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. samstubbs

    The world seems to be full of mouths, with a decreasing population of ears...

    October 13, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Suzie

      Wonderful thought!

      October 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  2. eflows

    This entire piece can be summarized thus: "What I believe is right and what you believe is wrong." As usual. A prime example of why spiritual people increasingly ignore these rigid narrow-minded ideological bigots.

    October 13, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • amazed

      I am seriously amazed that people who adhere strictly to the bible, actually and truly think the earth is only 9000 years old?
      ok – well – i watched several videos on 2012 mayan theory about Dec 21. 2012 being end of time.
      one talked about 10,000 year ice age cycle – is this where this 9,000 year theory comes from I wonder?
      I watched video on CNN currently available that talks about elected official who is a DR. who thinks this straight out?
      I wish these people who believe this would watch the videos that I watched – and clarify their reasoning.
      Simply amazing the people who are 'elected officials' and the puppets who are too afraid (or paid off) to take a stand with them.
      alan – what do you think?

      October 13, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • amazed

      I think that there is some scientific proof through the disciplines of geology that indicate the ice-ages follow a 100,000 year cycle – 90,000 years of ice age with 10,000 years non-ice age making up a 100,000 year cycle.
      of course – since the earth from my understanding of what is said through scientific studies is billions of years old.
      i have a piece of petrified wood that is said to be 250,0000,000 years old. Whenever i feel overwhelmed about problems in my own life, I meditate on the piece of petrified wood to remind how insignificant my life truly is to the span of time – would hate to lose that perception – now I will also be reminded how insignificant knowledge is to the span of time.

      October 13, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • amazed

      I wonder if this is all just a matter of not understanding the translations from the past into modern languages?
      I mean – the 10,000 year theory in the bible is mirrored in the 10,000 year ice cycle scientific studies of earth samples.
      this is why you cannot really separate religious and spiritual from my perspective.
      I respect the knowledge and ideas in the 'bibles' and teachings of the major religions – just think that understanding of these sources for knowledge and scientific theory are not truly understood by too many with the power to use these misunderstandings to their own gain. Why doesn't the elected official who is also a scientific doctor clearly explain in scientific and not religious terms what he basis his beliefs on? I mean – even a cursory explanation of why the knowledge in these books may simply be mistranslated or not excepted due to more current and reliable scientifically accepted facts and theories like mine would be better than a man preaching his point of view with no supporting evidence – to a populace not generally educated in a religious setting – like is seen in majority of USA.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Avenue des Grives

      That's not what he said. He said people are not making decisions.......as in study, then talk spirituality. I liked his thoughts. After all, if one is spiritual, then do the work and investigation.

      October 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  3. mattisadrunk

    under the guise of age old, time proven, solid-as-a-big-ass-rock, spiritual profundity; the author opines against science when inconvenient, individuality, multi-culturalism, the evolution of ideas, and displays a perfect-dare i say, O'Reilian-ability to sidestep the factual buzzkill that history presents. boiled down to a single sentence, this column would read, 'KIDS THESE DAYS!"
    i am not sure what troubles me more: the growing complexity of the world's REAL problems, the continued quagmire in the war between generational cliches, or my own sense of self worth when judging the author?

    October 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      another beer may help ease your troubles

      October 13, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  4. Steven

    I have heard more anger, judgmental and fear/hate talk during this current election than I have ever heard in my life. I am terrified of a church run government. I make no apologies for not basing my life decisions on 2,000 year old words that have clearly been changed to support various political positions. I have equal respect for those who want freedom from religion, or the right to choose their own path as I do for those who promote their religious views on anyone who will listen and on many who don't want to hear it. I enjoy looking at much of the pre-forth century concepts presented in the Celtic Gospels, and concepts presented in other religions besides just fundamental Christianity.
    Politically I am tired of arguing about abortion, contraception, gays, God and guns. I do want to see people have jobs and be nice to each other, and help out people when they need it. I am not terrified that non-christians are lazy and crooks. I am tired of conservatives telling me how to life and justifying all of it selectively on bible verse. I certainly don't want to fight more wars based on religious differences.Spiritual but not ORGANIZED religion is fine with me, just fine.

    October 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Nii

    the easiest thing to learn is this. I am not saying the religious are fundamentally judgemental. In fact they are mostly good guys until you are on their wrong side. A religious person has not explored the deeper mysteries o f religion.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Damocles

      Who makes the call on how deeply a person has explored thier faith? Have they explored it deeply enough only when it agrees with what you believe in?

      October 12, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Nii

      I did not intend to offend you! All I wa telling the person with whom I was conversing was with that the spiritual have a much more loose definition on things because they have chosen to after a deep study and reflection on themselves and the ideals set forth in religion for them and how it makes them better fellows for other humans.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Nii

      Damocles that didn't seem so clear to me so I will say basically that my approach to religion is functional. If it helps me to be a better person. Fine. If it doesn't. Out the window. It came from deep study of my faith. To distill what was necessary and leave the useless alone. A religious man thinks everything is necessary so there is no focus. He has width but little depth.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Damocles


      Heh, you didn't offend me. I just see so often on here that believers can not or will not accept someone who says they have reached their own conclussions. I thought that was sort of what you were saying. I apologize if I misread.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Nii

      Apology accepted!

