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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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?

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

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. wendythomasrussell.com

    Oh, goodness. This is a truly unfortunate bit of writing. Alan, I think you need to take a visit to the Museum of Tolerance. I respect your opinion that Christianity is the one, true way. Obviously that's what you believe, and I'm sure you believe it absolutely. But why be intolerant of people who aren't like you? Aren't you confident enough in your own values to let others alone? Why on Earth would you care what someone calls himself? Why does that bother you? I think you need to look inside yourself and face why you wrote this. If it was to simply to have something to publish, so be it. If you like to stir things up, you did accomplish that. But if you're trying to live Christian values, sounds like it's time to go back to church.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      you say, '....But why be intolerant....' The Father does not tolerate sin. He's HOLY. Go back to a church? Sounds like Nutzoism to me.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Jay

    Why is it that someone's spiritual beliefs are no more valid than yours just because it doesn't have centuries of atrocities associated with it? Is a belief only valid if it's proponents like to murder other faiths and fly planes into buildings?

    The "spiritual but not religious" have the right idea. Better to live your own life in a manner that you approve than to let some long-corrupt, power hungry zealots tell you what to do.

    Your article reeks of self importance and intolerance of other opinions.

    Religion is a joke, organized religion is a cancer on the face of this planet. Have fun believing that the world is 3000 years old. Shouldn't you be spending your time preparing for the rapture, instead of writing stupid tirades against the people who've figured this out?

    October 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bob

      Christianity has centuries of miracles, revelations, scripture, study, and people giving their very lives and contributing tremendously to society in general in the form of hospitals, education, and charity. To say that any randon belief that someone feels like having is somehow comparable to Christianity requires a complete disregard of history and condemnation of the entire civilization we live in. It's beyond shortsighted and immature.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • stupid

      Bob – other cultures have all those things, too.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Christianity is family. Da gubmints hate families.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bob

      Other cultures have created a millions-deep worldwide network of charity, research, medical care, and education for 2000 years on par with the Catholic Church and Christianity in general? I realize there are charitable individuals and organizations that are secular, but if those biased against Christianity were actually honest with themselves, they would realize that they wouldn't even have a mode of critical thought to use if not for an education system spearheaded by Christianity, that the majority of hospitals in America, prior to the corporate takeonever thereof, were Catholic hospitals. Orphanages, charities, you name it, the culture and societies of the western world have been virtually created and sustained by the grace of God and the Church. The critics are like the children who complain about not having enough freedom when they don't know the dangers of the outside world thanks to the home they have been given by those they rebel against.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      So we should believe in religion because they have been around for a long time? By that logic we should never have switched to a democracy since all this good stuff happened under monarchies.
      Religions have been one of the major powers in most governments/societies until recently. Naturally they were involved in all you mention. Secular society is mostly a modern concept so it does not have the same long history.
      But like many other thousands of years old supersti.tions, religions are becoming obsolete drags on society.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Bob

      Try to actually imagine the world if Christianity actually disappeared with the snap of your fingers. I know for about 5 minutes all the atheists would think it was the greatest thing in the world, until thousands of hospitals closed, millions of people stopped getting fed, hundreds of colleges and universities closed. There is no secular organization that will EVER be able to or interested in physically helping people to the extent that Christianity has, and all that is irrespective of the spiritual ramifications of such a condition.

      Atheists and those against organized religion truly have NO idea what they are asking for. They are an immature lot with no historical or current perspetive who hide behind and are comforted by the fact that they know what they claim to want will never happen.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Dr. Sue

      Bob, those claims of yours of good acts by Christians mainly have come with strings attached, and are like bribes to get people to join your particular cult. In reality, for centuries, your horrid cult has also blocked scientific and social advances at every turn, denied rights to women, caused all manner of murder and torture, and caused suffering to millions.

      It has taken a lot of bravery to push back against your horrid, murderous, sexist, bigoted religion, but more pushback is coming. Get used to it as your evil cult fades into history.

      So, please, stop making the usual excuses and smokescreens for your disgusting superstition known as Christianity. It really is time that humanity moved past such nonsense as what you are trying to promote here.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Denise

      Dr. Sue thank you for that wonderful, factual post.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Bob

      So now you want to rewrite history to say that all the Catholic hospitals, like St Jude's and all the rest only serve Christians? That Christian missionaries only feed the hungry and heal the sick AFTER they pledge allegiance to Jesus? That all the Christian universities only educate Christians, and that Christian orphanages only care for CHristian children? That Mother Theresa only served the Chrstians of India? Are you trying to tell me that 90+% of the world's scientific research and breakthroughs haven't been accomplished by theists? Were Stalin and Hitler (an angy EX Catholic) secretly Christians?

