Spirituality versus Christianity: Which Path Suits You?

This article delves into these two realms, demystifying concepts, countering misconceptions, and unraveling profound nuances. Can a person be both spiritual and Christian? How do these belief systems perceive good and evil, salvation and truth?

Last Updated:
April 30, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

Defining "Spiritual but not religious": What does it mean?

The phrase, "spiritual but not religious," signifies a movement towards possessing spirituality as a salient component of one's existence, free from shackles of traditional religion, where personal beliefs and practices take precedence over strictly following organized religion. By essence, it promotes being versus merely believing. 

One could argue that we are living in what some scholars have come to call "The Age of Spirituality Without Religion." In this epoch, trends lean towards formulating a spiritual framework enlightened by scientific knowledge and, in return, allowing spirituality to inform and broaden our understanding of science. The intention is to clear out the cobwebs of baseless superstitions and the trappings of materialistic postulations. 

It is important to acknowledge that the shift to being "spiritual but not religious" is not meant to demonize organized religion. It merely represents a personal endeavor towards discovering one's spiritual path without the constraints of traditional religious doctrines. Spirituality, in this context, is highly individualized, manifesting as a private, intimate form of religion, aimed at fostering inner understanding and personal growth rather than focusing on external rituals and worship. 

Understanding the difference between religion and being a "spiritual person" is fundamental to determining the validity of one's practices. Are they nourishing your spirit, promoting growth, and leading to inner peace? Or are they serving as a rigid framework from which you feel unfulfilled or disconnected? Being "spiritual but not religious" allows individuals to make these discernments based on their unique experiences and inner voice, moving beyond the collective dogma that may or may not match their personal beliefs or experiences. 

In the end, it is crucial to note that most adults identifying as non-spiritual and non-religious fall under the category of religiously unaffiliated, comprising 72% of this population. They do not subscribe to the beliefs and practices of any organized religion but may still hold personal beliefs and practice spirituality in their own, private manner. The journey into spirituality, free from the confines of organized religion, remains a testament to the increasing number of people seeking direct, personal experiences with the divine, preferring inner enlightenment over external validation. 


  • Being "spiritual but not religious" symbolizes a tendency towards maintaining spirituality as a key element of life, prioritizing personal beliefs and practices over following organized religion.
  • This movement encourages experiencing and being versus just believing, leading to self-discovery sans traditional religious constraints.
  • The acknowledgement of this shift does not discount the value or purpose of organized religions but offers an alternative path for those feeling unfulfilled or disconnected from these structures.
  • The distinction between religion and spirituality aids in assessing if one’s practices are fostering growth and inner peace or serving as a rigid, unfulfilling framework.
  • Most adults proclaiming as non-spiritual and non-religious belong to the religiously unaffiliated group, holding personal beliefs and practicing spirituality in their own, individualized manner.

What Does the Bible Say about the concept of "Spiritual but not religious"?

Religion, as historically understood, consists of communal worship, adherence to a particular set of principles, and often allegiance to a religious institution. Spirituality, on the other hand, could be seen as more of a personal and subjective experience centreing on a connection with the divine, the universe, or the essence of being. So where then does the Bible - central to Christianity - weigh in on this notion of being "spiritual but not religious"? 

The Bible does not use the phrase "spiritual but not religious", but its ethos does lay down certain ground rules that might help us infer an understanding of the phrase's validity in Christian practice. It largely emphasises the importance of personal faith and moral life culminated in God's teachings, with additional stress on communal worship (Hebrews 10:25). It promotes a relationship between the individual and God, not just ritualistic faith but active belief and obedience to God. 

In the New Testament book of James (James 1:27), the author gives us a clear picture of what religion should look like from a biblical perspective – performing good deeds, caring for the needy, and leading a life not stained by worldly ways. Essentially, while religious practices are acknowledged, the emphasis is on living a life of love, embodiment of ethical values and maintaining a spiritual connection with the divine. This can resonate with the essence of being "spiritual but not religious", where individual growth, self-actualization and connection with a higher power are sought. 

However, it is also worth noting that Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, often criticized religious belief leaders for their legalistic and externalistic practices, emphasizing instead, the internal transformation of individuals (Matthew 23:27-28). This seems to underline a critical caution, that rituals and traditions, void of internal spirituality, lack true value. 

Therefore, while Christianity upholds the importance of community and traditional practices, it also insists upon the spiritual awakening and development of individual believers. Both the aspects have their places within the biblical framework.  


