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7 Reasons Why So Many Spiritual People Refuse To Call Themselves 'Religious'

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Today we live in a pluralistic society with many perspectives, and it is difficult to adhere to just one ideology.

This is particularly true, it seems, when it comes to religion. The problem in adopting just one religious philosophy or “way of life” is that you will invariably exclude or possibly offend another person with a different belief system.

It is a conundrum to identify as a particular religion or spiritual movement.

Traditional religions continue to represent most believers but there is a growing trend that needs to be discussed. The reality that change is needed is being recognized and addressed but adjustments are slow to develop and be adopted. Modifications are being made to keep and attract believers.

In the meantime, we need to figure out why some people choose to shun traditional religious labels — and call themselves "spiritual," instead.

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Seven reasons people say they're 'spiritual'

1. A religion's lack of inclusion.

The first reason that people consider themselves spiritual is that traditional religions have a dogma that is inconsistent with inclusion. There are rules or tenets that appear to openly discriminate against women or people with other lifestyles that are not considered acceptable. The attitude that one religion has all the answers, and all others are condemned to damnation is troubling is another issue.

Being spiritual allows a person to be more flexible and adhere to moral principles without being part of a community of believers who could ostracize them if they are not in lockstep with every tenant of the ideology. Life can be hard and the need for adjustments to create better living conditions is believed to not be considered.

Some may feel controlled and confined by faith and feel an organized religion may do them more harm than good.

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2. Religious organizations' misuse of monetary donations.

The inflexibility of religion and an emphasis on money collection turns many people off. It is not offensive to give money but the scandals and corruption concerning the use of money collected from believers is disturbing.

Most religious organizations handle money well, but the ones that do not overshadow the good groups.

It is okay to give to your religious congregation because they need funds to keep ministering. It is only when there is misuse of money that people get upset. It depends upon the person, but some will leave a group if they feel their tithing does not go for its intended uses.

“Spiritual” people want to give and are generous, but they may shift their allegiance from a congregation to a non-profit where there is a better sense that the money is going to be used appropriately. There are no guarantees that another organization will not misuse funds but there is an attempt to target funds to a specific cause.

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3. Scandals and hypocrisy.

The liberties taken by clergy involving the various sex scandals have many people simply turned off by religion. It is an individual scandal of ministers using their spiritual authority to molest children, women, and the vulnerable that is distasteful. This behavior is further exacerbated by inaction or slow reactions, the participation of these acts by some members of leadership, and the lack of accountability to solving the problem.

The sexual abuse issue has not been handled well by many in mainstream religion. The fact that numerous leaders are participants in the abuse is appalling. It is a betrayal of trust that can be unforgivable and the faithful are disillusioned by it.

The suspicions and disillusionment by moral people of faith because of the behavior and misconduct of clergy have pushed the faithful to become spiritual. The label of belonging to a religion without appropriate safeguards to avoid misconduct can cause others to disassociate with them so it is easier to be spiritual. Identifying as a believer in a faith that has not made positive changes can cause distress.

It should be noted that standing with an imperfect religion has its merits. Being faithful and believing in the leadership of a group does not mean a believer condones indiscretions. Everyone has their own personal reasons but taking a “big picture” or hopeful view for positive change is admirable. Others have the right to have faith in their religion and its leaders of it.

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4. It takes too much effort.

The effort and energy it takes to go to services and be a part of a community are no longer attractive. It may be an excuse, but a day of rest should be restful and not tied to an event that takes so much time from family, and other activities that need addressing, and may not be spiritually fulfilling. The reality is that there is no other time to get things done these days.

Television, the internet, and spiritual reading help deflect the need to physically attend a service. In addition, services and sermons are often spiritually unfulfilling and do not resonate with many members. Some churches use entertainment to uplift their followers and promote their message with limited success.

5. Spirituality allows you to keep your beliefs private. 

Another reason people are calling themselves spiritual is that it is a private defendable position allowing them to control their public spiritual beliefs. You can be moral and upstanding without the trappings of a particular dogma, being labeled, or proclaiming your belief ideology.

A spiritual person has much more range than a follower of a particular faith.

The advent of "cancel culture" contributes to this phenomenon. No belief system has all the answers, and “nonbelievers” are quick to point out the deficiencies in a creed. Adhering to faith can be burdensome. 

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6. Philosophical differences.             

Many people consider themselves spiritual because they were never fully invested in faith anyway. They were “cafeteria” type believers who picked and chose the beliefs of a religion that they may have grown up with but no longer feel they have an allegiance to. They no longer feel pressured by family or peers who follow a faith they believe does not serve them.

These are individuals who do not believe a religion spiritually “feeds” them. They may have a need for nourishment in this area but do not want to pretend to adhere to a faith that they have problems accepting all their tenets.

7. Disillusionment. 

The final observation that people consider themselves spiritual is that they may believe that they followed a religion faithfully and did not get the results they wanted from it. Their prayers and petitions did not work so they leave their faith. Some in this group may even become atheists and no longer believe in any higher power.

This group may have some cynicism and be critical of religions in general.

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Understanding today's spirituality

Today we live in a complicated world. Technology and society change so quickly that belief systems that have been in place for centuries appear outdated. Groups of individuals who were once ostracized are standing up and demanding recognition and respect. The reasons for claiming to be a spiritual person are not limited to the ones just listed.

There is a place for religion in our society today and in the future. It is in a state of being redefined and adjusted to be more open and accepting.

It will never be perfect but there is room for traditional values and belief systems to accommodate today’s needs.

The idea of being spiritual is a private safe place and the reasons for this choice are personal and individual. Religion is meant to give people a moral belief system, structure, support for each believer, hope for the future, and redemption. It is not meant to offer formulas that guarantee success.

Bottom line: People want to be moral and good, but they do not want to feel controlled or used by a religion they do not respect.

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John Cappello, M.B.A., Psychic Medium, is the author of metaphysical books and children’s books about angels. For more information go to johncappello.com.

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