chapter  8
18 Pages

“God wants spiritual fruits not religious nuts”

Spirituality as middle way between religion and secularism at the Marian shrine of Fátima
WithAnna Fedele

Based on long-term fieldwork at the Marian shrine of Fátima in Portugal, this chapter explores the ways in which Catholic pilgrims describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (SBNR). It explores how the pilgrims’ spirituality relates to religion but also to secularism. Drawing on Nancy Ammerman’s analysis of the spiritual but not religious in the United States (2013) the chapter analyses what pilgrims mean when they say that they are spiritual and how they draw a moral boundary towards what they consider as religion. By using the spiritual but not religious distinction, pilgrims are not only adopting a different descriptive position but also engaging in political work. Catholic pilgrims in Fátima challenge certain positions adopted by the Vatican, in general, and the local Church, in particular, and embrace what they perceive as more secular values, especially those related to feminism, such as gender equality and the freedom of sexual orientation. The pilgrims strategically use a spiritual lingua franca, which they perceive as being more acceptable to secularism and to non-believers without invalidating their belonging to Catholicism.