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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. Well.....

    I understand those in the comments about people choosing to be "spiritual but not religious" due to the poor examples we see in church's these days, they really do not pratice what they preach. But I have to agree it is important to decide what faith path you feel is more close to what you feel to be true... it is important to have a base to identify with and to gather with others to share ideas. It is unfortunate that so many people look at religion negatively – I understand if directed to those who are in charge of these large church organizations but the members of those churches do not deserve such hate. They are people who try to be the best they can and yes they sin, and yes they fail, but they are not the head of the church they are just trying to be the best they can – that is really the majority. There are a small few who take advantage and truly use their faith as an escape goat to justify their poor behavior but they are few and far between. I used to be "spiritual but not religious" and I finally choose to believe in my chosen faith path and though I don't agree with the church's poor decisions and feel they have gone in a direction I don't feel is what God intended, I do agree with what God encourages me to be... A better person who shows love and forgiveness even though forgiveness is difficult for me especially when someone hurts others for no reason at all. I know I am not perfect but I try every day to grow as a person. I have never expected anyone to believe in what i do, I accept others beliefs whatever they are, I don't think it is right to shove religion or what you believe in someone elses face. REspect other peoples beliefs... but to be fair being "spiritual but not religous" is not a belief at all it is a cop out to avoid a decision, but everyone will eventually make one, it just takes time.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  2. jennifer

    I wonder what you think about Universalist Unitarians. We believe in a spiritual life that is not guided by dogma but by personal faith, good works, community and being the best humans we can be. Our community allows for people of all faiths and both celebrates and practices the Golden Rule as a spiritual and human duty. Everyone has their own idea of the sacred, and we encourage that. Religious education classes are not where we learn dogma and bible stories. Instead, both children and adults, are encouraged to learn about ALL faith systems – their history, their dogma and their beliefs. We have pagans, jews, christians, atheists, agnostics, buddhist, muslims, taoists, hindus -just to name a few – in my congregation here in Indiana. Are we all silly when we say that we are "spiritual but not religious"?

    October 1, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Eric

      Well said, Jennifer. Nice to see a fellow UU join this conversation.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  3. Len

    I could not disagree with the author more. Who is he or anyone else to say what I believe? But to suggest that people who have this outlook do not read the Bible or attend religious ceremonies or are more selfish than people who subscribe to a particular religion is baseless and ridiculous. I am not young but young people today volunteer today more than any other young people in American history. I do not why he feels so insecure that he has to attack this viewpoint. What is being jettisoned? Try guilt, abuse, corruption and it is being replaced with love and tolerance. I am a strong Christian but I am not religious. Why should I have to pay money in order to practice my beliefs? or accept intolerance, corruption and perversion in people who are supposed to be my religious leaders?

    October 1, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  4. BBarnum

    It's not so much of a movement as it is a reflection of how sick and tired people are of being controlled by man-made religion. We have lost faith in our fellow man, but not a higher power.

    What's so hard to undertsand about that?

    October 1, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  5. Anon

    So the argument of this article is that not being a part of a major religion is a bad thing because those who don't aren't picking a "side", and because they lack a moral compass for self betterment.

    Both arguments are utter crap. Atheists have lower divorce rates, lower crime rates, less STDs, lower abortion rates, and higher education rates than any religious group. All of that done without an idea of sin. So that argument is complete baseless for those who are religious but lack a religion.

    Secondly, religion isn't a war, you don't have to pick sides. Religion is a personal belief, belief in something that cannot be known, based entirely on faith, myth, and or personal emotional opinions. There are no sides to pick in the matter of religious faith. The only time sides must be chosen, is when political or temporal power is being amassed in the name of a religion, which is the reason people have been moving away from religions in the first place.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  6. mk

    I overheard a religious radio station telling it's listeners that if they were feeling low or lost in their life, they should become Christian. There's a reason that religions prey upon people who are "lost"...

