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'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out

Posted by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 7:59 AM
  • 247 Replies

My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Alan Miller is Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London's Old Truman Brewery. He is speaking at The Battle of Ideas at London's Barbican in October.

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

The increasingly common refrain that "I'm spiritual, but not religious," represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious "movement" - an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect - highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.

It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today.

Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent - by choosing an "individual relationship" to some concept of "higher power", energy, oneness or something-or-other - they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.

That attitude fits with the message we are receiving more and more that "feeling" something somehow is more pure and perhaps, more "true" than having to fit in with the doctrine, practices, rules and observations of a formal institution that are handed down to us.

The trouble is that "spiritual but not religious" offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.

What is it, this "spiritual" identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?

The accusation is often leveled that such questions betray a rigidity of outlook, all a tad doctrinaire and rather old-fashioned.

But when the contemporary fashion is for an abundance of relativist "truths" and what appears to be in the ascendancy is how one "feels" and even governments aim to have a "happiness agenda," desperate to fill a gap at the heart of civic society, then being old-fashioned may not be such a terrible accusation.

It is within the context of today's anti-big, anti-discipline, anti-challenging climate - in combination with a therapeutic turn in which everything can be resolved through addressing my inner existential being - that the spiritual but not religious outlook has flourished.

The boom in megachurches merely reflect this sidelining of serious religious study for networking, drop-in centers and positive feelings.

Those that identify themselves, in our multi-cultural, hyphenated-American world often go for a smorgasbord of pick-and-mix choices.

A bit of Yoga here, a Zen idea there, a quote from Taoism and a Kabbalah class, a bit of Sufism and maybe some Feing Shui but not generally a reading and appreciation of The Bhagavad Gita, the Karma Sutra or the Qur'an, let alone The Old or New Testament.

So what, one may ask?

Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work.

Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses - an entirely radical moment that had enormous consequences for humanity.

Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the "me" generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement.

The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world.

Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better." There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us.

At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world.

But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is "something out there," so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions - and for the future.

Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alan Miller.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/29/my-take-im-spiritual-not-religious-is-a-cop-out/?hpt=hp_c2

 

by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 7:59 AM
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Replies (1-10):
DNewman
by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:01 AM

I'm spiritual but not religious! 

Not really, but I am not associated with religion. 

I do believe there is good in all and it comes from within. So if it makes me spiritual. Then....

I'm spiritual and not religious.

diospira
by Bronze Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:09 AM
26 moms liked this


Considering that so many religions are corrupt, true wolves in sheep´s clothing, I think it is wise, not a cop-out, to cultivate our own spirituality independent of established religion.





Peace

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:10 AM
10 moms liked this

I disagree with her.

Am I wrong to assume that people are taking control of their lives, their beliefs and their own personal dogma? It seems to me that she is interested in placing people into secular societies in order to hold people to their personal beliefs, choices and way of life. Faith doesn't require an audience.

GLWerth
by Gina on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:10 AM
12 moms liked this

I've never used that phrase, but the fact is, I believe in a god and do not believe that organized religion offers anything for me. In fact, I strongly believe that organized religion is a net negative influence on society.

You can have belief without the rituals of an organization to tell you how to believe and behave. It seems to annoy this guy.

desertlvn
by Silver Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:12 AM
9 moms liked this

I'm definitely spiritual but not religious. And I don't really care what people think about that.

mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM
6 moms liked this

I believe in the Divine and believe the divine is within me. I don't believe a specific religion can or should dictate how I live my life. I don't need to be scared into being a good person. I don't need the threat of some horrible place or the promise of some wonderful place to make me try to be the best person that I can be. life is really a journey and not a destination. After this one, I well be reborn and start all over again, hopefully every lifetime is filled with progress.

radioheid
by Libertarian on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM
14 moms liked this

 The author misses the point: we aren't trying to *decide* because there is nothing to permanently settle on. To those of us who are "spiritual but not religious", the spirit is in constant evolution and pursuit of enlightenment. We find no greater affinity to the Almighty sitting on a bench in a building with a man in fancy clothes telling us what we should believe. We entertain and explore the ideas of many faiths because there is truth in all of them.

Calling it a "cop-out" suggests we are avoiding some profound question or responsibility. How very arrogant! Does the author possess some divine knowledge of what it is we should believe?


"Roger that. Over."

R   A   D    I    O    H    E    I    D

punky3175
by Punky on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:27 AM
3 moms liked this

 I'm so glad to see so many others feel the same way I do.  When I first read this, I giggled because I had a discussion last week with my teacher (Witchcraft classes) about how much I've grown (spiritually) in the past year since I've been taking classes with him.  I am spiritual - not religious.  And I cursed him and his spiritual growth last week (jokingly of course.)

krysstizzle
by DeepThought on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:28 AM
6 moms liked this

The trouble is that "spiritual but not religious" offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.


This part here. Organized religion has left a lot to be desired. No set rules are better than horrible set rules. 

And then this whole part:

Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the "me" generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement.

The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world.

Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better." There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us.

At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world.

But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is "something out there," so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions - and for the future.

Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.

is pure malarky. This author's assumptions are so huge, there are really no words. "These people". What people, exactly? 

katzmeow726
by Platinum Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:33 AM
4 moms liked this

I disagree...it sounds like the author is just mad that there are those of faith who do not fit his general idea of faithful.  He makes a lot of assumptions about the beliefs and feelings of those who truly hold to this philosophy.  
   By definition, I am Christian.  By beliefs and labels, you could say I'm a buddhist christian that practices jewish traditions.  But the truth is, I am spiritual.  I go to church, but really prefer to worship in a private, quiet manner.  

Also, this quote stuck out to me.  Apparently this guy has issues with thinking for yourself, and not fitting into the pre made squares of society.  

"Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the "me" generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be..." 

   "The truth is what you make it" is not a new idea, nor is it exclusive to the me generation.  I also disagree that it is a sign of  being self obsessed. It has been around for a long time, and many of the greatest periods of change in  human history came from those very people who found their own paths to the truth.  

   The author also asserts that the "spiritual" people are just those who can't or won't take a position.  I also disagree with this.  My views and beliefs are perfectly clear.  The author needs to get over himself.  Just because people don't fit his idea of faith, does not mean their beliefs are a cop out.

The only cop out I see is the article this guy wrote...it is one giant cop out. 

   
     

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