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When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  99 reviews
The phrase "I'm spiritual but not religious" has become a cliché. It's easy to find God amid the convenience of self-styled spirituality--but is it possible (and more worthwhile) to search for God through religion?

Minister and celebrated author Lillian Daniel gives a new spin on church with stories of what a life of faith can really be: weird, wondrous, and well worth tryi
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Jericho Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Start your review of When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church
If you want a collection of stories that briefly touch on what religion means to a minister's personal life, told in a way that is informal and tinged a safe and mild form of an almost hipster-like edginess, you may find this entertaining or affirming of your views and values. If you are looking for something that addresses why religion might matter to a crowd that isn't already religious (and preferably Christian), this book will likely disappoint. The author's criticism of narcissistic idolatr ...more
Karen Zacharias
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have made a new friend.
She doesn’t know that we are friends, yet. This is my way of letting her know that I may or may not be stalking her.
Okay. Not really.
Truth is I don’t have time to stalk anybody, even if I wanted to, and in this case, I do so dearly want to.
At the very least, I want to have coffee with her.
But as she herself noted — why should any of us want to do the very least?
Don’t we want to be the kind of people who are known for being extravagant? Not in that cheap Kardashian way, b
Miriam Downey
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
You can find my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

Lillian Daniel, a United Church of Christ pastor, has created an interesting amalgam in her book When “Spiritual but not Religious” is not Enough. Part sermon, part memoir, part existential musings; Daniel is always on point and personal as she explores what it is to be Christian in the 21st century.

A contributor on several national blogs, such as The Huffington Post, Daniel is also a nationally known speaker and worksho
Vicki Steevensz
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The thing about Lillian Daniel's charming, hilarious, relatable take on the importance of faith in community with others is that I just can't get enough of her. If she wrote a daily meditation, I'd be on it every day. She is earthy, yet a fine, creative thinker, eloquent in the most entertaining way, and she cares enough about faith that she's willing to be challenging and provocative but is also remarkably warm-hearted and never harsh. In the past I've been one of those "spiritual but not relig ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Lillian Daniel is a preacher and consummate story-teller. In some ways this is a response to the "spiritual-but not religious" phenomenon, but it is also an attempt to share stories of encounters with God's people and thus with God. Chapters are as brief as two pages and as long as 10, organized around six sections. It's well written and easily read. Good devotional read.

May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
This collection fails to deliver on the provocative claims of its title essay. Daniel opens with an attack on the supposedly shallow and cliche spirituality of the unchurched. Her critique has some merit, though she perhaps displays more snark than is pastorally appropriate.

In any event, it sets the bar pretty high for her to demonstrate that what you'll find in church is deeper and more original than a long walk on the beach. The rest of the book doesn't make the case. It feels like a batch of
Tara Tetzlaff
May 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: study-library
As a young-ish United Church of Christ pastor I know I should swoon all over this, but the truth is that I wasn't overly impressed. I was expecting more depth, but what i found was a collection of disjointed ramblings and random thoughts, dripping with a voice of privilege. Certainly there were some great passages but overall there was very little substance. Disappointing... ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Having heard Lillian Daniel speak, I was interested to read her books. I did like this book although many of her musings didn't appear to tie back to her theme/title of the book. I guess I was hoping for more discussion on the idea of it not being enough to be 'spiritual but not religious' rather rather than just a series of musings about faith and life and how they intersect. Although they were interesting to read. One thing to note, Lillian Daniel does not pull any punches, she says it like it ...more
David Ackerman
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Some time ago I attended a huge church where nothing but happy music was the order of the day. On the overhead screen (away from the cross), warm cuddly images of children, flowers, butterflies and puppies were shown to the delight of all the people. The pastor rose to speak and told a story of two men who fell from a ten story building. The one died, but the other – praise God – lived. If we only believe, the pastor concluded, we too will be like the man who survived because we are filled with ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lillian Daniel gets frustrated with those who tell 'they are spiritual and not religious' as though church-going-people don't know that you can connect with God in nature. She rightly observes that in church, people have intentionally thought about and pursued God and therefore may have a little more spiritual substance.

However this book looks at where we encounter God in the world. Her argument for 'church' or 'religion' is an arguement against hyper-individualism. If we are to grow spirituall
Aug 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
From what I can tell, Lillian Daniel wrote an essay on Huffington Post about the perils of being "spiritual but not religious" and then was asked to write a book on the topic but didn't really have a book's worth of stuff to say so she just told stories instead. I liked the stories in this book but there didn't seem to be any structure to it. Also, a few (not many) of the stories were anecdotes I have heard from other speakers/preachers. I feel like that can work in a sermon but it doesn't work ...more
Eric Ledermann
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Sadly: fluff. Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-like. Mildly entertaining at times. But seriously lacking in depth for a preacher/pastor that seems to be so highly regarded by so many.
Teri Peterson
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
I’m feeling generous with my 3 stars, honestly.....this book felt to me more like a blog, published in book form. There’s no structure to be found, and it doesn’t exactly explore the things it seems like it’s going to at the beginning. It’s more like a collection of reminiscences that might have found their way into a sermon at some point. Yes, there are definitely connections made between faith and life, finding God in a variety of places. But it is not a book about what the title says.
I also s
Thomas Christianson
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
If someone has only read heady and dry theological content previously, I think they might be delighted by this book.

Having read Don Miller, Anne Lamott, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Sarah Miles, it was not an approach whose novelty would automatically capture my attention. I simply could not connect with this book.