      Are you this ignorant, or just a liar?

      You do realize that nobody feels more used and abused by her own abortion and the politicians that used it for their agenda than "Roe", and that she deeply regrets her abortion now, right? There is no greater victimization of women than abortion and birth control. In fact, the reason we have it because Margaret Sanger wanted to enact an open agenda of eugenics. She felt that black people should reproduce less because they were less intelligent than white people, so she made sure to provide them with an opportunity to kill their babies legally.

      Congrats on supporting murder and racism while ignorantly accusing groups who actually do undeniably positive things that you could never do yourself of being like you.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Good job on the Straw Man Bob.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Wow

      It's scary to know such gullible and stupid people like Bob exist in this world. Now Bob, back yourself up and quote your sources on the drivel you just posted.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Know What

      "So now you want to rewrite history to say that all the Catholic hospitals, like St Jude's..."

      St. Jude's is NOT a Catholic hospital.

      From St. Jude's web site:

      "We are not a Catholic hospital, nor are we affiliated with any religious organization. Our founder, Danny Thomas, was Catholic, and St. Jude was his patron Saint."

      http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=eb00ef5d00670110VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD&cpse xtcurrchannel=1

      October 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Bob

      There is no strawman. Unlike Dr Sue, everything I have said can be verified as fact. If you want to condemn my religion, you should actually know about and acknowledge the good works that is has performed as phsyically second to no other group in history, and if you want to support abortion and birth control, you should know that in America, those "right" came from an admitted racist and proponent of eugenics who claimed to know that whites were superior to blacks and wanted to help them thin their numbers.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bob

      I will admit my mistake in thinking St Jude's is currently a Catholic hospital, though it was founded by a Catholic specifically as an expression of faith and sacrifice for God. It still would not exist if not for Catholicism.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • sally

      @Boob Get a fact once in a while, Bub.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Strange, I didn't see any mention in Dr. Sues post about abortion or birth control, nor did I see the claim that christians only help christians, she said that there are "strings attached" which there are. Now what was that thing about building an argument on a misrepresentation of the position? Oh yea a Straw Man. Looks like it's there Bob. You're the one that tacked abortion and birth control onto not just Dr. Sue, but also me. Are you sure you're Catholic and not a follower of Martin Luther? You don't seem to have a problem lying for Jesus.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Bob

      If you are honest with yourself, you will notice that Dr Sue posted no actual fact, only hateful rhetoric, and I actually posted facts which can be verified. Google anything I've said. Check out Margaret Sanger on Wikipedia, and realize that you are hitching your wagon to a legacy of hate.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Huh?

      As the former President of Planned Parenthood, Faye Wattleton, so insightfully said; "No one can really interpret what Sanger meant because she's dead.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      That's it Bob, don't actually address anything that I posted, and just keep talking about some lady I've never looked into to make some point on a subject that no one but you is talking about. Fucking moron.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Bob

      In case Hawaii person doesn't realize it, the common complaint about the Church's so called "victimization of women" and lack of "social progress" at the hands fo the Church is generally a reference to reproductive "rights". SHe can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

      Also, please explain what strings are attached to all the charity work that Christians do. What exactly are these strings, and how do they work? Are they planning on extracting the food and healthcare and housing from people if after a certain amoutn of time they decide not to convert?

      October 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Know What


      "As a "starving actor" Thomas made a vow: If he found success, he would open a shrine dedicated to St Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes." –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Thomas#St._Jude_Children.27s_Research_Hospital

      Sure, his Catholic beliefs played a part, including a considerable portion of supersti'tion. His humanistic sympathy, empathy and compassion are greatly appreciated.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Bob

      Oh, you mean the president of Planned Parenthood isn't willing to "interpret" Margaret Sanger's ideals and intentions based on her own readily available and public writings on the subject? How convenient. Maybe you should read them for yourself, it's pretty cut and dry.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Peter

      "What exactly are these strings, and how do they work? Are they planning on extracting the food and healthcare and housing from people if after a certain amoutn of time they decide not to convert?"

