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The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study says
January 9th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study says

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Can being spiritual but not religious lead to mental health issues? The answer is yes, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the January edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, says spiritual but not religious people, as opposed to people who are religious, agnostic or atheist, were more likely to develop a "mental disorder," "be dependent on drugs" and "have abnormal eating attitudes,” like bulimia and anorexia.

“People who have spiritual beliefs outside of the context of any organized religion are more likely to suffer from these maladies,” said Michael King, a professor at University College London and the head researcher on the project.

Thirty percent of respondents who identified as spiritual said they had used drugs, a number that was nearly twice as much as the 16% of religious respondents who said they had used drugs, according to the study. Among the spiritual respondents, 5% said they were dependent on drugs, while 2% of religious respondents identified as dependent.

On mental health issues, the study said spiritual but not religious people were more likely to suffer from “any neurotic disorder,” “mixed anxiety/depressive disorders” or “depression” than their religious counterparts. Overall, 19% of spiritual respondents said they suffered from a neurotic disorder, while 15% of religious respondents responded the same way.

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The practice of being spiritual but not religious is difficult to define and has a number of gray areas. The phrase is generally used to describe people who do not attend church, atheists who believe in some sort of higher power, free thinkers and the unaffiliated. It is also used for people who blend different faiths.

In short, King writes, “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.”

King, who said he has received a substantial amount of hate mail over the study, defended his findings, “If you take drug dependency, they are about 77% more likely than religious respondents, 24% more likely to having a generalized anxiety disorder. These are quite obvious differences.”

Opinion: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out

The study was conducted with the government of the United Kingdom, which asked the questions as part of a larger psychiatric study.

With a sample of 7,403 British people, the study found that nearly 19% of England’s population is spiritual but not religious. That number is higher in the United States, where, according to a 2002 Gallup Poll, in a sample of 729 adults, 33% of Americans identified themselves as "spiritual but not religious.”

Past academic studies in the United States have come to similar conclusions, said Tanya Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor at Stanford University. Most academic research about religion and well-being, said Luhrmann, has found that religion is good for you.

According to Luhrmann, organized religion provides three outlets that benefit churchgoers' well being: social support, attachment to a loving God and the organized practice of prayer.

“When you become spiritual but not religious, you are losing the first two points and most spiritual but not religious people aren’t participating in the third,” Luhrmann said. “It is not just a generic belief in God that works; it is specific practices that work.”

People who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious push back against the notion that they have no community to fall back on or impetus to help the poor. In an interview with CNN in June 2010, BJ Gallagher, a Huffington Post blogger who writes about spirituality, compared spiritual but not religious people to people who complete 12-step programs to beat addiction.

“Twelve-step people have a brilliant spiritual community that avoids all the pitfalls of organized religion,” said Gallagher, author of “The Best Way Out is Always Through.” “Each recovering addict has a 'God of our own understanding,' and there are no priests or intermediaries between you and your God. It's a spiritual community that works.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Heather Cariou, a New York-based author, identifies as spiritual instead of religious. She told CNN last year that she adopted a spirituality that blends Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs.

"I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist or Catholic or Muslim," she said. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."

Younger people identify as spiritual but not religious more frequently than their older counterparts. In a 2009 survey by the research firm LifeWay Christian Resources, 72% of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they are "more spiritual than religious."

The phrase is now so commonplace that it has spawned its own acronym ("I'm SBNR") and website: SBNR.org.

Traditionally the words "religious" and "spiritual" were closely linked, but over time the latter word began to describe an experience disconnected from the traditional confines of religion, particularly organized religion.

A widely discussed survey of adult Americans by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released in October found that the religiously unaffiliated both believe in God and define themselves as spiritual but not religious.

Sixty-eight percent of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God and 58% say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the Earth, in a spiritual way. Additionally, the study found 37% classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious" and 21% say they pray every day.

As expected, the practice of being spiritual but not religious has been roundly criticized by those who participate in organized religion. Jesuit priest James Martin told CNN in June that the phrase, "I’m spiritual but not religious," can boil down to egotism.

"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," said Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"

– CNN’s John Blake and Richard Greene contributed to this report

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Spirituality • United States

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soundoff (1,269 Responses)
  1. Pedro Flores

    I am Catholic and have been a very religious person since childhood. I had my first encounter with the supernatural at the age of 5. This supernatural experience was a gift from God that has allowed me never to question HIS existence. I have cheated death by pure miracles at least 6 times in my life. I have been rewarded beyond measure in this life.