      October 12, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      as I've pointed out. That's your definition of "religious".

      The meaning of words is completely lost when they are overloaded with specialist interpretations like yours.

      Embedded in the (widely accepted term) "spiritual but not religious" is the notion that one can be both. You posit that these words are mutually exclusive, which fails a basic test of logic.

      You are welcome to your faith. Will you publishing a comprehensive glossary along with your book so that people can follow along without misunderstanding?

      October 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Nii

      I do not know how much of Christianity you do know but the mutually exclusive definitions are related not to religion. They relate the terms religiosity and spirituality. Religious in terms of religion is different from religious in terms of religiosity. It has been used as a negative term for centuries. I find it strange that you think it is mine. Even on this blog there was a post which showed Christians defining themselves as spiritual but not religious. It said they were mostly younger generation members of non-denominational congregations. However the term is older than this generation. it stretches right back to the antagonism between traditional Jewish religious leaders and the Early Jewish Christians. Read the New Testament.
      If you do not know this then you will not know where Mr Miller is coming from. I have faced down several religious types who value the term religious and I do too. However spirituality and religiosity are opposites though both relate religion.

      October 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      we're bickering over semantics here which is closer and closer to pointlessness.

      I understand the appeal of the term "spiritual but not religious". (That's part of Alan Miller's point.) You categorically said that the two words were mutually exclusive. If that definiton is the generally accepted one, then why does "spritual" need the qualifying disclaimer "but not religious" in this context if "spiritual" and "religious" are mutually exclusive terms?

      October 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  6. AleKs

    I bet it burns that more and more people are actually starting to think for themselves and don't want to subject to a certain cult, w/e cult that might be, doesn't it?
    Religion is a cop-out in itself, for the socially unadjusted. By forcing others to conform to YOUR views and YOUR way of life, you're in fact showing that not only are you so insecure that you can't manage to preserve that way of life for yourself if you're around others that don't follow it, but that you're also a tyrant who thinks that he's "fighting for god", or w/e other imaginary creature you can muster.

    October 12, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • Poltergiest

      There's freedom of religion in the united states, granted largely by a religious population looking to believe what they want without the shackles of government intervention in the church. This also granted YOU the freedom to anything reject religion entirely if you so desired. I honestly don't see what you have to complain about. No ones forcing you to do .

      October 12, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  7. Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    Ok i challenge all atheist/non-believers to a simple small short mature intellectual debate. I claim that there is a GOD, Higher Power, Intelligent Designer/Engineer, and Creator. You claim that there isnt a Creator and everything is a coincidence. (If what i say about your claims are wrong please correct me) Here are the rules: No THEORIES and no BIBLE VERSES. Proven known facts ONLY, none requiring faith. I simply ask that you consider my facts as i will yours. I will provide 10 facts in defense to my claim and you can list as much as you will.
    1.The unseen order of our solar system.
    2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power.
    3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect.
    4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.
    5. Natural law.
    6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.
    7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind.
    8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time.
    9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0.
    10. Time & Life (consciousness)
    Lets see if man can do the impossible by providing one fact proving the non-existence of a Creator.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • someatheist

      One fact proving the non-existence of a creator? Our ability to reproduce atoms and sub-atomic particles on the Large Hadron Collider. Just one example.

      October 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • atavisms

      It is not that there may not be a god but that there is NO reason to postulate one. We have this incredibly complex creation and you wish to add and even more complex creator for it all? And wrer do god come from?
      You see, it amswers nothing and only adds more questions. Worse than that it teaches people that not knowing is ok. Completely unecessary. On the other hand we do have our own minds and if it is true that man is made in the image of god (that is to say our 'true nature' of spirtual as opposed to corporeal) Explore yourself. Turn your mind inward into it;s own nature (as all gnostics and Buddhists and contemplatives of every religious stripe have done for centuries and all found the very same thing: NOTHING. No ego, No self. Just a road (being , awareness) without a traveler, Ahhh... but the beauty of it all. Do that, and you will truly know 'god.'

      October 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Nii

      We being able to create atoms is evidence for God. It proves that nature responds to cause and motive. Not the other way round. This is the reason why actual scientists are mostly believers. Atheists are rare in the scientific community.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Muslim

      I agree with all of what you said except that It's ALLAH the creator not Jesus ,jesus was a man that allah sent to humans to tell them what you said ,he was amessenger from ALLAH

      October 12, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Bill G

      I don't suppose it will do me any good to point this out, but here goes. From an atheist's perspective, all of those "facts" are simply manifestations of physical laws which do not require a creator. The implication that the existence of the Universe itself (and by extension, what happens in that Universe) needs a reason is just as silly and misguided as the notion that a magical man in the sky created everything in 7 days and did so less than 10,000 years ago.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Nii

      I will aslo point out that the person who made the mistake of relating the Creation and the ordering of Creation as a single event and then calculated the definite time based on the Bible's account of ages of the patriarchs. This is wholly inaccurate. What the Bible asserts it that a God YHWH put everything in place. Gen 1:1. Then in v.2 it describes how the Earth was ordered in SEVEN DAYS. Before vs 2 there is no finite time. Stop that propaganda against the Bible cos it is not true that the Bible said the Universe or the Earth for that matter is 10000 years or less.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Nii

      The verses 1 & 2 is the main reason scientists allow for the possibility of the existence of YHWH. Otherwise we would agree with Atheists.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Damocles

      @jesus etc etc etc

      Here we go again....

