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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. Timothy Tebow - God's OTHER son

    I just spoke with Dad for a bit. He says the "spiritual but religious" crwod, is the closest to getting it right and that this author can get lost. He also said to pray for the Jets to lose again next week; I'm THIS close to getting my starting QB gig back! Amen!!!!
    -Tim

    October 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  2. scallywag

    6 thousand sects of christianity. All of them are 'right,' according to their followers. Sure, uh huh. In truth, religion allows people not to have to think. It'll do the 'thinking for you. Easy, as most people here are intellectually lazy. They like having someone else tell them 'how it works.' Spiritual or 'religious, it doesn't matter, if you are too lazy to become enlightened. No one really knows what happens after you die, inspite of all the bleatings of Judeo-Christo religion, and its legions of false priests. Has anyone ever died and came back to tell? Faith? Another lazy excuse. Those who think they know, don't. Those who know they know, know the least of all. Learn for yourselves, become truely enlightened. Think for yourself.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • ngboutin

      AGREE 100%!! One of my favorite lines: Religion neutralizes your curiosity

      October 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      '......Judeo-Christo religion....' Sounds like a feminist wedding that can't possibly 'work'. Notice the clue, the hyphen.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      Sounds like you are talking about something you know very little about..... Maybe someone can do some thinking for you.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Rob-Texas, some real kooks graduated from that Dallas cemetery. JR never bothered to warn em.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      scallywag
      6 thousand sects of christianity........'????? And then YOU say they aren't using ye olde noodle? I'd say they have been doing some thinking. How many sects of atheists do you declare?

      October 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  3. Patricia Mumme

    Uh, there's no such thing as the Karma Sutra. And the Kama Sutra is hardly either a spiritual or religious text. He's running down people who don't know texts he himself doesn't know!
    But more seriously, he seems to suffer from the Western predilection that religion is about beliefs, and maybe morals, alone. Those who call themselves spiritual want the EXPERIENTIAL dimension, but can't find any current mainstream organized religion that offers much here. The failing is on the part of the Modernistic, post-scientific-revolution Western religions. Eastern religions never took experience out of religion. The phrase "I'm spiritual, not religious" would make no sense in India.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. Don Wall

    The flight away from established religions is a flight away from dogma and the history of violence in the name of..... towards anyone who believed differently.I say let thinking people work it out.(They are going to anyway). In an ideal world, people would have the imagination of Einstein and the compassion of Jesus. Is that too much to ask of mankind?

    October 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  5. AdamtheDude

    I'm neither spirtual nor religious, after having been brought up in a very religious family. I've seen the hypocrisy up close and personal and want nothing to do with it, thank you very much.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • pccoder

      so, so agreed. There is no god, there is no easter bunny. we are all but little twigs in the enormous universal river. we are meaningless in the grand scheme.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Diane Baumann

      Dear Alan and Dan,

      Your article has a blatant inconsistency, and because you have trouble yourself, with the contradictions that abound in your own consciousness, you hold to a philosophy that is inherently, if you pardon the expression, totalitatian - indeed, it borders on the fascistic. This protects you from the "attack" of the Other, you think...but if you ask me, it brings up enough negative energy in you to have a spiritual breakdown, like Job, and to side only with people, who hold to Scripture, blindly - in other words, to side with those who have not learned to trust that thinking for themselves, as individuals, is a good thing. Yours would be a non-thinking mob for the rest of eternity, if you had your way. With the postmodern developments in consciousness, the economy, education, corporate greed, terrorism, and globalism, God help us if your dream comes true.

      You seem to need sheep. You need lost souls in desperation, with nowhere to go and with no linguistic capacity ever to question your authority - you need those who think that there is some level of permanence in your Scripture or your version of Enlightenment philosophy (as if those were at all really opposed) - you need those, in other words, who do not think for themselves, and who buy into your illusion that anything, any view, provides us with the ideas of permanence and security. There is no permanence. When will you supposedly "religious" folks realize this? Nothing is permanent. Things die every day; our own awareness changes everyday, and geez, with this economy, our (I mean us less fortunate ones) reality changes every blessed day. Wake up, I say, wake up. You're living in a dream world. You do not have the answers, any more than anyone else does, with all due respect.