    In my late 30s, I was exposed to Southern Baptist and Evangelicals on a regular basis. They taught me how I could have a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. In the two decades since this Spiritual growth began, I have been guided and warned at least a 100 times. Rarely, have I not followed the guidance.

    I also know that there are evil spirits in this world. As soon as I sense an evil spirit in a person I flee, if I can't flee I pray and confront them. It is these evil spirits that so easily capture people who seek spiritual access outside the realm of a religion based on LOVE.

    To those who dismiss me as a typical religious Hispanic simpleton with limited education and worldly knowledge, I can share with you that I am international attorney and have 20 years of education under my belt and that I have travelled close to a million miles and have visited over 30 countries. I have read over 1000 non fiction books as well as another 100 books on Christianity.

    I am no Saint, but I always try to do the right thing. The Spiritual world is real, but one should not go there without religious guidance for you might not come back a good person.

    God Bless

    January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      That was helpful for me to read. Thank you, Pedro.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I hate to call you a whackjob, but you are a whackjob.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Mary

      What kind of dark soul hears that and proclaims: "whackjob"?
      Evil hates praises to God.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Kris

      Vote for Pedro

      January 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Father Guido Sarducci

      Pedro, I dismiss you for lying.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Coincidentally Mary, Dark Souls was my favorite video game of this console generation.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Father Guido Sarducci

      And I proclaim you to be a 100% certified whackjob of the genus whackus and the species jobbus plurimus maximus.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Pedro: There's a million dollars waiting for some wackjob like you to claim it if you can prove your claims are true. The James Randi Foundation will be happy to prove what we know from the fairy tale you just told-you're a liar who needs to locate the State Mental Hospital and ask to be admitted for the illness you are suffering from.

      Mary: The kind of person who has seen the true light and is not closed minded enough to believe the fairy tale Pedro just spewed.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      Mary- I am picturing passing the guy in a supermarket and having him suddenly sprint out of the store shrieking about evil spirits.

      How can you *not* think whackjob when you hear that?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Slasher313

      Maybe Father Guido needs to go back to his own country where he can be in the company of his fellow atheists who have no business discouraging those like Pedro who have found the Lord in the best country on earth that he could be found inside of. There's your sign!

      January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Oh look, the useless cappie troll has decided to use a new name.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Father Guido Sarducci

      Slasher-zero, I'm in my home country, the United States. Despite its greatness and some really fine people, one of its biggest problems is bigoted, vicious folk like you. And lying whackjob Pedro.

      May fat old Church Lady sit on you.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      "As soon as I sense an evil spirit in a person I flee" is that why you've "travelled close to a million miles" ?

      January 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • John

      TP, why do you expect God would care about a million dollars? If you want to know if people have seen angels, demons, the devil, miracles, etc... pick up a bible, it's a book of eye witness accounts of those that experienced such. You can also look at a new born, or anyone alive, the miracle of life. God doesn't just sit and wait though, and he already knows if someone wants him to be there, or not. And if you don't want him to be there... he's not.... for you... or a million dollars.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      This makes me think of my (Irish-Canadian) grandmother, who used to get out in the middle of the crosswalk and hold her rosary out at arms' length, pointing at the oncoming cars to stop for her!

      January 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  2. Pat

    I still am trying to figure out why religious people hate people so much.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Dsync

      Doubt is reflective and infectious.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • JohnC

      most of the comments from atheists or agnostics aren't hatred of a person. They are a distaste for the concept of not see multiple sides of things or not having a strong basis for what is believed. You will also often see a more reactive defensive posture because they feel they are being attacked by those that are religious and state firm negative opinions of those that aren't. I guess it's sort of like the way many Christians say they don't hate gays but hate or disaprove of the _behavior_.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  3. Pat

    Only a religious people hating person would write an article like this.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I'm still trying to unwind what "religious people hating person" is supposed to mean.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  4. Envisioner

    What a weird and misguided article. Really huge topics are brought up that are just poked and prodded at with no real gumption or tact. Nobody should believe that your "likely" to develop a mental disorder when the numbers suggest a less than one 'n five chance. And why did the article only dive into the conflict between SBNR and organized religion and not it's conflict against, and assimilation to Atheism, Agnosticism, Anti-Theism, etc. A Venn Diagram would of been nice haha. But seriously, this article was lacking sole, and just bumbled through the information.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  5. JCK

