Spiritual but not Religious? Here’s What it Means to Be Spiritual

Jump Start Your Spiritual Life - words on blue setting

Many of those we minister to these days will use the description, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” to describe themselves. This typically means that they seek a relationship with God but are wary, disillusioned, or just not attracted by institutional religion or denominations. One of the problems that folks in this situation encounter, however, is that being “spiritual” can be a very nebulous notion. We can help those interested in a deeper spiritual life by offering them specifics!

First and foremost, to be spiritual means to be open to/aware of the reality of God—a Power beyond ourselves—and to seek to participate in the Divine life. Throughout human history, people who seek to encounter God have attested to the belief that God has revealed certain things about God’s self so that we can know who it is we are encountering and how we can participate in the life of God. Here are ten things that God has revealed about God’s self that enable us to participate in the Divine life—a spiritual life.

  1. God is creative. God’s first act is to create all of reality. We can participate in the Divine life by expressing ourselves creatively and engaging in creative activities.
  2. God is relational. God is all about forming community and, in the Christian tradition, God is community (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We can participate in the Divine life by fostering community, beginning with simple things such as hosting a dinner party for friends.
  3. God is compassionate. God’s primary characteristic is compassion for those who are suffering or vulnerable. We can participate in the Divine life by spending time with those in need and responding to their needs.
  4. God loves creation. God’s presence is reflected in the natural world. We can participate in the Divine life by spending some time in nature and savoring the experience.
  5. God is reconciling. God seeks to mend, heal, and rescue. We can participate in the Divine life by letting go of grudges and reconnecting with people we’ve been keeping at a distance.
  6. God is found in simplicity. God has always warned that material possessions can get in the way of encountering him. We can participate in the Divine life by simplifying our lives, reducing our possessions, and giving things away.
  7. God speaks in silence. God has a unique language that transcends words. We can participate in the Divine life by carving out regular quiet time to allow our hearts to listen to God speaking to us.
  8. God is generous. God seeks to share God’s self with us. In the Christian tradition, this is best expressed by sending us his only Son, Jesus, to become one of us. We can participate in the Divine life by selflessly sharing our time, talent, and treasure with others.
  9. God is selfless. For Christians, God’s love is expressed most powerfully in Jesus selflessly laying down his life for us. We can participate in the Divine life by “laying down our lives”—engaging in activities that put the needs of others before our own needs.
  10. God is the source of all goodness. All good things come from God, who provides myriad blessings and graces to abound in our lives. We can participate in the Divine life by expressing gratitude to God and to others for so many things we have not earned.

Jump start your spiritual life with 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness, Simple Faith, or The Power of Pause.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Joe
    I have found that at this point in my life by doing one of these things well you are really doing all of them. Right now I am reducing my possessions. This also turns out to be an expression of my gratitude to God God for my life, for my existence. I do that in silence remembering God’s gifts and thinking of those who will receive this charity. Creation is given for us as stewards to use and then give away. You don’t have to be a nature to experience the presence of God’s creativity.

  2. Joe-I am trying to instruct my teen age granddaughter who will be graduating from high school next spring. She is a serious student and wants to enter nursing school. The problem is that her divorced parents have never given her any religious training so it has never been part of her life. Now, as her grand father, I am trying to introduce her to God on the QT via the email since we live over a thousand miles apart. The hope is to get her eventually to the baptism font. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Thanks for your comment, John. It would not be appropriate for me to publicly offer any advice given the complexity and delicacy of the situation. I hope you understand.

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