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My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out
The author notes that more and more young people are rejecting traditional religion and taking up a variety of spiritual practices.
September 29th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

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.

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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?

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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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (9,993 Responses)
  1. ash

    for many spiritual but not religious is just another form of ego gratification while chasing their own desires. They just dont want to follow any rules.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  2. JD

    There's no reason a person needs to take a stand on their religious beliefs. Its a personal matter and if people prefer that to some organized solution thats their freedom to do so. Those who argue otherwise are essentially intolerant and should be ignored

    October 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Simon

      amen..no pun intended.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  3. government cheese

    Obama taught Saul Alinsky's principles in a workshop for 4 years in Chicago. Hillary did her Masters Thesis on it. Rule #4: The rights and wrongs of religion are too hard to overcome, so religion must be overcome. Look back in history of who did the same thing.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  4. Greg P.

    Allan Miller gives me the impression that he is LOST!

    October 1, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  5. SSE

    I gather from your piece that you have never really been spiritual but not religious and therefore have no idea what it means to claim to be this. You paint all such individuals with a very broad brushstroke, assuming they are all without focus, uninterested in rules, and only in it for themselves. These assumptions come from one without experience or insight into the subject of his criticism. It is obvious that you feel threatened by those who reject religious doctrine and the who reject the rigid divisions brought on by blindly accepted theocratic dogma.

    You are right that being "spiritual but not religious" is not a movement. However, it is a trend that is gaining momentum quickly. There are two reasons this trend is growing. First, people are more educated now and empowered to analyse at a very high level. We can gather information easily and decide for ourselves what we want to believe. And we are exposed to enough religions that we do not come up with these ideas in a vacuum. We can evaluate the logic of Christianity and compare it to Islam, Hinduism and Humanism. People just could not do that 100 years ago.

    The second reason the trend is growing is that people are unable to reject a belief in god altogether without risking social exclusion. To claim affiliation with humanists or (horror) atheists makes one a pariah. This comes from the oppression of a religious-based society. I have met numerous people who have claimed to be spiritual but not religious simply because it is easier and safer than saying, "I don't believe in god."

    The bottom line is that belief in the truth of our origin and our future is a very personal, individual thing. We have the right to come to our own conclusions without having outdated edicts thrust upon us by authoritarian theologies. The fact is, this trend is not a step backward but a step forward in our evolving understanding of ourselves and our situation. Your position that it is a cop out is merely a result of your own indoctrination.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      Nope. He's right on.

      One does not define the "rule of God" by what society approves of or disapproves of.

      If I have to accept your "take" on spirituality and religion, then I must accept EVERYONE's "take" on it also. Keep in mind that their definition of what is "right and wrong" may be vastly different than yours. But, by your argument, it is no less valid.

      That means that the guy in the Denver area who was busted for keeping a slave is "righteous" in your eyes, because his "take" on religion and spirituality was that by virtue of his lineage, he was ALLOWED and ENCOURAGED to take a slave.

      Yes, this just happened. Google it.

      I'll be you didn't think your argument through, did you?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • tony erickson

      Excellent

      October 1, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr:

      There is nothing in your Bible prohibiting slavery.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Jeff

      Amen!

      October 1, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • SSE

      @BldrRepublican
      You really do not understand much of what you read, do you? You seem to filter everything through your own agenda warning system.

      It is not that you have to accept others' beliefs. It is that the only belief you have to accept is your own. You can accept or reject or make room for others in relation to how you see truth.

      And right after you claimed that the author was "right on," you patently reject his idea that western society is based on Christian theology. By accepting religion, most people ARE defining the rule of god by what is generally accepted by society. This spiritual-but-not-religious trend is a rejection of that principle.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  6. TheDudelyDude

    Completely oversimplifies this group of people. Horrible article.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  7. Karle Fried

    Alan Miller I feel you are really close minded and out of touch. AA is an organization based on a set of principles and it prides it self on being spiritual but not religious. And it has a worked for many people, of all ages. Furthermore being spiritual is not a cop out. Some could say being religious is a cop out. As long as you live life as as moral person who cares if you are religious, spiritual or something else.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  8. BldrRepublican

    To all you proud atheists out there – get this:

    4/5's of the world's population believes in a "god" of somesort. You do not. That makes you a MINORITY.