    October 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  7. Sarah

    If anyone has driven these young people away, it is the churches themselves. More specifically, the leaders who are greedy, hypocritcal, often criminal and completely out of touch. I am celebrating the slow death of demoninational churches - all the while the churches are blaming everyone except themselves. Now it is the young people who are searching outside the outdated doctrines for truth who are the problem.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  8. Marc

    I strongly believe in a Live & Let Live position. People should be allowed to choose their perspective and beliefs and live their lives consistent with those perspectives and beliefs. I do however I take issue with anyone who seeks to impose their perspectives and beliefs on others. To me, it seems that is exactly what the author of this article is trying to accomplish.

    In my opinion, religion is a man-made representation of spirituality. The issue I have with religion is how it is often used as a basis for hate and the control and domination of others. If you look at history, there have been many horrific events that were perpetrated and predicated on religious doctrine. To me that is appaulling and is the reason the I personnaly no longer use religion as a basis for my relationship with God.

    Have you ever wondered why people can't just Live & Let Live? It seems obvious to me. They are insecure in their own position and seek to overcome that insecurity by clinging to something bigger than themselves. In my opinion, people who are Spiritual But Not Religious are actually some of the most secure self-actualized people around. They are the people who give color to the world through diversity rather than conformity.

    So, Live & Let Live seems to be a perspective that gives everbody the opportunity to enjoy life in a manner that works for them. For me, Spiritual But Not Religious works for me. I have no problem with the perspective of the author of this article. But perhapes he should have prefaced it as his opinion.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  9. ThinkAgain: Mittens' 47% = Veterans, Grandma and the Disabled (you know, Jesus' folks)

    Being spiritual is NOT a cop-out; using your supposed belief in God or Jesus to rationalize all your horrific behavior IS.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  10. Devon

    I think the author is missing the point entirely. If someone is claiming they are "spiritual but not religious", they are NOT religious. Being spiritual does not necessarily mean that you have to believe in a "God". We live in an unimaginable universe filled with unimaginable mysteries. Some people feel as though there is more to the universe than a random scientific reaction, but do not agree with the idea of taking rules and ideas that were written down by MEN thousands of years ago as the word of GOD.

    These people just believe that there is something more to the universe that is unexplainable. That's it. They don't believe in God and it is not a cop-out to avoid having to attend church services.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  11. KMOROURKE

    As a member of a 12 Step recovery program, if those wishing to get sober were required to believe in the God religion warped their minds with as a power greater than themselves, nobody would get sober. Instead we can select a higher power of our own understanding. Mine is not a vengeful, punishing God but one that is loving and forgiving who wants the absolute best for me.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  12. highplainsparson

    Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15 That includes the commandment to be a part of His church. If you're not involved in a church, you're not a Christian and not truly spiritual.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Only in your view, hpp, which is hardly based on facts. You don't know what others believe, think, or feel. Nor are you an authority on religion.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • ali

      christianity is a corrupt and false religion. true spirituality can only be achieved through islam.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:40 am |
      • highplainsparson

        Ali, if Islam is true, why did it come so late? Why does it contradict prior revelation from God?

        October 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, you're not. You're a pompous azz who thinks he knows god and that the only possible route to "heaven."

      October 1, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, you're not. You're a pompous azz who thinks he knows god and that the only possible route to "heaven" is the one you read about in the bible.

      Too bad you don't have any evidence that you're right.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • tallulah13

      To be honest, spirituality is connected to christianity only by an individual's personal belief. In many cases it is not connected at all.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • snowboarder

      plains – that is exactly the ignorance that drives people away from the religious. adherents to every religion are "certain" that theirs is the true religion. unfortunately, they are all wrong.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't have to outrun the bear, hpp. I just have to outrun you. That's pretty easy to do, considering your lack of proof that you're right.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • ali

      islam only contradicts the corrupt. your priests and pastors are already becoming muslims. it is proof that islam is the true spiritual path.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:45 am |
      • highplainsparson

        And those few that may be converting to Islam, (although I've never heard of one) are being replaced in droves by those born in Muslim families who have come to embrace Jesus the Son of God, many of whom are becoming pastors of Christian churches in places like Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

        October 1, 2012 at 10:48 am |
      • highplainsparson

        If you can point out corruption in the Holy Scriptures, please do share.

