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.
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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.
Though this is general, it does hit home with many of those that uphold the "I'm spiritual but not religious" mantra. Excellent article. I think what people fail to realize when dealing with this issue is what has led the person down that path in the first place. If they claim to be ____ faith, however do things their own way, then no matter how they justify it they are being described to the T as the author of this article has explained.
what do you have against these people to begin with
what if their whatever religion advocates for them to become more spiritual and less religious
if so – than they in no way fit Alans' description nor your agreement
in fact – if they did not develop inner spirituality – then they would not be following their religion
Christianity encourages inner spiritual growth
you people should know what you talk about before you throw rocks at these people – and i expect you have never been lazy, undecided, choose a cop-out approach to something you do not understand, etc. – if you are throwing that rock that is
In my experience, I have met a lot of people from Bishops, Cardinals, Priests, ordinary folks, pious Christians, decent folks, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, corporate CEOs, rich and poor folks. Not all religious people are nice and decent and not all atheists are without beliefs. In fact, sometimes it made me think, the more religious one is, the more artificial air they put on and did not show much empathy to their fellow beings. I am not saying all religious people are bad. Probably, my expectation of religious people were high, they fell off the pedestal soon.
my late mother who was a diocesan Women's Leader used to say that the people who pray most are the worst sinners.
This article is a gross generalization of people who decided to forgo dogma and creed or were born to parents who never indoctrinated their children into a particular religion. Who is anyone to say that this decision to be open to all religious perspective is due to a lack of thought of the subject. I find that swallowing down a certain belief without question in blind faith requires much less intellectual lifting. Trying to see others perspectiveness while not rejecting the precepts of rational thought is a well defined path, where one is capable of massive spiritual growth, awareness, and acceptance of others. Everyone does create their own meaning, religious or not. Also, to say that one sees the world this way to avoid all bad things and choose not to think them, that is so facile. Religion is the opiate of the masses not personal spiritual inquiry and growth.
Why does anyone need spiritual inquiry? I don't follow.... especially if someone was born into a family with no religious leanings. What is it "spiritual but not religious" people are doing, trying to connect with a possible creator who they theorize could be responsible for the bubbling multiverse, and for which there is no manmade religion?
Does not compute...
I agree with your comments, the article does not honestly portray what it means to most who claim to be spiritual but not religious. What that means to me is you have moral, ethical standards you live by without getting caught up in any religious dogma or imaginary God's. If everyone behaved in a moral ethical manner, religious or not, the world would be a better place.
I simply cannot stand the feeling of being made to feel guilty for being more spiritually inclined through the practice of yoga, or through the understanding of anything that brings more health, and peaceful existence, and wisdom, and deeper understanding, and more freedom and innercontrol of thought, emotions, and ideas.
Why would anyone want to constrain themselves to the misunderstandings that exist through the very nature of evolution of knowledge and wisdom and continued exploration and discovery – especially as is seen today as never before through the broadening of shared culture knowledge and experience? Why would one not attempt to understand deeper truths that can be learned by many different sources and experiences? Why would one not be able to find a common ground in traditional religious services and practices if desired, as well as explore and discover truths better revealed in other disciplines which can also be applied to a deeper understanding of traditional religions? Why would one have to choose between one or the other? Why would people like Mr. Miller be so hostile to intelligent, free-minded people?
Because they scare him? Because he cannot control them? Because they instinctively don't like him – because he does not like them – and is hostile towards them?
Maybe – just maybe – it takes less of a judgmental nature to be able to truly grasp the essence of spirituality in order to bring the benefits of spirituality into being within and subsequently without oneself? Perhaps religion is more for left-brain or Sensing dominate persons, and spirituality is more for right-brained or intuitive persons? If you know anything about personality sciences, the conflicts of misunderstanding between these groups of people based on preferred or dominate perception and thinking/feelings modes, or whether introverted/extroverted is perhaps what Mr. Miller fails to understand in his harsh critique of a group of people he has yet to define to understand exactly who he is complaining about – except for people who are doing yoga.
