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.
True that "spiritual not religious" people are missing out but that is the case with these sects and branches of religions that break off. Some guy doesn't like his Baptist church and now you have the Jim Bob's Jesus is Love Church. But the other problem as well is these religious
Hate and Fear. Isn't it wonderful?
kundalini yoga targets the adrenals which can be overly damaged with fear and stress (and hatred i suppose), as well as other aspects of the mind-body health
religions and other spiritual practices work as well with prayers, meditation, and social aspects of giving, compassion, healing, friendships, connections, etc., etc., etc.
there are many things to learn – and many uses for health
i am not sure why so many of the major religions shun each other in the first place other than for fear and hate – caused mainly from past harms, mistakes, and unknowing – but mostly because of the political power stranglehold that some have placed on these religions, and been able to maintain control of the same.
there really is no need to choose one over the other – except maybe to learn at least one enough to grasp the basis
maybe – in part – this is what alan refers to in his lament – but he goes beyond that to try to impose a guilt that perhaps only he feels ??? i don't know – i haven't read what he actually said recently
i think bush has turned many away from politics with his war that no-one but he and a few others actually wanted – based on a heck of a lot of lies ... it really digs at me – that now 'they' want to get the middle-class to pay for all of this – when the first war was not approved by the people to begin with – it was mostly fear mongering and misinformation.
not sure the usa can take too much more of that (or the world).
people are way too intelligent, informed, and educated these days to not see through it all.
the only way they got away with it the first time was because they were threatening everyone with fear of being thought unpatriotic and/or a terrorist. the usa has really and truly changed so much since then, and religions
so either you get pure bush and co. and one per-centers
or you get diluted bush and co. and some one per-centers
and more wars
if the repubs do nothing to stop the dems
then they have full control
because the dems also control a lot of the judicial
by the repubs doing nothing
they did what they wanted through the dems
with no plans for the future
except for what they want
it will be the same as before
whomever 'they' – the one percenters – want to 'win'
'they' will 'win'
the only way for 'us' to 'win'
is for everyone to not vote
to just say no
what are 'they' going to do then?
what would 'they' do i wonder
if noone voted
(that's why they wanted early voting – other than logistics – don't think – vote (for 'them' or 'them')
on to the lottery ...
As an atheist, I have to say, I have no idea what you are talking about in this article. For someone to say "I believe there is some higher power of some sort, but I'm not sure what it is, or what it want, if anything" does not seem to be a problem. Why does someone’s opinion on such matters, have to equate to some progression in their lives? Why is taking an intellectually honest position like that, a "cop out?" Are you suggesting that in order to believe in some form of a god, you have to have some tenants of faith to go with it, or it's useless? I find this whole article to be a pretentious, self-righteous load of crap.
it was a fairly troll like article
meant as a push to get people to vote
i'll share more of my concerns about the election
1. mitt is seriously out of touch with usa population – he has no idea about over 50 percent of the population
2. it seems like 50 / 50 split between dems and repubs is a bad way to get consensus in usa population – i mean
if either side wins – 50 percent are not going to be happy – and will not want to follow along – i know i wouldn't if i had strong views about either side
3. trying to decide which candidate to choose who will not start wwiii or a civil revolution seems to be my main concern – and who will not leave this country worse than what it is right now – and who will take care of this countries people during the next years of turmoil that will happen with climate change – this country needs to be able to take care of it's people now – not start another war for the rich to get richer – and – consider this – what if there is a massive earthquake anywhere in usa right now – fema is seriously overloaded with the last major hurricane damages and rising sea waters and coastal floodings. this will probably be the major critical factor in survival for the usa population in years to come – as well as the rest of the world.
4. privatization – pretty much sucks when so many are incarcerated just to feed the system – and then mitt turns around and labels them victims whom he doesn't care about or for – that is truly a system where most will not survive well – not a country i would be proud of – it seriously saddens and ruins the lives of WAY TOO MANY – creating even more 'victims'
5. being human is a question one must ponder when you think of repubs – this perfection stigma – and being perfect only if you have money and are not a 'victim' is very much in line with major religions and politics these days it seems ... i mean – mitt is talking about not caring about the actual people who serve in the military – yet increasing the military's budget – without any explanation – so one can only imagine what he means by that – is this extra spending directed against the usa population who he seems to abhor – but tries (unsuccessfully) to hide?
6. o taking the money out of medicare to give to medicaid – makes me wonder if the plan is to take away the homes and retirement savinigs of the ederly to make them poor enough to require medicaid – and then placing them in that guinea pig corrupt badly run system – where most are victims and/or are victimized – or is something else?
7. the way that 'they' keep laughing about silly stuff that has actually has a great impact on people – the people o and b have been hanging out with have some very serious issues that seem to be affecting us all.