      Let's ask the Native American's that question.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      How about the services or confessions that homeless or struggling are REQUIRED to participate in before they get food where I am? Or the fact that missionaries trade food for land to build churches in Africa or other third world countries? Are you completely blind to these things going on, or do you just not care because it's your religion? Or how about contracts on housing run by religious groups for the extremely low income discriminating against gays, or some that require a profession of faith. All done on private land to avoid government intervention in their divisive bullshit.

      When I see women's rights when it comes to religion, I think about the fact that christianity clearly states in it's bible that women are inferior and they need to be subservient and completely obedient to their husbands, which is where the whole "traditional family unit" idiocy came from, where the mom was always stay at home popping out kinds, cleaning and cooking.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Series of posts by 'Bob' contain multiple instances of the fallacy known as a Straw Man argument, along with other non sequiturs.


      October 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Bob

      So let me get this straight. There IS some organization that has fed, clothed, housed, educated, medically treated, and performed as much medical and other scientific research as the Catholic church across the earth for the last 2000 years? If so, just tell me what organization that is and explain to me how that question is a "strawman".

      Next, explain to me how, after reading Margaret Sanger's own words on the subject, you believe that Planned Parentood is an organization founded on the principle of eugenics, specifically with regard to the holding of the opinion that black people are intellectually inferior to whites and that white people have a responsibilitry to "help" them reduce their procreation. And then please explain to me why my statement on this is a "straw man".

      On top of that, maybe Hawaiiguest can explain to me when a traditional family with an actual mother and father who each have different and equally important jobs, one outside the home, and one inside the home, because a BAD thing. Perhaps you should consult some mental health professionals on this subject and on the negative impact of pushing the most important job of mothering off onto daycares who employ people who have no love for your children, and on the negative imact of divorce on children and our society in general.

      Does anyone in today's age actually feel that a woman who stays at home and raises children is doing a LESS important job and is somehow LESS valuable than a woman who goes out and does work outside the home? How screwed up are peoples' values to think that a religion who's most venerated Saint is Mary, the Mother of Jesus actually values women LESS than a society that doesn't see or appreciate the differences between men and women that make them a complete unit when joined together doing complementary work?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  3. Best News

    There is only one real GOD and His one true RELIGION

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

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



    October 2, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  4. ask?sand?everything

    “Spiritual, but not religious” is not a cop-out. In my opinion and in regard to my own spirituality, it is colloquialism that expresses my belief that there MIGHT be something or someone out there that is more powerful and greater than my own faith in my ability to achieve goals, persevere and move through struggles by virtue of my own will and determination. My belief comes from studying a number of religions. I have read the Bible and have appreciation for the Qur’an and The Bhagavad Gita. I was raised Catholic, my mother is a (converted) Baptist minister and I taught in a Hebrew preschool. Use of the term “spiritual, but not religious” to categorize my belief system does not make me non-committal, a fence-sitter, irresponsible or selfish. I question religion every day. I do unto others: I am courteous and polite. I am thankful for the things that I have and the opportunities that I have received. I volunteer my time and donate my money. I don’t feel that sitting in a church, temple or any other place with people who are shouting and praising one second and raising hell the next brings any value to my life. It is obvious by their actions (and hypocrisy) that they are not adhering to a specific doctrine. What I have learned is that there are positive principles that can be acquired from many religions. It makes me ask the question, “How can we all be right?” This piece favors the “my way or the highway” approach to religion, which is selfish, alienating and a bit elitist. I have a right to explore religion, ask questions, and incorporate the positive aspects of every religion into my life. It’s not wrong that I comprehend the scientific proof of my existence more easily than the theory that my gender originated from a male rib. It’s what I understand. I have the right to question religions, especially when they tend to be more polarizing than they are inclusive. And yes, I have the right to question religions that ignore the transgressions of their figureheads and treat their members as second-class citizens. To each his own… call yourself whatever you want and believe in whatever makes you the best person.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Your mother did not trust the Scriptures. Learn from her mistakes.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • justme

      nice. when you asked "how can we all be right"? it reminded me of how i felt before i studied the bible with Jehovah's Witnesses and realized there can only be truth and untruth so i would encourage you to contact them at jw.org or watchtower.org or discuss your thoughts expressed here with them the next time they stop by if you really want to know what the bible really teaches.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      justme, WRONG. The JW's put a big X on my door. Every time they gave me their BS I would show them the Scripture. Their response:Uuuuummm, I'll check with my leader and get back to you. Of course they gave up.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • justme

      any...i know you are mistaken or...... since that would never be a response from JWs. they would discuss the bible with you all day if you were sincere about what you were saying.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Huebert