        October 1, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • tallulah13

      I suspect the "good" parson truly enjoys his position of authority and will do his best to suppress all different ideas.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, Tally, his having been in the military shows quite clearly. He likes being "right" and calling others "wrong." It makes everything so much simpler. Too bad he can't prove that what he believes is fact.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      Parson: how can you claim authority when you can't even prove your god exists? I have no problem with you believing whatever you want (This is America. We have that right.) but until you have proof that your god is real and that the bible is his word, there can be no certainty. In fact, considering the lack of proof of your god (or of any god), the most pragmatic approach would be to conclude that no god exists at all.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:52 am |
      • highplainsparson

        Why do you make such assumptions without even bothering to examine the evidence? It's because you don't really want to see it.

        October 1, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • ali

      what droves? islam is the fastest growing religion and you know it.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      What evidence? Please, share this evidence that proves your god is real. The world has been waiting for thousands of years for this proof.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:56 am |
      • highplainsparson

        The internet. Without the God of Scripture we could not have the internet. That's a start. Check out my blog by clicking on my name. There are a few apologetic type of articles there.

        October 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      I suspected you were a troll all along. Thanks for confirming.

      Gotta head to work. Later, kids.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Check out my blog." Yeah, because you're the only charlatan that has a blog.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Primewonk

      Highplainsparson – if christianity is real, why did it come so late.

      Humans have been here in our modern form for 200,000 years. Yet your cobbled together deity didn't crawl onto the scene until 6,000 years ago. What took him so log to show up?

      October 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        God is God from all eternity. He was there prior to the beginning of the universe, and He promised to send Christ to save mankind in Genesis 3:15, spoken to the first man and first woman after they had broken His commandment. Thanks for playing.

        October 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Eric

    I'm not religious but not spiritual. That's because I'm not a child. Reality is my religion. Grow up!

    October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  14. wa2go

    The "Karma Sutra" ??? What the heck is that? What planet is this author from?

    October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Usually I'd blame CNN's execrable level of editing and proofreading, but considering the idiocy of the writing in this article, I'd be more inclined to think the author's a stupid git.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  15. AB

    You want me to take a position? Here's one: if churches weren't failing to deliver the truth that people seek, people wouldn't be seeking truth elsewhere. You mention child abuse, the Religious Right, terrorism, etc – what's the church planning to do about all of that? What are their plans to get their houses in order? If there was a little more self-reflection on their part, there might be a little less of it on ours. We'll come back to the fold when the fold isn't so broken.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  16. Andy

    If you want a better understanding of the author's motivation, and your own reactions to it, try "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion", by Jonathan Haidt. I found it to be cutting edged insight into moral psychology, and learned a lot about myself along the way.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  17. highplainsparson

    He's right. It is a cop out.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      In your opinion. Which is highly suspect.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      And you opinion wouldn't be biased by your personal belief, would it, Parson?

      October 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Please expound.

      What is being "copped out" of? On what criteria can you base your judgement? How do you know what a person who is spiritual but not religious believes?

      It is fairly clear from this article that the author is judging a very broad section of society based on preconceived notions rather than any actual experience.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:35 am |
      • highplainsparson

        They are afraid to just say they are not religious, so they come up with this nebulous concept of "spirituality."

        October 1, 2012 at 10:36 am |
        • myweightinwords

          Who is "they"? What do they believe?

          What is spirituality?

          Those I know who do not consider themselves religious come from many different backgrounds and practice various forms of spirituality.

          They don't fit neatly into some little box as you and the author seem to assume that they do.

          There is no fear in saying "I am not religious". I'm not. I'm a Pagan, with deep spiritual beliefs but no doctrine or dogma that my beliefs hang from. I have no religious body that I turn to in order to be told what to believe.

          Now, I know some religious Pagans too. Very devoted to their religion. I just don't happen to be one of them.

          I know a fair number of Christians who likewise are not religious, but are avowed of their beliefs.

          Clearly the author has never spent any time with people like me or them.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
        • highplainsparson

          Paganism most certainly does have specific dogma, rituals, and practice, if you are a real pagan.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:44 am |
        • myweightinwords

          I doubt very highly I'm going to take your word for what Paganism is or what a TRUE Pagan is.