      History will always change things, and your beliefs (or mine, for that matter), will continue to evolve (whether or not you decide to let them), and so will those you pass on to others while you pass through this life. They pass through another, with different conditions and different experiences, trials, and tribulations.

      There is no permanence, and thus, no pressing need to answer all these mundane questions now: will I submit to the authority of Scripture entirely, or will I hold a piece of my heart and my intellect to decide differently, should things change? Don't get me wrong: while I say this, I still want to commit to the idea of a higher power, persons who are enlightened enough to envision a peaceful future, persons who are endowed with a heart that holds compassion for others as its highest value, etc...but this is the way that I deal with the contradiction of permanence...we are all transitory, we die, things change. That's the way of things. The only thing, as far as I am concerned, that keeps us permanent is our belief in the value of goodness, and how we translate that into daily action, even across the boundaries of race, gender, class, and creed...That is real permanence precisely because it does not, as a form of consciousness, submit to dogma that, with the way reality and history simply IS, or plays out, CAN NEVER give us all the answers...

      Things change, and though I believe in much of the Scripture, that is what is wrong with the dogma of it all. You want it to be true for all time...you want one interpretation that gives you clear-cut answers. That is for the simple-inded, pardon me. Scripture itself was based on audiences that the monk writers knew, themselves, could not yet read. There are many "signs" and "symbols" in the Bible that were MEANT to be read on several levels - the literal, the anagogical, and many steps in between (five, to be exact). Centuries ago, it was known that no reading of Scripture could be interpreted in one way...if you're talking about the Christian faith, which is already so one-sided, nowadays...

      You don't have "THE ANSWER," and neither do I, for that matter.

      Your arrogance is simply a defense because you expect controversy, and indeed because you provoked it, willingly, so that you could prove your way of seeing things, by default. Me? I've decided, long ago, that I don't want this controversy, and I do not engage with my attackers by openly provoking them. I simply see them as who they are, as limited in their perspectives as they might be, exactly as I am, and treat them like my brother, like someone I met for the first time, and as though that person deserves the best of everything.

      If we lived in a truly civil society, that called for us, generally, to be polite and to talk about our differences in a genuine way, and if really were interested in an educated public, we would be behaving in this way.

      You want answers to life's aggravating questions yourself, and you are obviously not yet in possession of those; I can't help but wonder whether or not this article was written precisely to provoke those you see as your opponents, simply to challenge them to give you something higher (you are the one who is searching, it seems) - than you have received through your own beliefs. Something is missing for you, and that is why you have to play such a hard line that all must choose between Scripture and Enlightenment philosophy.

      No, we must not choose between these. There is a way, without inconsistency, to choose the best of both and live a life in service to the nurturing of the potential of all others, regardless of Belief, and that is through re-learning a simple thing called "compassion" for other human beings, regardless of where they come from. I learned this through Buddhist philosophy, but I am not a proponent of any belief system, and proud of that fact. I might be ecelectic, but what makes me consistent is my belief is something that combines the belief of Scripture with that of Englightenment philosophy: nurturing life is goodness, simply, and helping others to see a model that thinking for ourselves can help heal the world of all past injustices - so that we all learn to WANT to be good...within reason and by our own choice...: you have a society like that, you'll have less injustices, less violence, less money-grubbing by people who hold themselves as representatives of "authority" - (which side are you on, by the way, if you see the world as so divided in such a bipolar reality...?)...

      There is no way that any "enlightened" individual would hold to your dictatorship of having to decide between Scripture, and philosophoy that would question authority (Enlightenment...)...

      At least not, any rational and heart-felt individual...

