Being religious

What makes someone a religious person? I don’t practice or follow any particular religion and pretty much just consider myself spiritual. I know this is a no-no and really gets the hairs on the backs of some necks standing up but that is what I believe I am and not religious.
Then again it is my understanding that just as yoga means union-that is to say union of body, mind, and spirit,(is my understanding) religion comes from religio(?) meaning yoked or joined(similar to union?). So whether I follow any particular religion or not maybe I am religious since I am trying to find the union between me and whatever divine presence there is.
What is it that you perceive makes you a religious person? Thank you for any help with understanding.

Your interpretation of the etymology of Religion has merit.

popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.”

Based on this, since you identify yourself as spiritual in search of “whatever divine presence there is” it seems that you have not yet achieved that bond or union. This does not imply that your pursuit is any less meritorious than the most devout adherent to a major religious organization. Once you discover the truth of the divine presence and dedicate yourself to it, then you will properly become “religious.” I encourage you to continue to investigate the divine and keep asking questions. is a good resource, but by no means limit yourself. The best way to know that you have uncovered the truth about the divine is to compare it to other claims of the same.

Someone is religious if they actively follow a religion.

I think what the OP was getting at is what constitutes a religion. How can one know that they are following a religion and not merely living a spiritual life? Can a religion have only one adherent?

The terms “religious” and “spiritual” are rather subjective, so the answer depends on who I’m talking to and what the context is.

In general, I think what most people mean by “being religious” is deliberately conforming to a spiritual standard that is proposed by an authority outside oneself, whereas “being spiritual but not religious” entails developing one’s own beliefs and practices, perhaps borrowing from existing ones, and being accountable to no one. In the latter case there is probably less emphasis, at least consciously, on conformity to a standard, especially a doctrinal or moral standard, and more on elective “practices” or “techniques” – though invariably, one forms his own system of doctrinal and moral beliefs if he does not receive an existing one.

In that sense, what makes me “religious” and not merely “spiritual” is that I try to conform to the teachings, practices, and institutions of Christ as proposed and interpreted by the Church.

For me a more meaningful definition of a “religious” person is someone who exhibits the virtue of religion, an aspect of justice which disposes us to give God his due. Since God revealed a religion, giving him his due means, in large part, faithfully practicing that religion. This faithful practice is no mere outward observance or formalism: it is interior as well as exterior. So from our point of view, being religious is really inseparable from being spiritual, which essentially consists in exhibiting divine love towards God and our neighbor. But we cannot achieve this without using the means God gave us to achieve it. Indeed, I would say it is impossible to be a truly spiritual person without being religious.

I think a very basic definition of “religion” would be the things one does for one’s own spiritual well-being. For a Christian, that would entail things like attending Mass, reading Scripture and spiritual books, prayer, helping the poor, avoiding sin, and other private devotions. I think if there’s any objective way to measure of compare “religiousness” it would have to do with how much that individual allows their faith or philosophy on what is good for the spirit to influence their daily lives.

A religion is generally something that is quite organized.

Good morning to all and thank you for your input. I am not necessarily looking for what constitutes a religion though I can see why this came up since I mentioned religion/religio/union/yoked etc…I am looking for what any particular person views being religious as and opinions have been offered for that as well. The opinions offered on what religion is and on what being religious is have been very helpful.
Can one person practice a religion? I was asked once by one of my granddaughters if I was religious. I told her no since I don’t follow any one tradition and don’t practice rituals and share the same beliefs as others. Yes as I practice on my own, with my own meditations, rituals and beliefs I can see where I’ve made up my own dogma, doctrines, etc… and the odd thing is that I don’t follow any tradition because of those things. I suppose this can’t be helped though if we are to go our own way-making our own dogma, etc… Thank you.

Words are funny :slight_smile:

Alot of “spiritual” people are religious… but all words can carry meanings to different people.

I know many practicing people who use the term “religious” people not to denote just the following of one, but a general imagery and sense of the way someone functions.

I am a practicing Catholic. My religion is Catholic.

I go to mass every sunday, skip meat on fridays, celebrate the holidays, pray, and avoid sin…

I however denote “religious” people as a group apart from myself because I do not act like “them” in other ways…

As such also many “spiritual” christians catholic or prot etc… use the term because it denotes themselves as set apart usually from the hypocrite types and such.

Thank you Lethal… for your thoughts and insight.

This is a Catholic forum, and I am a Catholic, so I will give you what I think a religious person needs to be.

In a sentence … doing what God wills, and not what I will.

As a Catholic I know it is Jesus, believing in him as the son of God, and doing what he wills. He said to love God with all your heart, soul, and body, and neighbor as your self. He also said it important to believe in his way and what he says.

There are a number of things to do if we do it Jesus’ way and do what he says. And that to some may be open for discussion, but as a Catholic I would have to say that Jesus gave his way to be passed down thru his church, which is Catholic. And if anyone looks at the early church and compares it to the Catholic church of today, they will see that it is the one, same, church that Jesus started and continues today.

So I would have to say that you should look into the Catholic church if you wish to know what religious means in the true sense of the word.

Some people get uptight when they hear a person say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

Well, that’s true in the sense that we as humans are spiritual.

At the same time, there are people who are religious, but not spiritual and often they cause more harm for religion than those who are “spiritual, but not religious.”

What makes a person both religious and spiritual is as MatthewTrainor posted.

A person surrenders to Christ and seeks to grow closer to Him, and surrenders all of themselves to HIm. They then become religious in following their spiritual journey which helps them open up to God’s love.

God dwells within and God is love, as St Paul wrote.

God can not be grasped except through love, as the author of the Cloud of Unknowing wrote.

So, be spiritual in seeking the spirit of God, who dwells within and religion will follow, but it will be a religion that serves, not one that demands.


I will confirm what has already been stated. The OP is correct in etymology of the term religion which comes from the Latin “to be bound” as with a rope.
Very often people who post about having a relationship with God but not a religion lack this understanding. They think of religion simply in the concept of formally developed religion, with the Church.They think of the various religions of the world such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.
“Religion is the link between God and the individual soul.”
Once we are linked to God, we become part of something that is greater than ourselves. We do become part of the Church, the Body of Christ. We serve as the arms of the cross.

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