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July 2nd, 2014
08:50 AM ET

The new American dream: Searching for spirituality

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - To discover one’s self. To find enlightenment. To take a spiritual journey.

What does this language mean? Are these pursuits, these aspirations, really possible? And if they are, what do the results look like?

I can’t pretend to have the answers. What I do know is that I went to India this year on a journalism fellowship to write about religion and spirituality. I landed in a place called Rishikesh, a holy spot for Hindus and magnet for Westerners seeking inner peace.

For two weeks, I set judgment aside and dove in to see what this place was all about. What I found touched me more than I anticipated and left me feeling somewhat transformed. I chronicled all of this in "Indian Awakenings" last month.

Since then, I've had a different sort of awakening.

The flood of responses, including hundreds of long and thoughtful e-mails from readers around the world, made it clear: People are hungry for stories of spiritual discoveries – and for mainstream platforms willing to explore them.

No surprise there, said Lisa Miller, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, Teachers College, and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute.

“This is part of a huge cultural shift,” said Miller, who'd barely heard about spirituality in academia when she started out 20 years ago. “We’re evolving – as a collective – and finding something deeper, more true and more permanent.”

The story from India “stimulated not only my intellect but also awakened my soul,” wrote one of the readers.

“It inspired me to live my life with a more open heart,” said another.

“An energy forced me to read your article,” wrote a third. “While reading, I cried, reflected on my life, felt the wounds of my daughters, exclaimed pain from my sister’s suicide, gave thanks to my parents and even sent advice to a guy I just met. I’m not sure where this will all lead.”

Miller attributes this opening up, at least in part, to a loss of security, a response to challenges. Financial downturns and, for some, implosions. Natural disasters. School shootings. Domestic terrorism. Pick your pain.

“People who’ve never suffered aren’t very deep,” she said. “In this country, there’s been a shattering of the golden calf. Idolatry of the material side of the American dream is fading, and we need to come up with a new American dream.”

The letters, however, came from countries far and wide. People weighed in from all different faith backgrounds – Hindu, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Mormon, Buddhist, Jewish, atheist and agnostic.

Most shared enthusiasm about peering outside their normal perspective and learning about others' views.  But the ones who were least willing to bend or be open seemed to fit into two distinct categories, firmly set on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum: those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God, and those who don't believe in God at all.

If sitting in front of idols and not sticking to the Bible wasn’t going to be the end of me, the literalists seemed to say, the devout atheists thought my gullibility and being a sucker would.

Those diametrically opposed criticisms made sense to Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist who helped pioneer a field called “neurotheology,” or the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences.

A person’s reactions come down to how the brain is wired, said Newberg, the co-author of books including “How God Changes Your Brain.” Those who can look outside their own views will do so. Those who are firmly wired may not be capable of challenging the information they hold dear.

“Our brains are belief-making machines, so we gravitate to different beliefs,” whether we find them in science, religion or art, he said. “Each of our brains is doing its best job to figure out the world.”

How we are raised, our genetics, even infections we had as children help shape how our brains work and how necessary it is for us to lock into a specific sort of mindset, Newberg said.

When we engage in rituals, we strengthen our connections to a belief. And this doesn’t just apply to religion. It plays out, too, in our politics and morals - even where we get our news.

“The connections that make sense to us or comfort us, we keep feeding them,” he said.

We are, as a result, drawn to the people and ideas that support our wiring, Newberg said. For those who may seem less flexible on either end of the spectrum, it can generate prejudice.

But for those who believe in a loving, non-punishing God, he says, the benefits of spiritual practice and prayer are real.  This sort of mindset, even just 12 minutes of meditation a day, can slow the aging process, scale back anxiety, reduce depression and increase compassion, security and feelings of love. He says the brain scans he's studied prove it.

I didn’t find my guru in India, nor did I develop a consistent yoga or meditation practice. But I returned feeling like something had shifted inside of me.

This recent Father’s Day, unlike previous ones since my dad died, didn’t wreck me. I’ve slept better. I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever known. I don’t feel like I've failed because I didn't have children, nor do I have those days at work when I think, “I suck.”

And I like to think that my being open to possibilities, my looking at the world and people with wonder instead of judgment, helped bring me there. Whether I technically found myself or got enlightened, I can’t say. All I know is I’m in a better place.

Gauging from readers’ reactions, no matter where they come from, it appears many of them want to get there, too.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Faith • India • Spirituality

soundoff (514 Responses)
  1. leif2720

    Lighting strikes the World Trade Center in New York over and over today.

    http://www.cnn.com/video/standard.html?/video/weather/2014/07/03/watch-lightning-electrify-nyc-skyline.wabc&hpt=hp_t2&from_homepage=yes&video_referrer=http://www.cnn.com/

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/07/photos_lightning_strikes_one_world_trade_center.html

    Then lightning strikes Sears tower in Chicago over and over yesterday

    http://parade.condenast.com/312049/mabel_martinez/watch-lightning-strike-the-willis-sears-tower-in-chicago/

    Lighting strikes the Vatican when the pope quits

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/02/12/lightning-bolt-strikes-vatican-pope-benedict-resignation/1913095/

    Then lighting strikes Jesus statue in Brazil the tallest statue of Jesus In the world .

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/10581518/Rios-Christ-the-Redeemer-statue-damaged-by-lightning-strike.html

    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…”

    Do You Still don't believe there's a God?

    Psalm 14 What year is it? 2014 when did the First World War start 1914

    14 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
    there is none who does good.
    2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,[a]
    who seek after God.
    3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.
    4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?
    5 There they are in great terror,
    for God is with the generation of the righteous.
    6 You would shame the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is his refuge.

    July 6, 2014 at 6:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Sorry the education system failed you!
      Nothing you posted proves god.

      July 6, 2014 at 6:28 am |
    • igaftr

      leif
      Lightning stikes occur approximately 100 times per second around the world.