    Spritual/Religious/believer/non-believer .... whatever makes you comfortable. One unavoidable fact : One day we will find out whether or not God exists.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      For sure. I hope he is like Jesus.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Mike

      Uhh... no we won't. Once you're deceased there is no consciousness to "know" anything.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      But if death is eternal nothingness, how will we know anything?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      Or we have a soul. And go to be with God, who dwells in another dimension outside of our understanding of time and matter.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • niknak

      And that is the beauty of the scam, that one will never know if it was true until they die.

      Religion is the biggest, longest running, and most lucrative ponzi scheme ever invented.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      Scam?

      I have an outlet to help others in my community.

      I have a support group to help me in times of trouble.

      Not a scam.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Father Guido Sarducci

      Blue Sox, community is great. It's the god part that's the scammy part. Lose that and you'll be on your way to a more accurate world view.

      Or you can go on believing in santa claus or whatever you call your guy in the sky – same old same old.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Church Lady

      Bless you, Father Guido, for you have illuminated us in our time of idiocy.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Father Guido Sarducci

      Bless you Church Lady, for you have sinned in really dirty ways. Love ya.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      Father:

      Nope.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  6. toydrum

    Turn the statistic around: young people are more likely to take drugs AND drug users are more likely to face mental health issues. I think that correlation was established long before the question of religion ever came up.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Kris

    Im not trying to be disrespectful Frank. But what odes make an athiests life meaningful? Hanging out with the kids. Doing some Laundry. Working a 9-5. Going surfing. When i say meaningful i mean accomplishing something that matters after this is all gone.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Frank

      Why would the existence of God guarantee the meaningfulness of each of our lives? Is a life of unremitting drudgery or unrequited struggle really redeemed if there’s a larger plan, one to which we have no access, into which it fits? That would be small compensation for a life that would otherwise feel like a waste. Moreover, does God actually ground the values by which we live? Do we not, as Plato recognized 2500 years ago, already have to think of those values as good in order to ascribe them to God?

      Basing life’s meaningfulness on the existence of a deity not only leaves all atheists out of the picture; it leaves different believers out of one another’s picture. What seems called for is an approach to thinking about meaning that can draw us together, one that exists alongside or instead of religious views.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Science

      Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven' – Under God – The ...
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/...god/.../stephen-hawking.../AF6...
      by Elizabeth Tenety – in 624 Google+ circles – More by Elizabeth Tenety
      May 16, 2011 – There is no heaven... that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Hawking told the Guardian.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • niknak

      And what do you think you are accomplishing Krispycream that will matter after you die?
      You hope you will go to heaven, but you don't know that you will. God works in mysterious ways right?
      How do you know god even exists, or if it does, that you are believing in the right one?
      You don't.
      In fact, you are only a xtian because you were born into a xtian home. Had you been born in Saudi Arabia you would be a muslim, or in India a hindu etc.

      You have zero evidence that your god exists. So why stress over it.
      Live life to the fullest, be a stand up guy (gal), be a good husband/wife/father/mother/neighbor/employee and have as much fun as possible along the way.
      Why do you need to have a god in your life to accomplish all of that?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Kris

      Stephen Hawking has all the answers.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Kris

      I am not a Christian born into a Christian home. I was born into an Atheist home. I have studied many hours to come to my own conclusion because I, like you, believed there to be no God at one point. Why assume that that was the case? There are many people that convert to religions many years after practicing different religions.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  8. Ed Noyes

    This study has it backwards. People with drug problems and mental health issues gravitate to SBNR. In other words drugs and mental illness cause a SBNR tendency. SBNR does not cause drug problems and mental illness. It is the arrogance of the religious establishment that is blind to this reality, as well as many other realities. An association does not prove a cause and effect. Very weak conclusions in this "study". (Disclosure: I am non-religious or, if you really need a label in order to keep the world neatly organized, you can call me an atheist.)

