9 October 2020

Spiritual, but not Religious…?

Posted in Family Space / SU QLD

You might know someone who says, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

I’ve heard it plenty of times and it’s fair enough. Some people have had a bad experience of religion, but still want to hold onto the spirit they hope is sitting somewhere behind it.

But this saying can be a real challenge for those of us who actually are “religious”.

That’s me and it might be you too…

You see, if you identify as a Christian, then almost by definition, you’re religious. If you go to a church, then yep, you’re probably religious too. And if you support SU in some way, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re religious. We seem to attract religious types. If you work for us or volunteer with us in some way, then we pretty much require you to be religious. You need to belong to a church, to have a pastor who can vouch for you and to be able to sign off on one of the classic Christian creeds. Religious…

So, I’m sorry to say, if you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance that you don’t have the luxury of being able to say, hand on your heart, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”… as nice and neat as that might be. People like us have to come up with another saying that more accurately describes our position. Maybe something like, “I’m spiritual and trying to live out some good religion.”

I know that’s a bit clunky and needs some work, but I think it’s on the right track…

There just must be something that we can point to as “good religion”. Something that goes hand-in-hand with, and points directly to, “good spirituality”. And, there must be someone out there who could show us a glimpse of what this might look like.


On Sunday, earlier this week (4th October), many Christians celebrated “The Feast of St Francis of Assisi”. You may have heard of St Francis. He is possibly the world’s most well-known and popular saint and he is definitely someone who knew about living a good religious life that pointed to a spirituality worth looking into.

St Francis lived in Italy across the 12th & 13th centuries. He is mostly remembered for his generosity to the poor, his love for animals and his close connection to nature. Born into wealth, St Francis walked away from a life of wealth and comfort, to not only live with and serve the poor, but to become poor himself. It is said that he preached to the birds and referred to the sun and moon as his brother and sister. St Francis founded three religious orders that continue to promote reflection, humility, simplicity, generosity, sustainability and reconciliation through their ministries today. He is the patron saint of both animals and the environment and was honoured in 2013 when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina took his name as his own (anyone heard of Pope Francis?)…

That all sounds pretty religious. But “good” religious…

It seems to me that St Francis was not only just the right shade of crazy, but someone who knew how to practice his religion in such a way as to point people towards a positive and life-giving spirituality. Interestingly, one of the things he did and encouraged his followers to do, was to imitate Jesus Christ as closely, seriously and radically as they possibly could. He chose an excellent role model on which to base his spiritual and religious life.

St Francis is a saint for today. He’s the kind of saint that us religious types should take notice of. You should google him and find out more of what he was about. He was the kind of guy who would say, “I’m spiritual and religious”, and you’d think that was a good thing.


About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Samuel Moore

Digital Media and Communications Coordinator

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