      Not a single one shows there are any gods.
      People did not know what caused lightning, so claimed it was some "god"...now you are simply trying to claim that lightning is a sign of god?
      All that lightning proves is that there is a difference in electrical potential between cloads and the ground, or clods to other clouds, or within clouds, or from cloud to some other object like an airplane.
      Lightning is only proof that electricity exists.

      July 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
  2. leif2720

    Jesus and god is the new American dream not India bliss India can't help us I'm sorry.

    July 6, 2014 at 5:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Silly boy...imaginary friends are for the gullible and children. God can't be proven to exist and obviously you are one of the gullible.

      July 6, 2014 at 6:29 am |
  3. typeayogini

    Reblogged this on typeayogini and commented:
    Our beliefs and our knowledge in cultural context: Neurotheology in the 21st century

    July 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
  4. blessed137

    "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." John 4:24

    July 4, 2014 at 11:08 am |
  5. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    I am surprised at the close of every day... that humanity has managed to survive itself. This trend I fear will not last...

    July 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
    • bostontola

      LET,
      We are a young species so it is too soon to tell, but my money is on humans to persist for a long time. We'll make lot's of mistakes and fix them. We have a pretty strong drive to survive, we wouldn't have gotten here without it. There have been a lot of dead bodies along the road, and there will more to come, but there is also Beethoven, Einstein, and Picasso as well.

      July 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Optimist.

        July 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
        • bostontola

          LET,
          I am optimistic regarding the future. When I think of 50 or 100 years in the future I imagine that humans will be manipulating our genome to control disease and aging. People will live much longer and become wiser. Having to relearn lessons will become less frequent. We will become much more long term thinking. We will make much wiser and better informed decisions.

          Will there still be jerks? Yes, but their influence and power will diminish in the face of the majority being wiser and long term thinkers.

          In short, I think social responsibility wins (or if you like, good wins).

          This is one possible future. It is in our hands if that happens or we destroy ourselves. Either way, life on earth will continue, with or without us.

          July 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
  6. bostontola

    Spirituality is a very broad topic. For me, it includes natural and supernatural attribution. As an atheist, and more specifically an anti-dogmatist, I am pleased about the rise of spiritualism over the last decades. Many have abandoned dogmatic religion with their claims of absolute 'Truth', in favor of a personal subjective spiritualism.

    I have spiritual experiences. My subjective experiences with them have been powerful. My opinion is they are completely of natural origin. It's not hard to induce them with chemicals, so no supernatural origin is required. They are deep and powerful, I can understand why many would experience them as of supernatural origin. They are very pleasurable as well, so I can see why people want to have them.

    I hope the trend continues and more people opt for personal spirituality, even if it takes the form of a benevolent psychosis (i.e. if you think it is supernatural).

    July 3, 2014 at 11:32 am |
  7. Jill

    Warning. WooWoo alert! Ths article has a very high Woo factor. Woowoo. Woowoo. Woowoo!

    July 3, 2014 at 10:42 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Funny, but I have to admit Ms Ravitz did have a pretty amazing experience to follow in the footsteps of so many seekers to Rishikesh.

      It gave her more perspective and experiences and she has shared them quite candidly. Surely that is a good thing?

      July 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    The world accepting spritualities tend to be ethnocentric, meaning that membership is largely determined by geographical proximity and genetic identi/ty. They build communities by celebrating the group through shared myths, rituals and symbols. Their shamans tend to be social leaders whose power is legitimized through these myths.
    Their views are most often focused on worldly things like food, fertility and war.
    These religions are inextricably linked to the social and political life of a society.
    Ja/panese Shinto is a good example. Through the veneration of their ancestors, they reinforce ethnic bonds and stengthen the social order.

    World rejecting spiritualities, in contrast, are generally predicated on the acceptance of ethical and behavioural doctrines as laid down by a founder authority. Instead of being ethno-centric, they will welcome anyone who is willing to supplicate themselves to the authority of the founder's representatives and/or the dogma laid out by the frequently suprahuman founder. These belief system seek to trascend whatever sociopolitical environment their adherents find themselves in by asserting universal ideals over cultural traditions. In advancing their own identi/ties as the sole arbiters of Universal Truth, they tend to be divisive in nationalistic environments.
    Fundamentalist Christianity is a good example. A shared focus on overcoming man's shared character flaws in order to attain posthumous paradise through strict adherence to dogmatic ethical codices gives comfort, identi/ty and a sense of exclusivity over the wider, unenlightened populace.

    The greater problem is that both types are necessarily sectarian and thus divisive.
    Becuase of this, sociological evolution is slowly but inorexably dimishing the importance of these types of spiritualities as humanity begins to knit together a globally cooperative identi/ty.
    Whatever one's beliefs, we are starting to recogize that supernaturalism in any form is not a reliable means to build a universal consensus.Any proposition that relies on faith can and will be twisted by unscrupulous individuals for their own gain. Its just far too easy to manipulate those who are willing to suspend critical thinking and accept something without evidence.
    If only Cochrane would hurry up and invent Warp Drive so the Vulcans can make First Contact!
    Then we can do away with money, hunger and racism.
    And also get it on with green skinned women in go-go boots.

    July 3, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • snuffleupagus

      I can "see" T' Pol in them

      July 3, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Jolene Blalock makes me feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.

        July 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • snuffleupagus

          Ah yes, rope climbing. Made me laugh, Doc. Good one!

          July 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
  9. magicpanties

    "...When we engage in rituals, we strengthen our connections to a belief..."

    Classic brainwashing.

    July 3, 2014 at 8:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Stop being so cynical.
      Here – have some of this Kool-Aid.

      July 3, 2014 at 8:52 am |
      • lunchbreaker

        Black cherry?