8. bush and the top one percent – they are evil creatures – and seem to be bent on destroying the world – for their benefit
10. dems fight mean – they will take you down in the most aggressive unethical manner they can – if they have to
11. repubs seem to nominate the person who can most follow a delusional path to war – fear mongering gets way old – real fast – and the lies they tell – or the strict black and white – and the corruption (think the pharma industry) – kill may too many – and cause way to many social harms – but they are not held accountable with the repubs in office – nor is the science truly understood – nor promoted – only what can make money for the top percenters – and only if they can fool and corrupt the people (all of them) into following along – or force them to
12. bush crimes go back generations – and many many years and wars – makes one wonder why they are there to begin with
13. repubs are the ones who have not been working with the dems these past few years – and dems did not work with the repubs either – so of course everyone under either party has been victimized by the policies of both parties for quite some time now
14. repubs have this view from wwii – that usa has to be the peace keepers and rescuers of the world – while the rest of the world is what? victims – or evil ones?
15. bushes lies about 911 will not go away anytime soon
so therefore – one has seriously got to wonder – why someone with the right mix of leadership skills and practical experience cannot run for these elected offices and win – nor follow a path that does not depend on pacifying the one percent out of deep rooted fear – and/or corruption – and/or ignorance of the true needs of the people
question – if clinton was running again – would he be able to win with more the 50 percent vote?
i personally think many can't handle bush and co. any more
they have outgrown their own power – they have no where to hide
except for in obamacare – which is why most undecideded will not vote
because they see right through it
I second this comment
there has to be some higher power
otherwise there would be nothing
because humans are still figuring out so much still
unless we (humans) are masters of universe
and created our own big bang
(which i would not put past 'us')
then there has to be some higher power
if humans need power other than their own
to create things
then there is a higher power
I'm spiritual... I believe that "the big bang" may have been "god", "creator of heaven and earth" meaning the universe. And that “god” did not create man, but created the building blocks for life including man. This in turn would mean that Creation and/or Evolution are connected and not separate like many believe.
I can go on and on but the fact is; there is sooo much scientific study and evidence that has proven or disproved, and those things must not be ignored even if it goes against a little piece of what you believe to be true.
However, humanity still has sooo far to go in regards to advancements IN ALL AREAS for any one person to say with 100% certainty what is the Absolute Truth.
I believe in what I believe and you believe in what you believe… either way no one on this earth knows everything and at this rate no one will.
So just live your life doing good and with a smile! Respect everyone and there beliefs, because who knows… maybe… just maybe everyone is holding a little piece of what makes up the whole/real truth ( the who, why, when, how, what was, what is, and what will be) in there beliefs – and maybe… just maybe one day all those pieces will come together and become just another thing called “common knowledge”
but I have a feeling this will take eons… far beyond our life time. So relax, respect and always strive to improve, not just yourself, but humanity too – in mind and action.
Religious beliefs stem from history, or at least they claim to. From burning bushes, to visits on Mt. Sinai, religion forces a concession from reality. Religion, as a mechanism, offers a haven from the most realistic and guaranteed part of all of our lives, that we will one day die. But in order to be invited to the party we must sacrifice our groundings, spurt gibberish from our mouths and concede to our overbearing forefathers? Spirituality offers the comfort that everyone needs in order to live a normal life. Religion gives it a florid and often ridiculous back story.
The reason many of us are moving away from organized religion is that is has become more concerned with politics, hate, rules, what not to do, what not to eat, who to hate, how to vote and numerous other activities that have nothing to do with spirituality. A bunch of nearly illiterate men who do not ask questions, they just supply simple answers rule over this domain. Organized religions have become nothing but power and money mafias. The rise of fundamentalists of all kinds threatens the rest of humanity, and stifles a real discussion on why the universe created us. As a former missionary I am comletely revolted by what I see and do not attend ANY organized church anymore. I have learned (finally) my lesson. BTW being spiritual not religious means that you ARE thinking, and realize that the crap that you have been force fed is meaningless, its young people waking up and seeing that the Emporer has no clothes.
The spiritual have it right, "DO AS THEY WILL, LOVE UNDER WILL"
Screw religion!!!!! I don't need some Holy $#!* telling me how i need to connect with god.
And my morals are my own as should every ones. different people need differetn things in there lives, and the church only $&^@# with peoples connection to god.