What gives Mr. Miller?
Lastly the strangest thing in the Bible is the Tabernacle. Its design if you ask any psychologist, psychiatrist neurologist, is the exact functional architecture of the human brain. How Moses devised it is quite ingenious if not miraculous in an age where most thinking was thought to be in the heart. Lets not obscure the spiritual truths in religion because we hate religiosity. The baby and the bath water are never the same. Don't throw both out. I am a civil engineer and I love science. It helped me understand Theology and Spirituality better. It shouldn't blind you but enlighten you.
As a former Roman Catholic I am quite sure you are not that acquainted with the Bible but thanks for not jumping on me. I can assure you that St Paul knew why rain fell and that the Earth was round. These were one of the earliest scientific theories established both by Greek and Hebrew philosophers. St Paul was a Greek-speaking Hebrew Jew and well learned. He was a Pharisaic Jewish rabbi and a scholar in Jewish jurisprudence. He was not an uncouth brute at all. He was invited to speak in the Academy of Athens. I beg to differ that the language he used might have been old but he did have insight into spirituality. The teachings of Jesus were filled with the principles of Spirituality. His Apostles absorbed them. Along the line religious people gradually took hold of Christianity and the boredom and buying your way into heaven started. Eternal life became about the after-life. However read properly eternal life is gained on earth not in an after-life for example. Eternal life is Enlightenment as the Bhuddhist will have it or bearing fruit of the Spirit as Christians may have it. Each have their own path but in the end spirituality is always uniform. Spirituality is not about divisiveness. It is the exact opposite of religiosity.
What u call Spirituality is a feeling. In fact that is a religious man's notion of spirituality. Spirituality is not a feeling however but achieveing what St. Paul will call bearing fruit of the Spirit. If u do not understand this basic truth then you will always confuse the feeling of being in the spirit with spirituality. A religion can put you on the path of spirituality or not. Your religion made you religious. Sadly few come out. Atheism is the last stage of religiosity and the first of spirituality. Keep searching for truth.
I haven't defined my belief by any religion as of yet. What I find is that there are aspects of most religions that I like, and other aspects that I do not agree with...so I take what I can use, and ignore the rest. I cant' see (atleast for myself) any other way to do it. There is some doctrine that just isn't appropriate, but I dont want to throw the baby out with the bathwater either. I dont want to get rid of all religions just because some have some aspects I don't like.
Yep like Red Hot CHilly Peppers! Julia, our friend StLuv's problem is that he was a Catholic. Rejecting Roman Catholicism does not equal rejecting God. Search harder!
It is time to be truly Spiritual, and yes, thus also rightfully Religious now!
For there is only one real GOD who has thus created His book of Universe, and His book of Religion,
based on this same 19 coded, Symmetrical, most Powerful and Superb "Mathematical Language,"
in such a perfect parallel manner:
==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!
A decent critique, these "spiritual but not religious" lack grounding. But the call to "take a stand" "take a real position" I can only partially agree with. I think such a stance can be as damaging as it can be rewarding. I have come to find that a belief, a doctrine, a moral position that is not connected and attuned to my heart will generally be judgmental and hurtful to others. It is not about mere feelings, but an overvalue on choosing beliefs when they have not been attuned to one's heart, to kindness, respect, and goodness has the potential to be very harmful.
why do you say this group of people that doesn't exist lacks grounding?
There can be no question that religion has had tremendous economic and social power - its primary function has always been to consolidate power and property (and I mean all major religions here - except perhaps Buddhism). For that reason it's been historically important and it has created and enforced the traditions that Mr. Miller seems to cherish (and seem to be his only justifications for religion). It has also (because of its power and influence) prevented people from exploring or expressing basic truths (Galileo was imprisoned for confirming the Earth's rotation around the sun). Only recently have we been able to discuss religion's failings in the open. And there are many. Perhaps the most insidious part is that it encourages division and conflict. Just look at the Middle East. Anyone who's interested in this would do well to check out the Hitchens Dawkins Grayling debate here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfix_e1QnbM. The religious perspectives are simply indefensible: narrow, dogmatic, irrational, and just plain silly.
