, cabbage, and spinach grow.

Watch your children being born, and watch them grow into adults.

Watch as your parents and grandparents age and die, and think of the wisdom they handed you and your children.

Go to a dairy and help the farmer pull a calf.

Go to an apple orchard and see the wonder that happens throughout the year from bloom to harvest.

Go to your local food bank, and see the humanity of humans helping humans.

Stand on top of Cooper Mountain and look over the countryside within your view, and tell me you are not moved.

I hunt deer, and I’ve taken a few.  No honest deer hunter can tell me that as you are cleaning and skinning that deer you don’t feel some reverence for that animal, some thought of the miracle of food (those of you that buy your meat at the grocery store may not relate – that is your loss – you are missing out).

Watch the miracle that is life, and the miracle that is death.  Watch the miracle that is the cycle of both.

I’m not religious at all, but if you’ve experienced the things I’ve listed here (or even some) and were moved, you are spiritual, as am I.

In my opinion, a sense of morality (or a moral compass) does not have to come from religious doctrine.  Spirituality (for me) comes from a reverence for the world around you – as it honestly is tempered (as it should be) with a natural sense of right and wrong.

I know many people that are not religious, but that are spiritual.  The difference, as a practical matter, is vanishingly small.


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  1. All of above and I was raised Southern Baptist from a toddler till I started welding pipe at 16. If you have never experienced Christ and the Holy Spirit coming into your Heart, well…. you’re missing out.

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