My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out
The author notes that more and more young people are rejecting traditional religion and taking up a variety of spiritual practices.
September 29th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

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

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Alan Miller is Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London's Old Truman Brewery. He is speaking at The Battle of Ideas at London's Barbican in October.

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

The increasingly common refrain that "I'm spiritual, but not religious," represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious "movement" - an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect - highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.

It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today.

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Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent - by choosing an "individual relationship" to some concept of "higher power", energy, oneness or something-or-other - they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.

That attitude fits with the message we are receiving more and more that "feeling" something somehow is more pure and perhaps, more "true” than having to fit in with the doctrine, practices, rules and observations of a formal institution that are handed down to us.

The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.

What is it, this "spiritual" identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?

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The accusation is often leveled that such questions betray a rigidity of outlook, all a tad doctrinaire and rather old-fashioned.

But when the contemporary fashion is for an abundance of relativist "truths" and what appears to be in the ascendancy is how one "feels" and even governments aim to have a "happiness agenda," desperate to fill a gap at the heart of civic society, then being old-fashioned may not be such a terrible accusation.

It is within the context of today's anti-big, anti-discipline, anti-challenging climate - in combination with a therapeutic turn in which everything can be resolved through addressing my inner existential being - that the spiritual but not religious outlook has flourished.

The boom in megachurches merely reflect this sidelining of serious religious study for networking, drop-in centers and positive feelings.

Those that identify themselves, in our multi-cultural, hyphenated-American world often go for a smorgasbord of pick-and-mix choices.

A bit of Yoga here, a Zen idea there, a quote from Taoism and a Kabbalah class, a bit of Sufism and maybe some Feing Shui but not generally a reading and appreciation of The Bhagavad Gita, the Karma Sutra or the Qur'an, let alone The Old or New Testament.

So what, one may ask?

Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work.

Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses - an entirely radical moment that had enormous consequences for humanity.

Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the "me" generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement.

The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world.

Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better." There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us.

At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world.

But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is "something out there," so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions - and for the future.

Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alan Miller.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (9,994 Responses)
  1. Anybody know how to read?

    It's a possibility americult could morph into a caste system. How many choices will be available?

    October 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  2. Good News

    There is only one real GOD and His one true RELIGION

    that is revealed in an absolutely Matchless, most Powerful and Superb MATHEMATICAL LANGUAGE!

    So it is time to be Spiritual, and yes, also rightfully Religious now!



    October 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  3. Nick

    Wow. I have been in the "spiritual, but not religious" camp for 15 years. I honestly did not even know it was a "thing" until reading this article. But the tone of this article outlines exactly why I walked away from a life in religion. Frankly I find religion to be the easy out. It requires little thought – in fact it requires quite the opposite, just follow the lead. The problem for me was the hypocrisy, ignorance, and blindness that so many Christians embodied. Treat your neighbor as you want to be treated – is that so hard a concept to live by? And yet some of the most spiteful and juvenile acts I have witnessed around me have been by Christians and in the name of Christianity. I had to walk in my own direction, embark on my own journey for truth and enlightenment. I have not regretted that decision though the road has been far more difficult than the life I previously knew. It has taken years of searching, reading, walking, and pondering – whether climbing a mountain, uncovering the meaning of the Gospels, taking to the open road, or finding that moment of Zen when you are simply ok with life as it is. I have answered some of the hard questions for myself – but there are so very many left to answer. I will continue to endeavor. I am sorry, Alan, that you do not understand and that you have not yet embarked on that most difficult pilgrimage of the soul – but I hope you discover it one day and look back on this article with a little shame.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      do you still belive in God?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Kathleen

      That is the very reason that New age spirituality is no good for me. In the end I have to find out by myself. I know I will never know all the answers. I am happy because I know I am not always well. I can be spiteful and just a brat. I praise the Lord because he is in charge, and that he is good and not malicious. How could I find the answer in myself if I am the one that got myself in all the trouble to begin with.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Madtown

      answer in myself if I am the one that got myself in all the trouble to begin with
      You didn't do anything wrong, don't accept the guilt that religion wants you to feel. You're human, imperfect just like the rest of us. It's the way humans have always been, the way we were made.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Nick

      @I'm Not a GOPer

      I do believe there is something (you could say "someone") far greater than all of us – probably far beyond our current ability to comprehend. Unlike so many around me, I am willing to admit that I do not know and will likely never know – I am ok with that insecurity. Frankly, I think it is the insecurity that terrifies people and I will never endeavor to take that security and comfort in religion away from them.