Religion is not a problem of itself. The two words religion and religiosity seem identical but are not the same. Religion as a whole holds two very different paths for its adherents. The path of religiosity has failed many in the past just as the path of spirituality has exalted the few who have discovered it. Hitchens, Dawkins, Grayling there is not much difference between them. All are religious. The religions may be as different as Atheism and Christianity but religious people always seekk to debate whose way is best. The spiritual have no need as such for such fruitless debate. In fact the Bible defines contention and "my way is the best" as a fruit of the flesh (religiosity) rather than the spirit (spirituality). A lot of the time religious Athest do not understand why Atheism is defined as a religion. It is not the philosophy itself that is to blame but the behaviour of its exponents. Likewise religious Christians will forever fail to see the failings on their side. In fact the Gospel sans Charitable love is void. Bhuddhism is no different when it comes to holding property. The Lamas of Tibet for instance are priests and rulers with vast resources at their disposal until the PRC invaded. Let us learn spirituality. That is the Way for Mankind.
To learn Spirituality, one must first learn about our God who is a spirit.
God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
The reason why we are able to display the fruitage of God's Spirit – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Is because we are created in God's image – thats is, his qualities.
"And God* went on to say: “Let us+ make* man* in our image,*+ according to our likeness,..."
It is wholly unnecessary to be religious to be spiritual. Christ made it pretty clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan and Parable of Sheep and Goats. If that is not clear enough check out Romans Ch 2. Reading the Bible in verses is the easiest way to fall into error. Ask the Jehovah Witnesses! The bible is not the primary Scripture of a human but His conscience. Professing faith in God is what religious people do but to be spiritual you have to exhibit faith in God by bearing the fruit of the Spirit. As you quoted John 4:24 I will remind you to read John 3 where Christ tells Nicodemus,'He that is born of the Spirit is like the wind. From whence he cometh no one knoweth and whither he goeth no one knoweth."
Jesus was a spiritual leader and He put religion in perspective. Religion can teach you either spirituality or religiosity but not both.
nii, you reveal your ignorance the moment you assert atheism is religion.
You reveal your ignorance of my arguement. It is wholly unnecessary to wrangle over this. There are other non-theistic religions like Stoicism and Confucianism. It is basically how people who adhere to the philosophy like you behave not the philosophy that makes it a religion. However the opposite of religion is secularism not Atheism. If you got that into your skull then you will know what I mean. Atheism can readily be learnt at any Theological Seminary too.
I agree, being religious is not what makes you spiritual, religion is just a form of worship. As for the Samaritan, he was not a real person, Jesus was just teaching them how to display the fruitage of God's spirit, that of love, kindness, goodness, and faith which was needed – especially in that incident, which all man can display because we're created in God's image.
the Samaritan was not a real person? Of course he was not. Unless Jesus was reading the Evening News on Salvation TV
yoga is not a religion – it is a form of exercise and meditation – at least in USA
even older people are being taught it now for health and stress relief and arthritis, etc.
you are so wrong Alan – Apologize – you seriously make me upset with attacking this group of people for no reason other than to muster a vote.
you are the worst of the worst
Alan Miller: It's "regressive". Idiot. Learn to write.
Too many people allow the words "religion" and 'religious' to scare them off. There is nothing inherently wrong with religion or being religious. All it means is someone who has embraced a belief system or who mindfully searches for the meaning for life outside of themselves. Most of us do that in one way or another. So if you are "spiritual" you are generally also religious, even if you don't belong officially to an organized religious community.