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there are 26 million people without jobs?
and mitt says he doesn't care about them – that they are 'victims'?
and he is only proposing 12 million new jobs? how many are going to be in the military – and who is going to pay for that?
and families work 2 jobs to afford 'the right kind of cloths for their kids so they can fit in"?
he seriously has no clue
this article is not about politics, or war, or middle east, or Mexico... etc.
even if it was... you and morethoughts are dumb! your opinions are not wanted.
on the contrare omare
this piece was a part of the libya poking holes at religion myth
it started then
been going for a while now
if you look closely
it was alan's and cnn's way to give a negative push
to those whom they consider on the fence
figured while talking about the religion
which is usually not a social agenda topic
(think never talk religion or politics axiom most usually follow)
might as well through in my thoughts about politics
(since it is the reason for the article – and since it is the usa elections)
I have learn a few good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you put to create this kind of great informative website.
why do people want to drink the blood of jesus?
Wow, as a blogging nebiwe I've been wondering what the best ways for promotion really are. There are so many tips and tools on the net and I've been pursuing a few but you always ask yourself is it really worth spending so much time on this or that? . After reading this survey I see a lot clearer through the jungle now. Twitter has definitely been on my mind but I kinda shied away from it so far. I think I'm afraid of getting too overwhelmed. But so what! Either way, this report definitely helps and will save people a lot of time. So thanks Chris and great blog!
First,- Until the United States Apologizes from its crimes in the American Holocaust
Second, -until its brougt to trial on Crimes against Humanity
Third- until all the Land is given back to Mexico and Nican Tlaca
The Anglos will never know the true meannig of being spiritual. Unti we get our lands maybe they'll be spared damnation
that is only a bit discriminatory
i mean – it wasn't fing me that did it
I agree with you ram that the usa owes apologies to people
mitt actually stated he would never apologize
i did not do any of those things you mention – nor do i agree with them ...
i think the usa has tried to apologize to the native americans – but i am sure it is not enough
but – it is not all of usa's fault – as most have nothing to do with the government except to get the false notion that it is a democracy with votes – but of course – first you need a government that will achieve the highest of goals in terms of ethics, and morality, and peace, and apologies that matter, and forgiveness.
those are not easy things to achieve – but the framework is there
but – if it does make you feel better – i do apologize for this country i was born into for the atrocities it has committed to any and all people
if i had people to vote for who would make the difference you want – i would
usa gov. has lots of apologizing to do to its own people – as well as others
got any ideas on how to get them to do it?
what the f is mexico and whomever going to do with the land – what was it – texas?
you want texas back – or is it new mexico?
how is that going to help mexico any?
will that truly make a difference for mexico?
mexico needs their own government to do right by them
what is wrong with mexico anyway?
you have a land that is as rich as usa don't you?
what is wrong with mexico's land?"
what spirituality is it that is missing anyway?
good question – i've always wanted to speak with a native american about their spiritual ideas on this land
do you think that is even possible if you are not a native american?
this is still a very young country if the native americans are still blaming the anglo americans ... many generations have passed ... how long do you think it will take for native americans to welcome americans (if ever)?
you know what would happen if usa for some odd reason decided to give back texas or new mexico to mexico?
all the illigal mexicans who live there will protest and they will be recruited to fight for usa against mexico.
if mexico does have anything usa wants or needs – they will take that to
so ... get real ... that is not going to happen
elections are good for beefing up your ability to ward off undue – unwarranted criticism
seriously horrendous when you have to see (yeah – i peeked at fox news) repubs. putting down the president for taking care of emergency preparations for the latest hurricane – whilst bemoaning the fact that a war wasn't started with the latest 911 terrorism attacks in libya. seriously – you mean the new orleans debacle was ok – and the last 911 terrorism attack that took place with usa gov. knowledge to start an unsupported war(s) – and the prez. just sat there and kept reading to grade school kids was what this country should re-aspire to? Mr. Miller – is it a lazy cop-out to say that politics suck too?
Why does something need to be black or white to have relevance? So unless I do some good with a group that is sanctioned by a group it is meaningless? You don't think that one person can make a difference? Does disrespecting someone make you feel good about yourself? Is there no room for tolerance?
most people took offense at the trolling behavior of Mr. Alan's article.
it is repub. family values politics at work.
part of what you get with the way usa gov. is run.
i would hate to have to follow his b.s. if i was in his family.
yeah – i'll decide to observe my intense desire to say something rotten back to him.
i wonder if someone just said they were spiritual and religions suck if Mr. miller would still think they were lazy cop-outs?
