Spiritual But Not Religious

The SBNR Myth


Apparently it is becoming common for many people to identify themselves as, Spiritual But Not Religious.” There’s even a web site dedicated to that notion. Let’s take a closer look at what they are saying by looking at the key terms, Spiritual and Religious.

*   Spiritual concerns spirit things. It’s trying to be like spirit related things. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

*   Religious means devout or pious. Exceptionally scrupulous or conscientious.  Most often applied to a belief in God. But it also applies to a belief in gods that are not gods.

So what are they trying to say, “I am very much interested in spirit things but I am not very devout or conscientious concerning religious matters?” Clearly this is not what they intend to convey but it is not far off of what they actually live. They want you to believe they are very good but not interested in Church or the things relating to church.


Question: How can they even know good and bad without being religious? Without the Bible how would we know that lying, adultery, stealing, murdering are not good?  Without religion there can be no dedication to right and wrong because right and wrong cannot be known.

*   (Judg 17:6 NIV)  In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

It is only because of King Jesus that we have true knowledge of such matters. A truly spiritual person would be very much interested in the Bible and the law laid down therein.

*   (Rom 7:14 KJV)  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.


The SBNR people would like to be free to follow their own carnal desires rather than follow the Spirit of God.

*   (Rom 8:5 NIV)  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

There can be know doubt, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, wants religious people. People that study to show themselves approve and get together on a regular basis. That is what devout and pious people do. That is what religious people do.

*   (2 Tim 2:15 KJV)  Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

*   (Heb 10:25 NIV)  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

*   (1 Cor 2:13-14 NIV)  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. {14} The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.


But wait. There are people that are spiritual but despise church. How about those that worship the devil for example? Satan is a spirit being and it could be argued that Satanists are spiritual people and they certainly are not going to be interest in going to church. So perhaps we should be asking which spirit they find themselves interested in. Perhaps they are deceived!



*   (Gal 6:1-2 NIV)  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. {2} Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


We receive all good things from God, the author of all good gifts. Those gifts are spiritual blessings. If a person claims to be spiritual as a good thing but rejects religion then either they are not spiritual or it is the wrong spirit or spirits they are pursuing.

*   (Eph 1:3 NIV)  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Here is what we expect of the truly Spiritual man.

*   (Eph 5:19-20 NIV)  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, {20} always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

*   (Col 3:16 KJV)  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


I want you to consider the proper response to people that try to escape a conviction by redefining terms and thereby excusing themselves from becoming truly Spiritual. First recognize that such a person is not the enemy. Such a person is being deceived by the enemy: A spiritual enemy.

*   (Eph 6:12 KJV)  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

So we need to show love, compassion, and a sincere interest in such a person but also a firmness and conviction that will serve to anchor us and hopefully them.

*   (Col 1:9 NIV)  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.


It seems reasonable to think an SBNR claimant might actually want to be spiritual. Think of them as someone on a journey but not knowing how to get to their destination. They need a guide, a teacher, someone that knows the way. You are that someone!