      But you decide: which side are you on, or have you finally decided to get along with all others and try to make a world of peace together?

      I am very angry at your position, and I could have been much harsher in my critique of your words. Believing in dialogue, as a true Buddhist, and a spiritualist rather than a religious person, however, I decided to give you a chance to continue the dialogue.

      Have a blessed day. Thank you for listening, and may consciousness and compassion follow you everywhere.

      Diane

      October 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  6. Golmer

    Of course he pops out on the end with something to the effect that the morality and culture of the entire western world relies on one believing in HIS religion. He has the blinders on and doesn't even know it.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      I actually think he's somehow trying to disgust people. He's obviously doing a great job of turning people away from religion, judging from all the comments. Who really wants to be like this guy in the way he sees other fellow human beings. What he's trying to tell the world is, "See? Look at the total dou chebag religion has made me. You don't really want to be like me!"

      October 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      I assume you can read, so why do you generalize. Oh yes, to come off with a spin. He said that many of aspects of Western culture are rooted in relegion. Then he said, don't act like a fruit cake. If you are spirital but not religious, define what you mean. You believe you have a soul but there is no God. You beleive in God but do not agree with any denominations you have experianced from Christan churches. You believe that every religion has some true parts and take what you want like a salad bar, or you just don't want to think so your spriital?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  7. ld

    All I have every received from "religion" is judgement and hipocracy. I firmly believe in God. I do not belived in using God to justify putting one man over another. That is what religion does. We are all God's children no matter what one person calls him or herself. We do not have to right to judge anyone else because that person does not think the same way you do. That's why I don't belong to a "religion".

    October 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      Do you know how silly that sounds? All relgion, all churches, all christians are not that way. So you just going to gernalize everyone and pretend your enlightened. This article was written to you!

      October 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  8. Mary Anne Burns

    Who is Alan Miller? This is one of the most ignorant articles I have ever read on this topic, and without any credentials, it is patently absurd.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  9. be

    You have better luck finding spiritual realizations in a forest than in a church

    October 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • scissoringforequality

      i agree

      October 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Too bad we as a species are getting rid of all the other species. We seem to think there isn't enough room for anyone but us and our silly wants and "needs" while we fill the pockets of the few super rich who rely on our stupidity and ignorance.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      Have you ever been in a church? How many?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  10. lover of freedom

    I think that many of the people who check the box marked spiritual but not religious are atheists who don't want to upset their religious family and friends by admitting that they don't believe in the spirit in the sky.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • scissoringforequality

      thats funny i thought the word "spirit" was the inherent term found in the word "spiritual?"

      October 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      scissor, true spirituality goes much deeper than that. You would have to actually try it and read up on it to actually know something about it btw.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  11. KenMac

    Idiot

    October 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  12. RickBurn

    FAITH is believing in something without understanding it. Too many "religious" leaders want us to believe that THEIR understanding of God is the one that is important. No thanks. I'll pray to the God of my understanding, and skip the middle man. Religion is man-made, and therefore flawed. Spirituality is, to me, a personal relationship with God that is based on nothing more than FAITH.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  13. Leo

    I feel like this author is confusing "spirituality not religious", with "I don't care about either". The growth of the human spirit and the search for truth is ongoing. I feel like the real "cop out" is to stagnate yourself by picking one set of beliefs and claiming this to be the end all be all for how to live life. By not exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new information that are not a part of your religion, you really limit your growth as a human being.
    He states "Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingness, but not-trying-ness either". The not trying part could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, people who do not accept one religion as absolute truth are always forced to think and process new information and figure out ways to apply this information to life ad help figure out the answers to life's mystery's. With spirituality you have to create your own ideas and beliefs, religion just hands you a recipe.
    The author also states "Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better."". I know for a fact that's the general idea behind Christianity is to go through life's trials and struggles and by making the right choice you will eventually "feel good/better" for all eternity in heaven. With spirituality you do the same thing. For me new experiences and information should not always feel nice. A lot of the time they will challenge what you thought to be true and force you to really think. But ultimately you go through it to learn and become a better person and hopefully feel better about the way you live your life.
    Your whole idea that we have to choose a side, "Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action?", is as you say "old fashion". The world is not black and white and your whole idea of "us against them" is fundamental to your inability to understand true spiritual growth outside of one religion.
    So again I think you a wrong to assume that “spiritual not religious” means “I don’t care”.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  14. Chad

    What's fascinating to me is the differing reaction that atheists and Christians have towards criticism.