      Not a bad strategy for dealing with JW's. I would just answer the door naked every time they knocked.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • justme

      no wonder JWs left you alone. we are looking for people who want to learn what the bible really teaches not people who just want to waste time.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      justme. oooh, okay, They must have been apostate. Like Darwin, the 'racist'.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • justme

      i stopped here for the comment from ask?sand?... since it made sense but the rest of you can keep playing games but your days are getting fewer and i am so sorry for you. please rethink your path. i am out of here.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • I wonder


      Do JW's use the ancient Gnostic writings too (and others from the ancient Middle East)... or just the collection chosen by the Catholic Church way back in the early days of the Church?

      October 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      justme, the little wormies know how to judge sincerity? Hey, I got a New name for ya. JWormies, ya little antichrists.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Just another X on my door, the opposite of blood.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Know What

      Ooooh, "My supersti'tions are better than your supersti'tions!" between @Anybody know and @justme. This is gonna be fun!

      October 2, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Why are the JWormies so hot on Solomon who gave the world the star of MOLECH? Common sense would tell ya a man that tries to rule over 700 wives would go nutz. Nutzoism is all the rage these days.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      so, do you believe in God?

      October 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Know What, no evidence for the star of Molech? You practice Nutzoism?

      October 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • ask?sand?everything

      justme, I know what the Bible teaches and I have very close friends and some family who are JWs. We discuss religion often, and respect the differences between them. Becoming a JW is not for me.
      anybody, My mother encouraged my exploration of religion because she believes religion is personal. It's up to the individual, not society or a person's family to chose, what is best for them, spiritually. In my opinion, she demonstrates the actions of a person who is truly faithful. She is kind and nurturing. She is fair and does not judge those who hold opinions that are different from her own.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • ask?sand?everything

      @I'm not a GOPer IDK... That's a question that I ask myself everyday, which is I why I responded to this post. Sometimes I pray, but I know that prayer -alone- isn't going to make all of my dreams come true. I do know that if I don't motivate myself, put a plan in place and take action, things will not get done. How much of our fate is determined by our actions and how much is controlled by a divine being? I'm just going to continue to be a good and productive member of society and continue to research and remain open to new experiences.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      thank you for your honest reply. I hope you can eventually find a satisfying answer to your questions.

      I don't believe that this article is addressed towards people who are on a serious journey of spiritual discovery.

      My interpretation of the article is that it is directed at people who wear the "spiritual but not religious" label as a mask. It is fashionable to reject the dogmatic organized religions (particularly those that emphasize inequality) yet, it is still unfashionable in our society to wholly reject religion and profess atheism.

      The Pew Forum estimates the 'nothing in particulars' (as they call them) at about 12.1%, broken down into
      Secular unaffilliated ...... 6.3%
      Religious unaffilliated .... 5.8%

      Some number of people use the "spiritual but not religious" label to hide – to avoid determining which theology (or unbelief) expresses and codifies their belief. I contend that many of these people might be atheists in denial. For these people, I agree with the author. This label is a cop out.

      Others are on a journey of spiritual discovery and the label appeals to them precisely because it is non-specific, reflecting their transitory status. They are putting in the serious work of determining what it is that they believe. For this group I interpret this article as asserting that the "spritual but not religious" label is not the destination for the journey. (There are many 'religions' that fall outside the largest five or six.)

      Perhaps you will find one that is right for you. I wish you well.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • justme

      ask,sand... i had to see if you ever came back here and thanks for your response since you were the only one that seemed to be serious. i just look for comments that indicate a desire to discuss the bible or related subjects and appreciated what i read from you. i hope you continue your discussions with all who are looking for truth and i try to do the same. i know everyone will not become JWs but i believe they will not be sorry for the time spent studying with them,(for free) i have not and wish you nothing but the best in your future. thanks again and i'm sorry for the sad ones.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • ask?sand?everything

      You're welcome and thank you, all of you. GOPer- I don't see the classification of spiritual, but not religious as a profession of atheism. Agnostic would be a better term as its etymological breakdown means a= not and gnostos= known. I believe -for myself- that it is a question of what can and cannot be proven. That's why I ask questions and there's so many more to be asked and their answers to be discussed. I wish you all well...