    Don't you think that, maybe, it might be *YOU* that is wrong??? For every one of you, there are 4 others that believe otherwise. For you secularists, that makes SOCIETY the be-all to end-all definition of what is "right", and therefore, you are wrong.

    You can't be secular and believe as society does,without believing ALL of what society does. That makes you a flaming hypocrite.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • government cheese

      98%.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,

      Care to take a guess on what percentage of people 1000 years ago believed the the Sun orbited the Earth?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Colin

      Actually my Republican builder friend, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

      The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

      The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

      The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

      Throwing the three together into one being cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

      We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

      The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

      The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

      We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

      We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

      We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.

      Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

      We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

      “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them, or even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

      When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

      It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

      To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

      So, before you next get frustrated at us because we refuse to agree that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

      Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling before and appeasing something, at least make it something that exists. You fvcking mental lightweight.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • SSE

      @BldrRepublican
      You make no sense. Your idea that just because one group of thinkers outnumber another that the bigger group must be right. It wasn't too long ago that the vast majority of the world believed the earth was flat.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      @OTOH-
      All that does is prove that science can be wrong. Yet, someone like you believes WITHOUT empirical evidence, that the earth was formed from a swirling ball of gas and gravity.

      You have no "proof' other than the science that promotes this believe "sounds good". That makes you no different than the very people you castigate from thousands of years ago.....

      October 1, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Mike

      Is God pleased with you for being so angry?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • proud atheist

      Ya...hey stats man...10/10 6 yr olds believe in Santa too. What's your point? Nice try.

      So you've proven there are more ignorants than intelligent people?

      Once upon a time slavery was supported by a bigger proportion of society than not supporting it...and we all know where slavery stands now.

      100 yrs from now...religion will be viewed in the same light.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • mama kindless

      The sheep herder is way outnumbered by sheep. But the sheep herder is the one with the brains that knows better than to let the stupid sheep eat too much of the poisonous weeds. So he has to herd the stupid sheep every once in a while to keep the sheep from poisoning themselves, and their milk and everyone else. Atheists are like the sheep herders in this picture. Guess what the poison is, and guess who the dumb sheep are in this picture??

      October 1, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • mccccc

      1/5th of the worlds population is also smarter than the other 4/5ths. I would be willing to bet a very large sum of money that at least 95 percent of that 1/5th are athiests.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Matt

      "We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?” "

      Colin: EXREMEMLY well put. Knowledge and religion are mortal enemies.

      Bldr: We're not "defining" our own gods. Rather, we're collectively deciding that we were created from *something*, and that none of us knows what that something is. I'm pretty sure that the something which created the imperceiveably vast universe isn't going to hold it against me if I don't kneel, then stand, then kneel again, culminating in the eating of round wafers and cheap wine once every seven days. Nor will that something care if I engage in any other ritual thought up when mankind was in its infancy.

      The author of this "article" is an idiot. Religion can have him.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      You had my attention, until you resorted to the insult, which makes it very difficult to take anything you say seriously.

      I also do not have the advantage of a pre-written dissertation that I can cut-and-paste, so you'll have to forgive my typos as I'm typing fast so as to not take an hour responding.

      The problem with your response is that you are STILL "comparing" your knowledge / exposure of God to others. You are assuming that Christians think that since we know of Jesus, and there are parts of the world who have never even heard of Christianity or the Bible, or even Islam, that they "got it wrong".

      No, my friend. That is not the way it works. You are presented with a certain amount of truth. What you do with it is YOUR CHOICE. What everyone else does with their "piece of the pie" (no matter how small) is between God and them. It does not change your situation WHAT SO EVER.

      Stop looking at everyone else in the world and thinking that since they don't know about God, the Bible, and the Trinity that YOU get off the hook. It doesn't work that way. God knows what you know. He knows what you are thinking.

      The fact that others know less about God does not change YOUR situation at all....no "get out of jail free' card there.

      Now, try again, you intellectually stunted rodent....

      October 1, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Copernicus

      Just because one doesn't believe in fairies doesn't mean he or she cannot be 'spiritual.' Being in a minority doesn't make one wrong (Copernicus). Science and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. It is common thought amongst Republicans that evolution and global warming are mythical, .... but they believe in fairies. Go figure ...