        July 3, 2014 at 9:35 am |
      • jonathanlk

        You don't need to believe in God, Allah, or a Krishna to live a spiritual life, or to have a conscience. You can have both based on an awareness of yourself in the Universe, environmnet, and community, without having to believe in a deity. The spirit is not an active conscious being that is human-like, or sends prophets to bring messages. That is all an invention of man's little ego and the source of many false doctrines. There is no deity with magic powers who is watching over us and keeping score etc.. The spirit is more, at least in one respect, like a mere dimension that goes beyond ourselves, like the air we breathe. We exist temporarily as individuals and maybe afterwards we disappear back to how we existed, or did not exist, prior to being born. No one knows, but that would seem obviously logical. Don't get too caught up in man made religionistic hierarchies of power, belief systems, designed for the purpose of human behavior regulation. They are all at best crude and primitive and only reflect on the sad state of our human race. You can untie your concept of what spiritual is from deism. As a case in point, Atheists are among the most spiritual people I have known, and that means, in overly simple terms, living that awarenenss of being a temporary but active part of a vaster Universe.

        July 3, 2014 at 10:32 am |
        • gh67r

          Yes, you're absolutely right: you don't have to believe in any of those deities to be "spiritual": you need to believe in spirits. What's the difference?

          July 3, 2014 at 11:24 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          That's odd... most atheists I know, think spiritualism/spiritualists are super-annoying pretentious dingbats.

          July 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • snuffleupagus

          gh67r, I do believe in spirits: Canadian Club, Glenfiditch, Guinnes Stout, Longboard, etc. It's a ritual that you can partake with a group or by yourself. You can further ritualize it with a good corned-beef special, with steak fries.

          July 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          "Oh don't give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit
          No, don't you give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit
          For my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I may die
          Won't you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit"

          —An ancient Orion mining song

          July 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Keith

      So, group therapy works for thousands of people, but you know it is just nonsense. Right, I get it.

      July 3, 2014 at 9:50 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Group therapy doesn't generally involve the kind of ritualistic "gooble gobble, god accepts you, one of us" stuff that religions practice.

        July 3, 2014 at 10:17 am |
        • Keith

          I have never heard god mentioned in a Yoga class yet, but it is a religious practice. I have done group work for years, the content is not important for some reason. Dismissing work that involves ceremony is as close minded as any Christian Fundamentalist could be. You don't have to have a god to have a ceremony. What they woman is saying is that despite being a Christian she found value in other things.

          July 3, 2014 at 10:23 am |
        • G to the T

          "I have never heard god mentioned in a Yoga class yet, but it is a religious practice."

          I would contend that it began as a religious practice, but has been co-opted for non-religious ends (i.e. exercise). Kind of like Tai Chi – you don't need to be a Toaist to pratice Tai Chi.

          July 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
  10. Vic

    What we go through in our ever-evolving learning and life experiences are but "Growing Pains" —not to infringe on the TV series name.

    [
    "When we engage in rituals, we strengthen our connections to a belief. And this doesn’t just apply to religion. It plays out, too, in our politics and morals – even where we get our news."

    "But for those who believe in a loving, non-punishing God, he says, the benefits of spiritual practice and prayer are real. This sort of mindset, even just 12 minutes of meditation a day, can slow the aging process, scale back anxiety, reduce depression and increase compassion, security and feelings of love. He says the brain scans he's studied prove it."
    ]

    On the one hand, we humans are self-seeking & self-serving machines no matter what we think and/or do. To me, that only affirms my belief that "Salvation by the Grace of God through Faith in Him" —Christianity— is absolutely a gift and independent of our merits, hence (Isaiah 64:6 Psalm 53:3 Romans 3:10,) John 3:16 & Ephesians 2:8,9.

    On the other hand, we are spiritual beings. I mentioned it a few times before that I read some science journals suggesting that humans have a "universal impulse for God." I believe it is true; I believe that we are spiritually tethered to our Creator without directly realizing it, hence "spirituality" and the "test of Faith."

    July 2, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
    • Science Works

      The Cult-ure of the RCC Vic >

      Anti-gay Twin Cities archbishop probed for se-xually harassing male colleagues

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/02/anti-gay-twin-cities-archbishop-probed-for-se-xually-harassing-male-colleagues/

      July 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm |
    • Madtown

      Christianity— is absolutely a gift and independent of our merits
      ---–
      It's a gift given by God, just not equally to each human he creates. That makes sense.

      July 2, 2014 at 9:46 pm |
      • whippstippler7

        Was Christianity a gift during the Crusades? Or the Spanish Inquisition? Or when it's used to fuel hatred and violence against the LGBT community?

        July 2, 2014 at 11:30 pm |
      • somersetcace1

        "X is true because I believe it is true," is not the most reasonable argument. However, if that's what you believe, then by all means have at it.

        July 2, 2014 at 11:54 pm |
    • Science Works

      Hey Vic – come on now are you from one of these states ?

      http://www.salon.com/2014/07/02/5_states_trying_to_make_their_kids_scientifically_illiterate_partner/

      July 3, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
      • tallulah131

        That is child abuse. Plain and simple.

        July 3, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
        • Science Works

          tallulah131 Agree

          But Vic can not seem to grasp that..Vic does like Hagee though.

          Ability to Adapt Gave Early Humans the Edge Over Other Hominins

          Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ability-to-adapt-gave-early-humans-edge-hominin-180951959/#pOWZyUb7tdJRbecI.99

          July 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • tallulah131

      It's funny that you mention Growing Pains, since that's where that psycho-fundie Kirk Cameron got his big break.

      I think that people who are not happy with themselves reach for gods and spirituality. If you stop looking for external answers and become comfortable in your own skin and with your own company, you really don't need all that extraneous stuff. The key is understanding who you are and accepting who you are.

      Of course, if you are a violent criminal, a manipulator, addict, child molester or bad person in general, feel free to worship the deity of your choice if it keeps you from harming others.

      July 3, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
      • G to the T

        Fun fact – George Clooney got his start on Growing Pains (as Joe's boyfriend).

        July 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
  11. flightfromfrostmtn

    “Our brains are belief-making machines, so we gravitate to different beliefs,” whether we find them in science, religion or art, he said. “Each of our brains is doing its best job to figure out the world.”