      October 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  5. froodley

    "Religion in the abstract"
    Here's God & Godette, they make the thing, ya get your people, here's the recording of the morals, the big names, the avatars, the intersection of cultures... afterlife stuff, personal growth stuff... some of it's great, some partial, some bad... the people writing it down and doing it were all 'a bit touched in the head' by even their own estimation... eventually, one assumes, it settles down.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  6. Adam C.

    I personally am offended at the idea of diminishing ones own spiritual beliefs, just because they don't fall behind a religious text. By all means I understand how it can be difficult to wrap your head around the notion, of having a deeper relationship with an omnipotent being, can be. But until one has actually had this experience, one can not pass judgement on how others choose to validate one's existence through their own beliefs. Although I grew up as a practicing Roman Catholic, I developed my own personal relationship with God through my own adversities in life. And it was through this relationship that I was able to rationalize and understand the world around me with deeper meaning. I no longer attend Church due to my own personal views not being acceptable by the Vatican. But its because of my own deeper relationship with God, that I am unafraid to walk through life without a flock to belong to; that even in my darkest hour of need I can fall to my knees and pray, and he will listen.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Stick with the text. Avoid churches at all costs;you don't want your name on a list. They are going to be the scapegoat. On a spiritual level it is a righteous judgement. Start a home fellowship group.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Know What

      Adam C.
      "through this relationship that I was able to rationalize and understand the world around me with deeper meaning."

      You have a deep personal relationship with yourself. There is no-one up/out/over/under there.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • stupid

      You know, you Revelations freaks can suck a potato, you're the ones brooking for an Apocalypse, the rest of us think you're daft and hotheaded and want you NOT to have one.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Anybody know how to read?

    SBNR, created by desperate men trying to hang onto their helpmates, is the mantra in all 12 step programs. It just goes to show ya how big the drug problem really is. BTW, I think Unca Suga should stay out of it and legalize. SBNR is Suga's Official gubmint religion. He can't help himself. He's an addict of your money.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      They wouldn't be so desperate if you hadn't put the Beast in charge of marriage. The gubermint god RULES!

      October 2, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  8. Smako

    They say there is no God, but use His name in vain. They don't believe in religion, but believe in Karma. They say there is no afterlife, but believe in ghosts. They believe that two particles of nothing found each other in a nonexistent space and caused a cosmic explosion that created not only stars and planets, but animal and vegetable life that exists symbiotically and can adapt to conditions from equatorial heat to arctic cold. This is what they really believe, that they will say and do anything if it helps them fornicate.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • MaryJ

      How, exactly, are their beliefs any less believable than the idea of a God always existing before the universe, "intelligently designing" us with built in design faults, and having a special interest in a bunch of shepherds living in the desert?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • stupid

      "They say there is no afterlife, but believe in ghosts."

      Guy, you're in a fantasy world, nothing anything like what you're saying is the case. You're so far off im not going to try to get through. Haters, y'all are turning into just full-time haters. SO sorry if I'm not doing exactl y what you say. I can read, i have morals. A lot of people think of the right as illiterate hotheads with no boundaries and no interest in anything else that might already exist. I think the right is underrated, but your religious stuff is one-sided and mean. And you hate weekends. Figure it out!

      October 2, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Huebert


      Did you have fun beating up that straw man?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  9. stupid

    Freshmen suck! *hucks a milkshake*

    October 2, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  10. froodley

    They're all derived off religion. Just leave it alone.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • froodley

      There's always a left and a right about everything, know what i mean?

      October 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  11. Jeffery Stein

    There is everything right about believing in God and not religion. Religion is all about money! God doesn't care about giving money to a church or temple. God cares that your a good person to yourself and others. God cares about LOVE and who is practicing it! PERIOD!

    October 2, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      How exactly do you know what God thinks?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. Trajk Logik

    Being "spiritual but not religious" is simply taking the parts of religion you like and discarding the parts you don't. Your "spiritualism" is still based on the assumptions laid down by all the religions (that mind and body are separate things, there is an intelligent creator of the universe, life-after-death, etc.). Being "spiritual but not religious" is simply making up your own religion. The only guide to truth is reason. Not faith, not tradition, not authority and not revelation. The only way to know what is true or false is through reason.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Cq

      Yes, just like those folks who see their belief as "not religion, but having a relationship with Christ." As these New Age movements become more popular people start following what others do, buying their books and modelling their "individual" practice on what somebody else does. Both then become as standardized, formulated and even dogmatic as the "Organized Religion" that they claim to be in contrast to.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • midwest rail

      So they're wrong for not joining your club, AND wrong for forming their own ?