After an opening chapter addressing the thesis of the title which I found worthwhile, the remainder of the book does not adhere to a visible structure. We are simply wandering with the author
Sarah Marie
Nov 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
A judgmental, self righteous woman she is. I'm on chapter 19, titled "Please stop bothering me" I don't know if I'll make it to the end. To be honest, I don't know how I even made it that far.. Who is she to decide if someone experiences God on the mountain, or at the ocean, or anywhere else? Jesus seemed to spend lots of time out in nature, and on his own to be with his Father.. I just could not connect with this book at all. The chapter titled "Speaking in tongues" was about how poorly she per ...more
Feb 25, 2021 rated it did not like it
So, I'm supposed to find this woman funny, charming, and acerbic (in a good, "isn't she brilliant" way)? I found her bitchy, judgmental, and downright mean. Apparently "millions" of people "complain" to her about "the church", and she's pretty ticked off about it. She and her church are God, so screw you, if you don't get that.

She is pretty funny, though, in a non-ha-ha way, because her intention with this book was to ONCE AGAIN defend church and the clergy (I guess?) because both really are so
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This book suffers from a misleading title. I was thinking it was going to be about people finding comfort in religion after previously writing it off, but it's actually just the musings of a UCC minister. And those musings are...fine...but they don't really come together as a whole very well. i might have liked this better if I wasn't expecting something different and if I hadn't just read Accidental Saints, much better book by a progressive female minister. ...more
John Connolly
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
MANY things that Lillian Daniel brought up in this book have been my reality as a military chaplain. We often have to do briefings on the differences and similarities between spirituality and religion. Her experiences, however, shed a whole new light on how to begin to look at all this in a more helpful way. I would especially recommend this to anyone who works in a more ecumenical setting.
Mary Kenyon
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful essays on timeless issues related to faith and spirituality. I loved this book and the wisdom and Christian love displayed within the pages. I can hardly wait to dig into another one of her books! Let her words minister to your wounded soul, and we all have wounded souls~
David Van Brakle
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I am a Lilian Daniel fan, but this book didn’t really click for me. Filled with several stories, it felt a little disjointed. Some of the stories, though, are getting pulled for future sermons.
Becca Morgan
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Excellently written, engaging, and laugh out loud funny at times. Did not, however, touch on the title thesis as much as I was hoping.
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Best bits:


Chapter 11 - Things I Am Tired Of

I am tired of hearing people say stupid things in the name of Christianity. I am tired of nutty, pistol-packing pastors who want to burn the Koran. I am tired of televangelists who claim that natural disasters are the will of God. I am tired of Christians who respond to the pain of disease with a lecture about behavior. I am tired of preachers who promise prosperity. As grumpy as it sounds, I am even tired of Tim Tebow.

I am also tired of people who
Julie G
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I saw this book available on NetGalley, I was very intrigued by the title. It's something that people tend to say a lot, but hard to pin down as a specific world-view. Daniel is a progressive liberal minister who pastors a UCC church and she unpacks the meaning of this phrase in one of the essays included in this book, along with other thoughts on faith and culture.

I was really impressed with the author's writing. I think she tackles sensitive topics in a clear, level-headed way that
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ministry
This wasn't what I expected. I anticipated a much more academic consideration of what the church has to offer but instead got something much more personal, which I enjoyed. Her humor and easy going writing style made this book a please to read.

Although only offering a selection of stories from her life and work that could have illustrated her point, I think she makes her argument -- that we need the church, not just spirituality -- very well (and perhaps the fact that there are so many more exam
Aug 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Read this for a book club and didn't like it at first, but after the good discussion that it sparked this evening, I'm revising my rating and review. The title had led me to expect a book aimed at people who say they feel a spiritual presence in nature but don't need church, and I assumed the author would try to get them to reconsider. Yet her sarcastic treatment of them at the start made that seem unlikely. So I was surprised when a participant in our discussion said she fit that mold and was n ...more
Katherine Pershey
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful, witty, and wise collection of essays, brief and lengthy, reflecting on the life of faith. Rev. Daniel is funny, and not just when she is gently skewering those who are self-righteously "Spiritual But Not Religious". One of my favorite passages typifies her vivid writing and thoughtful engagement with text and context; she imagines the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son offering a far more measured response to his son's return - "I'm so happy I've decided to order us al ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
With keen insight into American culture and a marvelous sense of humor, Lillian Daniel skewers both conventional religionists and spiritual independents for their mis-taking of church and shared spirituality; self-absorption is not the sole possession of either church-goers or church-rejectors. Ms. Daniel is a minister in a mainline Protestant denomination known for its progressive social action and liberal theology, and embedded in her writing is an understanding of the practical and spiritual ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
After turning the last page, all I could do was sit there and repeat “Wow! “Wow! Wow!” Besides that, I resonate with what she says about those who state that they are privately spiritual but not religious. “There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff or, heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition t ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I began reading this book because it was the subject of a book study at church. It is easy to read and has a simple thesis: we need community to fully experience worship. I agree with her premise, but I wish there had been more scripture reference in this book. I like her examples from modern life, many autobiographical, which were often told in sarcastic tone. The characters in her examples were memorable. especially her grandmother who made Daniel call her Mrs. Calhoun. The comparison between ...more
John Hamilton
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Picked this up at a dollar sale at the library. It's a nice little collection of sermonettes about how we all need a community to fully experience the Devine. I couldn't agree more, but unforuatley this work shows that old-time paid-clergy arrogance I hoped would not be too apparent. The minister author shows genuine love for humanity (expected) and shares many personal one-on-one experiences from her church services, but she couldn't resist the chance to talk down to the reader (or this reader, ...more
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