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

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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
Replies (51-60):
D.O.E.
by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 12:02 PM
2 moms liked this

i am spiritual, but not religious, and it is not a cop out. it is an OPT OUT.  i was raised a devout christian, we attended church 3-4x a week, and were sent to a private christian school.

at a young age i could see the hypocrisy clear as day, and started to spend a lot of time in the theology section of the library, because i no longer believed in christianity as a religion.

does this mean i don't believe in god?

i believe in good and evil, and a power greater than myself.

i do not believe any one religious is the "true path" and that all those who do not believe that religion will "go to hell"

i believe no matter who we pray to, how good or bad we are, when we die, we are sent to a holding place, and that we are held accountable for our sins. i do not believe that if you "ask jesus into your heart and repent" moments before you die, (let's say you are a serial rapist, child killing mother fucker) that that will get you into heaven. bullshit. 

i have known far to many "christians" who do not walk a "righteous" path, and who treat others horribly.

the same can be said for any one religion.

am i spiritual? yes. am i religious? hell no
 

caito
by Silver Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM
1 mom liked this

When I was an agnostic but afraid to come out as one, I said I was spiritual but not religious. For me it was a cop-out, it was a way to lie to myself until I finally accepted my agnosticism, and finally my atheism.

Others can do what they want. I don't know how their brains work.

PinkButterfly66
by Silver Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:00 PM
3 moms liked this

"Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide."  Wrong.  Being spiritual, but not religious means denoucing dogma and proclaiming that you have a brain and you use it and acknoweledge that there are many paths to the truth and recognize that we all are spiritual beings and do not use religious dogma to beat other non-believers into submission.

BaBeezandMe
by on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:11 PM


Quoting DNewman:

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.

I agree w/DNewman!!  I feel I'm spiritual because I believe in GOD but I don't believe in organized religions!  And NO for me that's NOT a cop out IMHO!

I would also like to add that I am a firm believer that EVERYONE is free to feel and think the way they wish about their spirituality, religious practices, faith or personal belief's.  I BEGRUDGE NO ONE!!  I applaud everyone that is true to their beliefs and sticks to them!!

mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:15 PM
3 moms liked this

I've been thinking about this reply today and the more I think about it, the more I feel the opposite is true. Being religious is the cop-out. Saying that you have to have someone to tell you what the right thing to do is a cop-out. Not being able to determine for oneself the difference between right and wrong and having to follow a subjective set of rules designed to enslave the masses is the cop-out. Expecting everyone to believe in the same God, the same set of rules and the same doctrine is a cop-out because everyone on this planet is at a different level in their spiritual development. There are many who may need the "Rules" and the religious dogma in order to determine right from wrong but there are many in our world who are capable of discerning right from wrong on their own.

Satan is something that the catholic church came up with in order to scare the catholics into submission. I believe in evil but not your satin, I believe that much evil has been done in the name of religion and in the name of fighting the mythical creature you call satan.

Quoting little.worthen:

I think it's a cop out. It's like you want to have a relationship with GOd but you don't want to have to be required to follow any of the "rules" associated with religion, even if God is the one who made the rules.
To me, being spiritual but not religious is something Satan came up with. It sounds good now in this life, but this life is short and will screw with the rest of our eternity. Satan will literally do ANYTHING to steer the children of God away. Even by making it sound like they are doing something holy.. He has no limits


OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:20 PM
2 moms liked this

I'm spiritual, but not religious.  I don't see it as a cop out at all.  Organized religion has its own agenda, and many of those agendas have nothing to do with religion, but with politics.  I don't like that.   Plus, I believe the religions of the world are all praying to the same God just in different ways.  Why should I have to proclaim myself to one religion when I see merit in all of them?

Momniscient
by Ruby Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:20 PM
I think this author misses the mark. He seems to be making assumptions based on generalizations that really miss the subtleties of religious dogmatic negatives in modern society.
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Momniscient
by Ruby Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 2:22 PM
1 mom liked this
I think you bring up some good points.
It isn't necessarily the 'rules' I disagree with: I have no problem with a lot of the moral mores professed in modern religious institutions, I have no problem tithing for good and I like attending services.

I do not like the corruption and overreaching BAD that religious institutions have committed.


Quoting mikiemom:

I've been thinking about this reply today and the more I think about it, the more I feel the opposite is true. Being religious is the cop-out. Saying that you have to have someone to tell you what the right thing to do is a cop-out. Not being able to determine for oneself the difference between right and wrong and having to follow a subjective set of rules designed to enslave the masses is the cop-out. Expecting everyone to believe in the same God, the same set of rules and the same doctrine is a cop-out because everyone on this planet is at a different level in their spiritual development. There are many who may need the "Rules" and the religious dogma in order to determine right from wrong but there are many in our world who are capable of discerning right from wrong on their own.


Satan is something that the catholic church came up with in order to scare the catholics into submission. I believe in evil but not your satin, I believe that much evil has been done in the name of religion and in the name of fighting the mythical creature you call satan.


Quoting little.worthen:

I think it's a cop out. It's like you want to have a relationship with GOd but you don't want to have to be required to follow any of the "rules" associated with religion, even if God is the one who made the rules.
To me, being spiritual but not religious is something Satan came up with. It sounds good now in this life, but this life is short and will screw with the rest of our eternity. Satan will literally do ANYTHING to steer the children of God away. Even by making it sound like they are doing something holy.. He has no limits


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Naturewoman4
by Platinum Member on Oct. 1, 2012 at 4:24 PM
1 mom liked this

I'm spiritual, but not religious.  The reason why is, because I don't fully agree/go along with all the religions I know or have heard from.  I feel it comes from within you.  I feel it's a 'private' thing between yourself & what YOU choose to believe in.  Whether you believe there's a God or another Spiritual being out there.  It's your own belief.

FrogSalad
by Sooze on Oct. 1, 2012 at 5:16 PM
1 mom liked this

If I'm reading him right, he wants those "spiritual but not religious" folks to either go to church or declare their atheism. 

What I can't figure out is why it's so important to him.

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