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What it really means to be spiritual

“Spiritual but not religious.”

How often have we heard someone describe themselves this way and thought, “Well, at least there’s hope” – hope, that is, that even though the number of people who revere all things sacred and divine but reject organized religion is going up, that one day, some day – if only a small percentage of these folks would reconsider their position – our pews might once again be packed.

It’s not that I disagree entirely with this line of reasoning. I’m just not sure I want to pin my hopes on whether or not I’m able to convince someone – even someone who identifies themselves as spiritual – to give church a chance.

I suppose this is because of what I assume most people mean by the word “spiritual.”

Whenever I use this word to describe myself, it means that I see myself as fundamentally spiritual in nature, the matter-free reflection of Spirit itself. The same goes for how I see others. Chances are, however, that were you to ask someone walking down the street what spiritual means to them, they’d probably say that it’s simply the best way to describe their own or another’s interest in spiritual things.

Whether or not such an interest leads to someone becoming more religious is anyone’s guess. On the other hand, to the degree that we identify others as not simply having some level of curiosity about spiritual things, but as God sees them – as God’s wholly spiritual expression, naturally inclined to engage in those activities, including religion, that encourage and nurture a better understanding of the Divine – I think we might see an uptick in church attendance.

The goal here, of course, is not about getting more people to come to church but to support our fellowman’s yearning – conscious or not – to have a deeper appreciation of what it really means to be spiritual, to know themselves as God knows them.

“The calm, strong currents of true spirituality,” writes Mary Baker Eddy (SH p. 99), “the manifestations of which are health, purity, and self-immolation, must deepen human experience, until the beliefs of material existence are seen to be a bald imposition, and sin, disease, and death give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God’s spiritual, perfect man.”

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