    January 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • niknak

      I tend to think along the same lines as you do.
      Most of my experiences leed me to see it as how you described, and that is people who have drug/booze/emotional issues find their way to the SBNR way of thinking.
      I have known more then a few people who growing up went hard into drugs and detrimental behavior, and now in their 40s have gone that route. Some have gone the Born Again route too.
      To me, it is just another way for people to justify their actions and not take responsibilty for themselves.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • toydrum

      Not to mention the link between younger people and SBNR. Which is also the age group more likely to get involved in drugs. To me, the correlation is pretty tenuous here.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Ed N.

      "People with drug problems and mental health issues gravitate to SBNR" ...

      and the findings of the study would show exactly the same results.

      Again, for the umpteenth time – the study shows correlation, not cause. It doesn't make the data wrong.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  9. LizD

    How may of those "religious" people do you think lied about taking drugs, or found "religion" because of an addiction. This study smacks of religion trying to do what it always does, spews propaganda to control the minds of the masses. The arthor of this article used the word "free thinkers" to describe spiritual people and that is what we are, we think for ourselves. How many "religious" people do you know that are "free thinkers"? Let's face it religion is part of the problem we have in our society today. People have done thing in the name of God that would be considered criminal in most courts of law, but because they are doing these things under the cover of religion they get away with most crimes. Tell me I'm wrong.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • HK

      I agreed with you 100%. Well said LizD.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  10. Rational Libertarian

    Spiritual, not religious is code for hippy. Hippies clearly use drugs and are retarded.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Frank

      " Hippies clearly use drugs and are retarded."

      Everyone uses drugs at some point in their lives, so by you pathetic logic everyone must be retarded?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • niknak

      I would rather hang out with hippies then people like you rational libtard.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Spirituality

      Spirituality is the section of the book store. There are soft cusions to sit on. Candles float in the air on tiny clouds. There is a faint scent of marijuana in the air.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I didn't say that they were retarded because they used drugs, I said they are retarded AND they use drugs. It is their personal hygiene and views on property which make them have mental deficiencies. Please improve your reading comprehension before judging people.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What is a person like me niknak?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Spirituality

      Plenty of beads also. Hippies don't believe in doors.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Pete

      " I said they are retarded"

      More lies from the xtians – 22!

      January 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • keith

      idiot

      January 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Pete

      Please tell me where I said I was a "xtian".

      January 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • niknak

      Someone who uses the word hippie as a derogatory name is someone like you.
      What have hippies ever done to you to make you not like them?
      I bet you have never even met a hippie, much less could define the word.
      You just have heard someone use it to define people who live differently then you do, so of course that must make it wrong.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Sorry niknak, people who don't know the difference between then and than aren't welcome in my intellectual sphere.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  11. Kris

    Being an Atheist is what a cop out would be. Scared to believe in God because it hasn't been proven but also believe there is no God even though it hasn't been proven. Real logic right there.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Tim

      You can't be scared of something that doesn't exists so you're point is now moot.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hands up if you're deranged and your name is Kris. Pssst, put your hands up Kris .

      January 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Kris

      Tim, How can you say God doesn't exist when it has never been proven. Atheism is about Logic? Logic is about disproving it before discrediting it. Use Logic. No one can say God doesn't exist. It cannot and will not ever be proven to be true or false.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • JohnC

      most atheists are really agnostics that feel that it's just very unlikely there is a god. It would be wrong to say 100% there is no god without some good proof. Also it's a long road from thinking there may be some sort of supreme being to saying that any particular religion has a clue what that supreme being is really all about.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Ed Noyes

      I don't believe in ghosts either. Is that a "cop out"?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • JohnC

      an interesting quality of many (not all) relgious people is they can't accept or wrap their head around the notion that they we don't know for sure. They would wonder how someone can live not knowing for sure if there is a god. But others just accept that we can't know everything and decide to enjoy life and do what they can to help others enjoy life too.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • niknak

      I guess I just don't fear things that don't exist.
      Unlike you, who most likely fears everything, including your imaginary friend.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Kris

      Some people would hate to think that life is about more then temporary pleasures and vanity. So they don't. I could live life as an atheist but that would be me surrendering myself to a meaningless life. I mean if the Earth is destroyed tomorrow it either matters or it doesn't.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      For some reason, it isn't enough for Christians to suppose a creator (which there may be). They then give it unfounded, unknowable qualities and slide from "maybe" into "lie." Worse, they then assign this lie a set of rules which not only disparage millions but indeed call for their deaths (slavery, gays, non-believers).