      I know there is a part of me that desires a higher power. And I see it in our science (rather than our humanity). However, I do not believe in a humanized image of God – this is a metaphor taken literally.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  4. Big Art from Chicago

    The author says, "The boom in megachurches merely reflect this sidelining of serious religious study for networking, drop-in centers and positive feelings."

    There are many points at which I could take issue with his logic, but on this one in particular I'm moved to speak. He seems to imply that his brand of religion has cornered the market on serious study. Well, I've been up many nights for the past five weeks, as I begin working on a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology–a degree specifically designed for "Spiritual Nuts" like myself. So if he thinks one can't be Spiritual and involved in serious study simultaneously, he needs to stop by Sofia University (www.sofia.edu).

    "Peace 2 U!"

    October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  5. Jack

    well, i tried three separate times, checking the stupid words on 174 that are banned because they might contain swear words and CNN blocked every one of them. what a complete waste of time. i had penned three very thoughtful responses and this could have been a nice conversation. looks like it'll never happen now. thanks a lot CNN. i think this is the last time i will ever attempt to post anything on this incredibly incompetent website.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Go to my blog, and either message me directly or post a comment with your responses. I'll look them over and see if I can find the problem.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      really – you checked all of them, with a "find" feature? Some of them are really subtle. I got caught up with soph0more once. (I never saw the h0mo inisde and transm-ution is apparently sm-utty.)

      October 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  6. DaveW49085

    Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. How do I know this? Not because of anything written here but because of very specific, very timely, and very appropriate responses to simple prayers, time after time. If there is not a life after this one, then this life might just as well be one great big happy party. If there is life after this life, then everything changes very quickly.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Huebert

      There is no life after this one.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Chad

      @Huebert "There is no life after this one."

      =>how do you know that?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • mike w

      You can't just tell us that. You also have to tell us all of the prescription and non-prescription drugs you've ever taken, booze binges, the number of times you were hit in the head as a youngster playing football, the number of times that you were dropped on your head by your mother that you don't even remember because you were too young, exactly what you ate on the days where you had these feelings like a friend in the sky was talking to you, etc. etc. The mind is powerful – any of us and see and feel and hear all kinds of things – including things we want to see and feel and hear when they are not really there.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • .


      October 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Nat Q

      "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. How do I know this? Not because of anything written here but because of very specific, very timely, and very appropriate responses to simple prayers, time after time."

      That's funny because strong adherents of EVERY OTHER RELIGION EVER have said almost THE EXACT SAME THING about their particular gods. You are not special in that.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Huebert


      In order to answer that question we must first define what it is to be alive. Biologically life is a characteristic of organisms that are capable of most or all of the following.
      1) Maintaining internal homeostasis.
      2) Have some sort of organized structure, consisting of one or many cells.
      3) Metabolize energy in some way. Such as, photosynthesis, chemosynthesis, or regular old eating things.
      4) All living things grow
      5) All living respond to stimulus
      A dead person is not capable of any of these.

      Now if you want a more metaphysical definition, you could define life as the ability to experience. But this still would not allow for life after death. This is because after death your brain, the organ that synthesizes multiple varied stimuli into one cohesive experience, decays in to its component parts and can no longer function.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Chad

      @Huebert: "...A dead person is not capable of any of these...."
      @Chad "of course, life is much more than that. Our consciousness demonstrates that."