  • Biblical perspective: The Bible does not directly address the concept of being "spiritual but not religious", but it promotes personal faith, moral life, and community worship.
  • Religion in the Bible: The Bible endorses performing good deeds, caring for the needy, and leading a morally upright life.
  • Jesus Christ's teaching: Christ emphasizes on inner transformation rather than mere participation in rituals and traditions.
  • Christianity: It insists on combination of both communal religious practices and personal spiritual awakening for holistic religious experience.

What Does the Catholic Church Say about the concept of "Spiritual but not religious"?

The Catholic Church, while recognizing the validity and importance of individual spiritual experiences, holds organized, formal religion, specifically itself, as central to the human experience of the divine. From this perspective, being "Spiritual but not religious" can be seen as an incomplete spiritual journey. 

Viewed through the lens of centuries-old theological doctrine, Church advocates the necessity of community, organized worship, and sacraments in cultivating and sustaining a deep and fulfilling relationship with God. The Church maintains that these elements are essential tools given by God to aid humanity in achieving salvation and understanding His will. And while personal spiritual practices are not denied or condemned, they are seen as supplemental to, rather than substitutes for, participation in the Church. 

Consequently, those who identify themselves as "Spiritual but not religious" may be seen within the Church as being on a spiritual journey, albeit one perhaps not yet fully rooted in communal worship and sacramental life. The Church, true to its evangelical call, sees it as a task to welcome, guide and accompany these individuals in their journey, inviting them into the broader faith community. 

The wisdom within the rich history and theology of the Catholic Church, in its viewpoint, provides unparalleled spiritual resources and direction that might be missed in a purely personal and non-institutional approach to spirituality. In the Catholic perspective, the tapestry of the Divine can only be fully appreciated within the intricate interweaving of individual spirituality and communal religious life. 

Ultimately, it is in the balance of the deeply personal and the communal aspects of faith, the Church argues, that one finds a spiritual fulfillment that is both humanly authentic and divinely ordained. 


  • The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of individual spiritual experiences, but views being "Spiritual but not religious" as an incomplete spiritual journey.
  • The Church advocates for the necessity of community, organized worship, and sacraments in cultivating a fulfilling relationship with God.
  • Personal spiritual practices are seen as supplemental to, rather than substitutes for, participation in the Church.
  • The Church invites those who identify as "Spiritual but not religious" into the broader faith community, aiming to guide and accompany them in their spiritual journey.
  • In the Catholic perspective, the intricate interplay of individual spirituality and communal religious life allows for a full appreciation of the Divine.
  • It is in the balance of personal and communal aspects of faith that one can find authentic and divinely ordained spiritual fulfillment, according to the Church.

How does the belief system the concept of "Spiritual but not religious" contrast with Christianity?

The belief system encapsulated by the phrase "Spiritual but not religious" is, in many ways, a marked contrast to traditional Christianity. It cherishes individuality and independent thought, emphasizing a personal journey to spiritual enlightenment free from the specific doctrines and rituals common in organized religions. The anchor of this belief system is a deeply intimate relationship with oneself and the universe, a relationship cultivated through introspection, meditation, and personal rituals. There are no holy scriptures, no clergy, and no prescribed path to follow. It is, in essence, an internally sourced spirituality. 

Christianity, on the other hand, is built upon a set of established doctrines rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, which are recorded in the Bible. The spiritual journey within Christianity is guided by these teachings and often mediated through institutions, such as church communities or clergy. Believers gather routinely for communal worship, partaking in rituals such as sacraments and liturgy. The focus of Christianity, therefore, leans more towards external expressions of faith and communal spirituality, guided by a recognized path towards salvation, as delineated in Christian traditions. 

Despite these stark differences, it's not to say that internal spirituality is absent in Christianity, or that individuals identifying as "Spiritual but not religious" do not participate in communal activities. However, the characteristics and focus of each belief system highlight the contrast in approaches towards spirituality, encapsulated by the classification of one as a religion, the other as a spiritual orientation. 


  • "Spiritual but not religious" emphasizes individuality and a personal journey to spiritual enlightenment.
  • Christianity is an formal religion with established doctrines, focusing on communal expressions of faith and spirituality.
  • "Spiritual but not religious" individuals nurture an intimate relationship with themselves and the universe, sans a specific religious framework.
  • Christians follow the teachings and path to salvation as delineated in Christian traditions, mediated through religious institutions.
  • In both belief systems, internal spirituality and communal engagements can occur, but their emphasis and methods distinguish the two.

Can a person be both "Spiritual but not religious" and Christian?