    Which is fine if you have infinite space to play out whatever 'belief' happens to hit home with you. In the here and now we are losing that luxury because human beings cant seem to keep their bullshiit separate from reality. We are worried about the nonsensical when we cant even manage to keep our life sustaining obligations functioning properly.

    July 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
    • bostontola

      "human beings cant seem to keep their bullshiit separate from reality."

      You hit on the exact reason the scientific method was developed, and it has been the most reliable way to explore the observable universe. I don't understand why people trust important information gathered in other ways. I get lots of information without the scientific method, we all have to, but I keep an eye on it.

      July 2, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
  12. katiebygrace

    I enjoyed the article. Jessica said " But the ones who were least willing to bend or be open seemed to fit into two distinct categories, firmly set on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum: those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God, and those who don't believe in God at all.".....I am a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ and I believe the Bible is the literal word of God, showing us the Word who became flesh........I wonder how she thinks we should be willing to "bend"? Was curious as to exactly what she meant by that. Thanks......

    July 2, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
    • chazthephoenix

      Its just another attempt to water down the Word and Power of Jesus. Oprah (and president Obama) think there is more than one way into Heaven. The pick and choose which parts of the Bible they accept. Its sad they are still deceived. My life is completely different than it was just a few years ago, It all changed when Jesus came knocking. I love my life and myself now. I could tell you stories (testimonies) that would prove that the ONLY way things like that could have happened was God. I am thankful He came and found me, his lost lamb.

      July 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Oh pot meet kettle. Don't accuse someone of picking and choosing from the bible when no Christian follows it completely themselves. If you need jesus in your life, you're lacking more than religion, you're lacking the ability to think and rationalize for yourself; you're lacking empathy.

        July 3, 2014 at 5:13 am |
      • Keith

        If you would have lived in India you would have found your salvation in the Hindu religion.

        July 3, 2014 at 9:55 am |
    • grumpy0ldman

      It means you are not open to any other view of the world. It's what most of us call narrow minded. If you believe that the bible, with all of it's contradictions, is the literal word of God you are also pretty gullible.

      July 2, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
      • katiebygrace

        So you are saying we should be open to anything except the claims of Christianity? Why would you exclude that one particular belief?

        July 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
        • G to the T

          Because in and of itself, Christianity is an exclusive belief system.

          July 3, 2014 at 8:41 am |
        • katiebygrace

          How is it exclusive when everyone is invited....

          July 3, 2014 at 9:02 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          No, you need to re-read what was said. What is being said is that you need to be more open to other beliefs, not to do so is being narrowed minded-you see yours as being true and thus refuse to look at others. Christianity starts with an answer and builds questions around it. It is much wiser to start with questions and continue to search for answers.

          July 3, 2014 at 8:52 am |
        • katiebygrace

          But why? Why do you define me as narrow minded because of my beliefs? This is not being "open". Its being narrow minded towards one particular faith.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:02 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          No, we're not narrow minded at all. We are very open to a god if anyone could just provide evidence for one. You have decided that the Christian god is the only one possible and exclude the chance that you could be wrong.
          Websters defines narrow-minded as:
          unwilling to grant other people social rights or to accept other viewpoints

          As for exclusive...c'mon how blind must one be not to comprehend this?? LGBT are sinner's=exclusion; Women are lower than men=exclusion; non-believers are doomed for some fictional place called hell simply for not accepting based on faith alone and the stories written by man, inspired by man=exclusion; belief in any other god equates to blasphme=exclusion.

          Do you by chance own a dictionary or know where to locate one on the internet? You come across as very ignorant or the meaning of words and of your own belief system. There is a cure for the ignorance...it's called stepping back and taking a hard look at the god you follow...oh and an education outside of the church is usually beneficial.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:17 am |
        • katiebygrace

          You are not narrow minded and you are very open but you cannot discuss without "do you own a dictionary"....and "you are very ignorant"...?. You are a hypocrite, accusing others of what you yourself are doing. This of course ends the conversation, who can discuss in a rational way when you resort to that.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:42 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          You are being narrow minded and you didn't seem to comprehend why. In most cases it does equate to ignorance. Are you willing to look outside your belief system? Do you accept things on faith? Sorry if you feel so persecuted but you came across as being ignorant and narrow minded.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:47 am |
        • joey3467

          I would exclude Christianity because it is an immoral religion.

          July 3, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
        • G to the T

          "But why? Why do you define me as narrow minded because of my beliefs? This is not being "open". Its being narrow minded towards one particular faith"

          If you are certain that Yahweh exists, Jesus was his only son (and God at same time) and that he died for your sins, you already feel you KNOW the answer. If you are certain of something, you aren't being open to other possibilities (including that you are wrong). That is exclusive and close minded.

          July 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
        • katiebygrace

          Your definition of close minded is off base. But yes I do believe Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thats why I have faith in Him. Why does it bug you that I do if you are so open minded? I've said nothing negative against anyone, just stated my own beliefs.

          July 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • Madtown

      If it's the literal word of God, what's your best guess as to why God doesn't elect to share it equally with all the humans he creates?

      July 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
      • katiebygrace

        What do you mean by He doesnt share it equally?

        July 3, 2014 at 9:03 am |
        • igaftr

          Many people never heard of your bible.Never heard the story of your god.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:22 am |
        • katiebygrace

          You have heard of Him

          July 3, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Many people have but yet not everyone. Many in underdeveloped countries never have. Christianity, as with any other belief system, makes its way through via man, nothing more.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:51 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          If your god were omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent it would be able to make it clear that it is the god that created the universe; not only does it not do that to its own followers, it is unknown to a large percentage of people.
          It is proven that the bible is not the literal word of a god – many christians world-wide accept that fact.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:54 am |
        • Keith

          Half of the people in the world have not heard of your god or bible

          July 3, 2014 at 9:59 am |
        • igaftr

          yes katie I have heard of him, but many have not, and will never hear of him.
          I also know that the bible is quite flawed, and it was made by men to be propogated to men. There is no indication that any "gods" were invloved at all, and if you want the truth, there is just as much evidence that Satan inspired it as any god. There is far more evidence that men made up the whole thing.
          A "god" would not have gotten do much wrong.