I am a devout Catholic and I would say that a belief in God and Scripture go hand in hand with human-based knowledge, reason and action. It takes human-based reason to dissect the doctrines of Scripture and religion, human-based knowledge of this reasoning to understand religion, and human-based action to put the teachings of religion into practice. I also think that modern science has nothing to do with the "spiritual but not religious" mindset. Science is not as fool-proof as people seem to think. All the time new studies come out proving that a previous study was incorrect or inaccurate. Being a 19-year-old, I am surrounded by peers that seem to think religion is whatever they make it. I agree with most of the article, but I think the notion that science/reason and religion/spirituality contradict each other is incorrect; rather, religion and reason go hand in hand.
That's the beauty of science, it allows for new thoughts and new ideas to be tested and proven true or not. No one has ever made the case that science is fool-proof. A case can be made that religion is proof of fools.
Additionally, religion is not based on God but rather on man's interpretation of God. Man created all doctrines of religion – the Bible, Koran, etc. are all just man's interpretation of the Divine.
True. Some people think it has to be either religion or science but it doesn't have to be. Most of the scientists throughout history had a deep abiding religious faith, and that faith is what inspired them to get out there and explore. Sure, in some cases they ran afoul of the 'authorities' such as Gallileo, but even though the church gave up on Gallileo, Gallileo never gave up on the Church. This idea of saying to be scientifically minded one has to abandon religion or spirituality is nothing but an attempt by those who have an antipathy towards religion to pressure others to buy into their form of 'religion' which is basically worshipping science and disregarding all else. Science is not infallible. Scientists can and do make mistakes.
"Most of the scientists throughout history had a deep abiding religious faith"
I really don't know what most scientists used to think about religion. Darwin is the great divide, when it became more readily apparent to thinking people that the whole of religion was a fraud.
Since the evolution idea is fairly recent in history, its easy to throw the assertion of their faith (pre-evolution) out there as if it holds special weight. What they used to think is irrelevant. Science is continually evolving as it refines old ideas and searches for new ones. Religion changes only in that it continually attempts to remain relevant in the face of scientific and social advance. It is dragged against its will into the future kicking and screaming, unwittingly by science.
"This idea of saying to be scientifically minded one has to abandon religion or spirituality is nothing but an attempt by those who have an antipathy towards religion to pressure others to buy into their form of 'religion' which is basically worshipping science and disregarding all else. Science is not infallible. Scientists can and do make mistakes."
Science provides well-substantiated explanations of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. It continually seeks answers to questions about our reality. Religion is the opposite, providing the answer "god did it" to any question asked, until social pressure forces the dogma to include more and more bits of science.
This is known as "god of the gaps" where god used to be an explanation for everything (from religion's viewpoint) but is however pushed further back into the gaps of our knowledge as time marches on. God used to be the answer to "what was that earthquake" until we discovered what earthquakes *really* were, and god was pushed out of that answer. God continues to be pushed .
This is why science and religion do not mix. Science searches for answers, whatever that answer is; religious folks are satisfied with "god did it".
Noting that science and scientists are fallible is certainly no secret. Theories are constantly refined, added, discarded as they are tested again and again.
It is time to be truly Spiritual, and yes, also rightfully Religious now!
For there is only one real GOD
who has created His book of Universe
(via Big bang and especially upon those 4 fundamental forces: weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravity therein)
and His book of Religion
(Final Testament which is thus prophesied and confirmed as "CornerStone" by all great Prophets here (Psalms 118/22-26)
by putting His 19 coded, Symmetrical, most Powerful and Superb "Mathematical Signature" upon both of them
in such a perfect parallel manner, in the first place:
Rather amusing message
Excellent article with keen insights. Not everyone appreciates hearing the truth evidently.
