Spiritual But Not Religious


Reiki II by Franklin Park Library on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The BBC recently reported that

Despite the falling popularity of organised religion, most people in the UK still believe in the power of spiritual forces, research suggests … “The study appears to confirm that, despite a steady decline in congregations and in formal religious belief, a sense of the spiritual remains strong in Britain,” said the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.

Essentially, the picture is not as simple as ‘religion down, atheism up’: it is more complicated.

But what is happening? The original document, on which the BBC’s report was based, asked whether people who believed in spiritual beings or angels or God did anything about their beliefs. They discovered that they did, but not in any ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ way:

According to our research, 23% of people said they had had their tarot cards read, 17% had had their star sign read, 12% had had a reflexology session. Smaller numbers had experienced more esoteric spiritual experiences, such as having a reiki session (8%), having their aura read (6%), healing with crystals (5%), and having an ayurveda session (1%).

Women are considerably more likely than men to undergo these things (51% vs. 26%) but what is perhaps most interesting about these figures is that, while 39% of the overall population admit to having undergone at least one of these experiences, so do 38% of the non-religious (compared to 40% of the religious). In other words, when it comes to these more obviously non-religious spiritual activities, there is no difference according to whether someone is religious or not. (Page 22)

Clearly, such people do not see ‘going to church’ as the natural expression of their spiritual longings. Perhaps the Christian Church, rather than just defaulting to its usual ‘come to church’ response, should first of all ask, what needs are being expressed in these practices? How can we respond to those?

What answers would you give to those questions?


4 thoughts on “Spiritual But Not Religious

  1. The difficulty is that many of the practices are ones with which the Christian faith has had serious concerns. We still tell the story of Saul and the Witch of Endor because such practices were in direct opposition to God’s Word as brought through his prophet. The difficulty with so much of the things mentioned is that they are based on falsehood and the Christian message is based on truth. The difficulty is that our practices are seen as unhelpful in meeting the spiritual needs of the present day. WE get bad publicity everything else gets the good publicity. I am all in favour of embracing what we can but I see no likelyhold of horoscopes appearing in the church magazine anytime soon.

  2. I would suggest that this is actually good news! The fact is that people are searching for spiritual answers. That’s much more promising than the apathy I see over here in America.

    Now we just have to figure out what they are searching for, as in what time of questions they are asking, and then show them the answer in the Bible and through our testimony.

    The one possible drawback is that people may simply add Christ to their spirituality, instead of making him King. I noticed this a lot over in Japan. If people aren’t taught that Christ is all and everything, then he can be relegated to tarot status. Not a good response.

  3. And yet, I know of people in the church who seem to be superstitious, read their horoscopes, or are happy to discuss star signs, I was once wearing a pair of fish earrings in church, (bought from a Christian bookshop,) and received the comment, “nice earrings. You’re a Pisces then?”

  4. I guess I fall into this category. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. I used to consider myself atheist but am glad I gave that depressing frame of mind up. I don’t go to church but am a huge psychic-enthusiast 😀 I am also into tarot readings and healing powers of gems. You gave me a lot to think about!

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