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Question from a newbie to this forum, but not a newbie Atheist. 🙂 I have asked many people this, and the answers are as varied as the people.

When we label ourselves Atheist, Agnostic, or whatever, what are your thoughts about "spiritual but not religious?

I've often labeled myself (because humans love to pigeonhole) a "spiritual humanist" or some such, because although I see no god/dess/es personally, I DO think we are connected, a la Jung, etc., through some type of energy that our forebears considered "god" because they had no other way to describe our human connection.

If there is energy, aka spirit, does calling oneself "spiritual" automatically label one as believing in a god?

poetdi56 7 Jan 22

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I think the true nature of the Universe is unknowable, although our planet is imbued with amazing unique beings, we are not privileged to understand the nature or meaning of existence. we evolved to survive on tiny planet around an average star in the unimaginable abyss of space and time. That is not to say we should not endeavor to search for meaning in the meaningless. The problem arises when we become certain of our lot in life. at which point we become intellectually stagnant. But then again my musings are all conjecture. Enjoy your life, wonder at the marvel, never assume anyone has all the answers .


It does seem more acceptable than a being being born to a tramp with no home....via miraculous conception....and three wise men following a star they can never reach....we all had to start theory is life started as bacteria....and over millions of years....evolved into super bacteria and bigger bacteria’s easy to see y we may be connected...I still don’t fully understand how the world became mixed race and language and beliefs.....I’m still reading theories on that one lol....


I don't honestly connect religious people with a belief in god because what they really done is attached themselves to the system of rules created by men that they feel most comfortable following. Spiritual but not religious kind of in my mind implies a rejection of religion but hope for a 'higher power'. Each person has to define and create their own belief system.


Like many others I have no idea what is meant by spiritual. When I have asked people who say they are spiritual what they mean they are usually unable to explain without the word spirit and everything they mention is about feelings or emotions.

Do I have feelings and emotions? - yes. Is there anything supernatural about them? - no.

Do we understand everything about our emotions and why some people are slaves to them and others can control them? - no, but I have no evidence that there is anything supernatural about this.


Wow - thank you for this great debate. It seems I have found my place here - and thank you for that too! The thing I wrestle with most is labels. I like what so many of you said - it doesn't matter what you call yourself. You alone know your beliefs - or non-belief. I sometimes get myself tangled in knots with semantics! So - I meditate and follow much of the Buddha's teaching for my own inner peace. But, as was mentioned, many Buddhists are atheists - because the Buddha was not, never claimed to be, and indeed argued against being called a god.

Again, many thanks for such a great welcome! I look forward to many more amazing, respectful discussions. What a relief!


I think that people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” don’t NECESSARILY believe in god, but that many do. When I see that I sometimes wonder if people don’t really “believe” in a god but are hesitant to publicly declare that.


It's all woo woo to me. There's no evidence of any mental or telepathic connections between people. We feel "connected" because our brains are similar, we are social and emotional creatures, we empathize, we think and hope and worry and fear the same things in our own separate brains, but there is no reason to think we are "connected" by anything more than empathy and shared experience.


Spiritual is the hot button word that will make rational atheist go more bonkers than Ken Ham in an actual natural history museum! It's the wild card can mean anything term. I recommend never using it because it is much like using the term "god", it means something different to everyone. Don't tell anyone. For me I can be "spiritual" just being at peace alone is quiet meditation about life....shhh....
Most atheists associate the term "spiritual" with the supernatural. I don't necessarily. I think more of quiet complication... don't tell anybody.....

Why not use "serene" or "peaceful" in that instance?


There is so much about what the universe is and how it works that we simply don't know. So, absence of belief in intentional deities without proof is legitimate (IMHO), while spirituality could be interpreted as tapping into that which we don't know or understand. My favorite mystery in this regard is Quantum Mechanics and all that it entails (... or not. Sorry, couldn't resist). I think we are a very long way away from understanding what's around us and I prefer not to censor curiosity, study, and research or contaminate them with ... wishful thinking.


The word 'spiritual' is vague and has too many meanings. It is not a word I like to use under any circumstances because it invariably leads to misunderstandings. Further, I don't think there is any force connecting us in any way. We are connected because we are of the same species and our evolutionary experiences that shaped our minds is similar across the board so that, even if our immediate acculturation is wildly different, we have a common bond shaped over deep time. We are human beings.

As for the labeling, I do it only to clarify my position. Unfortunately, not many understand the real meaning of the word 'atheist' so just that label doesn't serve the purpose. I use several for the purpose of explaining my worldview. Fortunately, the issue rarely ever comes up in general conversation in public. When it does, I make every effort to make my position abundantly clear at the outset. After that, if the other party wants to continue the discussion, there is a basic understanding established.


Spiritual has the word spirit in it.

Be it the energy, the spirit of nature, or the spirit of humanity, it is something a) untestable b) unmeasurable c) undefinable and thus very much in line with how we view gods and religions.

As an experiment, take anyone's claim of being spiritual and substitute "god" in place of what they feel spiritual about. You will find that it sounds EXACTLY the same because, in fact, it is the same.

So yes, IMO, if you label yourself spiritual then you cannot also label yourself atheist or agnostic.

I 100% agree with TMW.


Love is a) untestable b) unmeasurable c) undefinable"

This is what I was talking; substitute "god" for "love" and you have "god is love"... the most famous theological tautology as I see it.

"but in terms of spirit, you can talk about wave lengths or energy. "
Metaphorically, yes.
Literally, no.


"I feel spiritually connected to other people, the earth, and the vast universe we live in. Now, how would you substitute god in there? "

God is within every one of us is a common claim of the theists. Thus your connection to other people can be seen as your connection to god.

