There are various reasons why people people describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
Some are looking for an excuse not to be committed or responsible to a religious community; others disagree with specific teachings of the church, are scandalized by the human imperfections in organized religion, or feel disillusioned or alienated from traditional religious communities. In many cases, there is a sense that the church has lost track of its main purpose and spends to much time and attention focusing on itself, instead of its mission.
In many cases, individuals who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” are experiencing a natural process of spiritual growth which requires that they step back to re-examine the religious traditions and teachings they learned as children and young adults in order to understand and accept them as adults.
However, because human beings are social beings our faith and our spirituality are always rooted in a faith community; they are nurtured, expressed, affirmed, and celebrated in a community which shares our fundamental convictions about the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence.
For Catholics, commitment to and participation in the religious community is essential because we believe that our relationship to God is mediated (experienced and expressed) in and through the community of the Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth, in spite of its human imperfections.
Being spiritual but unattached to a religious community is much like being married but physically separated or emotionally estranged from one’s spouse. It is difficult to maintain a healthy relationship under such conditions.
Although you may find it helpful, even necessary, to limit or withdraw from participation in a faith community at certain times or under certain circumstances in your life, it is disorienting and painful to remain separated from the community on a permanent basis. It is like being a spiritual orphan who in some sense is always longing to be reconnected with the parents and family where they belong.
• If you are a Catholic who considers yourself “spiritual but not religious” you may find it helpful to visit regularly with a pastor, a parish staff person or a spiritual director about your spiritual growth and your relationship to the church.
(See also "How Do I Resume Participating?" and "How Do I Continue Growing in Faith?")
• Information for Catholic Seekers.