You hit the nail on the head
i will talk about something that i've been trying to decide for a long time now.
these disciplines that i talk about are all 'spiritual' in nature:
a. when you do chi gong and tai chi – it is slow breathing and movement – it is very good exercise – the chinese use it for national health purposes now – you see them in the squares in large groups practicing these arts.
b. when you do yoga without music – just the strictest forms of hatha yoga like exercises and breathing – you do not get full measure of benefits of yoga with vibrational sound (like music, crystal healing vibrational meditation, nature sounds, etc.).
c. when you do kudalini you get most benefit of detox, detress, and healing – these are very specific movements for the whole bodies natural healing abilities – to activate them – they work fast – the 'mother of all yoga'. you learn many different breathing techniques – which are more healing then just a. and b. above.
d. when you do hand movement yoga mudras – you get immediate relief from the troubles of the world – and can focus more on inner being – you become more aware immediately – if mindful of what you are doing.
e. when you use chants or mantras – you have direct access to your brain – controlling your thought.
question i have been trying to decide:
chi gong and tai chi are seriously great practices ...
but i have a hard time going between the more serious slower movements of this art
more active meditation of yoga
this is taking a lot of my time to decide
there has to be so much more here about left and right brain activity
and how it is hard to move between the two sometimes ...
or for the two to agree and feel comfortable together
the act of actually putting hands together in prayer motion is a way to connect directly through the nerves of your fingers the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
if for some reason this is not possible – the mental act of doing same in middle of brain (center – front – and back) – consciously – may achieve the same
i always feel like my intelligence is being insulted when i think about the repub. politics of late (like at least the last 12 years).
that is a long time to feel that way
mitt seriously insults my intelligence
still thinking about mitt and intelligence
remember when bush was reading story to grade school kids
and it was one of the more telling moments of his presidential career
his inability to show concern or surprise
just kinda looking like he was wondering how much folks would believe
like he had his tongue in cheek
and ... then ...
he commanded that it was unpatriotic to say bad things about him
for fear of ending up on a list of suspected terrorists (or something)
still getting over that
if have all repubs and/or all dems in power that is the worst
but voting doesn't seem to matter
if those in power do what they want anyway
the whole system is very corrupt
is this because of the privatization of government?
or the control of the dems on the privatization so that the repubs get what they want
and they also control how the system of justice works
so – therefore – no true justice
just dems and repubs
them and us
is it always meant to be this way – because this is the way it is
does accepting that this is the way it is provide the means to make things more than what they are?
that takes true work
it is weird how breathing right – or in concentrated way – makes a person truly have to focus on doing just that. it is definitely not a lazy cop-out to practice these type of exercises – which are also spiritual in nature.
i guess it is not something you normally think about much – unless you do.
like posture – not something actually thought about – unless you do.
i think it is also weird how western cultures have so many chairs – and eastern do not – which has a lot to do with posture or wealth?
the history of chairs – that probably says a lot about humankind
You sounds like a crazy person. All over the place, like all hocus pokus or something
hey ram – sorry my mind isn't as stuck as yours seems to be
hocus pocus – seriously
that's a new one
Anyone else noticed that the self proclaimed religious are often the least spiritual amongst us.
that's because their belief is top down
i guess the senate and the congress need to be fixed in order for anything to work well for 'we the people'
i think being nothing is the way to go
that's my answer for now on to all this b.s.
non and noneya
people like nii / gabe / alan / and all others like them – make the choice so much easier
when someone asks again – what my religion is:
i will simply state – the nonnii religion
I don't know why you want to decide to be anything based on what I or Gabe may say. I am me and that makes me happy. I love God with all my life. I love my neighbor as myself and my neighbor loves me as himself too. God loves me as Himself with all His Life just as we are just the way we are no matter what.
That is my Creed.
run forest run
what a famous quote that is
everyone relates to it
quotes are cool
another famous one
f – y
that one works sometimes
there's always interact for gabe / nii family
I can post my thoughts all day, but just wanted you to understand or get an idea of why I see things the way I do and what guides my lifestyle. God's word the Bible is my authority in everything. I't helps me to see the world through God's eyes.
All I can say is that if you have a wife and kid(s), I hope that the punishments you deal to them aren't overblown like your deity's. But hey, you have biblical morality on your side, what could possibly go wrong, right?
I am just a man, though I am created in God's image and likeness, I have limitations. God is very clear on how a father should treat his child and wife.
In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, continue loving YOUR wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it,
Thus a husband must be willing to die for his wife.
Children, be obedient to YOUR parents in union with [the] Lord, for this is righteous: 2 “Honor your father and [your] mother”; which is the first command with a promise: 3 “That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.” 4 And YOU, fathers, do not be irritating YOUR children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.
5 YOU slaves, be obedient to those who are [YOUR] masters in a fleshly sense, with fear and trembling in the sincerity of YOUR hearts, as to the Christ, 6 not by way of eye-service as men pleasers, but as Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled.
So you are saying that without the bible your wife and child would have cause to fear you? That you would be a raving lunatic if not for the bible?
The bible is a steaming pile of fairy tales.
perhaps it helps you see things through iron age man's eyes, and you attribute it to god
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.