Ok i challenge all atheist/non-believers to a simple small short mature intellectual debate. I claim that there is a GOD, Higher Power, Intelligent Designer/Engineer, and Creator. You claim that there isnt a Creator and everything is a coincidence. (If what i say about your claims are wrong please correct me) Here are the rules: No THEORIES and no BIBLE VERSES. Proven known facts ONLY, none requiring faith. I simply ask that you consider my facts as i will yours. I will provide 10 facts in defense to my claim and you can list as much as you will.
1.The perfect unseen order of our solar system.
2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power.
3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect.
4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.
5. Natural law.
6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.
7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind.
8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time.
9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0.
10. Time & Life (consciousness)
Please be respectful and list your facts.
Your very first talking point is of the UNSEEN ORDER...sounds entirely faith based to me. I thought you said it would be based in objective facts?
Did you go on every blog post here and post this?
Yes, he did. Must be in desperate need of attention. I guess his mommy didn't breast-feed him.
Your 'examples' are drawn from St. Thomas Acquinas' Proofs for the Existence of God and are wholeheartedly based in a religion-based view of creation. However you may like to slice or dice your 'examples', they are simply restatements of arguments that have been around for centuries, made by one of the most prolific religious thinkers of the Common Era.
There is no perfect order to the solar system. Perfection would disallow any variation of size, shape, color, terrain, availibility of life or anything else of the planets, they would all look alike. The sun would experience no turbulence on it's surface (flares, storms, etc) because those would be imperfect. All planets, moons, asteroids etc would be the exact same distance from the sun. No body would be allowed to impact another body because it would cause imperfect blemishes. All the elements would have to exist in the exact same quanti-ties. Life would have to exist in the exact same quanti-ties.
Differing abilities in lifeforms would argue against perfection because if there is a perfect lifeform, there is no need to create more. The human body is fairly fragile and has some organs that serve no purpose and can be dangerous. A perfect human body would not die.
Our understanding of time may be incorrect, this will not be known until we meet a species that has a better understanding of time.
I think that's enough for now.
You would have to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for me to be able to really discuss this with you. I tried, but I must have put something in that the editor caught.
Let's examine your "facts"
1) Anyone who thinks that the solar system has perfection ANYWHERE in it just hasn't studied it. Undeniable fact.
2)Which precise distance? It varies from 147,098,290 kilometers to 149,598,261 kilometers from the Earth.
3) There is no engineering involved except what we humans have created.
4) That is a logical fallacy known as an "Argument from Ignorance".
5) No god required for those.
6) Evolution, look it up. BTW, evolution, like gravity, is both a fact AND a theory. It is a fact because it is easily observable. The theory is our explanation of it.
7) Again, another Argument from Ignorance.
8) Not true. Mitochondrial Eve and Y Chromosone Adam have that record.
9) You obviously don't understand statistics. If you did, this obvious bogus use of them wouldn't impress you so much.
10) Argument from Ignorance.
Damn, that wasn't even a little difficult. Want to try harder?
Alan Miller, wake up and smell the truth. Today's youth have gone past the simple, ridiculous rhetoric offered though the media for the preservation of our faith....Much like the Billy Graham warnings of the "end of the worldZ' in the 1950s, our current youth is smarter, brighter, and more cogizant of just exactly what is going on in the world. Your Spiritual, not Religious article stinks at best. Jesus, transl;ated in ther New Testament stated: "I am the way, the truth, and the light". He laid down only one rewquirement, that you love one another as you love yourself. I believe Jesus is in each of us and has been so ever since out birth."Religious" has connotations of Benny Hahn, Billy Crystal, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Baker, etc. How long do you think our youth of today will continue to hold on to their "religious" beliefs? OUr spirit far transcends our religious convictions. You need to go back to the bibile, and the Talmud, and the Koran, and the Bahdad Vida, and get your head wrapped arounf the spirit vs religion. Even Jesus told his disciples in the last hours, "I must leave that the comforter "spirit", not bed warmer, must come. Our country was formed upon the American Spirit, not the American "Religion"......
It came up and said, "We detected you ahve already said that", and then flushed my comment..
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