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.
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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?
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Who in the world WANTS to be a sheep? Sheep are so uniform and un-creative that no one thought to make a different word for plural and singular instances. Same for fish, who also are rarely found alone. Same IQ though. As someone said in the previous 8K comments, that analogy, like religion was created for control. If I want to believe in God but not the man-made practice it preaches, than that's my call. And its one not to be questioned by someone so afraid to think for themselves they willfully follow someone else's interpretation of the faith. I'll gladly burn in "Hell" than be someone else's sheep, which like other pasture animals are just someone else's livestock. Thanks, but no thank.
sheeps are called sheeple
I think being religious can be differentiated from being spiritual. Most people who are religions believe in God being the creator of this universe. Many people of eastern faiths consider themselves to be spiritual because believe in an eternal Soul of every individual instead of a Creator. A Creator creates materialistic things. Materialistic things are only temporary. And when we have so much attachment's towards the creation of the Creator, our egoism and suffering rises when that creation is gone. Thats why when I think of Spirituality, I think of my "Eternal Soul and Eternal Existence", but no God/Creator.
I think the eternal soul is a product of wishful thinking. It is not a valid belief. It is actualy a wish or a hope.
This silly article is the purest of mindless nonsense. The only danger in rejecting organized religion is to organized religions themselves – they are losing money and drones. Good. Organized religions – specifically the twisted and perverted dogma woven around them – have caused far more harm through the years than they have done good. Let them go the way of the dinosaurs and the sooner the better...
You may like my new book on this topic:
WHEN "SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS" IS NOT ENOUGH: Finding God in Unexpected Places, Even the Church
Don't mean to be a bore, but what about the "not spiritual and not religious', that's the person I want next to me.
there is of course this alternative:
My Take: 'I'm religious but not spiritual' is commonplace'
I would like to know why it has to be one or the other? Can I not believe in God without believing in Scripture? I do believe in God but I don't believe a word in the Bible. I believe in Jesus Christ, but I don't believe a word of what is preached in any of the fundamentalist churches. I believe that I can have Enlightenment through human-based knowledge, reason and action as well as believing in God and have morals and ethics at the same time. I am a grown adult woman that is capable of critical thinking. I know that science has explained a great deal of the phenomena occurring in the world around us, but in some cases it just can't. That's where I believe "God" or some other supernatural power comes in. Clearly there is room for both in this day and age.
how can you believe in Jesus without believing in the Gospels? There is no other source for the life of Jesus.
Allan Miller did not say you have to attend a fundamentalist church. Choosing Christianity is not the same as being "spiritual but not religious".
Can I not believe in God without believing in Scripture?
Sure you can! And, don't let any of them tell you that you will burn for eternity either.
@smithbelynda said she believed in Jesus Christ – not just God. Making that distinction makes at least the Gospels necessary in her theology, wouldn't you say?
You are correct.
In addition, she is a classic "God of the gaps" believer. Everything that doesn't today have an answer, it becomes god. Neverming that history is littered with god certainties that suddenly became metaphors once science was capable of giving a better answer. And never mind that it has not once gone the other way – that something once described by science suddenly had a better supernatural explanation.
I can believe in Christ without believing in most of the crap in the Bible because I choose to. I choose to believe that Jesus wouldn't want most of things done in his name, done. I also believe that the Bible has been rewritten and so convoluted and twisted to suit the authors view-points and to benefit the authors themselves that there is almost no crediblity in it any longer. I can believe in Jesus because there are other Gospels out there that weren't included in the Bible because they didn't jibe with the beliefs of the people who commissioned its authorship in the first place. The Gospels included in the Bible are not the only Gospels out there.
@I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV and @OOO the post above and this post are my answers to you. I changed my screen name on my wordpress account.
Ok, so just to make sure I understand you:
1) You believe the bare bones of Jesus (namely son of god, died for our sins).
2) Where science does not currently provide explanations, you insert your concept of god.
3) You disregard much of the bible due to the canonical history of it.
So one question I have is, do you subscribe to the "believe of you will go to hell" doctrine?
@smithbelynda / sarcasticbimbo,
So you are a Christian then? You believe in God (Jesus) and scripture (some set of Gospels of your choosing).
Being a Christian is different to the label "spiritual but not religious" in the context of this article, even if you don't attend a particular church. In this context you are definitively religious.
I recommend you read this book: "Christ Returns-Reveals Startling Truth." It is obvious to many of us that churches have shifted from a God-focus to a self-protective 'organization-above-all-else' market-share strategy. Isn't it possible that we need to learn something new that was misunderstood 2,000 years ago? It is kind of like learning religious stories at 8 years old and refusing to upgrade one's view of life, God and Christ. Why is Christ missing in so much of the Christian haranguing of Obama, the poor, other beliefs, women, and peace?