It is indeed possible to adopt a worldview where one considers oneself both as 'Spiritual but not religious' and Christian. This seemingly paradoxical stance arises when one delves deep into the crux of these concepts. Remember, 'Spiritual but not religious' is a stance signifying preference of personal spiritual experiences over formalized religion. Whereas Christianity, in its essence, is a formal religion based on particular doctrines and practices. Yet, it is also introduces a profound spirituality woven intricately through its practices and beliefs. 

Does this mean the intersection of ‘Spiritual but not religious’ and Christianity is an easy balance to attain? History whispers to us, narrating tales of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of religious individuals navigating their own spiritual landscapes. In the dizzying maze of life, these spiritual pilgrims have trod their unique paths, amalgamating elements of Christianity with personalised spiritual beliefs. 

Take, for instance, Christian Mystics who emphasized a personal, intimate experience with the Divine over institutionalized religious practices. They remind us again of the ever-present dialogue between individual spirituality and structured religion. 

Even in this modern era, where boundaries between concepts grow ever more fluid, the fusion of ‘Spiritual but not religious’ and Christianity continues to bloom. In fact, a growing body of believers approach their faith with a worldview embedded in personal spirituality and ignited by a love for the Christian God. Avoiding strict rituals and dogmas, they connect directly with the Divine, much like their early Christian predecessors did. Hence, fostering a reinterpretation of Christianity from a perspective of personal, inward spiritual journey that resonates with the concept of being 'Spiritual but not a religious person'. 


  • Being 'Spiritual but not religious' and Christian simultaneously is a possibility, and many have embraced this unique spiritual identity.
  • Historically, there have been Christian Mystics who prioritized an intimate, personal connection with the Divine than following established religious practices.
  • In the modern era, the overlap between these two concepts continues to expand, with many Christians adopting a more individualized, personal spiritual path.
  • Such believers often avoid stringent rituals and dogmas, choosing instead to nurture their direct connection with the Christian God through their spiritual inclinations.

Are there any similarities between the concept of "Spiritual but not religious" and Christianity?

Residing in the same landscape of metaphysical understanding, the concept of being “Spiritual but not religious” and Christianity do share some key similarities. Each one invites a recourse to a higher power or divine entity. In both, there is an acknowledgment of life beyond the physical realm, a sense of transcendence, if you will. This common thread highlights a shared quest for enlightenment, an understanding that embraces spiritual realities that supersede our mortal existence. In essence, each one speaks to the human yearning for a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Whether it's Christianity or the notion of being a spiritual person, but not a religious person, both paths aim to provide answers that appease this yearning. 

Another striking correspondence lies in the arena of ethical living. Both Christianity and the spiritual, yet non-religious philosophy encourage a life guided by positive values. Notwithstanding the variation in specifics, the core underpinnings of love, compassion, forgiveness, and selflessness remain universally acknowledged. To meditate on such values and tenets daily might be considered prayer by some or contemplative thought by others. Thus, it could be argued that both philosophies embrace a form of prayer or meditation as central to their practice. 

However, let's be abundantly clear. Such similarities may try to blur the lines between Christianity and spirituality, but they are indeed separate entities. They are parallel rivers with distinct sources, even if they occasionally converge in the vast ocean of human existential thought. The distinctions between the two are as important as their overlaps, providing each their unique identities. 


  • Both Christianity and being Spiritual but not religious believe in the existence of a life beyond physical reality and in a higher, divine power.
  • Each ideology seeks to answer humanity's deep-seated need for purpose and meaning in life.
  • At their heart, both philosophies promote values such as compassion, love, forgiveness, and selflessness.
  • A form of prayer or meditation is integral to both Christianity and spiritual practices.

How do the believers in "Spiritual but not religious" view the concept of salvation compared to Christianity?

Within the Christian faith, salvation often plays a central role in religious belief and is intrinsically tied to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christianity employs terms like faith, grace, and redemption, framing salvation as an external gift given by God because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. It navigates us through our earthly existence with the promise of an eternal reunion with our Creator. This notion inclines us to pose the question, hence, how can salvation be perceived outside the traditional concept of religion, specifically in the minds of those who identify as "spiritual but not religious"? 

Those who subscribe to the "spiritual but not religious" view generally conceptualize salvation quite differently. In their understanding, salvation does not necessitate a belief in a personal savior or an afterlife. Rather, it is the journey of constant self-improvement, personal growth, and attaining inner peace. This viewpoint encapsulates an ongoing process of enlightenment derived from self-introspection, mindfulness, and an intimate connection with one's inner self. Here, salvation is inherent in the journey itself, not a distant end-goal. 