    Atheists are on this board all day every day with one basic message: "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid", and you never see this kind of outpouring of incensed righteous indignation from Christians. You'll see the isolated instance of "you're going to burn in hell", but by and large, the responses are not even close to this level of anger.

    what does this unique atheist reaction tell us? This furious reaction on the part of atheists is very telling.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • snowboarder

      not just the god of abraham. subscribing to faith based religion is the real intellectual cop-out.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How is it you haven't answered my question, Chard? Or is it that you can't?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      these reponses are not from self-professed atheists. These passionate responses are from people who say they are "spiritual but not religious" – which to me largely means people who are in denial over (and afraid to embrace) atheism, likely due to one of:

      1. Fear of death
      2. Fear of the social unacceptability of atheism
      3. (A minority who really thinks about it) the notion that beauty, art, reason, etc are not physically measurable and want these to exist in a spiritual plane.

      By the way, I resent the assertion that atheists here think "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid". Some clearly behave this way but is an unreasonable generalization. I recognize that faith is a gift for those who are willing* to accept it. It's not for me, but I don't think it's stupid.

      * with the cognitive dissonance required

      October 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • snowboarder

      GOP – a lifetime of indoctrination is difficult to overcome.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • mike w

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV:
      ""spiritual but not religious" – which to me largely means people who are in denial . ."

      OK, so now you're the one who is the pompous person who assumes way too much about people. And that is the main fault of the author here.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @snowboarder,

      indeed so sir!

      That's what I like so much about this article. It challenges all those in the "nothing in particular / unaffilliated" category.

      Pew Forum estimates them at:

      Secular unaffilliated ...... 6.3%
      Religious unaffilliated .... 5.8%

      They have come out in force here. The challenge the author makes is to either believe in something or take the stand and say "I don't believe in God" – not take a wishy washy position. This is terrific.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @mike w,

      pompous eh? I'm glad I got through to you.

      What do you REALLY believe?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "these responses are not from self-professed atheists. These passionate responses are from people who say they are "spiritual but not religious" – which to me largely means people who are in denial over (and afraid to embrace) atheism, likely due to one of:"
      @Chad "hmm..
      what exactly is the difference between an atheist, and a person that seeks "spirituality" with something other than a god?
      Neither believe in any deities..

      ===
      You see a difference in these two statements??
      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid".
      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are engaging in an activity that requires them to suspend their rationality"

      =====
      @TTTPS: if you want to get a response from me, you're going to need to learn to stop using a continuous stream of invective and vulgar references.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      many of the people who claim "spiritual but not religious" still believe in a deity – maybe not your Abrahamic one but a deity nonetheless.

      By your definition, are Buddhists atheists?

      October 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • mike w

      @GOPer

      I am an agnostic. But I firmly believe all religion is false. Made up stuff. But regardless, I also don't believe anyone can confirm, nor deny the level of spirituality any one person possesses (although we sometimes get a good idea from their actions – not so much that's provable from their words, though).

      October 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • mike w

      @GOPer – to continue what I said, that's why it is foolish imho for anyone to say anyone else is in denial about anything. To me there is more justification to say someone is in denial for subscribing to one of the existing religions since they are nothing more than fable.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      you posed whether I see a distinction between these statements:

      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid".
      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are engaging in an activity that requires them to suspend their rationality"

      The answer is yes, of course – how else can 'faith' be defined? I found that I could no longer suspend rationality in this way, but it doesn't mean I think that those who do so are stupid. I have lots of religious friends and relatives. I don't think they are stupid. It's just not for me.