          July 3, 2014 at 10:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Literal word of god? If as you claim it is the literal word of your imaginary friend, then your imaginary friend is not even worthy of being considered as moral in any way...you might actually want to read the bible-it shows your god is a vindictive monster, hell bent on destroying and killing; condoning rape; child abuse; oppression of various forms.
      We do know the bible was written by men who never met one another and there is no evidence to support it as being anything more than the word of man. Just because it says it is doesn't make it so.

      July 3, 2014 at 5:19 am |
  13. tallulah131

    For me, the American Dream remains the ability to make a living and to own a home. Perhaps spirituality is the "new American Dream" because making a living and owning a home are increasingly difficult, but making stuff up in your head is free.

    July 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
    • Oaxaca Camping

      Considering there is no evidence of any god ever existing, this is the sort of article (not your response, tallulah131) one would expect from a hoodwinked traveler recently returned from India. What she failed to glean from Dr. Newburg is the brain IS the person. What she fails to clearly share is that neuroscience has demonstrated that by stimulating various parts of the brain religious experiences can be created in a person. Therefore, he is not saying meditation is good or bad. What he is saying is that for those who need it (like the author) meditation can be beneficial. For those of us who don't need it, no problem. Ms. Ravitz only used quotes that seemed to make her feel better.

      July 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Alias

    All this article shows is how Jessica Ravitz is naive and biased by her beliefs. Of course, we all have biases, but she fails to comprehend even the basic idea that just because something can help people improve the quality of life it does not have to be divinely affiliated.
    It is a common mistake to attribute personal gains attained by your own efforts to some other source. Many religions will help people in need and then convert them with the claim that their god helped them. This is how Scientology actively recruits.
    "Discovering yourself" and "taking a spiritual journey" can be done by exposing yourself to wisdom from any source. Confucius and Buddha said many of the things you can find in the bible and Koran. Meditation or yoga can be ways to relax and help you live a less stressful life.
    To illustrate, look at the Mormons. They make their religion the central part of most aspects of their lives. They are taught to develop a close community and productive social lives. Keeping friends and having a social network at your job are things make people happy. There is no god behind any of it. The discoveries in the article are no different, the author just assumes that there is a god causing it all.

    July 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  15. G to the T

    The "American Dream" used to be middle class (house, white picket fence, etc.). I'm not certain when that changed to "being rich, preferably for doing something fun like acting/sports/music etc." but that sure seems to be the expectation I hearing from those around me.

    For my part, I am content with what I have.

    July 2, 2014 at 11:14 am |
  16. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    "Cultural shifts and brain scans: Is searching for spirituality the new American dream?"
    ----------------------
    This was a nice article but I fail to see how any of this is "new". The search for spirituality has been a big thing ever since the 1960s and in precisely the same place as Ms. Ravitz visited and discussed in her earlier piece.

    Nothing has changed since then. People remain disenchanted with organized Western religions at a growing rate. We've seen weird "secular spiritualism" in the form of the "New Age" movement of decades ago. The contributions of people like Joseph Campbell made a big impact almost 30 years ago. Secular humanist churches are growing. People are responding to the "Spiritual but not religious" label in larger numbers and the related trend to 'cafeteria-style' self-defined theologies is growing.

    The ranks of the 'seekers' particularly for younger adults has been growing for years. There's nothing new here. The biggest change is the number of the millennials (who are right in the middle of the younger adult age group that always forms a big part of the seekers) who are willing to disbelieve in God(s) altogether.

    July 2, 2014 at 10:58 am |
  17. Salero21

    Searching for the so called "Spiritual or Spirituality is just Total NONSENSE. God is not Lost, HE is in Heaven but you are lost. Therefore you need to find Jesus the Son of God to be save and not Lost.

    All of this NONSENSE only leads as it has, to Idolatry, false spiritualism and witchcraft. Idolaters like atheists are extreme hypocrites and compulsive pathological liars.

    July 2, 2014 at 10:50 am |
    • Reality

      And once again Salero spouts from his/her place in a strange, yet to be identified Christian cult.

      July 2, 2014 at 10:56 am |
      • Salero21

        Oh yeah I forgot if the word end in an "O" is masculine, unreal reality however maybe emasculated and deluded. That's why he/she/it always trying to distract and deviate the focus from the subject at hand. He/she/it may also be a devious, devilish creature. A DEMONstration of what I've been saying all along. That atheists are extremely hypocritical and compulsive pathological Liars.

        July 2, 2014 at 11:09 am |
        • Reality

          And yet again Salero will still not disclose his religion. Strange fellow is he !!!

          July 2, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
      • Alias

        Why do you feed this troll?

        July 2, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
        • Reality

          Good question. And it is time to follow your suggestion.

          July 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • snuffleupagus

      Sally-O.God is indeed lost. I've looked und many a rock and woodpile and never caught a trace of 'him. Now the rock you crawled out from must hve kicked you out as no rock could compete with your denseness.

      July 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
      • chazthephoenix

        Really? God is lost? I don't think so...he found me! Thank you Jesus

        July 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          No, you are a liar. What you think is jesus is not...no god can be proven and your own delusional experiences don't count. What a sad, pathetic life you live if you need imaginary friends.

          July 3, 2014 at 5:22 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Btw: What was the weak moment in your life that enabled you to be hooked in to such a horrific lying belief system...were you tipping the bottle too often? Hitting the crack pipe too often?? Switching out one addiction for the other is never a good thing. Locate some Secular groups that won't make fallacious promises and play on your weaknesses...you'll enjoy life more.

          July 3, 2014 at 6:13 am |
        • tallulah131

          Hallelujah! Chaz found a crutch!

          July 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • grumpy0ldman

      You seem to be an expert on "NONSENSE"...