          As I said, many Pagans are religious. They have dogma, rituals, and specific practices. Not all of us are. Oh, I know HOW to pull out all the stops and participate in high ritual, and I have done so in the past.

          However, my daily life and what I believe does not require strict, rigid adherence to the nonsense dictated by men who lived in a time so long before ours that it is foreign.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:47 am |
        • highplainsparson

          This is the problem with human religion. It can't get to the truth because it originates from inside of us, and the gap between us and the ultimate and eternal is far too great for us to surmount. There is no hope for man to learn the truth unless the Creator reveals Himself. The good news is that He has, in His Son Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:53 am |
        • myweightinwords

          So you propose to solve the problem of human religion...with another human religion?

          More of the "my way is the only right way" thinking.

          Sorry, I left that mentality a long time ago when I walked away from Christianity and out of the ministry program.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:56 am |
        • highplainsparson

          Christianity is not a human religion. It is the only way revealed by God. It has all the marks of divine origin. No human being could ever dream up Christianity.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:57 am |
        • myweightinwords

          Until you study the history of it and realize that it is, in fact, just another made up, man made religion that had the good fortune to be picked up by an emperor.

          October 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
        • highplainsparson

          God was working all things according to His purpose when Constantine converted. It was not due to the pagan figment fortuna. History confirms Christianity as we can see God's hand at work in every age preserving His word and His people.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
        • myweightinwords

          You can believe what you like. My study of the history of Christianity, even just of the bible, was enough for me to come to the conclusion that I had been lied to and that the religion was yet another attempt to codify and dogmatize something that can not be held inside a structure.

          The story of Christ is the same story as told in numerous myths before his, repackaged and resold (All New! Better Than Ever!).

          October 1, 2012 at 11:07 am |
        • highplainsparson

          What were you studying that led you down this path?

          October 1, 2012 at 11:10 am |
        • myweightinwords

          That, my friend, is a very long story.

          The short version is: I was studying to become a minister. One course in my study touched briefly on how the bible came to be. It touched off my historical curiosity and I set of fin search of more information.

          What I found raised doubts. Those doubts were at first dismissed, then frowned upon, then treated as though I had been possessed by demons by my mentors and teachers.

          I was told to study scripture and pray, which I did. Devoutly. Almost to the detriment of my health.

          In the end, rather than affirming what I had always believed, that study and prayer led only to more doubt and fear, to the conclusion that everything I had known and believed was false.

          My study continued, even as my faith wavered. Eventually I walked away from Christianity, but not from study. My path after that eventually led me to what I believe today.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:17 am |
        • highplainsparson

          Again, what exactly were you studying that led you to doubt? The Bible really does have an unparalleled and wonderful history of transmission. There are lots of junk books out there which revise history, but they can be easily refuted. I think you would have been much better off spending your time just studying the Bible.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:19 am |
        • myweightinwords

          It was more than twenty years ago, I don't have the name of a book or anything. It was course work provided by the school I was attending.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:24 am |
        • highplainsparson

          Exactly. My suggestion is that you read the Scriptures for yourself, without commentaries. Immerse yourself in the power of God and the wisdom of God. And perhaps He will show you the truth, if He wills.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:26 am |
        • myweightinwords

          Been there, done that.

          It isn't like I wanted to stop believing. It isn't like I hit one doubt and walked away. It took me years to finally admit that I didn't believe. And in those years I studied, I read the bible, I prayed....at times so immersing myself in that in an effort to hold on to what I believed that it was a detriment to my health.

          In the end, what I knew in my heart was not what I read in the bible nor what I had believed for so long.

          October 1, 2012 at 11:37 am |
        • highplainsparson

          That is sad. But don't give up. It is still the day of salvation. You are still alive, and there is still a Savior who is able and willing to save you from your sins. Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely, even people have "been there and done that."

          October 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          I don't need salvation. Thank you.

          I've worked very hard to find the path I'm on today. I like the person I am today.

          October 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          I don't doubt it. That could be your problem.

          October 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          I don't have a problem.