      October 1, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      @Matt – and don't you think that the pompous arrogant blowhards (just like yourself) from thousands of years ago thought the VERY SAME way as you??

      And no, God does not care if you take communion. Nobody does. But God does care whether you think he sent his son to die a very gruesome death so that, if you believe in him, you won't have to do the same.

      You cannot approach God, given your sinful nature. Nothing but perfection is in His presence. You are NOT perfect, therefore you cannot be in His presence.

      But He's given you a doorway – Jesus. He is the ONLY way.......for you.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • SSE

      @BldrRepublican
      Wow, I can't believe you used the term "empirical evidence" to assail a humanist's view. Haha! That is rich.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,

      Science is more than willing to adapt when new information is gathered. You? Not a peep of new information from this "God" character in over 2000 years - unless you are a Muslim... or a Mormon, who allegedly get regular "updates".

      October 1, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      SSE "You make no sense. Your idea that just because one group of thinkers outnumber another that the bigger group must be right. It wasn't too long ago that the vast majority of the world believed the earth was flat."
      -
      All that does is prove that a vast majority of science-believers were wrong.

      Do you claim to be a science believer now???? You're batting 0 for 1.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Matt

      Bldr: Please tell Jesus not to leave the door open or the lights on for me. I wouldn't want any bedbugs to get in or for HIM (I get more heaven points for capitalizing all three letters. Ha ha!) to have a big electric bill.

      You are literally too stupid to insult.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • mama kindless

      BldrRepublican said "God knows what you know. He knows what you are thinking."

      You don't know anything about that. No one does. No one ever has. Any person can make themselves believe that, but that doesn't make it true, and nothing has been demonstrated that would prove that is true. You are the one with too many assumptions.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      Matt: "You are literally too stupid to insult."
      -
      Unfortunately, I would bet anything of value you have that I am "smarter" than you. (i.e. smarter = advanced degrees from accredited universities in the US).

      I live and work in one the most educated cities in the world (Boulder, Colorado). There's is no other city with a higher number of post-graduates per capita. I am no "too stupid to insult", it is you that is is "too stupid to comprehend the conversation".

      Nice try.....try again...

      October 1, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • mama kindless

      BldrRepublican said "You are presented with a certain amount of truth." That's wishful thinking. Religions do not hold any proof of any truths. So that also supports my claim that you have no idea what God, if there is one, is thinking – and you've already made a lot of assumptions about that here.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Matt

      That's great, Bldr. I've been to Boulder. Many fine people there. And I'm not even saying you're a "bad" person. You're just rooted in an outdated mindset, and nothing I say will change that.

      The difference between you and me (aside from your apparent degrees in astrology and general studies; mine are only in marketing and computer science) is that I know enough to know that I don't know. No person in human history has known the answers to those big questions, and we probably never will. The danger lies in zealots like you who point to a book written two thousand years ago as proof of ANYTHING, let alone who created us and what we need to do to please him.

      By the way, I live in New Jersey. We're pretty smart, too.

      With that

      October 1, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Keith

      Your assessment is a stupid as Millers. If you take your argument to the ridiculous then maybe other folks aren't really a Christian unless you say they are. All people believe in something. Atheists are lying to themselves or haven't spent enough time examining their lives to find out what they believe if they think they can live without some way to understand the mysteries of living. A person does not need to believe in your God however to live a full and rewarding life.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Matt

      That's great, Bldr. I've been to Boulder. Many fine people there. And I'm not even saying you're a "bad" person. You're just rooted in an outdated mindset, and nothing I say will change that.

      The difference between you and me (aside from your apparent degrees in astrology and general studies; mine are only in marketing and computer science) is that I know enough to know that I don't know. No person in human history has known the answers to those big questions, and we probably never will. The danger lies in zealots like you who point to a book written two thousand years ago as proof of ANYTHING, let alone who created us and what we need to do to please him.

      By the way, I live in New Jersey. We're pretty smart, too.

      Now, please excuse me while I clasp my hands and wish for good things to happen. It seems to work about 50% of the time...