      July 2, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
    • igaftr

      God is not Lost, HE is in Heaven but you are lost. Therefore you need to find Jesus the Son of God to be save and not Lost.

      All of this NONSENSE '

      Yes...that really was nonsense wasn't it...in your own words.

      July 3, 2014 at 8:42 am |
  18. MadeFromDirt

    Human beings' universal quest for "spiritual enlightenment" (even if that takes the form of denial or avoidance as the chosen way to satisfy spiritual hunger) is proof that all people have an innate need to connect with power greater than ourselves. The Bible says this hunger was placed in us by our Creator, who created us in His image. But our smallest violation of any our Creator's laws (either directly against Him or against our fellow human beings) removes us from His perfection forever, and fouls our minds, leading us to make decisions that take us further away from Him. And the search and struggle gets harder because Satan throws all kinds of false alternatives in front of us, that may provide some temporary emotional peace. Only by God's grace can our minds be permanently regenerated, and only by faith in Jesus Christ's perfection can we hope to be reconciled to God's perfection.

    July 2, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • Reality

      "The Bible says" yet are there any other references supporting this book of mostly myth and horror? Or has god visited you to make some unique revelation to only you?

      July 2, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • chazthephoenix

      But our smallest violation of any our Creator's laws (either directly against Him or against our fellow human beings) removes us from His perfection forever, and fouls our minds, leading us to make decisions that take us further away from Him. ...

      thats kinda misleading in the context of the rest of your post.

      There is only ONE sin that will cancel God's lover and forgiveness ...and that is renouncing God and turning from him. The Jewish faith follow the, what, 624 or something laws, but there are only 10 (plus the summary one Jesus gave in "love one another as I have loved you"....and if we break these commandments, we are still forgiven if we repent (turn away from and ask for forgiveness) from our sins..
      God's grace, loving us no matter what like a FATHER should is what makes us sinless. We are cover dundee His precious blood.

      Remember God and Jesus love you...unconditionally...except if you blaspheme and turn away. Yes you....He love YOU! Let him in!

      July 2, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • Reality

        First item of business, the Ten Commandments and some history thereof:

        Many OT, NT and koran thu-mpers are actually thu-mping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us h-o-minids.
        "Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
        I have not reviled the God.
        I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
        I have not done what the God abominates . . .
        I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
        I have not caused anyone's suffering . . .
        I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
        I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
        I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
        I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage...
        I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
        I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
        I have not kept cattle away from the God's property.
        I have not blocked the God at his processions."

        "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

        July 2, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
      • Reality

        Second item of business: The Golden Rule- some history

        "As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term "Golden Rule", or "Golden law", as it was called from the 1670s.[1][6] As a concept of "the ethic of reciprocity," it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts.[1][5] It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, "two-way" nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).[1]

        Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 BCE) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept's framework appears prominently in many religions, including "Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's major religions".[7] According to Greg M. Epstein, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely."[8] Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition".[9] In his commentary to the Torah verse (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך" ca.1300 BCE):"

        You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

        —Leviticus 19:18[10], the "Great Commandment"

        Did the historical Jesus utter a version of the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 = Matt 7:12- no he did not according to the findings of many contemporary NT scholars.

        e.g Professor Gerd Luedemann [Jesus, 151f] notes the ancient and diverse attestation of this saying in antiquity, including its earliest occurrence in Herodotus III 142, 3:

        "I will not do that for which I censure my neighbors."

        —Amuzgo de Guerrero (AMU)— Amuzgo de Guerrero (AMU) —العربية (AR)— Arabic Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-AR) Arabic Life Application Bible (ALAB) —अवधी (AWA)— Awadhi Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-AWA) —Български (BG)— 1940 Bulgarian Bible (BG1940) Bulgarian Bible (BULG) Bulgarian New Testament: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-BG) Bulgarian Protestant Bible (BPB) —Chinanteco de Comaltepec (CCO)— Chinanteco de Comaltepec (CCO) —Cebuano (CEB)— Ang Pulong Sa Dios (APSD-CEB) —ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍ (CHR)— Cherokee New Testament (CHR) —Cakchiquel Occidental (CKW)— Cakchiquel Occidental (CKW) —Čeština (CS)— Bible 21 (B21) Slovo na cestu (SNC) —Dansk (DA)— Bibelen på hverdagsdansk (BPH) Dette er Biblen på dansk (DN1933) —Deutsch (DE)— Hoffnung für Alle (HOF) Luther Bibel 1545 (LUTH1545) Neue Genfer Übersetzung (NGU-DE) Schlachter 1951 (SCH1951) Schlachter 2000 (SCH2000) —English (EN)— 21st Century King James Version (KJ21) American Standard Version (ASV) Amplified Bible (AMP) Common English Bible (CEB) Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Contemporary English Version (CEV) Darby Translation (DARBY) Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) English Standard Version (ESV) English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) Expanded Bible (EXB) 1599 Geneva Bible (GNV) GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) Good News Translation (GNT) Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) J.B. 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Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-SR) —Svenska (SV)— Nya Levande Bibeln (SVL) Svenska 1917 (SV1917) Svenska Folkbibeln (SFB) —Kiswahili (SW)— Neno: Bibilia Takatifu (SNT) —தமிழ் (TA)— Tamil Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-TA) —ภาษาไทย (TH)— Thai New Contemporary Bible (TNCV) Thai New Testament: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-TH) —Tagalog (TL)— Ang Salita ng Diyos (SND) —Twi (TWI)— Nkwa Asem (NA-TWI) —Українська (UK)— Ukrainian Bible (UKR) Ukrainian New Testament: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-UK) —اردو (UR)— Urdu Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-UR) —Uspanteco (USP)— Uspanteco (USP) —Tiêng Viêt (VI)— 1934 Vietnamese Bible (VIET) Bản Dịch 2011 (BD2011) Vietnamese Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (BPT) —汉语 (ZH)— Chinese Contemporary Bible (CCB) Chinese New Testament: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-ZH) Chinese New Version (Traditional) (CNVT) Chinese Standard Bible (Simplified) (CSBS) Chinese Standard Bible (Traditional) (CSBT) Chinese Union Version (Simplified) (CUVS) Chinese Union Version (Traditional) (CUV) 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        Take a Tourc n kRa

        From Ludemann's book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 151-152, " In view of the widespread attestation of the Golden Rule in antiquity and its generality, it cannot be attributed to Jesus."