          Apparently you seem to have one understanding anything that doesn't agree with your world view.

          October 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          My worldview accounts for your story very well, actually. There are millions of people trapped in a deathly stupor of self-satisfaction and self-security, from which they will never awaken without a miracle from the sovereign God intervening in them.

          October 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          Which has nothing to do with my story at all, only your interpretation of things I've said based in your own bias.

          I am a better person today than I was as a Christian.

          To me, there is no better indication of the "goodness" of a person's faith than the way in which they interact with others.

          October 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          By what standard do you judge "goodness?" By what standard or measure do you think that your interaction with others is now "better?" Without God's revealing Himself in the Bible, humanity is just groping around in the dark.

          October 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          What standard do any of us use to judge what is good?

          Basic human understanding of what is beneficial to the society around us, to the people we encounter...the morality that my beliefs hold me to...all of these things inform my understanding of what is good.

          I am a more moral person than I was then. I am more generous, more tolerant, simply a better person.

          October 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          "Beneficial" requires detailed definition. Also, your value that society around you and the people you encounter should be "benefitted" is able to be questioned. Who's to say that Mr. X is wrong if he disagrees and thinks that he should come first? The only immovable standard for morality is found in the righteous character of the God who reveals himself in creation and in the Bible. He is the standard and His law defines what is right. Apart from Him, we can't even have a discussion about what "right" is because everything is meaningless. If we are a bunch of atoms randomly headed to nowhere in particular, that is not a basis for thought, discussion, or the very concept that there can be such a thing as morality. If it were not for the Creator, we could not even have a discussion.

          October 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          “Beneficial” requires detailed definition.

          Not really. This person can not feed their kids. I buy them groceries. This person can now feed their kids. Beneficial. Kids don't starve to death. Pretty simple.

          Also, your value that society around you and the people you encounter should be “benefitted” is able to be questioned.

          Sure, it can be questioned. That's a part of morality. It's a part of being a society. What is beneficial? What is good? What is bad? Yet, doing the right thing isn't wrong.

          Who’s to say that Mr. X is wrong if he disagrees and thinks that he should come first?

          If that is his choice and it doesn't contradict his conscience, that is acceptable. Fortunately, most human beings tend toward the common good when faced with ethical and moral decisions. Not all, and not all of us all the time, but enough.

          The only immovable standard for morality is found in the righteous character of the God who reveals himself in creation and in the Bible.

          Except that the god revealed in the bible is neither moral nor righteous.

          He is the standard and His law defines what is right

          So then, I take it that you believe that disobedient children should be stoned, rape victims forced to marry their rapists and polyester is a sin?

          Apart from Him, we can’t even have a discussion about what “right” is because everything is meaningless.

          I feel sorry for people who believe this. It seems you would rather believe yourself evil without intervention than realize you are an amazing individual born with goodness in your heart.

          If we are a bunch of atoms randomly headed to nowhere in particular, that is not a basis for thought, discussion, or the very concept that there can be such a thing as morality.

          How do you jump to determining that we are a bunch of aimless atoms? Did I say anything about that? I believe in purpose, in a reason for our lives.

          If it were not for the Creator, we could not even have a discussion.

          Clearly, I disagree. Well, at least in that I disagree if you mean the creator that you call god.

          The discussion about creators, creation and divinity is firmly outside of the scope of this subject, and my understanding of the Divine is vastly different than yours.

          October 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Mr. X thinks it's best if the kids die, so he doesn't feed them and you can't say he's wrong. You have to affirm that his value is as valid as yours, as you said. This is the type of relativism which we descend into if human beings are the standard of right and wrong. Let me be clear that the God of the Bible is entirely righteous and holy in all his works. You are misrepresenting some Bible texts, which it appears you haven't tried very hard to understand. This is common among those who are trying to tear down Christianity. They don't take the time to understand what they are criticizing.

          October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          Mr. X thinks it’s best if the kids die, so he doesn’t feed them and you can’t say he’s wrong.

          Yes, I can. See, I can choose to feed them. Then they don't die. He doesn't have to.

          And before you go the next ridiculous step, if he is the only one who can feed them, there is still the fact of the law.