      October 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • froodley

      I would use the term 'weak gnostic', as say 'i am aware of such things, but it's really not my place to say'

      October 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Cq

      midwest rail
      My point is, the more popular this gets, the more of a "club" it becomes despite people's identifying it as an individual pursuit.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      That's certainly possible in some cases, but not all. Someone who refuses to buy into the rigid, dogmatic world of religion and chooses a true individual path will never cross your radar.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Cq

      midwest rail
      It's amazing just how mainstream the "relationship, not religion" line has become. It's all over my radar, so I guess that means that they aren't the anti-dogmatic mavericks they think themselves to be then?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • midwest rail

      Cq – so everyone who rejects the traditional path has crossed your radar ? Everyone ? Really ?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Cq

      midwest rail
      No, I just meant the "relationship, not religion" crowd has come up on my screen, that's all. Of all the gimmicks I've seen in Christian apologetics this one really takes the cake.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  13. Jleopard26

    I believe that the concept of God gives others meaning to his/her life (for good or bad). That is serves it's purpose for that individual. That in itself is a "me only" view point turned into a group think mentality. All the wars, and violence stemming from a religious fight, are based on a "me only" view point. Pick a war, or terrorist group, or nation. Look how it was founded, how it started, or what drives it. How many on each side cry our "Our God protects us!". Heck drill down to common soccer, or american football games. Or even if one person wins something. How many times do you hear. "God willed this!" or "I owe this to God!". Did this God not want the other team to win, or the second runner up to win?

    I don't see the point of this article other than to incite others, and cause a ruckus. Perhaps his God wanted that though.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  14. Chad


    For those folks that consider themselves "spiritual but not religious" (please note, this question does NOT apply to Christians that feel spiritual, but dont like Church insti tutions).

    This question is for those folks that consider themselves "spiritual but not religious", but do not have a spirituality targetted at a the God of Abraham.

    HERE'S THE QUESTION: do you consider yourself an atheist? (do you either deny, or disbelieve in the existence of a deity)?

    no tricks, just trying to get a sense of what you consider yourself.
    Thank you.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Some may acknowledge that there might actually be a God, such as the God of Spinoza and Einstein.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Chadwatch, a public service

      This is a public service announcement from Chadwatch: Chadwatch is issuing a YELLOW ALERT. Yellow Alert indicates that The Chad is active on the blog and appears to be trolling around for a debate. Please be advised that The Chad will attempt to draw you into a never ending spiral of semantic arguments and quote mining that will ultimately come down to simply asserting "God did everything with his magic."

      October 2, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • JustAGirl_78

      If you look at the definition of religious – even atheists are religious, they just strongly believe in NO God...this is from Webster's Online Dictionary: Definition of RELIGIOUS 1: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity..
      Maybe it's just that people are tired of being fanatical about church – and want to go back to a more open an honest approach to beliefs? Maybe the stigma of being a church member now has such a negative impact on how people think of you that people don't want to admit they go to church? Being spritual means you believe in something (which I think is better than nothing) – the alternative is NOT only being an atheist....
      Organized religious beliefs (even going back into Ancient Times) have caused more death and distruction than any other organization in the world...and it's done in the name of (whomever your beliefs say to) – and has been since the beginning of mankind! Maybe choosing to say your "spiritual" means you don't want to be associated with all the chaos and destruction – and maybe organized religions need to re-think their controls on individuals.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Cq

      If not believing in any gods is religious then not believing in lucky charms would actually still make you superst.itious, according to your logic. See how that argument fails?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Cq

      "Spiritual but not religious" has the same problem as "not religion, but having a relationship with Christ." As these become more popular people start following what others do, buying their books and modelling their "individual" practice on what somebody else does. Both then become as standardized, formulated and even dogmatic as the "Organized Religion" that they claim to be in contrast to.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • JustAGirl_78

      I quoted a definition of religious (which was told to me by a very good friend who attends church several days a week – in our discussions about atheists) – relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.. Lucky charms are neither – a world with no God would be an ultimate reality to some, a world with God is a world with a deity....the focus of the definition was the faithful devotion If people have faithful devotion to lucky charms (or lack thereof) I belive faith wouldn't fix their issues. My personal beliefs revolve around the problem of being too narrow minded – which allows for humans to pass judgement...and that's not our job if you truly believe. The human mind was not designed to be fair or impartial – no matter what anyone says.