        See also: http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb033.html

        And because of the common sense nature of the Golden Rule, most humans to include myself follow said rule.

        Regarding: John 13:34-35 New International Version (NIV)

        34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

        All of John's gospel is historically nil:

        To wit:

        From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

        "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

        From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

        "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

        "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

        And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

        "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

        See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

        July 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
        • Reality

          Oops, somehow the names of all the available copies of the bible got added to the passage from John's gospel. My Internet Explorer is having some real issues today. Will be shutting down to analyzes the issue.

          July 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
      • Reality

        Second item of business: The Golden Rule- some history

        "As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term "Golden Rule", or "Golden law", as it was called from the 1670s.[1][6] As a concept of "the ethic of reciprocity," it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts.[1][5] It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, "two-way" nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).[1]

        Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 BCE) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept's framework appears prominently in many religions, including "Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's major religions".[7] According to Greg M. Epstein, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely."[8] Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition".[9] In his commentary to the Torah verse (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך" ca.1300 BCE):"

        You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

        —Leviticus 19:18[10], the "Great Commandment"

        Did the historical Jesus utter a version of the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 = Matt 7:12- no he did not according to the findings of many contemporary NT scholars.

        e.g Professor Gerd Luedemann [Jesus, 151f] notes the ancient and diverse attestation of this saying in antiquity, including its earliest occurrence in Herodotus III 142, 3:

        "I will not do that for which I censure my neighbors."

        From Ludemann's book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 151-152, " In view of the widespread attestation of the Golden Rule in antiquity and its generality, it cannot be attributed to Jesus."

        See also: http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb033.html

        And because of the common sense nature of the Golden Rule, most humans to include myself follow said rule.

        July 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
        • MadeFromDirt

          The reality is that "common sense" is your conscience, given to all mankind by God.

          July 3, 2014 at 12:06 am |
        • Reality

          Given to me by your god?? Give us a break and tell that to those suffering from some horrible disease also given to us by your god!!

          July 3, 2014 at 7:42 am |
        • MadeFromDirt

          The reality is that disease in humans entered the world as a consequence of man's rejection of God. So if you die in this world still in alienation from your perfect Creator, you remain in disease as your spiritual existence.

          July 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
      • MadeFromDirt

        Chaz, there is nothing misleading in my post.

        I agree with you that "renouncing God and turning away" is worthy of eternal punishment. But disobeying any of God's law is tantamount to renouncing Him and turning away. Adam did not renounce God, he only disobeyed God, and only after being purposely deceived by Satan. But disobeying God is the same as telling Him you know better than He, and that you want to follow your own way and rules.

        God cannot love us unconditionally like a Father until He actually adopts us into His family. Man is a fallen, reprobate, and cursed creature, as a consequence of just the one easy simple sin of Adam, who was only a representative for all mankind. But God being a perfect being means He cannot tolerate less than perfect obedience. Not one bit. And part of His perfection is perfect Judgment and punishment of disobedience, as He has always promised. To think that some sins don't deserve God's wrath is the same as doubting God's perfection and promises, thus renouncing Him.

        But the good news is that God gave us His personal presence Jesus Christ as our proxy, to take God's promised eternal and perfect punishment in our place, and to represent us before the judgment throne of God, by way of His perfect life as a man. In our fallen state, we don't see that Truth and God's available perfect love unless God opens our fouled minds. Then we are filled with thanksgiving and praise for His perfect nature and infinite power, and His eternal love and mercy that none of us deserve.

        July 3, 2014 at 12:03 am |
        • observer

          MadeFromDirt

          "disobeying any of God's law is tantamount to renouncing Him and turning away."

          So Jews should kill any Christian working on the Sabbath, right?

          July 3, 2014 at 12:11 am |
        • MadeFromDirt

          Observer, wrong, on too many levels to name, and you probably know it. But in case you don't, here's three quick ones:
          Jesus said "let him without sin throw the first stone."
          God's laws were given to Jews before Christ to show man's imperfection and need for salvation.
          Jewish ceremonial law was torn up by Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

          July 3, 2014 at 12:28 am |
        • observer

          MadeFromDirt,

          In case you missed it, Jesus is not in the Jewish bible.

          What don't you understand about "FOREVER" which God said?

          July 3, 2014 at 12:31 am |
        • hawaiiguest

          @Dirt

          Paul would disagree with you on that. But then again, picking and choosing is a staple of religion nowadays. Just don't expect anyone who doesn't already believe to find you convincing at all.

          July 3, 2014 at 12:48 am |
        • MadeFromDirt

          Observer, Christ is the whole reason within the "Jewish Bible."

          Hawaiiguest, I know I cannot convince anyone by what I post. I can only proclaim the Truth of the Gospel. The Truth is repulsive to fallen man. God does all the convincing.

          July 3, 2014 at 3:05 am |
        • hawaiiguest

          Assertion upon assertion. If we don't believe you it's because we're evil. It's not your job to present actual evidence it's your gods job, but if we don't believe that's because we don't want to. Pathetic.

          July 3, 2014 at 3:17 am |
        • thesamyaza

          Christ is the whole reason within the "Jewish Bible."

          all thous statements about the Son of man, point to Enoch not Jesus

          Enoch is the son of man, the chosen one and all that

          many people have worn the manicure chosen one or savior what make Jesus so special.

          Abe no Seimei would out miracle Jesus any day of the week

          July 3, 2014 at 4:43 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        chaz: You're a loon! It seems that you would support murderers and rapists getting in to heaven for merely accepting but yet people who live good decent lives and have remained open-minded and skeptical aren't worthy. Your lack of empathy is disgusting and your lack of intelligence shows with every post. Please seek help for the delusions that you're suffering from.