          You have to affirm that his value is as valid as yours, as you said.

          No, I don't. I can affirm that he has different morals than I do and I disagree with him. I can affirm that those are his choices and I can't interfere with them. I can still buy food and feed those kids.

          This is the type of relativism which we descend into if human beings are the standard of right and wrong.

          No, this is the kind of inanity those who want to believe in a moral absolute try to artificially place on those of us who see morality for what it is.

          Let me be clear that the God of the Bible is entirely righteous and holy in all his works.

          So genocide is righteous? Does this mean that you support the genocide of all Muslims? All Buddhists? All Atheists?

          It's either righteous or it's wrong, isn't that your belief?

          You are misrepresenting some Bible texts, which it appears you haven’t tried very hard to understand.

          No, I am not. I'm doing the same thing to you that you are trying to do to me. Take what you are saying you believe to it's logical extreme to point out the fallacy inherent.

          This is common among those who are trying to tear down Christianity. They don’t take the time to understand what they are criticizing.

          I have no need to tear down Christianity. I simply don't believe it to be the one and only truth you do, and I can point out reasons why.

          October 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          You're going in circles. First you said that if someone had different values from you, you couldn't judge that you were right and he wrong. Now, you are making a judgment that your notion of morality is right and Mr. X is wrong, and you're adding the weight of civil law to it. But can you prove that your idea is moral and Mr. X's view is immoral? By what standard?

          Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find a general command to commit genocide. So you are simply making ill-informed or malicious attacks on the Bible. This does not help your side.

          October 2, 2012 at 1:45 am |
        • myweightinwords

          You’re going in circles

          Actually, no. I'm not.

          First you said that if someone had different values from you, you couldn’t judge that you were right and he wrong.

          No, what I said was that I couldn't judge FOR HIM what was right, what was moral.

          Now, you are making a judgment that your notion of morality is right and Mr. X is wrong, and you’re adding the weight of civil law to it.

          Civil law is the base common morality for our society. It is the morality we have agreed upon and those who live in our society are bound by it.

          But can you prove that your idea is moral and Mr. X’s view is immoral? By what standard?

          I don't need to. I have no need to make anyone live up to my standard of morality. It would be nice, of course. But the only morality I can hold anyone to is the law.

          Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find a general command to commit genocide.

          What do you call the great flood?
          And as to commanding his people? No, that's right. They kept the women alive.

          So you are simply making ill-informed or malicious attacks on the Bible. This does not help your side

          I was not being malicious, nor am I ill-informed. I simply disagree with your interpretation. I make no judgement of you or your beliefs, nor do I attack. I may state things a little facetiously at times, but there is no attack.

          October 2, 2012 at 11:03 am |
        • highplainsparson

          "I have no need to make anyone live up to my standard of morality." So there you go. You have no need to make Mr. X stop starving children, and since as you said civil law is based on consensus, if a society decides that certain people should not be fed, that they aren't worth feeding, then that becomes the moral standard for that society based on majority rule. I submit that your way of thinking lends no basis for morality. Morality cannot exist in your worldview. It all comes down to subjective feelings which can be different between different individuals and societies.

          Now, we both know it is ludicrous to say that it is moral to starve people. But you can't explain why. The Bible teaches that God created you, me, and all people with an innate, ingrained sense of right and wrong based on His own righteous character. The fact that you know it is wrong to starve children is because the Triune God created you after His image. Since you openly deny belief in Him, you can't explain where your standard comes from, but the Bible does. And in the Bible we find a more perfect standard in reflection of God's righteous character, the only true source of right and wrong, of morality.

          The flood is a narrative, not a command for us to follow. God had every right to kill every man woman and child on the face of the earth for their sins, but he mercifully chose to save Noah and his family. We humans do not have the same right that God has. There are now and then instances where God commands men to kill on his behalf recorded in the Bible. These again are righteous judgments of wicked men by the good judge of the earth who always does what is right, and the punishments are well-deserved. It doesn't mean we can go killing indiscriminately without a specific commandment from God, for we do not have that right.