There is only one real GOD and His one true RELIGION
that is revealed in an absolutely Matchless, most Wonderful and Superb MATHEMATICAL LANGUAGE!
So it is time to be Spiritual, and yes, also rightfully Religious now!
UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES
Jesus Water or Jesus Blood
4oz. decorative gold bottles
50% OFF. (Through 10/31/2012.)
I take no issue with your views and opinions, but your sentence structure and punctuation are dreadful. Your writing would benefit from a good editor.
Way to make broad generalizations about things you clearly don't understand. The "spiritual but not religious" people I know are kinder, more generous, more aware of others, and more likely to have read and thought deeply about religion and the meaning of God and life than most of the traditionally religious people I have known.
Religion was thought up to keep the sheep in line. I think it provides a basis for morality and law. Personally, myself and many I know are not religeous and are good without if. And by good, I mean law abiding, hard working, eager to achieve and ambitious to succeed. How dare you put yourself in a position to say my spiritually is somehow beneath you.
We are all sheep and Jesus is our Shepherd. You are simply a lost sheep who has strayed from the flock and you have forgotten about your Shepherd. The wolves seem to have gotten a hold of you but if you simply call out your Shepherd's name He will be able to find you again and rescue you from the secular wolves that are tearing your soul apart. Call out Jesus' name, repent and return to your flock and you will have green pastures for all eternity, Amen!
Just lacking, lackey.
Yea... thats gonna pay some bills...
In writing that... how do you know I don't pray to Jesus every hour of every day? Did I somehow clue you in that I didn't? no, I didn't... I do pray to Jesus and do believe in the name. Ignorance like yours in the reason people are scared of religion. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE between beleiving and following a cult!!!
"You are simply a lost sheep who has strayed from the flock and you have forgotten about your Shepherd."
And who's fault would that be? Since when are the sheep responsible for getting lost?
A shepherd keeps sheep for 2 reasons:
1. Profit from their wool, skins and meat
If he protects them or goes after a stray one, that is why. Whoever thought up that "good shepherd" analogy was pretty silly.
p.s. but I suppose the "good cowboy" or the "good chicken farmer" would have been even sillier.
The sheep analogy is an odd one indeed for a belief system supposedly based on 'free will'.
The behavior of sheep exhibits anything but free will. They have a herd 'do what the others do' mentality. Strays are so through incompetence in staying with the herd.
It gets used in so many Christian metaphors including ideas like the separation of sheep from goats – where being the sheep is, again, desirable. Again ironic, given that the sheep appear to be less intelligent than goats.
'1Cr 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]:'
You're right, Brian. And look, someone is actually citing bible passages?? lol. You may as well believe in Peter Pan if you give any credibility to Paul.
Apparently, I have had an experience you have not. I have no reason to convince you of anything. If you find it, I am happy for you. If not, well ... OK.
In the Field of Dreams, the brother-in-law says at the end of the movie "Where did all these ball players come from?" or something of the sort. I have seen and talked to MANY about their vital spiritual experiences, and they tend to be of the Field of Dreams variety. Once you have something happen to you that is impossible in your reality (whether of the burning bush variety, or more of a gradual experience), then your eyes are opened to the possibility of God. Once you start accepting that you may not have all the answers, all of a sudden you start seeing all kinds of things you never saw before.
I wish you well, my friend.
I wish you a better drug trip next time. Smoke a bit less, perhaps.
A fictional movie makes a great spiritual experience reference.
Putting the kibosh/”google”/"bing"/ "yahoo" on religion and spirituality:
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Added details available upon written request.
A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
(simply more immaculately concieved mumbo jumbo akin to the Caears and messiahs of all kinds)
Tell us how Athena was born and how this relates to the popularity of Greek s e x on campus.
Greek s-ex?? Please define. In the meantime some important information on the subject of s-ex and related items;
The reality of se-x, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-
Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...
The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:
: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.
Added information before making your next move:
from the CDC-2006
"Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."
Consumer Reports, January, 2012
"Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-
Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.
"Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)
Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.
The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":
– (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
– (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)
One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)
Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).
By Greek s.ex I think he means an.al
And here was me thinking it was one consequence of a frat house kegger.
"The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world."
Okay. You're a hospital worker. Does it make you a better person to not work on Sundays? What if there is an emergency and you get called in? Surely working in a hospital is more work than picking up sticks so it's a sin. Furthermore, there isn't an exception to this rule in the Bible. Sin isn't always a way to make yourself better, sometimes it is, sometimes it's just an arbitrary rule.
Mark 3 (New International Version)
Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
I'm not 100% sure I understand what you're saying. And I don't mean to speak for the author, but I think when he talks about sin being accompanied by a sense of self-improvement, he's suggesting people avoid "sin" to improve their own lives or the lives of those around them. Think about a couple we can agree on, theft and murder. By not doing those things, we make the world a better place. Does that make more sense?