      October 1, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      mama kindless: "You are presented with a certain amount of truth." That's wishful thinking. Religions do not hold any proof of any truths. So that also supports my claim that you have no idea what God, if there is one, is thinking – and you've already made a lot of assumptions about that here."
      -
      And by your very argument, your assumption that I do NOT *know* this is an assumption. Correct? You do not KNOW that I don't know this .... you are assuming it.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • mama kindless

      In my last reply to this, I wrote:

      BldrRepublican said "You are presented with a certain amount of truth." That's wishful thinking. Religions do not hold any proof of any truths. So that also supports my claim that you have no idea what God, if there is one, is thinking – and you've already made a lot of assumptions about that here.

      Really the third sentence is not clear and not as strong as it should be. Instead of saying "Religions do not hold any proof of any truths.", I should really say that Religions do not hold any proof of anything they believe to be a truth. That's one of the key problems, is that all of it was created by man. Religion was born out of folklore – from things science had not yet explained, and some saw a way to use that fear over people for money or control or both. So, back to the revision of my statement – all religion holds only alleged "truths" that have no foundation other than what men wrote. (And it morphed and was affected, like all folklore is over time, by various politicians and charlatans.) Pretty untrustworthy stuff.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      mama kindness: " all religion holds only alleged "truths" that have no foundation other than what men wrote. "
      -
      Well, men wrote that the earth was formed 14billion years ago based on some sort of carbon dating combined with imaging of the visible sky. That makes it no more or no less "valid", correct? You just like the sound of it better than the alternative (the bible).

      And hundreds of people saw Jesus walking and talking to them AFTER he was crucified. HUNDREDS. I'm not sure how THEY would be able to convince you, unless they wrote it down. What more could they do?

      And if Jesus did rise from death, then that makes EVERYTHING about him truthful. What more could one do to convince you? You should read about Saul – who hunted and killed Christians. He believed as you do. Until God paid him a visit. Then he became "Paul – The Apostle" – one of the MOST important figures in the Bible.....

      October 1, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • mama kindless

      @BldrRepub

      Well of course I can't read anyone's mind. But I do know, through my senses and my memory and education and ability to reason, where religion has already deceived people about what it claims as truths, so I'll use my common sense and not ignore reason and stay at the conclusion I am at now – that no religion has done anything to prove anything. And the onus is on religion to prove something since the something they would need to prove is supposedly undetectable with our normal senses. Sure, one can say you can't disprove something that you can't see or touch. But what good does that do when you are trying to allow others to see. The only way you can ring them in is to deceive them and sell them the idea. Walla – religion is born.

      I am agnostic when it comes to the possibility of a deity, but I don't believe anyone has ever know or currently knows anything about any deity.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • mama kindless

      "And hundreds of people saw Jesus walking and talking to them AFTER he was crucified. HUNDREDS. I'm not sure how THEY would be able to convince you, unless they wrote it down. What more could they do?"

      More political sales literature. We have no proof of that. Folklore. Next.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • mama kindless

      "You should read about Saul – who hunted and killed Christians. He believed as you do. Until God paid him a visit. Then he became "Paul – The Apostle" – one of the MOST important figures in the Bible....."

      Oh my. Paul was a self-proclaimed "apostle". I personally think he got drunk or had some bad food, or maybe he just needed money, but I don't buy into his vision at all. He just probably slipped his secretary a little gold and said – this is the story we are going with – we'll both be famous and rich. We have no more reason to believe him than to believe Joseph Smith. And that's why I think he is one of the most DANGEROUS figures in the bible because of all the weird tenets that the early church has in his writings for their foundation. Thanks to him Christians can speak with forked tongues. and thanks to him people are divided today over stupid stuff that even jesus wasn't involved in.

      Folklore is folklore. and Christianity isn't even very good folklore at that. Was rehashed over from other untrustworthy folklore.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,
      " What more could one do to convince you?"

      A real smart god would know, y'know.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  9. government cheese

    Who told you God was false? A politician? LOL

    October 1, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  10. Taks

    Alan Miller, you sir are what is wrong with religion. Instead of simply accepting other people's take on spirituality and religion you instead try and break down what their religion means to them, without even getting their opinion on it but rather foolishly examining them from your point of view only. Furthermore, you try and belittle their beliefs, again without their consent as to what those beliefs actually are but simply your take on those beliefs, as though your own beliefs are fact and that you can't possibly be wrong about your religious position. When people like you learn to respect other's beliefs regardless of what they may be, then maybe religious 'cults' will start to get somewhere, but until then idiots like yourself will spout your beliefs as though they're facts, and continue to scoff other's who believe differently.