      @Huebert: "...Now if you want a more metaphysical definition, you could define life as the ability to experience. But this still would not allow for life after death. This is because after death your brain, the organ that synthesizes multiple varied stimuli into one cohesive experience, decays in to its component parts and can no longer function."
      @Chad "again, you are ignoring the self awareness, the consciousness, the soul.

      you are maintaining that there is no such thing as a soul, a consciousness that transcends the body.

      The existence of free will is one way of demonstrating the existence of the soul, self awareness another.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Huebert


      Please elaborate, How does free will indicate that there is a soul? How does self awareness?

      Additionally do animals have souls?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Chad

      Our minds are not the same thing as our brains, the thoughts we have are not all caused by what is happening to our body (responses). We reason, think abstractly.

      Free will can exist ONLY if the soul exists, without a soul, everything we do would simply be the chemical response to stimuli (like a plant).

      Animals have souls (see Genesis 9)

      October 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      Good for you. Free people do not need saviors

      October 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Huebert


      The brain is the mind, This is not something you can reasonably argue against. A change to the physical brain produces changes in cognition, memory, emotion, and perception. Consciousness is produced by electro-chemical activity within the brain. Their is no reason to imagine an additional element, what you call a soul, for which there is no evidence. And it very may well be that all of our actions are responses to chemical stimuli, and our experience of free will is only an illusion produced by the fact that we are unaware of all the chemical reactions occurring in our body.

      October 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • mama kindless

      Chad wrote: "again, you are ignoring the self awareness, the consciousness, the soul." (as being things outside of biological life as humans). I'm with Huebert on that. We don't know anything for sure except for some of the things that are there biologically. But some of those things do indicate a close relationship between awareness and consciousness in the way that Huebert described. I think we will learn a lot more that will be attributable to biology.

      October 1, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Chad

      @Huebert "The brain is the mind, This is not something you can reasonably argue against. A change to the physical brain produces changes in cognition, memory, emotion, and perception. Consciousness is produced by electro-chemical activity within the brain."

      if I destroy my cars engine, it will not drive, however that doesnt mean a driver isnt still sitting there. It just means the ability to do anything using the car is impaired.

      Again, free will demonstrates that our mind is much more than our brain. The difference between a plant and an person, is the ability to reason, to have self consciousness. Our thoughts are clearly not just response to stimuli.

      We all have a soul 🙂

      October 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Bendor

      Chad, the statement that any of us has a soul is mere conjecture.

      How would you define or even roughly describe what a soul is? If you can't, then it is meaningless to claim that you or anyone else has one.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Standard Chad tactics once again. All assertions, no evidence.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • nope


      October 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 2, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Huebert


      The "driver of the car" an.alogy is nothing more than the homunculus fallacy. You are imagining that there is a little man, in your case the soul, living in your head and controlling your body. This is a fallacy because it leads to infinite regression the moment someone ask who is driving the homunculus/soul. Of course you would say that nothing drives the soul, the soul is the ultimate level. But, then I return with nothing drives the brain, the brain is the ultimate level.

      The reason that my argument is superior is two fold. First my argument is more parsimonious, it makes fewer as.sumptions. we both accept the magnificent and wondrous complexity of the brain, but you as.sume that there is an additional structure, the soul, that is capable of controlling our entire body. Occam's Razor dictates that the theory that makes the fewest as.sumptions is usually the best. The second reason that my argument is superior is that the evidence is on my side. The brain exist, this is an indisputable fact. The soul may exist, unicorns may also exist. But like unicorns, their is no observational evidence for the existence of the soul.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  7. Ilias

    Those who are trying to be spiritual without following an organized religion are degenerate? You are a pretty scary person Alan. Everything you say. What a load of crap. You must be a Christian nazi.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • sally


      October 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  8. Prodigy

    As a "spiritual" agnostic, I would propose that belonging to an organized religion is more of a "cop-out" than the former. It takes more work to formulate your own beliefs than be told what to believe in, and most "spiritual" people I know are more than willing to admit what they do not know as opposed to making something up to fill in the gaps.