      I would think a higher percentage of the population could come together if they all managed to agree there is, however minute, a possibility of a creator and simply leave it there, with no fictionalized holy books and rules. We could all then choose our level of worship from zero to 100% and not suffer from any of the rules should we choose 0%.

      But of course this is as much fantasy as is christianity. A part of the whole schtick is "being in a special club" and a club is not special if just anyone can be in it and if it has no rules by which to segregate.

      An atheist will always be "right" because atheism is an opinion, the answer "no" to "do you believe in any gods?" A christian will always be "wrong" because we know the bible is a fraud and an abrahamic god does not exist.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Dsync

      By your own assertion god is undefined. If god is undefined there is no logic that can be applied to prove or disprove anything, because there is nothing to prove or disprove. Hence the supposition is irrelevant. Should you care to define god beyond simply "exists", we might be able to have an actual discussion.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • JohnC

      "Some people would hate to think that life is about more then temporary pleasures and vanity. So they don't. I could live life as an atheist but that would be me surrendering myself to a meaningless life. I mean if the Earth is destroyed tomorrow it either matters or it doesn't." Some people just plain don't know. They can't just magically change that. Many of such folks have read the Bible and other religious works and still don't know. It's not a choice to not know it's just the way it is. They realize they can agnonize over that not knowing or just accept it and live a good life - yes having pleasure but also accepting the hard times and trying to help others be happy.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • SLoRider

      Dude Kris you obviously don't understand logic and how it is applied to the atheist position. Just quit now please.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      Kris-

      If something does not exist then there will be no evidence of it.

      PROVING *anything* requires evidence.

      That is why they say that you cannot prove a negative. The absence of evidence is a pretty strong indicator, though, just like the absence of evidence for faeries and unicorns.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      proving a negative...
      1) If unicorns had existed, then there is evidence in the fossil record.
      2) There is no evidence of unicorns in the fossil record.
      3) Therefore, unicorns never existed.
      forward all complaints -> http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-12-05/#feature

      January 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  12. Kris

    Every time I come on this website their is some guy taking a shot at anyone who believes in a higher power. What gives? Then to follow up the fallacy of an article are hundreds of ignorant comments. People believe in a higher power because it is the only thing that could make a persons life meaningful. Who cares if they dont? Who cares if they do? I certainly don't care what anyone on this blog thinks sharing their two cents about why they are not spiritual or they think religion is BS. The Hebrew and Christian Bible are both canonized pieces of history. And being spiritual and not religious isnt a cop out at all. Jesus himself preached against organized religion because of how corrupt the sinful human beings make it. To me it is stupid to believe that there is no eternal consciousness. Possibility + Possibility = Possibility not actuality. Actuality is given to us by a higher power like it or not.

    January 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • .

      Hey look another ignorant comment.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      Nicely put, Kris.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • JohnC

      "People believe in a higher power because it is the only thing that could make a persons life meaningful" Many that don't believe DO feel their life is meaningful. Maybe they're living an illusion but very many of them defintely find their life fulfulling and meaningful.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Frank

      "People believe in a higher power because it is the only thing that could make a persons life meaningful. "

      Guess what atheists don't need that to have meaningful lives. Get over yourself already.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Kris

      Just because a person feels like their life is fulfilled doesn't mean it is. LOL. We are either here to serve a higher power or there is no meaning at all to life. You can trick yourself into believing whatever you want, that doesn't mean that your life is truly meaningful. it means youve told yourself thousands of lies to make yourself believe what you do matters to any degree.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Dave

      "We are either here to serve a higher power or there is no meaning at all to life"

      There is no proof of that.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Frank

      "You can trick yourself into believing whatever you want, that doesn't mean that your life is truly meaningful. it means youve told yourself thousands of lies to make yourself believe what you do matters to any degree."

      You must be speaking from experience since you're continuing to lie.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • niknak

      Because Krispycream, we (the non believers) are tired of you (the believers) pushing your fairy tale on us as if it was a proven fact.
      We are tired of you trying to use your babble to make laws, to govern us, to hold back science, to teach our children unproven things, and to regulate our bedrooms with your stone age morality guide book.

