“I’m Spiritual.” Nice try.

When someone says they are ‘spiritual’, all they are really saying is that they are willing to confuse and irritate people.


It is just a bad word. Don’t use it.

From my experience people can mean very different things when they say they are ‘spiritual’.

Some people use it to mean that they don’t like organised religion, but still subscribe to a specific religion individually (Theism).

Others use it to mean that they don’t subscribe to any particular religion, but believe broadly in a personal god (Deism).

Others use it to mean that they don’t believe in any god/s, but they believe in a soul (or in other cases, in a universal collective consciousness or life force: Pantheism).

Others say they are ‘spiritual’ to indicate that they are receptive to claims of paranormal phenomena, supernatural forces, and spooky ghost stories (this attitude would be included in what James Randi calls “Woo woo”).

Others use it to indicate that they don’t believe in any particular supernatural or paranormal concepts, but they also don’t like the purely scientific/naturalistic explanation of the universe. When they say that they are ‘spiritual’, they mean quite simply that they like to think that there is something more (eg Colloquial understanding of ‘agnostic’). This is the most vague usage that I know of.

Some atheists use ‘spiritual’ to indicate that, even though they are happy with a purely scientific explanation of the universe, they also like being alive, and they appreciate the beauty, awe, and wonder in the natural world and in their own lives (eg Humanism).

This is a mess.

What are you saying by saying that you are ‘spiritual’? You are effectively refraining from saying anything. If you are trying to employ ambiguity to avoid being lumped into a particular box, all you are doing is leaving people’s categorisation of you up to chance, depending on their strongest associations with the word. They may think you mean any one of the above definitions, or something else entirely.

You may be hoping to avoid actually committing yourself to any particular belief or idea, but you aren’t fooling me. My next question is going to be, “What exactly do you believe?” immediately followed by, “Why?”

Unless you want to cause confusion, just don’t use the word “spiritual”. Try explaining your perspective instead.

2 thoughts on ““I’m Spiritual.” Nice try.

  1. Sigh, Dominicus, you have terrible trouble with human beings and their natural language. They are all about being fuzzy and confused. They’ve made language for exactly that purpose. It leaves them feeling warm and comfortable and, well, spiritual. How could we ever get by if everyone always knew the exact meaning of everything.

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