    Why should I consider the personal "truths" I discovered through years of soul searching and contemplation with any less validity than the "truths" told to me by some guy in robes holding a book?

    October 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Perfectly said

      October 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  9. B

    I use to belong to a liberal sect of the Christian religion. This group encouraged us to question, for they believes that if God didn't want you to think, then He would not have given you a brain. My ex was a member of a more conservative sect, and so I joined his church. When I was told I would have to either "pray the gay away" or dump all my gay friends, in addition to submitting to my husband, convert my parents because they were of a differect sect of the Christian religion, and that I was a horrible person because I loved my gay friends and that I would not renounce my relationship with them, I knew it was time for me to leave the church.

    I find nothing wrong with looking to a wide spectrum of religions and philosophies for guidance in my journey through life. You can trace many sections of "modern" religions to other parts of ancient belief systems. most believe in peace as a root thought, be kind to each other, don't lie, cheat or steal, don't kill, try hard to not be a butthead all the time... I can worship as aI please, meditate when I choose and know that I am a good person because I do things for others because it is correct not because I am trying to get into Heaven, or if I say I did something good someone will say that I am a good Christian (which will somehow make up for being an idiot the rest of the time when I do not behave humanely.)

    Religion seems to be less about the concepts of good & bad, right & wrong, humane actions, loving yourself and others, and is more focused on numbers of butts in pews, amount of money collected, how many TV stations the services are on, if the minister has a jet, whether or not gays are allowed within 500 feet from your church, and fear-mongering. People put more faith in the minister than in the word of God.

    If I identify myself as a non-Christian on Facebook, around some people I work with or just in general conversation, and I am looked upon as a freak or or like I have this horrible "disease." I do live in a "southern" state. But there are other folks who live in this state who are not Christian.

    Politics is an entirely different beast. Down here, they proclaim that they are good Christians and how great their good Christian marriage is and how well loved they are in their church. So that is the only way to see the goodness in someone's heart and ability? Leadership, goodness, positiveness and intelligence are not strictly Christian attributes.

    I know too many people who use religion as their crutch, which somehow allows them the right to verbally abuse others, be mean and nasty to those who don't attend their church, talk about others behind their backs and treat others like dirt...but they proclaim that they are good Christians, whether at church, on Facebook, in emails or on their voicemail. Really?

    Going to church makes you as much of a good Christian, just like sitting in a garage makes you a car.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Do you believe in God?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Sarah

      Alan, feel free to respond to any of the THOUSANDS of critically thought out well structured responses to your piece with some justification as to why you feel the need/right to judge?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • B

      Why does it matter to you what I beleive?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      truthfully, it doesn't matter to me what you believe but you spent 500 words on the beliefs of others without defining your own belief or non-belief.

      This is exactly why Allan Miller says "Take a stand!". As in: do you believe or not?

      It is the wishy-washy nature of "spiritual but not religious" that he objects to.

      Me, I don't believe in God.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • The wall stops you

      You have all fallen for the ruse. This article was written so that CNN can get a religious opinion poll....It serves no other purpose. It is also likely to now sell your email to spammers. Sheep....

      October 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Nick

      @I'm not a GOPer

      "Take a Stand" – I appreciate your comment and analysis of what Alan is getting at. However, I think Alan is wrong, he missed the point. It is the journey that is important, not the conclusion or destination. If it comes off as "wishy-washy", so be it – Alan can take his stand and we can embark on our journey.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • B

      @I'm not a GOPer... I'm happy for you and all of us that we live in a country where we can freely express our opinions and not die (usually) for not believing in the standard religion.

      Freedom of religion allows people to define what they do or do not believe in, as well as it allows others to not say anything.

      I do not believe that there is only one God who created the world and universe, who formed man in His own image. I believe there are things which exist and have not be discovered by man yet. I believe that we are but mere mortals living in a carbon based life form with electrical impulses running through that form. And when we die, no one truly knows what happens next.