      If you want to howl at the moon, that is your deal.
      Just stop trying to make us go along and howl with you.
      Deal?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • bob

      You had me right up until you lumped everyone into two categories and boasted of the ability to decide who has led a meaningful life. Judge much? Who gives you the ability to decide that? Did your higher power tell you that? I get to decide what matters to me. You have the right to think I will burn in hell for not believing in the same fashion as you do. You don't have the right to decide what makes sense for other people. Free will. We get to decide and live with the consequences.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • JohnC

      "Just because a person feels like their life is fulfilled doesn't mean it is". Perhaps, but you can understand that if you DID feel your life is meaningful that you would have little reason to seek out a way to make it become meaningful.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Kris

      Read my post again and tell me i am preaching to anyone. Thats some lies. I am not here to preach just to have rational respectful conversation. i see ive come to the wrong place for that. It makes an athiest so mad to think about God. I cannot understand why. I am not one who believes that any religion should be forced onto anyone. I am here to say that this article is a fallacy and most of (you non believers) only leave ignorant and anti religious comments. Which would be like me praching my babble to you. i

      January 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Frank

      " Thats some lies. I am not here to preach just to have rational respectful conversation. "

      You must not understand the definition of respectful when you start out your comment by stating " hundreds of ignorant comments."

      January 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Pete

      " It makes an athiest so mad to think about God."

      Anther lie from the xtians – 21!

      January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • hehe

      God must giggle at atheists who flock to a belief blog to talk about god.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Kris

      to me, calling a comment ignorant is not disrespectful it is just simply stating a fact. If you leave ignorant or baseless comments people should be able to call them out. It is not hard to see an abundance of ignorance in this comment board.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • bob

      " It is not hard to see an abundance of ignorance in this comment board."

      Including yours.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • little timmy

      "The Hebrew and Christian Bible are both canonized pieces of history"

      So what. puffed rice is just canonized pieces of rice.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • sam

      Jesus. Save us from your followers, dude, please.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Automatic Translator for Kris

      "If I do not agree with it, it is ignorant."

      January 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  13. Truth

    The one question I want to ask atheists has always been this. If the writers of the New Testament, the apostles, who walked with Jesus himself knew it was all a lie, then why would they die defending a lie? At least 1 of those 12 men would have spoken up to save themselves. You want logic and I believe this is logical enough.

    January 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Pete

      "If the writers of the New Testament, the apostles, who walked with Jesus himself knew it was all a lie, then why would they die defending a lie?"

      The same reason our men and women went to war in Iraq defending a lie.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • pwndddd

      lol u got pwnted

      January 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Bob

      Do you know how many other religions people have died over defending it and we now know it was all lies.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • JohnC

      I doubt any or many atheists would agree the apostles knew it was a lie. And even if wrong it wasn't likely a lie anyway but a misunderstanding.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • niknak

      Well, since the NT was written almost 1000 years after jeebus was strung up, then how could the apostles have written it?
      And why do you have to ask only atheists this?
      The vast majority of the world does not believe in your babble, not just us atheists.

      Here is my question to you believers;
      If god exists, then why are there so many different, and many times, contradictory versions of it?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Truth,

      The fates (and even the ident-ities) of most of the 'apostles' are actually unknown. Legends about them abound, however.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Truth

      Pete, the men and women defending our country are not involved in the politics of war. The apostles walked with Jesus and professed that they saw a risen Jesus. That is not something you die for without seeing it.

      pwndddd, to use the word "pwned" means you are either a 12 year old or you live in your mother's basement. At least try to form an argument.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Zeva

      niknak

      Did you know atheists like you are self centered, arrogant and smug jerks? It is true!

      January 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Homer

      That's easy, but several answers:

      a) They didn't write it. They were long dead when the gospels were penned.
      b) You're assuming there really was a Jesus.
      c) the New Testament, as we know it, is the result of millennials of politically-motivated re-writing. So even those that first wrote it (while not walkers with Jesus), had other goals in mind.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Erik

      Actually, while these chapters were supposedly written by the apostles, the originals have never been discovered. The first mention of Jesus didn't make it into the history books until 400 years after his supposed death. You would think at least one historian would record a man proclaiming to be the son of God, walking on water, raising the dead and other miracles.

      Look into the Egyptian, Corinthian, and other ancient civilization hieroglyphs and you'll see many of the same stories (born of a virgin, the last supper, resurrection after 3 days, etc) now told in the Bible with different names. Food for thought.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      What Jesus preached tears down – not supports – the status quo.