        July 3, 2014 at 5:30 am |
    • G to the T

      We are pattern recognition machines. And we all have different tolerances for the amount of uncertainty we're willing to allow in our lives. For some, the certainty of KNOWING something is comforting, others are more willing to deal with ambiguities and find certainties confining.

      July 3, 2014 at 8:44 am |
  19. Reality

    Jessica is sure getting some mileage out of her futile search for spirituality. Let us once again, put her on the correct 21st century path to wisdom:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion and spirituality in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves spiritual.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    July 2, 2014 at 9:07 am |
    • Keith

      You do a much better job when you use comparative religion in your arguments. This one fails on many levels, unless you are just trying to find someone to argue with.

      July 3, 2014 at 10:15 am |
      • Reality

        Added details as requested and as previously presented:

        1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

        “New Torah For Modern Minds

        Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

        Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

        The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “
        prob•a•bly
        Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

        2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

        The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

        earlychristianwritings.com/

        For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

        Current RCC problems:

        Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

        2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

        Current problems:
        Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

        3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

        This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, the Filipino “koranics”and the Boston Marthon bombers.

        And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

        Current crises:

        The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

        4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

        The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

        Current problems:

        The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

        5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

        "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

        Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

        Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

        Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

        July 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
        • Keith

          Thanks, I studied comparative religion for 21 years in order to recover from being raised by Fundamentalist Christians so, much of the information you provide I do already know and I mostly enjoy the way you present it. I don't know if you ever convince any Christians but it should be enough to at least get them to do a little research on their own.

          July 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
    • pandeist

      Imagery of fat Buddhas and skinny Buddhas is no more relevant to the spiritual value of Buddhism than imagery of a young Einstein here and an old Einstein there is relevant to the scientific value of the Theory of Relativity. And as to Taoism, so the origin is uncertain and some people have perpetuated legends (notably unconnected to the teachings of Taoism itself). If some people made a legend that Charles Darwin was born from a mermaid, would that "put the kibosh" on Darwinian evolution by your reasoning?

      And, there are other theological systems which posit no such legends at all and have no such claims of divine knowledge to be disproved. Deism rests on logic, Pantheism purely on experience, and Pandeism combines the two and stands on both logic and experience as equal (though independent) proofs. Consider Pandeism, at least. It fits the description of the spirituality which people are searching for, perhaps the one which most people seem to inherently be drawn to believe.

      July 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
      • Reality

        "Pandeism (or pan-deism) is a theological doctrine which combines aspects of pantheism and deism.[1] It holds that the
        So your god exists in the rocks, stars, black holes, volcanoes, hurricanes, diseases et al of the universe? Give us a break! Might want to review Berkley's course on evolution. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/. Get back to us when you finish.

        July 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • Reality

          Oops, had some issues with the "secret" word/fragment filter of this blog. Delete "Pandeism (or pan-deism) is a theological doctrine which combines aspects of pantheism and deism.[1] It holds that the"

          July 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  20. bostontola

    "But for those who believe in a loving, non-punishing God, he says, the benefits of spiritual practice and prayer are real. This sort of mindset, even just 12 minutes of meditation a day, can slow the aging process, scale back anxiety, reduce depression and increase compassion, security and feelings of love. He says the brain scans he's studied prove it."

    Evidence does show that meditation/prayer can improve health. That is not evidence of anything supernatural though. I feel some things so deeply that I would call it spiritual. My reaction to Van Gogh is nothing short of spiritual. My reaction to Maxwell's equations likewise. Deep feelings are part of us and can be evoked and move us deeply.

    That ability to be moved that deeply would come in handy for group survival, it's origin is quite well explained by evolution.

    That said, it does feel so good, we should all seek ways to get it in whatever way works for you.

    July 2, 2014 at 9:07 am |
    • Reality

      Or the twelve minutes of meditation simply lowers the entropy of your body resulting in longer life. And that is also twelve minutes that you are not smoking a cigarette or cigar or not drinking a whiskey, all known causes for reducing your life span.

      July 2, 2014 at 9:12 am |
      • bostontola

        You must have a poor opinion of scientists that test these things. It's pretty easy to control for those confounding variables.

        July 2, 2014 at 10:06 am |
      • Reality

        Oops, forgot twelve minutes a day reducing your calorie intake:

        Journal of Thermodynamics
        Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 186723, 10 pages
        http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2009/186723

        Research Article

        Entropy Generation and Human Aging: Lifespan Entropy and Effect of Diet Composition and Caloric Restriction Diets

        "Reduction of diet protein % to the minimum recommended in nutrition literature yields an average increase of 3.3 years on the predicted lifespan. Changes in the calorie content of the diet also have an important effect, yielding a % increase in lifespan equal or higher than the % reduction in the diet caloric content. This correlates well experimental data on small mammal and insects, in which lifespan has been increased by diet restriction."

        July 2, 2014 at 10:53 am |
        • G to the T

          "3.3 years on the predicted lifespan"

          Yeah – an extra 3.3 years in the rest home. Sounds like a hoot.

          July 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • Reality

        Taking that twelve minutes a day to refocus your golf game is significantly more beneficial than meditation. But then again some might consider golf a form of lifetime meditation.

        July 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • igaftr

          It certainly is, because of the mental preparation needed. Playing my guitar is also a meditation.

          July 3, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • wrathfuldiety

      Dr. Newburg's research has shown that the inclination toward spirituality is literally hardwired into the human brain. There are neural pathways for it. He does not make the jump that it means there is a God though. But the fact that this is something human beings have naturally evolved is something that must be studied especially since it affects a person's worldview. It must have some beneficial effect for us. If one is religious they could say this proves there is a God or scientifically it could be shown to have been an advantage. A primitive human lost from his tribe might die alone. But if he feels something somewhere loves him and might help him to live he could survive or think up new ideas to continue living and making it back to his people so that he could breed and have more offspring.

      July 2, 2014 at 3:36 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.