      I hope that when we die our existence is not snuffed out like a candle, that somehow our energy continues on across this vast universe. We have no idea what is out there, we have no idea what will come next.

      Why do we have to be religious? Why are those who are not Christians so hated by those who call themselves disciples of Christ? Why do I have to define myself, and why does it matter to anyone what I believe or not? I am who I am, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  10. Think for yourself

    I think the author is missing the bigger picture. When some tells you they are "spiritual, but not religious," they are basically telling you to bud out of their religious beliefs. It's sort of a passive-aggressive way of saying you're not interested in "subscribing" to any of the major religions, so please leave me be. It certainly doesn't mean you haven't thought about whatever religion you were brought up in, it means you HAVE thought about it, and choose not to participate. It's not fair to say they haven't taken a stand because the intent of the statement is to skirt this issue, but rather to not offend the person they are in a discussion with.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Ah but to the fundamentalist, the very idea of people existing that don't fall in lock-step with your views offends them.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • fred

      I agree that when I do dig into someone who claims to be “spiritual” they do not want to offend or get into “I am the way the truth and the life” discussion.
      As to fundamentalist thought it has nothing to do with ones disposition towards non believers. Those who follow Christ are not offended by hawaiiguest. Hawaiiguest just happens to be very defensive about his non belief. Hawaiiguest should just say I am a materialist therefore not capable of comprehending anything outside of the hard sciences.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Say whatever you like fred, the fact remains that to the fundamentalist, those who do not believe as they do are automatically part of the satan camp. It is their way of fitting those who do not believe the things they do into their little bubble of religious idiocy. It helps to keep their minds from exploding with the diversity of thought within our world.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      Hi Fred...

      " Hawaiiguest should just say I am a materialist therefore not *capable of comprehending* anything outside of the hard sciences. "

      That is a logical fallacy. You are assuming that just because one believes in one that that = *can't* *comprehend* something else.


      October 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • fred

      In order for a materialist to understand say what Christ offers as a free gift the Holy Spirit would need to prepare or change the hardened predisposition (belief) of the materialist. According to Christian belief the blinders would need to be removed. I suppose if I said the potential for comprehension most likely exists in hawaiiguest it simply needs a catalyst?
      Looks like you are grading philosophy papers again and getting good at it!

      October 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      By the way fred, I understand psychology fairly well, and that is outside the "hard sciences", so it looks like your bullshit fell flatter than most times.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Taz

      Do you two know each other?

      October 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      @fred and @hawiiguest are regular interlocutors here.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Taz

      That explains a lot. Makes you wonder if they know each other in real life. . . or if they do, but don't recognize the screen names. They probably work together and don't even know it. And these are the sorts of conversations they can't have at work.

      October 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • fred

      Since he has taken pshchology 101 from the same professor he would know why he must defend his atheist position so strongly. As for me, if hell is as bad as hawaiiguest thinks it is, and God is the murderer rapist hawaiiguest claims God to be then I have no choice but to pray for that lost soul. Now, if God does not exist and if hell was just made up or perhaps even a nice little place of eternal rest then I would like to know so that I can leave hawaiiguest in peace

      October 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Good job ignoring your flat out incorrect statement that I'm apparently unable to comprehend anything but "hard sciences".

      October 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • fred

      I did reply, see the real peace 2 all right above your comment. regarding "hard sciences". Now, do not go off on a tangent and tell me just because the Bible says non believers have hard heart, a heart of stone does nto make it so. Well, the Bible is speaking figuratively regarding your eternal soul.

