"I'm More Spiritual than Religious"

Moshe Ben-Chaim

You've heard this said many times...but what is this person saying? And are they justified?

I understand what being "religious" refers to: enacting specific actions connected with a religion. But what does "spiritual" mean? Do I simply sit around and "feel spiritual"? 

People accept the notion that there is something we refer to as "spiritual". This notion is in fact based in reality, since there do exist physical entities, as well as non-physical or spiritual entities, such as natural laws, angels, concepts, and our souls. So, one could rightly say he or she is spiritual when referring to studying, thinking, or prayer. A prophet would also be correct to say he was spiritual when experiencing prophecy. In all of these cases, a person accurately refers to an activity where he or she relates to a non-physical entity. 

But if one says "I am more spiritual than religious", what are they saying? What is the non-physical entity they relate to? This sounds to me like one who accepts the beliefs of Judaism, but tosses out the physical laws. Does God endorse this? Of course not. God didn't say the laws are optional. It ends up that one who abandons the laws, is actually denying God's will, and is "less" spiritual, as he or she follows God less than a religious person!

Many people seek an "easy" life without restrictions, and their guilt forces them to enunciate a justification for ignoring what they know God requires. In fact, this "spiritual" person is exposed as simply rationalizing his or her abandon of meticulous, Jewish law. One further justifies himself professing that the "spirit" of the law is all God really wants from us, saying "God just wants me to be a good person". Another rationalization, and another outright denial of God's lengthy Torah. 

Had God simply wanted us to be "spiritual" and not religious...or a "good person"...His Torah would not specify 613 commands, and demand we follow the thousands of rabbinic protective laws.

Finally, saying "I'm More Spiritual than Religious" is akin to saying, "I know better than God".

We wouldn't reject a doctor's advice to have surgery if he felt our life was at risk. Therefore, we must look at our souls as even more vital, since they take us to our final existence...our bodies do not.