Why Being Spiritual But Not Religious is Just Not Enough

Across all faith traditions, Millennials and Generation Z are leaving the religion of their upbringing. And while they are becoming religiously unaffiliated, not all are becoming atheist or agnostic. Rather, a large amount of young people describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ But is that enough?

Tyler Blanski, an author and Catholic convert, was like many of his fellow Millennials. Raised in a Baptist home, he left the practice of his faith during his adolescence. As Blanski told Glen Lewerenz recently on Morning Air®when he left the Baptist faith, the Catholic Church was the last place he thought he would end up.

“I wanted a relationship with Jesus that was, above all, authentic,” Blanski said. “And in my mind, Catholicism represented everything that was wrong with religion, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Everything about the rules, the dietary restrictions on Fridays, the Sunday obligation, the liturgy – it just kind of smacked of being inauthentic and a great big show.”

Blanski spent his college years and early twenties looking for ways to live for Jesus that didn’t seem religious. But after throwing himself into an organic food co-op and political activism, he found that he was living a life free of ‘religious trappings,’ but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“I was just a millennial stuck in my own urban tribe in Minneapolis,” he said. “Surrounded by other hipsters, there were no older people in my life, there were no children in my life, and there certainly wasn’t anything that looked like the Catholic religion. But I really felt just how empty and alone being spiritual but not religious had left me. And I slowly began to discover there might be a logic and a poetry to this thing we call the Catholic religion.”

Blanski came to realize that the practices and customs of the Catholic Church wouldn’t keep him from a relationship with Jesus, but were actually the fruit of living in that relationship.

“When it comes to Jesus it’s a love story, and love is something that needs to be lived,” Blanski discovered. “Whenever you live something it needs patterns, it needs discipline. When you think of marriage, a healthy workout routine, or parenting, these rhythms and routines define a good love life. And that’s what Jesus wants from every one of us. But when you live it, that’s when you start becoming religious. It demands fidelity and a rich pattern, and liturgy to shape our life and make it so robust and social.”

Another aspect of the Catholic faith that was attractive to Blanski was the concept that we have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it’s not a private one.

“Something that’s so important to Catholicism is this isn’t just a private relationship with Jesus,” he explained. “It’s a social relationship with Christ, all the saints in heaven, the angels, and all of us together participating in this cosmic liturgy that draws us further up and deeper in.”

Listen to the full conversation with Tyler Blanski below, and read more about his story in his new book An Immovable Feast: How I Gave Up Spirituality for a Life of Religious Abundance. 

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Eastern/3:00 – 6:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.