      October 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      You didn't change your position, merely stated that apparently the only way I can comprehend is by the "holy spirit". You did not address your incorrect statement, but merely clarrified what you think I need to understand anything but "hard science", also, attempting to suggest I will suddenly go off on a tangent with a subject that wasn't brought up is absurd, and more along the lines of your tactics.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • fred

      Perhaps we should move onto psychology given your avoidance of practical mathematics (given the probability of finding another earth like planet capable of supporting intelligent life is zero without the introduction of a multiverse seems to escape you).
      In Genesis 1 God was creator then in Genesis 2 we see the building of a relationship between God and man. This was the purpose of creation so that man could experience relationship that is filled with abundant eternal joy. Unlike frogs we have language that has capacity for expression. Unlike frogs we have been gifted with self awareness, ability to love, see beauty, awe, wonder and abstract thought. We were made in the image of God so these must be some of Gods attributes. Most importantly we are significantly different than a frog.
      I am puzzled how you can justify non belief based on an assumption that a frog and man have the same purpose for existence.
      Even if you are correct in that there is no God our unique relational attributes make clear that we can and do relate outside or beyond our current space and time. When two people are in the moment they transcend space and time. That is the place of soul or the spiritual. Do you deny that “zone” exists? If that exists and you know science cannot measure it yet the effects can be seen you cannot say it does not exist because of lack of proof. It does exist and is unique to man. It is not tied to the physical so there is no reason to assume it simply goes away when the physical is altered or no longer exists.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • fred

      As to an incorrect statement what is the difference? A non believer cannot “see” the things of God. Does it matter if that is a physical constraint (which I clarified as possible but not typical), psychological constraint or if there is a God that necessity of the Holy Spirit taking the scales off your eyes. You cannot see it because of lack of faith basically. That does not mean it does not exist.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      "given the probability of finding another earth like planet capable of supporting intelligent life is zero without the introduction of a multiverse seems to escape you"

      "I am puzzled how you can justify non belief based on an assumption that a frog and man have the same purpose for existence."
      Cognitive capability does not denote intrinsic purpose. The entire crux of your claim to intrinsic purpose hinges on the existence of your god, which still has not been demonstrated, and what you continue to avoid giving evidence for.

      "When two people are in the moment they transcend space and time. That is the place of soul or the spiritual. Do you deny that “zone” exists? If that exists and you know science cannot measure it yet the effects can be seen you cannot say it does not exist because of lack of proof."
      Completely non-sensical. What do you mean be "in the moment"? How exactly does that transend space and time?

      Also, you're still avoiding answering anything from my last post. What was that about tangents again fred?

      October 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      "You cannot see it because of lack of faith basically."

      LOL. These are the times when I think that you're just a fake fred. I've pointed out that faith has led to every religion current and past, so citing faith as any kind of pathway to truth is ridiculous.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • nope


      October 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • fred

      In the moment would be deeper than simple thought but not a vivid dream. It is closer to "being in the zone". So when I race for example there is that occasional moment when everything around you slows down and awareness is heightened to the extent you take a corner that is impossible yet you move through it. I have seen pavement materialize that was not there. Upon going back over the track it was not there.
      Between two people there is that emotional transport or unity that is hard to describe. No physical change has occurred yet two were one.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      You ever hear of adrenaline rushes? This happens not only in those two circumstances. When I've been in the few fights I've had (despite my best efforts to avoid), everything slows down, I seem to be able to move and process faster than I would normally think possible. It's generally known as an "adrenaline rush", and is a fairly common phenomena. All kinds of stange crap can happen. Halucinations being one of those things, which would explain the pavement materializing.
      You take this to a strange place when you talk about two people, and still leave it fairly vague. So I have no idea what you're really talking about at that point.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  11. Jack

    all right, I'll try this once more:
    Bill, thank you for your reasonable response. I actually did go through a serious born-again phase when I was 16 that lasted two years and it left me a wreck riddled with guilt and unworthiness. I tried for two more years until I was spiritually and emotionally exhausted. freeing myself from that was one of the most liberating expenses of my life, so I do have a very good idea of what Christianity and Catholicism is about. nonetheless I will check out your websites and appreciate your reasonable response.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Jack

      sorry, i posted my reply to myself and it went to the top of the page, instead. so typical. posting to articles on CNN is always the biggest waste of time.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • snowboarder

      i attended parochial school for my entire young life. i enjoyed the community, but i found nothing in the religion.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  12. Nader