          October 2, 2012 at 11:52 am |
        • myweightinwords

          So there you go. You have no need to make Mr. X stop starving children, and since as you said civil law is based on consensus, if a society decides that certain people should not be fed, that they aren’t worth feeding, then that becomes the moral standard for that society based on majority rule.

          There you go again, jumping from the basics of the discussion to conclusions that are not what I said at all. First off, we are not a majority rule country. We are a republic where individual freedoms can not be trumped by the tyranny of the majority. Secondly, are we NOT a society that in many ways has come to the consensus that it's okay to starve children? Or not supply them with necessary medical care?

          I said the civil law is the common morality. It is not the highest morality. A person has no obligation to do a thing simply because it is legal to do. So say it was legal to allow a child to starve to death because it's parents couldn't afford to feed it. That does not mean that we as a society MUST allow that child to die.

          I submit that your way of thinking lends no basis for morality. Morality cannot exist in your worldview.

          No? I submit that you do not understand morality if you can only be moral because someone tells you to be.

          It all comes down to subjective feelings which can be different between different individuals and societies.

          Indeed. That is what subjective is. It is based on the situation, the society, the individual. Name something you consider universally immoral. I'm willing to bet a situation exists where you would be forced to concede it to be the right thing to do.

          Now, we both know it is ludicrous to say that it is moral to starve people. But you can’t explain why.

          Yes I can. It deprives them of life. It violates their right to exist. That in and of itself makes it the wrong thing to do.

          The Bible teaches that God created you, me, and all people with an innate, ingrained sense of right and wrong based on His own righteous character.

          Of course, you would have to first establish:

          a) that this god exists
          b) that he did in fact create us
          c) that the bible is true
          d) that this god is righteous and capable of dictating morality.

          The fact that you know it is wrong to starve children is because the Triune God created you after His image.

          I disagree. I know that is wrong because my beliefs dictate that human life is sacred, and innocent human life is more so.

          Since you openly deny belief in Him, you can’t explain where your standard comes from, but the Bible does.

          When did I deny belief in him? Have I ever said I believe he doesn't exist? Or have I said that I don't find him righteous or all that moral? There is a difference.

          And in the Bible we find a more perfect standard in reflection of God’s righteous character, the only true source of right and wrong, of morality.

          The god I find in the bible is not one I would willingly serve. There is no honor in him, no righteousness. There is pettiness and vindictiveness. There is anger and circular reasoning.

          The flood is a narrative, not a command for us to follow.

          I never said that it was. I said that your god, if that story is to be believed, is guilty of genocide. That's all.

          God had every right to kill every man woman and child on the face of the earth for their sins, but he mercifully chose to save Noah and his family.

          And here is an example of why I do not find him moral. If this god created man capable of sin, knowing he would sin, and that sin would make him unacceptable to the god that created him, the fault lies with the god, not the man.

          If a human father behaved that way, he would be found guilty of murder. Should we not hold our deity to a higher standard than we do humanity?

          We humans do not have the same right that God has.

          I disagree. Of course, to explain my level of disagreement I would have to get into what I understand the Divine and deity to be and that's a bit long winded for an already long winded conversation.

          There are now and then instances where God commands men to kill on his behalf recorded in the Bible. These again are righteous judgments of wicked men by the good judge of the earth who always does what is right, and the punishments are well-deserved.

          So...killing a bunch old boys who's biggest sins were being born in the wrong city, a city that God told Israel to invade, is a good and right reason?

          It doesn’t mean we can go killing indiscriminately without a specific commandment from God, for we do not have that right.

          So, if God told you to march into the next town and kill all the boys and men and any women who have had sex, but take the virgins for yourself, because that town was wicked, it would be okay, because god said to?

          October 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • ali

      revealed from god? you dont even know for sure who authored those corrupted booklets of your bible.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • highplainsparson

        If they are corrupt than why did Mohammed in the 7th century affirm the toraut and injil in his day, calling Christians and Jews "people of the book"?