      BTW, I used 'cognitive dissonance' not 'suspension of rationality'.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "many of the people who claim "spiritual but not religious" still believe in a deity – maybe not your Abrahamic one but a deity nonetheless."
      @Chad "true (it is possible to believe in a deity, but not wish to be affiliated with a particular insti tution), but that is not what the author is talking about in this article.

      He is specifically talking about people that invent their own spiritual target.

      ====
      @GOPer "By your definition, are Buddhists atheists?
      @Chad "No, I dont call Buddhists atheists.

      ====
      You see a difference in these two statements??
      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid".
      "people that believe in the God of Abraham are engaging in an activity that requires them to suspend their rationality"

      October 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Chad

      oops, you already answered that..

      BTW, I used 'cognitive dissonance' not 'suspension of rationality'.

      cognitive dissonance refers to the ability to hold two conflicting viewpoints at the same time.
      what term would you use to describe a person like that?

      October 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      you asked "cognitive dissonance refers to the ability to hold two conflicting viewpoints, what term would you use to describe a person like that?"

      My answer? A tad facetiously, believers! ;)

      October 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @mike w,

      thanks for responding.

      Most of us who post here, myself certainly included, are guilty of over-generalization. Nevertheless ...

      I really liked this article. It throws down the gauntlet to people who feel like they believe in something, but don't really know what that is. They say they are "spiritual" because this is socially acceptable, but clearly don't buy into the premise of any dogma they are familiar with.

      This is fine as a transitionary point for people who are on their own personal journey of spiritual exploration, but it is not a destination for that journey. Ultimately this approach is intellectually dishonest as a system of belief.

      The authors challenge is to choose a concrete belief, accept dogma through faith, or stand up and say "I don't believe in God.

      Me, I don't believe in God.

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

      right, well, my original point sure stands uncontested...

      ==========
      Atheists are on this board all day every day with one basic message: "people that believe in the God of Abraham are stupid" (the nice version is "people that believe in God are engaging in holding rational and irrational beliefs simultaneously, but we wont call them "stupid")", and you never see this kind of outpouring of incensed righteous indignation from Christians. You'll see the isolated instance of "you're going to burn in hell", but by and large, the responses are not even close to this level of anger.

      what does this unique atheist reaction tell us? This furious reaction on the part of atheists is very telling.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chad,

      once more you deliberately miss the point.

      The people who are posting here are not self-professed atheists. They emphatically declare themselves as something other than atheists – even if they might be in denial on this matter.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Howie

      I'm furious because I know humans are smarter and better than that. this ridiculous need to imagine a power higher than ourselves drives me nuts. Yes, faith p i s s e s me off.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you want me to stop using a stream of vulgar invective, then stop being a lying sack, Chard.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hey, CHARD!

      I enjoy your hankie-waving and hissy fits, honey. Everyone here knows perfectly well that you can't answer the questions because you can't prove there is a god. You'll use every excuse you can think of to pretend you just don't feel like answering when the fact is that you don't have an answer. You've never had one.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Chad

      QUESTION

      For those folks that consider themselves "spiritual but not religious" (please note, this question does NOT apply to Christians that feel spiritual, but dont like Church insti tutions).

      This question is for those folks that consider themselves "spiritual but not religious", but do not have a spirituality targetted at a the God of Abraham.

      HERE'S THE QUESTION: do you consider yourself an atheist (do you either deny, or disbelieve in the existence of a deity)?

      no tricks, just trying to get a sense of what you consider yourself. thank you.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "once more you deliberately miss the point..."

      I disagree, we'll see, I posted the question on the top, hopefully we'll get some responses

      on another topic, perhaps you can explain the difference between irrationality and stupidity?

      =========
      @Howie "Yes, faith p i s s e s me off...."