1 Corinthians 3:16: Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

The Earth as a Goddess is a very common claim theme in ancient religions; you might know her by her greek name "gaia". Thus your connection to the earth can be again seen as a connection to god.


I think it's ok to feel a kinship or connection with all these elements since there is a physical, definable, measureable basis for those relationships: there is a tangible way that you are connected to people, the earth, and the universe. But when we start talking intangibles and worse, start twisting physics language (energy and wavelengths) in support those "spiritual" intangibles, then I fear we are doing the same thing as theists who twist physics language in support of their "theological" intangibles.

To put it more succinctly, nothing is gained by adding "spiritual" to feeling "spiritually connected"; feeling "connected" is enough IMO


Well, we are talking about how people use the word spiritual vs. religious so we are inherently talking about semantics. 😉

But I'm with you, I'm not black and white either but I need to see the colors of a the kaleidoscope to say that I see the world that way. When we use "spiritual", we are talking about colors we don't see. And unlike infrared and ultraviolet which we can't see directly but can create machines to see for us, there are no machines that allow us to see into the "spiritual" realm.

So, for example, is there a difference in the spiritual connection you have with someone you love vs. someone you hate?

Or the spiritual connection that you have to the gravel in your driveway vs. a mountain in the Himalayas, is there a difference there?

I think if we drill down to how one uses "spiritual connection", we will find it's just s substitute for love and awe and inspiration, especially when looking at something we don't fully understand, (like "the universe" )...
... the same way people use "a connection with god" as a substitute for love and awe and inspiration, especially when looking at things we don't understand.


The word spiritual is not one I like to use myself. Some people use it in a good sense to mean an appreciation of the wonders of the universe and respect for all we don't know. Carl Sagan used it like this. Others use it poorly to mean nonsense, things they can't prove, or to pretend they are on "a higher plane" than everybody else. I dislike this nonsense. I wouldn't automatically judge someone poorly if they use the word; it would depend on what they mean and how they use it.

Right. Does it mean you believe in god but not religion? That you believe that people (and maybe animals) have a “spirit” separate from their physical body? That you believe in crystals or psychics or ghosts? That you meditate? That you feel “connected” to people or to nature? Who knows?

@A2Jennifer Personally, as an atheist, I totally reject mysticism of any and all kinds, including those things you mentioned. I would only use it in a Carl Sagan sense: contemplation of what we know, what we can prove through evidence based thinking, and humility about what we don't yet know. This has nothing to do with religion. Religionists have stolen the word spiritual and corrupted it. It should be wrestled back from them.


I agree with Sam Harris that the word spirit doesn’t necessarily imply anything superstitious. To me it just means attitude or mood. We all have those.

skado Level 8 Jan 22, 2018

You can call yourself anything you want. There are Spiritual People here.


Buddhists are often atheists. Modern Sun worshippers are also atheists, but they feel a spiritual connection to the sun. Pastafarianism is technically a religion that doesn't believe in their God. Jedi don't need to believe in God, yeah, that's a legit thing. I'd say as long as you reject the claim that a god exists, you're an atheist.

Agreed as that is the definition of Atheist.

I disagree Pastafarianism is a religion.

"You disagree, pastafarianism is a religion." Or "You disagree that pastafarianism is a religion?" Theres a big difference between the two statements.

@jayneonacobb I didn't make a mistake. Anyway, context would have let you know that. You claimed it was. My statement could only mean one thing.

@JeffMurray I don't see where the disagreement is. I said that it was technically a religion. That is a correct assessment. Also, punctuation would have clarified the statement. There was no context clue because there was no comma, which made the statement hard to understand as you were agreeing with me. Which renders the comment moot.

@jayneonacobb I was not agreeing with you, hence the omission of the comma. It is not technically a religion, it was meant to be tongue in cheek, making fun of the idiotic notion that should teach intelligent design in public school systems. Furthermore, it is not recognized as a religion in the US. So I disagree that is it a religion, technically or otherwise.

Then your statement was poorly written. It should have read "I disagree that pastafarianism is a religion." Tongue and cheek or not, it is a religion as it has tenants, wide and varying as they may be. It just happens to be a religion that does not believe in its deity as it's main tenant.

You would be wrong about it not being recognized in the US as a religion. Someone sighted religious freedom laws in order to wear a strainer on their head during taking a photo for a driver's license. She was able to do so because religion is protected by the bill of rights. If it wasn't considered a religion that case would have gone the other way.

My statement was perfectly clear, especially in context. Just because other people consistently misuse punctuation, doesn't mean I'm wrong.

While I think it's a travesty of justice that the government is the business of deciding what is and isn't a religion, they do it anyway. (Though it is extremely expensive and time consuming.). There ARE recognized religions, and Pastafarianism isn't on the list, so it is not technically a religion. I imagine the only reason the government doesn't fight the license photos is because it's free for them and helps prevent a legal battle that could potentially cost them millions in legal fees and tax revenue. []

You're missing a conjunction which is a vital part of the sentence when discerning its meaning. Without it you are saying that you think it is a religion, but you claim to disagree. It's just nonsensical. Its a self contradictory statement without the word "that" given the context.
Just because the government doesn't recognize something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


Welcome. Personally, I don't care for labels. I only call myself an atheist because it's easy for people to understand. I don't believe in any kind of "spirituality". Or labels. Be whatever you want to be, call yourself whatever you please.


Welcome 🙂 I don't like labels and never have labelled myself (Except for the purposes of this lovely site) You are who you are, be who you want to be.

Sacha Level 7 Jan 22, 2018

I do not say "atheist", I say "A-theist". In my opinion it sorta takes the bite out of the perceived negativity of the word. I also define my self as a secular humanist.



I'm not spiritual.

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