    What's worse is your sad attempt at claiming that being spiritual without religious beliefs is simply a cop-out and prevents having to think too hard, meanwhile scientists progress daily to more understand our world that religious people like yourself simply answer currently unanswerable questions using 'God' as the reasoning. Get over yourself.

    So next time, instead of trying to belittle others maybe you should consider what your 'god' actually wants you to believe in and stop disrespecting, judging and actually think about what you're writing next time before putting crap like this up that real religious people find extremely offensive.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      Nope. He's right on.

      One does not define the "rule of God" by what society approves of or disapproves of, which is what you said with the phrase " Instead of simply accepting other people's take on spirituality and religion"

      If I have to accept your "take" on spirituality and religion, then I must accept EVERYONE's "take" on it also. Keep in mind that their definition of what is "right and wrong" may be vastly different than yours. But, by your argument, it is no less valid.

      That means that the guy in the Denver area who was busted for keeping a slave is "righteous" in your eyes, because his "take" on religion and spirituality was that by virtue of his lineage, he was ALLOWED and ENCOURAGED to take a slave.

      Yes, this just happened. Google it.

      I'll be you didn't think your argument through, did you?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,

      There is nothing in your Bible that prohibits slavery.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • snopes says

      nope to BldrRepublican

      October 1, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      OTOH – ...except for that phrase "all humans are create equal"......a basic tenent of Christianity.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      OTOH – ...except for that phrase "all humans are created equal"......a basic tenent of Christianity.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,
      ""all humans are create equal".

      That phrase is not in the Bible, pal.

      -and fyi-
      tenant = a renter
      tenet = a belief

      October 1, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Matt

      If you rearrange the letters in "BldrRepublican," it spells "Alan Miller."

      October 1, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      Thanks, OTOH – "tenet" is what I meant.....typing too fast...

      No, I've never heard of Alan Miller before. I am a definitely not him.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Keith

      No BldrRepublican, it seems you are wrong, no one agrees with you.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • Taks

      BLDR, instead of actually countering my points with valid arguments you instead use an extreme case to try and undermine my thought process, which was hardly as radical as you make it seem, yet this is exactly how religious supporters argue in their favor. They take extremes to try and break down counter points, when those extremes are beside the point and obviously not the entire picture, yet are focused on as though they are.

      Yes there are people whose beliefs and views can be dangerous to others, but again to write them off as crazy and ignore why they believe what they do, instead of actually trying to understand them, is exactly what the problem is here. You'd rather simply label someone as crazy than understand why someone has a certain belief, regardless of what that belief is.

      Also, my point on accepting other's beliefs isn't about accepting it as your own, but accepting that others think differently than you do. I may have worded it poorly, but my aim was to get the point across that instead of ridiculing, disrespecting and judging people's positions on their beliefs, you would be better served trying to understand those beliefs. It not only makes you grow as a person, but it also helps you understand your own beliefs more.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:05 am |
  11. Phil V.

    THANK YOU to all the wise folks who saved me the trouble of writing a lengthy missive to this clearly asinine opinion piece.

    It all starts at the top with the term "retrogressive." One thinks he must have looked up a snappy word without really understanding its relevance to his article. Sociologically speaking, a retrogressive approach would be to go back to the good old days of enforcing a religious practice by use of force; or to stop questioning or expanding on faith traditions altogether.

    My heart goes out to anyone who must suffer through his live presentation. Hey, Alan – if you'd like to have a friendly e-debate about your position I am more than happy to engage. You can even bring your straw men to argue for you!