Thus, it's clear that the perception of salvation between those who are spiritual but not religious, and devout Christians, represents a significant point of divergence. In Christianity, salvation is an ultimate goal, underpinned by a theological narrative that influences moral and ethical decisions. In contrast, for the 'spiritual', the focus is on the process of inner enlightenment, growth, and transformation. Both perspectives seek peace and sanctification, yet their methods and underlying beliefs present a marked contrast between adherents of Christianity and those who veer more towards spirituality without religious affiliation. 


  • Christianity perceives salvation as an external gift from God, intimately tied to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • The 'spiritual but not religious' view salvation as an ongoing process of self-improvement, personal growth, and achieving inner peace, independent from the belief in a personal savior or afterlife.
  • The Christian narrative incorporates salvation as a future actuality, assured and anticipated, whereas in spiritualism, salvation is found within the journey itself, unfolding with every step towards mindfulness and enlightenment.

Does the understanding of good and evil differ between the believers in "Spiritual but not religious" and Christianity?

Good and evil, concepts often put in stark contrast, hold significantly different interpretations in the worldviews of spirituality and Christianity. The ideas orbit around questions of morality and Karma, sin and redemption, self-realization, and divine judgment. These questions have been cradled within the conscience of humanity for centuries, prompting us to delve deeper into the chasm between spirituality and Christianity. 

On a fundamental level, those who choose to follow a spiritual path rather than a religious one often perceive good and evil as two sides of the same coin, integral parts of the human experience. They believe in the connection between all living beings and the universe. Actions, therefore, positive or negative, reverberate throughout this interconnected system, creating a sort of spiritual cosmos of cause and effect. This concept closely resembles the Eastern understanding of Karma, where individual experiences are perceived as the results of one's actions. There isn't a binary judgment of good or bad; rather life is a transformative journey of lessons learned from experiences. 

Go a few millennia back and enter Christianity, where the perception of good and evil is more dichotomous. Rooted in the doctrines of sin and redemption, Christianity perceives good as adherence to the commands of God and evil as defiance against them. Actions are seen within the context of sin and virtue, with the promise of heaven for the virtuous and the threat of hell for the sinners. Fundamental to Christianity is the belief in the Original Sin and the potential for redemption through accepting Jesus Christ. The moral compass here is less directed by subjective experience and more by divine commandments, leading to two distinct paths - one towards salvation, the other towards damnation. 

In conclusion, the concept of good and evil differs starkly between a spiritual worldview and a Christian one. They both operate within their understandings, reflecting human responses to the eternal quest of our moral inclinations. 


  • Spirituality sees good and evil as two sides of the same coin, integral parts of the human experience and the broader cosmos.
  • The spiritual understanding of good and evil closely resembles the concept of Karma, where life is perceived as a continual journey of transformative experiences.
  • Christianity, contrastingly, perceives good and evil as distinct paths dictated by divine commandments, leading either to salvation or damnation.
  • The Christian understanding of good and evil is closely tied to concepts of Original Sin and redemption through Jesus Christ.

What are the differences in the community aspect between spirituality and Christianity?

Both spirituality and Christianity have unique ways of establishing a sense of community, interact socially and celebrate their faith. The very essence of Christianity is woven around the idea of a community of believers, often structured and organized. This communal aspect is rooted in the Biblical notion of 'koinonia,' a Greek term translating into fellowship or community. Mahatma Gandhi once observed that a religion that does not bind its followers in one bond of genuine fellowship tells a sad tale of lack of depth. Structured Christian communities, be it a neighborhood church or mega-church, foster this fellowship. Traditions, sacraments, gatherings, worshipping together, and spiritual learning form an integral part of this fellowship. 

Spirituality, on the other hand, being inherently personal and internal, often has a much looser interpretation of community. Spiritual communities tend to be less rigid and are primarily based on shared experiences, values, and personal growth rather than adhering to an institutionalized faith system. Individuals following a spiritual path may still form communities, but these are often informal, perhaps even virtual, and may not possess the traditional markers associated with a communal celebration of faith. 

While both Christianity and spirituality can foster a deep sense of belonging and community, the nature of these communities differ significantly. Christians tend to gather with intent, in assigned sacred places and specific times, to honor God collectively and to serve others, while those identifying as spiritual may find their sense of community in smaller, less formal gatherings, focused on shared ideas and holistic growth. The lack of institutionalized structure in spiritual communities may provide a larger breadth for inclusion and acceptance of diverse beliefs and practices. 


  • Christianity fosters community through structured gatherings and rituals, rooted in biblical teachings and sacraments.
  • Spiritual communities tend to be more informal, fluid, and based on shared values, personal growth and experiences rather than a rigid belief system.
  • The nature of community in spirituality may offer a larger breadth for the acceptance and inclusion of diverse beliefs, while Christian communities are bound by shared doctrines.
  • While both systems establish a sense of belonging, the manner in which Christians and those who identify as spiritual interact socially can significantly differ.