Do you actually believe that passage and healing really happened? I kind of figured that is where the likes of Benny Hinn got their idea for a scam.
What if I believe in all of them? how does the afterlife work for me mr. religious man?
What a ridiculous article. Poorly written from the know-it-all perspective of someone who clearly can't translate his thoughts about a movement into prose, much less comprehend the real reasons many are choosing to abandon organized religion.
To the author: you sound as uneducated about the topic as you are biased against the "selfish me generation." You've clearly chosen the blue pill and are bitter that your successors aren't following suit.
Well said, and nice Matrix reference!
I'm all for people believing what they want to believe, but, among other reasons, it's exactly this kind of judgemental bile that causes people to reject organized religion. This author is accusing a huge subset of the world's population of being self-centered and lazy while failing to see the hypocrisy in his own logic.
As others have said, there isn't a shred of laziness in considering oneself "spiritual, not religious." Holy texts have already narrowed the range of possibilities of a belief system, to borrow the statistical terminology, from the population to the sample. Anyone who is "spiritual, not religious" has a much broader (and updated) body of knowledge from which to choose their belief system. Assuming conclusions are even the objective, which requires more effort to draw conclusions from?
So, trying to seek and worship God (or gods) through your own means is a copout yet simply accepting a prepackaged version of God (or gods) that religion provides is somehow profound? Right, and I guess spam is better than a homemade ham. Listen, I know there's a market for spam and I won't knock you for liking it but don't sit here and tell me that following a mass produced, cookie cutter version of God is automatically better. You can have your spam, others would rather have homemade ham.
Someone should point out to the author that is Jesus Christ's time there was no Roman Catholic church, nor any other Christian church (being that they came about later based on his teachings). So under the article's definition one could argue Jesus was also spiritual, but not 'religious', as he was not a member of any established church of the time.
Going one step further, Christian churchs came about because Jesus Christ brought new ideas and challenged the then establishment. Human evolution as a whole has been based on that concept: Questioning, new ideas and growing. So we should stop now? Have we arrived at where we were supposed to? Don't think so....
Your ignorance is frightning. Jesus was Jewish and active in that faith. If you comment on the Bible or the Christian faith, please research it better.
Please don't take this as an attack. That's certainly not my intention at all. Jesus was part of an organized religion. He was a Jew. He was Jewish. The bible is pretty clear about his genealogy. And he was a bit of a revolutionary, but he was the fulfillment of the law that they had been studying. His coming was foretold by their own prophets. And his point to them was really, "listen, all these rules? No one can do this. Even you religious leaders can't do it. Someone is going to have to pay for all of your sins. But it has to be someone perfect. Someone at the same level as God himself." That was Jesus. He wasn't condemning anyone because of their adherence to a bunch of laws. He was simply saying, "No one can live a life worthy of an eternity with God, so I'm going to sacrifice my own life for yours." That's the gospel.
Thanks Lightning. I stand corrected on that point (my zeal to respond went ahead of my brain). I guess I was trying to point out that JC's teachings often flew in the face of the established doctrine of the time, to the extent he was executed for them by his peers and new Churchs grew up as a result.
I'm just perplexed by the author's argument that one can't question established religion or seek a new path, because we already have religions. Just doesn't sound logical to me. Just seemed to me that if one went back far enough, you could argue that you should forget Jesus' teachings and we should all be Jewish instead!
In response to your response. . . Do you want to know the scary part? Jesus didn't contradict their doctrine. In fact he said the laws didn't go far enough. The laws only dealt with the outside; the stuff people could see. So the religious leaders did all this "holy" stuff out in front of everyone. Jesus dealt with their hearts. Basically saying, "You do all this stuff just so people can see you. Your pride is sinful. The hardness of your hearts is sinful. You're not doing ANY of this out of love or devotion to God. You're just doing it to make yourself look good." Jesus walked the earth. He has an idea of what it's like to be human. He knows how easy it is to fall into sin. Yes, they did execute him, but He came here to die. . . for you and me. . . because life is hard. None of us will ever get it right.
Does the SBNR crowd play well with others the best so they will have 1st dibs in the caste system lottery?
Water of Jesus or Blood of Jesus
2oz. or 4oz. in decorative gold bottles
50% OFF! (unti 10/31/2012)
Love is really the only truth in life its the only thing that can't be taught everything else is a lie that someone else has fed you , at its core spirituality is based off of love, those who are spiritual including myself might believe in many different things and might not believe in other things, but the concept is still the same, the whole idea of being spiritual is based off love, the author says that those who call themselves spiritual are in denial and or seeking a cop out, but for in order to be in denial you have to be taught something , and if spirituality is based off love than how can you be in denial , when love in its purest form can't be taught.
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.