    Peace.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Keith

      Please let me know when it happens, I want to cheer for your side.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  12. Jackie

    You couldn't be more misinformed. I've been spiritual but not religious since I was a child and watched my parents argue against each others Christian denominations and also watched Christians hate, judge, and sin then attend church. I watched 9 year old Christian church-going children bully my Jewish friend. I do have a Higher Power and beliefs that go beyond feeling good. I give of my time and money to places where I know that my efforts will directly benefit those in need instead of buying a fancy new church for those who only give when someone else is watching. My beliefs are simply to treat others well, and with compassion and generosity. To leave the world a better place than when I entered it. To be peaceful and give thanks to my Higher Power. I do not need ministers, churches, or rules books to do that.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      @Jackie – the problem with your observation is that you are viewing all those IMPERFECT people (your parents, your friends, etc) attempting to follow a perfect example – Jesus. You are then concluding that since THEY didn't do it right, that the whole tenent must be wrong.

      That conclusion is a fallacy.

      You are also imperfect (just as your friends and family) – you just don't exhibit violence – you exhibit extreme indifference, which is far worse.

      October 1, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • MajMajestik

      Awesome response!!! BTW...you single?

      October 1, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • sally

      @BldrRepublican – you are a complete idiot. You happen to think Jesus was a perfect example for all. That's just your view. Many believe he didn't even exist. But in any event, Christianity is so contradictory that it doesn't even matter if the man existed or not – it's all just untrustworthy. You are the idiot here being judgmental and pompous as if you know something, when you don't know much of anything. That's the true sign of a Christian extremist – being judgmental.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Fernando

      BldrRepublican: I do believe you just got yourself condemned to a fiery eternity of pain for stepping in and taking on the job of the most holy of holies, Jesus, and judging Jackie. Whew! It's he!! for you my boy. You just stepped in the big one.
      I'll pray for you in my own way.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Keith

      Thank you for sharing, I was raised by abusive parents that were called pillars of the church. they beat us, they taught us to hate anyone that was not like us, they taught us that that prejudice was good and that judging others was our Christian duty.

      It was a long journey but I am okay and I am Spiritual, not Religious. I am actually anti-Religious and believe Churches should be taxed just like any other business. That is all they are, Businesses.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Daniel

      Fourth, besides being careful and precise with our words, let's not call people idiots and other names because it does not lead to a good mature conversation. If you call someone an idiot or similar are you not being judgemental? but putting that aside for a moment, you bring up a good point. Consistency, or self contradiction within a religion. Strict mathematical consistency (both P and not P can not be true) and completeness of any large system as a religion or a belief system is nearly impossible to achieve even if you had all the tenants written down in theorem way. But you don't, in most of them you have some rules, many stories, and interpretation of subsequent generations as people struggled to make sense of the world. That being said a reasonable person with reasonable education and guidance should be able to resolve the enough inconsistencies to satisfy themselves that what they are accepting is theoretically, practically, and historically accurate enough, or at least beyond their reasonable doubts. And what more can we ask, even the most important legal cases have to stop at resolving all reasonable doubts. So go ahead and raise reasonable doubts about any religion, but have the discipline to answer them as well, not simply raise them as excuses. If you seek truth with your reasoning member then use it to get to the truth, investigate the claims, see if inconsistencies remain after some investigation. And remember you have to judge a system from within it's own assumptions otherwise you are really comparing apples and oranges and wasting everyone's time. As a simple example even Geometry is consistent (though maybe not complete) in three flavors: euclidian, hyperbolic and parabolic and all that is different between these three is one of the five of Euclid's axioms. Some people have a much lower threshold for reason and accept with less explanation, and more faith, some people have less faith and need more answers. So I recommend reasonable doubt as the standard we use for most things not complete mathematical consistency proof.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  13. Helvetica

    What an absurdity. Thanks for this drivel. So, now let me reclassify myself: I am an Athiest. Especially after reading this absolute convoluted nonsense.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Daniel

      Fifth, and finally. Accuracy. Does your religion (atheism included) match reality? I've shown else in these comments that we are all religious (even the atheists), that we all have some form of spirituality, that any system on earth is corrupt and that reasonable doubt is sufficient for most endeavors in life and mathematical consistency and completeness are usually not practical. Finally, a religion that does not match reality is actually harmful to the individual and the society overall. You can believe whatever you want but if we cannot reasonably square it with reality it means it is not useful for this reality we live in. Now we perceive reality in primarily two ways: our experiences, information from what other's have sensed and experienced. And you can not close the door on knowledge and experience because we can not demonstrate that we know everything or have experienced everything. Which religion is more accurate. We could be here a long time if we start at zero and compare everything but the major beliefs should be reasonably explained by reality. And the end of the day what you end up with, if you are open and hones is a comparative religions discussion and you pick the one that is more consistent, complete and accurate to you. And if a religion promises to be completely consistent, complete and accurate you need to be equally weary as you can not achieve that standard in most things in life.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  14. Francisco L. White