How is Jesus Christ viewed among the "Spiritual but not religious" community?

In embarking on our exploration of how Jesus Christ is perceived in the "Spiritual but not religious" community, it is important to first understand that this community is not monolithic. The views expressed are as varied as the individuals who identify with this descriptor, in much the same way that interpretations of Jesus Christ can vary widely within Christianity itself. 

In a broad sense, those who identify as "Spiritual but not religious" (SBNR) often view Jesus Christ not as a religious figure, but as a spiritual guide, a prophet, or a highly realized spiritual figure. It is not uncommon for individuals in this group to draw parallels between Jesus and other spiritual icons, such as Buddha, emphasizing their messages of love, compassion, and enlightenment over institutional religious doctrines. 

This perspective remembers the historical Jesus, a man who was, in truth, spiritual but not religious in his own right. He preached for personal transformation and communion with the divine, fostering an inclusive worldview free of the rigid constraints that can often characterize organized religions. The distinction is thus not so much about the person of Jesus, but about how his messages and teachings are interpreted and applied in the individual's life. 

However, it must be stressed that for many within the SBNR community, the barrier is not with Jesus Christ, but with the institutional practices and doctrines that have been constructed around him over centuries. They often express a desire to return to his original teachings, devoid of later religious accretions. Such a view allows them to appreciate Jesus as a spiritual figure without feeling obliged to accept every aspect of Christian dogma. 


  • Individuals in the "Spiritual but not religious" community often view Jesus Christ as a spiritual guide or a prophet, brushing aside the religious trappings often associated with him.
  • SBNRs may draw parallels between Jesus and other figureheads of spiritual wisdom, with emphasis placed on his teachings of love and compassion, rather than institutional doctrines.
  • The historical Jesus, a spiritual figure in his own right, holds appeal for those seeking a more inclusive spirituality outside of religious institutions.
  • For many in the SBNR community, the focus is often on embracing the original teachings of Jesus, unhindered by religious constructs and practices that later evolved.

How does the pursuit of truth differ in spirituality and Christianity?

Let us turn our gaze, dear reader, towards the pursuit of truth in both spirituality and Christianity. This exploration demands both a sensitive approach and a rigorous examination of facts. Fundamentally, we find seers of truth in both arenas, though the methods and final destinations may differ significantly. 

In the sphere of spirituality, truth is often viewed as an inherently subjective concept, something that each individual must seek within themselves. This quest may encompass an examination of one's life, values, and existence. It's a journey more than a destination, propelled by the joy of seeking rather than the need to reach a definite endpoint. The emphasis is on personal growth, self-awareness, and a state of being, rather than strict adherence to belief systems or dogma. The seekers of spiritual truth delve deep beyond the outer world to perceive the profound truth of existence, thus, experiencing a transcendental and transformational journey. 

In contrast, Christianity posits that truth comes from the word of God as echoed in the Bible, with Jesus Christ being "the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It emphasizes the exploration of objective truths about good and evil, right and wrong. The onus on belief is greater, with the premise that salvation stems from faith in Jesus Christ, rather than a dogged pursuit of self-exploration. This faith, when followed with obedience, leads to a sense of purpose and the ultimate truth of eternal life in Christ. 

In essence, spirituality promotes an ever-deepening relationship with oneself and the universe, pursuing subjective truths that lead to personal growth and transcendence. Conversely, Christianity underscores the pursuit of objective truths through faith and obedience to the teachings of Christ. While both undertake the pursuit of truth, the paths they tread and the destinations they steer towards are fundamentally different. 


  • Spirituality sees truth as a subjective concept to be sought within oneself, focusing on personal growth, awareness, and inner transformation.
  • In spirituality, the pursuit of truth is a journey, emphasizing the process of becoming rather than reaching a predetermined end.
  • Christianity posits truth as an objective concept derived from the word of God, emphasizing faith and obedience to divine teachings.
  • In Christianity, the pursuit of truth is anchored in the belief in Christ, leading to a sense of purpose and eternal life.

Facts & Stats

65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians

26% of American adults now describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In Europe, 75% of adults identify as Christian while 18% describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In Asia, 31% of adults identify as Christian while 20% describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In Australia, 52% of adults identify as Christian while 30% describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In Latin America, 85% of adults identify as Christian compared to 10% who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In Canada, 67% of adults identify as Christian while 29% describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

In the United Kingdom, 59% of adults identify as Christian while 20% describe themselves as spiritual but not religious

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