        October 1, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • evinar

      Who told you it was revealed by God? Do you know that feeling you get when you think something is revealed to you by God? It's the result of years and years of coincidentally being in the company of religious people while having emotional experiences in your youth. The reason you're still sticking to it is simple – either you busied yourself too much away from a true philosophical understanding of your own beliefs or you lack the mental or empathetical faculties necessary. I'm willing to let you believe what you believe... that's not the problem. The problem is that you don't even know why you believe what you believe.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:46 am |
      • highplainsparson

        I know what I have believed and why, and my firm persuasion comes from the Holy Spirit acting on my mind to cause me to embrace God's self-revelation contained in the Bible.

        October 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • ali

      the remaining true christians and jews of the prophet's time have since then become muslims. all that remain are the untrue.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • tallulah13

      Every true believer of every god ever worshiped by humans has felt the same conviction you do, parson. Emotional experiences and desire to believe do not consti.tute proof.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • evinar

      Do you feel a rush of endorphins while writing that? Why do you suppose a Muslim can feel the same rush of opioid peptides while saying something completely contrary to you? I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's proven WHY people believe in God in religious contexts. Studies are done and types of people isolated into experimental and control groups, and correlations between trait types, family histories, etc. I know exactly why I used to believe, and why I don't anymore. I think too much, on my own terms, and weigh everything. I'm obsessed with reversing the vilification of people due to a belief that 'evil' external to the human psyche exists.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
      • highplainsparson

        It's not based on my feelings, but based on incontrovertible evidence undeniably pressed on the soul by God Himself.

        October 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot you get "revelations from god". If only you had any evidence for this god, because without it, the only authority you have was given to you by humans.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • evinar

      Better look up the definition of incontrovertible. Give yourself credit for your own brain instead of attributing your own creative thought to something else. I guarantee you'll understand your past and how its shaped you, expand your horizons, and be more open with other people.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "It's not based on my feelings, but based on incontrovertible evidence undeniably pressed on the soul by God Himself."

      Of course it's based on your feelings.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:10 am |
      • highplainsparson

        For people who don't share my beliefs, you sure do think you know a lot a bout why I believe what I do, don't you? With those kind of assumptions you'll never be able to learn anything.

        October 1, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "my firm persuasion comes from the Holy Spirit acting on my mind to cause me to embrace God's self-revelation contained in the Bible."

      In other words, you believe something. You have no facts to prove it exists or is based on fact.

      But you're certainly going to attempt to tell everyone else that it is and get more folks to cough up hard-earned bucks to support your fundie church.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • highplainsparson

        I never said there weren't facts. There are, but that's not why I believe. I believe because I know the truth.

        The kingdom of God is not about money. If it were about money I would have stayed doing what I was doing before.

        October 1, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • evinar

      It's obvious you're too far gone... I'm very sorry and I hope, more than anything, that your everlasting kingdom exists.. for your sake. Wasting a life is no joke, especially with the miracles of the brain and the USEFULNESS of its imagination.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "I am open to other people."

      AHahahhhahhhahhahahaaaa! Thanks for the laugh. That's the funniest thing I've seen you post yet.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      " With those kind of assumptions you'll never be able to learn anything."

      Yes, you sound so very "open" to others. You are making as sumptions about everyone who doesn't share your beliefs, you hypocrite.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • highplainsparson

        That's not an assumption. That's a response to your stated assumptions. That's how dialogue works. You state, and I respond to your statements.

        October 1, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You really are just a troll. I won't waste my time with a guy who got a degree from an online seminary.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:22 am |
      • highplainsparson

        So then just throw in the towel already, if all you have are ill-informed insults. May the Triune God richly bless and save you.

        October 1, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  18. Jeremy Truitt

    Reblogged this on Jeremy Truitt.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  19. evinar

    Freedom of religion is a joke. Religion offers NO freedom to its clientele from BIRTH, so why should the public be more courteous?

    Likewise, the writer of this article seems so pathetically attached to his religion that his excuses make NO effort to conceal the fact that his idealism is the anchor and influences his logic, and not the other way around.

    October 1, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  20. Tim

    Superficial dribble.....the modern incarnation of the church is most often the probelm and then add the hypocritical right wing ... where do you expect thinking people who really care to go.......

    October 1, 2012 at 10:31 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.