Some Thoughts about the Integration of Spirituality and Religion

Here are some thoughts about the stance on being “Spiritual but not religious.” You may not necessarily agree with this but this stance is more or less a taste of what we, the Church, would like to convey.

The tendency of people who claim to be Spiritual but not religious is to treat faith as if it were a buffet: cherry-picking only the good parts and leaving the rest behind (as explained by the meme above). It’s convenient and satisfying but it doesn’t capture the essence of real faith.

To start-off, faith is a relationship. In our case, it’s a relationship with a deity called God. Just like any human reality, authentic relationships are not meant to be convenient; if they were, they become self-serving fantasies. It’s similar to a no-labels type of romantic relationship, which is fun but ultimately empty. Convenience, although a necessity in life, tends to create in us certain self-defeating fantasies. In connection to faith, when we simply pick out what is “good” in religion and mix them together like yang chow, we start to miss the point. Faith, just like any relationship, is designed to be inconvenient to help us grow. A faith that staunches growth should be abandoned. (On the side note: It makes us wonder, is self-autonomy a possible roadblock to growth? Is a faith-life unexamined by others really a faith that will help us live better?) Thus, faith is a relationship with a person; not with our self-serving, self-defeating fantasies. Faith is demands so that we can get more out of life.  A spirituality that does not lead to this understanding of faith is ultimately a cancer.

Lastly, Faith is a matter of reciprocity because it is a two-way street. Has it ever occurred to us that God did not treat us like a buffet: picking only what’s good and leaving behind the unwanted? Our Catholic faith insists and has good reason to believe that He didn’t come down to offer salvation (healing) to the able, but more importantly to the sick. He accepted us from head to toe and even wove each strand of our hair in our mother’s womb (Psalms). Thus, would it not be justice if we related with Him (through others and the world) in an inclusive manner?

In summary, if your aim is to develop a personal but life-giving spirituality, it needs a check-in balance system to make sure it does just that. This check-in balance is easily provided by organized religion. In other words, explore but eventually stick to one religion. Although God can be found everywhere, you need to start somewhere. And that somewhere is usually the first religion that you are introduced to.


Case Analyses: Spirituality and Religion

Instructions: Assign a LEADER, TIME KEEPER, SCRIBE, and REPORTER. Work on this for 10 minutes. 1 post per group.

Case 1: Hi, I’m Christian and I’m a Christian. Being a Christian is really simple: you need to pray and keep the commandments. That’s it! For as long as you constantly talk to God, talk about your day with Him and try to keep your life as holy as you can by avoiding what the commandments want us to avoid, we’re pretty much on our way to God! So be a Christian: Pray and Obey!

Guide Question: What does this case imply about Christian Spirituality? What are possible problems posed by this case?

Case 2: Do you really think God is concerned about our petty little problems? I don’t think so. There are bigger problems out there than our own. I think God is busier trying to help people like me, a Social worker, bring justice to those who are looked down upon. I really support the church and its social teachings about alleviating the chronic poverty many people experience but I just feel that we’ll get more than if we spent our Sundays helping the poor instead of holding masses.

Guide Question: What does this case imply about Christian Spirituality? What are possible problems posed by this case?

Case 3: Read Luke 15: 25 – 32. The focus will be on the Older brother who was clearly bitter at the Father’s decision and how the father show cased love.

Guide Question: What does this the parable imply about Christian Spirituality? What are possible problems posed by this parable?

Case 4: Hello, I’m Mama Pia. I’m a single mother of 2 boys who both study in private schools. As a mom, I want to give them the best that life has to offer. As a result, not only do I work for them, I pray hard with them as well. I make sure they remember the commandments and to pray the rosary. As a family activity, we often visit those people in the home for the aged. There we get to bond and help out at the same time! Although I try to make it to mass during Sundays but that has simply not been part of my priorities.  Maybe someday I’ll attend it regularly but not anytime soon.

Guide Question: What does this case imply about Christian Spirituality? What are possible problems posed by this case?
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Supplementary Notes On Jeff Bethke’s Video

Below some links to a critique on Jeff Bethke’s video by a religious authority and how Jeff was humbled by it.

Article One: Critique on Jeff Bethke’s Video
Article Two: A Report on Jeff Bethke’s Response:

Side note: Notice how Religion and Spirituality interact with each other to clarify their direction towards God. Ideally, we do not “prefer” one over the other but instead we live in the TENSION of both. To find peace within the tension (and abandoning the desire to eliminate that tension) is one of our goals in life. After all, the tension is where the Paschal Mystery is. Or, let’s put it this way: life is always changing. Therefore, we need to embrace the constant change (the tension caused by the movement that is change).

Supplementary Materials on Spirituality and Religion

For those who want to expand their understanding of the topic and Spirituality and Religion, you may refer to the following links below. I’ve provided some points of reflection that should help you re-think things though you may not necessarily agree with them. Enjoy!


Title: Religious vs Spiritual: Study says that truly ‘spiritual but not religious’ are hard to find
Question: What is our measure of religiosity and spirituality?
Type: Online Article
Summary: This article asserts that lack of understanding of what it actually means to be spiritual but not religious. It outlines what are the common (mis)understandings surrounding the topic and how there is a need to be more reflective and critical with what we claim to believe in.
Estimated Length of Article: 20 reading minutes.
Point of Reflection: Do we really understand what we claim to believe in?
Title: Spiritual, but not religious
Type: Video Presentation
Main Question: Do we need the structure of a religion to be faithful?
Summary: We do need structure and a community to practice faith. Despite this insight, fewer and fewer people are attending the Church activities because they subscribe to a “Burger King Spirituality” due to the lack of spiritual sustenance provided by organized religion. But this search for self-sustenance is often a character defect–which could lead to further complications.
Estimated Length of Article: 8 minutes.
Point of reflection: Is our spirituality so personal that we cannot bear to have it examined by others?
Title: The Spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study says
Main Question: Is being Religious the healthier choice?
Type: Online Blog
Summary: The Article Lists down reasons why people who are not affiliated with an organized religion lack outlets that benefit well-being: social support, attachment to a loving God, and the organized practice of prayer.
Estimated Length of Article: 5-10 minutes
Point of Reflection: Spirituality is supposed to aid in our overall human development. How can it be holistic if practicing it outside of a structure and community goes against our basic human nature to be social?

Spirituality and Religion Activity

Your task is to investigate the connection/s between Spirituality and Religion. For reference, kindly visit the following websites:

“Spiritual and Religious: A Task” by Jason Brauninger, S.J.

“What is the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality” by Catholic Goodnews Apostolate

Discuss and answer the following questions:

  1. What is spirituality and religion?
  2. Why do people consider them important in Christianity?
  3. Can spirituality survive on its own? Why does it need the other?


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PITSTOP: Time with Myself

Give yourself some time to work on this reflection. In a coherent and comprehensive manner, compose a reflection to the following points:

  1. What are the things that I like about myself?
  2. What are the things I need to change in my life? Or what are the things in my life that I wish I lived without?
  3. What are the things that make you happy? How can you make yourself happier?
  4. What are the difficulties you are going through right now? How do you want to be comforted? How can you console yourself the way you want to?
  5. What is it about yourself that you feel you need to pay more attention to? What can you do today to be more attentive to yourself?
  6. How can you befriend yourself better today?
  7. How does befriending yourself relate to your spirituality?