      "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." – Jesus

      If you try to carry out what he preached, prepare to be hated.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • niknak

      Arrogance Legend of Zeva, is someone who tried to push a belief on others with no facts to back that claim up.
      You don't like what I write because you have no way to prove that your go exists.
      I guess I should feel lucky because all you can do is call me names.
      Had this been 1000 years ago, you could have had me killed.
      I bet you would love to do that still if you could.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Erik

      I have seen more hate and misplaced judgement among devout religious followers than any other group of individuals. Apparently more than a few members of the religious masses completely misunderstood Jesus' teachings.

      "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." – Jesus

      January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Agnostic Saint

      @Truth, how do you know nobody did, you know what happened when people disagreed with pope, they were burnt.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Zeva

      niknak
      You narrow-minded atheists take everything so seriously, so I am here to lighten things up a bit.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • sam

      Zeva's idea of lightening things up a bit is to be passive aggressive? That is so novel!

      January 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  14. JohnC

    I suspect for many that identify as spiritual but not religious they focus a lot on the concept that they have a soul separate from the body desire to get "in touch" with that part of themselves. A subset of these people may want to experiment with drugs that give the sensation of separating the soul from the body. Since they don't learn from church teachings how things are they learn through experimenting using meditation or drugs or any other means they may find (not all harmful). The irony though is that all you are doing is altering the very physical aspects of your brain to change a perception rather than a reality.

    Related to this is my wondering IF there is really a soul then what is it like when you die. People, movies, etc. always act like you are much as you are on earth except for the physical limits. So you feel happy or sad, etc. People often talk about someone having a "torured soul". But happy, sad, etc. are just brain chemical states that can be measured using things like MRI and altered with drugs or one's physical health. So if you remove all the brain chemicals, the five senses and such what would be left and what would it be like?

    January 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  15. californiarestinpeace

    Syria, Israel, Iran, Pentecostal. You wonder why we opt out of religion. So, we're lonely – but we're not delusional.

    January 9, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  16. Terencio

    Wow... why are the only comparisons the religious and the SBNRs? What about we atheists? The NSORs? I believe in no higher power than a vibrant diverse ecosystem and hand held electronic devices!

    January 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • niknak

      Mmmmm, hand held electronic devices. They are yummie.
      If jeebus would have had them, maybe he too would have been to lazy to preach all the bull and we could be spared having to still listen to it all these years.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  17. Fla native

    What if you just believe in ghosts, or drink spirits. Does that count?

    January 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  18. JakeAZ

    i'll never understand the need to be religious. being "spiritual but not religious" seems like a cop-out to me. trying to be all "in-your-face organized religion" but at the same time buying the same BS. its all in your mind people.

    January 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  19. Coffeeclue

    I'm neither spiritual nor religious. I simply don't understand the need of belief in the higher power. I was always taught to make decisions and be responsible for them, not to rely on someone else to make them for me. The whole idea of living by being afraid of what will happen after you die to me is incomprehensible. According to organized religion, God has a purpose for everything he does. So, if he created me, his purpose for me is to be me. Whatever I do, good or bad, is the purpose of my life.

    One can truly be a decent person without the fear of punishment. When I talk to religious people, to me that IS mental illness. Believing in and talking to imaginary beings is really the definition of schizophrenia.

    January 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Death To Smurfs!

      It's a good thing it isn't the Dark Ages, because you would have been burned at the stake for making sense.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Blue Sox

      I'm a Christian and I don't have that fear of death or punishment. My beliefs are actually in response to love I've felt from God. I call it grace.

      I am not schizophrenic, but I am familiar with the illness. It is not the same as believing in a loving God who cares about me.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Church Lady

      Even Blue Sox need mending.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • George

      Is that for when they get holey?

      January 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • George

      Blue, sane people call it delusion, not grace.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  20. End Religion

    In other news, in effort to distance themselves from "crazy spiritualists," Christians have begun declaring, "Hi, I'm a Christian. I'm religious but not at all spiritual."

    January 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • The Four Fluffy Kittens of the Apocalypse

      Good one!

      January 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Albert Camus

      In other news, in effort to distance themselves from "crazy athiests," CNN comment board Atheists have again declared, "Hi, I'm a Athiest. I'm logical but not at all relevant."

      Not shocking to anyone but still.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • niknak

      You made a funny Albert's Camel.
      I guess I can't say all fundies have no sence of humor anymore.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:56 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.