Spiritual
UU Church Today, Spirituality & Theology, Society & Culture, BeyondBelief

Spiritual or Religious … or both … or none




You know the mantra: spiritual but not religious.
I’m not entirely sure what that means. I think it means warm and fuzzy on the inside but cool to anything that’s recognizably religious.

Now me, I’m just the opposite.

I’m a hardcore churchgoer.

I try to go every Sunday, and I usher at our mid-week Worship on Wednesday Chapel service. I love church music, the traditional style, not Gospel pop. I sang in a children’s choir until my voice changed. The choir director cupped her hand to her ear, pointed to me, and said, “Don’t sing.” I never sang again.

I’m not a big fan of sermons.

Sometimes I read the back of the hymnal to take my mind off it. It reminds me of Ben Franklin who told his daughter when she joined the Episcopal Church to pay more attention to the Prayer Book than the preaching. I used to be an Episcopalian myself. I was an acolyte and served at Mass. I still like to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I don’t believe in what they’ve doing anymore, if I ever did, but they put on a good show, and I get something out of it. It’s really an indulgence in unscrupulous sentimentality on my part, but I guess sentimentality is really just cheap spirituality in the first place.

I’ve never really had what you’d call a “spiritual” experience.

I’m not sure I’d know it if I had one. People say they feel spiritual in nature. Doesn’t work for me. I don’t get much out of a walk in the woods, except maybe ticks. A sunset is nice to look at, but I don’t think it does much for my soul, if I have one. Let’s face it. I was born boring, and I plan to die that way. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens to me. I’ve never seen Bigfoot, though I believe they exist. I’ve never seen a UFO, or encountered an extraterrestrial, though I believe they exist, too.  I’ve never had a near death experience, although I have had a near life experience. That’s when you expect to die, but live instead. Mine happened on New Year’s Eve of 2000 when I was flying back from Denver. I was sure the plane was going to fall out of the air at midnight from Y2K. My whole death passed in front of me. I had a vision of the plane wreckage strewn across the plains of eastern Colorado. But that was more of a material experience than spiritual.

The Faith Club and a progressive religious home

There’s a book called The Faith Club about three women; a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian. The Jew said she had religion but no faith. She identified with Jewish religious practices but had lost her faith in God. She regained her faith when she saw a sunset from an airplane. I guess that was her spiritual experience. The Muslim had faith but felt alienated from the conservative Islamic religion. Then she met a progressive imam and found religion again. The Christian woman had both faith and religion, which is probably why she was so smug. For me, I don’t have any problem with faith in God, the old-fashioned guy-in-the-sky kind, and I don’t need to fly into any sunset. I have, like the Muslim woman, found a progressive religious home, mine at All Souls. All I’m missing is the spiritual experience. But, you know what, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe life isn’t a spiritual experience in itself. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma which also means breath. As long as I’m still breathing I guess I’m having a spiritual experience, the only one I’m ever going to have.


Sid Martin is a valuable member of All Souls’ and a regular contributor to beyondbelief.online. Sid asks us to Listen to each other and shares about foundation of All Souls in The Meaning of Love Beyond Belief.

If you’d like to “dip your toe” into an intentional spiritual practice, join us for the Everyday Spiritual Practices class at 7:00 p.m., following our Wednesday Connections dinner (5:30 p.m.) & WOW Chapel (6:30 p.m.) Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in February 2019 to explore the theme of Spiritual Practice and Prayer.

Cover photo: Photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash

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