      ...just a general rant – not directed to Cq:

      I posed a lot of "what if's" and that's it...hoping to have "open-minded" discussions – Religion is the one category where there can never be open-minded discussions....many people made very good points – but EVERY post makes SOMEONE ARGUE the fact – not DISCUSS (yes, there is a difference)....the issue of calling spiritual people not religious is just another example of placing judgement, where it's not really called for. Why can't we be contented that they have some type of faith that guides their lives....oh right – that would require accepting another human's interpretation of what God means/is/does!!! And that is unacceptable in our modern civilized society 🙂

      October 25, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  15. only a man

    I agree with the author that "I am spiritual but not religious" expresses the slide of individuals to individualism at the expense of the concept of a society. It is a cop out from discipline, obedience, rules in favor of "my way". Look at history to the ancient great civilizations, the individualism at the expense of society is the start of a downfall.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. Rejecting your rigid "our way is the only right way" dogma indicates nothing of the sort.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • stillthinking

      you could look at it a different way:

      it is a step away from all that you mention in order to truly see what there is to see
      this step away and within is a way to truly see
      what there is to see

      October 2, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • only a man

      Reply to midwest rail: So what do you believe ? I believe that society (read communities and countries) only become strong when they are rooted in some core common beliefs and shared accountability.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • midwest rail

      Core common beliefs and shared accountability do not have to be rooted in religion. Merely because I refuse to join your club does not indicate a deteriorating culture or civilization.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • stillthinking

      if your core value is to do no harm – than you are inline with all that is – which includes all things
      therefore – if a society or community is part of all there is – than they are included in all things
      if your core values are to fight for your society or community – unless this results in no harm to all things – than all things are harmed
      if your core value is something else – than if it harms anything else – than all things are harmed – including your community or society
      and so forth ...

      October 2, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Cq

      There is a lot of discipline, obedience, and following of rules in some of these disciplines, just no clergy reaping any benefits from having control over these people. That's what your problem is with this, right?

      October 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  16. Thomas Rooney OFS

    I don't understand why this has to be either/or; I find my spirituality within my religion. I also don't understand the criticism of those who choose to reach for the Divine outside of established traditions. Many, MANY paths up the mountain...

    October 2, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • onefootout

      I agree. To even cast a shadow on someone that makes the statement that they are "spiritual but not religious" shows an unwillingness to see the spiritual perspective of others. It is that rigidity that has caused centuries of conflict. Religion, in it's finest definition, may be too constrained for some. I understand that – because I have had the beliefs of an organized religion laid upon me from childhood like a lead quilt. Spirituality is a journey, not a paint by numbers exercise.

      I have beliefs and feelings about what has happened before; what is happening outside of what we comprehend; and what the future holds...but I cannot place those neatly in any box defined by any one religion.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  17. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Putting the kibosh/”google”/"bing"/ "yahoo" on religion and spirituality:

    • 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 Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

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

    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. "

    (simply more immaculately concieved mumbo jumbo akin to the Caears and messiahs of all kinds)

    October 2, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  18. stillthinking

    'they' seem very eager for 'the people' to vote early
    as in – the sooner the better – that way we can let 'the other them' – do as they please
    since they already are
    then we can all breath
    or not

    October 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  19. Elisha Project

    Reblogged this on The Elisha Project and commented:
    A great take on the "ME" generations loophole...

    October 2, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  20. tesa

    And by the way, as a good SBNR, failing to think about it is not my problem. I have literally thought about this every day for most of my 52 years. I still have no answers. I'm still no closer. But I think about it daily, and so do most other SBNRs. That's why we say we are spiritual, because we DO think.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • MR2

      51 yo feeling quite the same. I always had a hard time with the guy in the front of the church, he's a guy... I'm a guy, what's the difference? He will one day be proven as a womanizer or worse, I will never walk that path. After another guy (Constantine) put his hands all over the Bible, I have little faith it is any more true, than words my neighbor might come up with. Like you sad, I search for truth and read as much as I can, but the final analysis is my own; I'm not tied to someone else's redistribution of "facts" or their interpretation of great stories. I can do that, and be a good person without the trappings of a traditional place of worship, or someone telling me to do something they are incapable of.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262
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.