    To say that spirituality without religion is in any way dangerous or “retrogressive” is completely unfounded and propagandistic, reeking of American conservatism (the Christian agenda). Miller is clearly mis-informed, making his argument foolhardy to an offensive extent, which is quite appropriate for where it has been published. It may be difficult for someone so closed-minded to accept, but one’s non-religious spirituality takes nothing from organized religion, nor does it challenge it in any way.

    http://franciscolwhite.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/alan-millers-unwarranted-attack-on-non-religious-spirituality/

    October 1, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  15. J G

    "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 a joke this article is. A person's spirituality is for each person to figure out and determine for themselves. This guy sounds like a bitter joke that can't handle that people aren't in the church and sucking up to the old corrupt religions. What business is it of his what other people believe? He sounds far more out of touch than the people that have found something to tap into that has nothing to do with the joke that formalized religion has long since become.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      Wrong.

      The problem is people like you who think that people should be allowed to define their own god....

      That's what leads to all the conflict – everyone defining their own god. We have people who think that kindness and respect to any and every behavior imaginable to mankind should supercede others who believe they have an inalienable right to kill anyone not of their religion.

      As long as you keep defining your own god, you will have others doing the same – and those with the biggest muscles, or guns, will kill those who they desire.....

      October 1, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Helvetica

      thank you!

      October 1, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • OTOH

      Bldr,

      Ah, by all means you should define your god according to some ancient Middle Eastern Hebrew's concept of one?!

      October 1, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  16. Tommy

    Hey man,doesnt christianity preach dont judge lest ye be judged ye-self,(not verbatim)? So why all the judgement? I keep seeing this time and time again. Christians passing judgement when their own bible specifically says not to. Im thinking of the whole Chik-fila drama as well. With just these two examples,I wonder why they really think I need to be one of them? Oops,Im judging huh? Sorry,I didnt want to stoop to their level.I digress,why all of the judgement without consequences? The book says not to.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  17. Richard

    Ignorance and fear gave birth to Religion long ago. The more we learn, the less we need Religion.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Loren

      A book could be written about what this sums up in two phrases.

      October 1, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  18. proud atheist

    Church's are corrupt. They abuse power, oppress people and promote hate. Religions control people, start wars, and kill many. The world would be a better place without this prehistoric garbage being peddled around and indoctrinated into our youth. It's amazing how many idiotic individuals believe in religous nonsense. I'm doubting half of those that claim to be righteous Christians etc, have even read the Bible in entirety from front to back. If so, it would surely turn anyone into an atheist. Instead these weak, small minded people cherry pick thier beliefs and run around judging, and living in fear of some eternal damnation. Religions have no place in governments or schools either. I cannot wait for the day, religions have been phased out and we have all evolved past it. The day it will be viewed as another dark smear in history, which it truly is.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • JesusNotReligion

      Good...Me too...But Jesus is NOT Religion...Now what's your excuse for not beliving and being saved?

      October 1, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • M

      Were it not for your proclamation of your disbelief your statement would be classified as that of an anti-religionist. i'm an anti-religionist. doesn't mean i want to see the end of belief in a higher being. i personally don't believe myself but i also don't believe it to be impossible. i do agree with everything you said, lest you get the wrong impression. i just wanted to bring to light how anti-religion differs from aetheism.

      October 1, 2012 at 12:59 am |
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    October 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  20. David

    Wow, the Chriatians are really starting to freak out now... Athism has taken hold in Europe, secular spirituality has taken hold in the Americas and the fastest growing religion is Islam. But still they say, "It's everyone else!" Wake up, it's YOUR religion that has lost the PR game, fix it or die, don't cry like babies about it.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • sally

      Sorry – it's not mine. Maybe someone else's.

      October 1, 2012 at 12:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.