    Organized religion had, and to some degree still has, an important place in guiding spiritual human evolution. The problem, however, is that religion is run more like businesses (with greed and power being acceptable by products of success) than places to expand and challenge old thoughts that may have been appropriate to 2,000 year old collective thinking. Overall. its hard to agree with generalities about people thinking outside the box because that is frowned upon by, in the box followers.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  13. bevis

    The page number summary for this article looks like a tattooed woody.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • butthead

      Huh huh huh . . he said woody. huh huh huh huh.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. Religion is nuts

    Death for Hitting Dad

    Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

    Death for Cursing Parents

    1) If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will go out at the coming of darkness. (Proverbs 20:20 NAB)

    2) All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

    Death for Adultery

    If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

    Death for Fornication

    A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

    Death to Followers of Other Religions

    Kill Nonbelievers

    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

    Kill the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God

    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him." (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

    Kill Women Who Are Not Virgins On Their Wedding Night

    But if this charge is true (that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night), and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her fathers house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father's house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)

    Kill Followers of Other Religions.

    1) If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. You shall stone him to death, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. And all Israel, hearing of this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

    Kill People for Working on the Sabbath

    The LORD then gave these further instructions to Moses: 'Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.' (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)

    October 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Nader

      interesting collection from the holy teaching...

      October 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Stephen

    I have never read something and been caught so much much by how wrong it is. We stay away from religion but we are more honest than most of you that don't. I have yet to meet anyone that really follows everything their church has to offer. They pick and choose what rules to follow and beliefs work for them. They ignore that horrible deeds of the past done by the church in the name of god. Those of us that step away from the church and still choose to believe somewhere inside of us simply can't support that any more. We believe just as much we do good when we can and yes look out for ourselves a little more. We listen with a more open mind and we ask more questions than you. We can admit we are wrong we can even change our minds. We are not stuck with your rules. More and more people will learn away from you cause you will not adapt to place we can support.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Iva Pinion

      Agreed ... "spirituality" is the ability to learn, grow and evolve, while religion forbids such characteristics and enforces blanket "beliefs" through fear.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  16. waitasec

    religion is just an opinion

    October 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  17. Dennis

    The only cop-out I see is in believing whatever is told to you and not doing the work of thinking for yourself and coming to your own conclusions.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling

      October 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Robert Brown

      " Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling "

      What the heck ?


      October 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling"

      I think that's the resident disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer".
      ("Robert Brown")

      October 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • snowboarder

      fear and trembling is just another of the lies used by the religious to coerce believers and nonbelievers alike.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      Robert: Why do you feel you need salvation?

      October 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  18. ct

    Another case of somebody having the ability to speak to the mass, and having no idea what they are talking about. Wouldn't it be better to get a spiritual not religious human being to get their views? Or I guess it is just easier to throw a growing trend of people under the bus, because we have awakened to find things not as they seemed. "for once I was blind but now I see". We are on this earth to learn before we move on. I guess some are further along than others.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  19. Wendy

    This is a great conversation. Jericho Books is publishing a book on this by Lillian Daniel in January of this. It is called When 'Spiritual but not Religious' is Not Enough. It is an intelligent critique of the argument and I encourage all who are interested to pre order a copy1

    October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  20. kvw

    My spiritual-but-not-religious inclination has allowed me to have a relationship with God when otherwise I might not. The definitiveness of religious explanations of the meaning of life, and life after death have never made any sense to me. I am therefore disinclined to spend my time in those environments. You're dead wrong, in my case anyway, when you say that a belief in sin is the only thing that leads to concerns about improving oneself and impacting the world. I feel a profound sense of responsibility to be the best, most truthful, most compassionate, kindest person possible, just for its sake alone, not because of the punishment I'll receive from failing to be so. I don't expect to "feel good" all the time. Life is hard, and I expect it to be turbulent and painful. As for the rest: I can't define it for you because it's a mystery. And I'm okay with that.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
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About this blog

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.