      =>that makes no sense at all.. what do you care?

      October 1, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  15. be

    Thats because the people are waking up from your control apparatus and fast. Religion is a farce used to exploit the teachings of truly spiritual people like Jesus Buddha and Mohammed, by control freaks to lead the weak minded into serving them. What did Jesus call his religion? Oh yeah he never claimed to have one

    October 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Howie

    I think this guy is correct, but not in the way he intends. Spiritual but not religious just means that you have figured out the idiocy of believing in a sky fairy, but don't quite have the b a l l s to come out and say so.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  17. Brian

    Wow. I understand this is the "opinion" section but I actually feel dumber for having read that entire article. And please, can we PLEASE stop with the "but the magic book says that the magic is real!" arguments from the Catholics. Why can't you comprehend that a majority of the people on this planet think the bible is just another book? If you want to believe it, awesome, believe it with all your heart but coming on message boards and claiming your religion is more "real" or is fact because the magic book at the center of it says it is borders on the retarded.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  18. The Truth

    "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."

    Why would anyone not go along with that concept? I would think only people who don't want to accept responsibility for their actions or a responsibility to others or are to stupid to care about our collective future would be the only ones to reject this general idea.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • snowboarder

      i have yet to have seen any religion actually propose a materialistic or rationalistic explanation of the world.

      falling in line with religious dogma is the action of unthinking sheep destined to be fleeced.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  19. slwm

    I feel sad that Mr. Miller assumes embracing 'spirituality' but not 'religion' is a representation of those who are "fence sitters" searching for only good feelings I have found not claiming to have all the answers, basically 'not knowing' much of the time to be much more truthful and difficult for me than accepting doctrines established by others who have claimed to know... Mr. Miller, my making assumptions or judgments about what you believe is ultimately none of my business...please respect that your assuming that you 'know' what I or others believe or struggle with re: the spirituality/religion comparison/contrast is just that, an assumption, not necessarily a truth...

    October 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  20. DeeCee1000

    This author is still unaware that his religion is like a silly little worthless toy to the truly spiritual person. Basically he's a kindergartener thinking that he's a grown up. LOL. It would be cute if he wasn't such a dou chebag.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @DC1000,

      so what's his religion? I didn't see a reference anywhere!

      October 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • sally

      It doesn't matter if there was a specific reference or not to his religion, "I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV". His obvious, narrow-minded arguments exude one who is a Christian church-goer who knows little else outside of that comfort zone.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Sally,

      actually, I don't think that is the case. The challenge here is to people who wear "spiritual but not religious" like a fashion fad.

      What do they really believe?

      Spiritual journeys of discovery are all very well and good, but the author's point is that they need a destination – a single theology or ... athesim.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • sally

      Again GOPer, he is still way too narrow. The options, including a finite destination are not viewed the same way by everyone, and his way, and evidently yours is very restrictive for any of it to make sense to you.

      October 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • sally

      @GOPer, think of it like before random access to memory, we had mostly only sequential access to memory. The way the author is thinking is like only being able to see and end and a sequential path to that end. Many people don't think that way anymore. Thankfully so!

      October 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Sally,

      again, the message here is about the intrinsic nature of faith. People of faith are prepared to accept a dogma. The 'spiritual but not religious' eschews dogma for buffet-style 'beliefs'. This is not faith.

      You either believe in God or you don't. "Spiritual but not religious" is a way of trying to pick a third path in a socially acceptable way in a culture that is overwhelmingly religious.

      There are lots of non-Abrahamic religions out there that are relevant in this conversation. The challenge here is to believe in something, or nothing, not an ephemeral, wishy-washy third option.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • sally

      I'm not a GOPer: "The 'spiritual but not religious' eschews dogma for buffet-style 'beliefs'. This is not faith.
      [..]
      You either believe in God or you don't."
      That's your opinion, but I actually think your assumption about both faith and belief is just that an assumption and still very narrow.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
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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.