      The solar system is not perfect. If it was there would only be one planet that was perfectly suited to life. The earth is not perfectly suited for life because it has areas where certain things are in short supply for life to really function. If the earth was perfect, a human would be able to live at the bottom of the ocean and fish would not die on land.

      The plethora of life on this planet would not point to perfection. Instead of multiple types of spiders, there would only need to be a Spider that has all the functions of spiders.

      Nature is damn fickle, far from perfect.

      The human body is downright frail. The body has organs that serve no purpose and a variety of organisms that can spiral out of control and cause the death of the body.

      Perfection requires a consensus. What is perfect to one person may be twisted and awful to another.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Bill G

      Ok, Nii, just for the sake of argument I'll rephrase my silly notions comment to the following: That everything was created by a magical man in the sky. Although, in my defense, I never said that one could derive that 10,000 year figure from the Bible nor did I reference any individual who espouses that view. I simply called it a silly notion, but one which, unfortnately, a number of creationists repeat (and thus their critics use it as ammunition). I will not say that there is no possibility of a creator or creative force in the Universe because to do so would require evidence, which it is not possible to produce and, thus, would be in violation of the agnostic principle upon which all science is based. I simply state that He/She/It not necessary for the Universe to exist and, therefore, there is no reason to believe that He/She/It does.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Daniel

      On point 9, actually the Big Bang theory does not oppose Creation, in fact, it is getting closer to what St Augustin of Hippo said that God created time for us but He himself is eternal. So if the theory stands it points to a beginning where athiest believe the universe exist forever. And the person who first raise theory was priest who was also a brilliant Mathematician. When he first showed his work to his friend Einstein, he dismissed the idea for his lack of imagination and was impressed by his work after studying Fr. Georges Lemaitre's work. You might want to also study the work of St. Thomas Aquinas on God's existence very elegant and powerful work indeed.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • eflows

      You're joking right? This is satire?

      October 13, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • pappawtom

      With faith it is not about proof. Proof is very hard to come up with for either side and there are those things that either side thinks are proof but if you don't want to believe it then you won't. There are those who think we should look to ourselves to find the answer but then your answer is only as good as you are! I believe because I have had things happen to show me that there is more than just us but I can not show you exactly what I know to be true and besides would you believe it coming from me? That is why it is called faith.

      As to the author of this article, I understand where he is coming from but all people who don't practice religion much are not as he described. I once was big into religion but have seen that too much of it is only people deciding for others what to believe. Actually, that is exactly what Jesus was so outspoken against when He walked the earth. He did not condemn anyone who was not a believer only those that claimed to be something they were not nor could anyone including themselves live up to their religion. One must truly decide which side of the fence he is on or he will be a split person that no one can count on.

      December 24, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  8. __-___

    The people that claim they are "spiritual" can't even define the word.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • JWK4good

      People define the word differently, some more intelligently than others. The most tiresome are the decidedly religious people who declare, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual," and then define their "spirituality" in decidedly religious terms. Some make this claim not only for themselves, but for their church/religion as well.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Nii

      Indeed spirituality is not a dogma. It is a state of mind where you project positive att.itudes and suppress negative ones. If it was dogma then it could be defined as easily. Each of the 66 books of the Bible define it differently too. Though there is only one Law in the Bible. It will never be about definitions otherwise the dogmatic religious will grasp it easily but they can't. I am using religious as applied to a believer.Hence a spiritual person in this sense can be an adherent of a religion. In terms of the terms religiosity and spirituality they are mutually exclusive. A religious/dogmatic person can not be a spiritual person.

      October 11, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • definethis

      that's cuz the nature of spirituality defines itself

      October 11, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • was blind, but now I see

      @JWK4good "People define the word differently, some more intelligently than others. The most tiresome are the decidedly religious people who declare, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual," and then define their "spirituality" in decidedly religious terms. Some make this claim not only for themselves, but for their church/religion as well."

      I certainly can't answer for eveyone who says that, but when you belong to a true, born-again, Bible-believing, Holy Ghost-welcoming, non-denominational church, that is what we say. That is to say, we try not to be legalistic/religious/judgemental, but we certaily appreciate when the Holy Spirit falls upon us 🙂

      October 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  9. worseyet

    worse yet is their complete and utter discri – mi – na – tion and pre – ju – dice
    against all who are not part of their one percent
    who are of color
    who are female
    who are children
    who are elderly
    who are dis – abled
    who are sick
    in need of the help
    they get paid billions of tax dollars to provide
    but don't
    unless they can use, a – buse, or overcharge you
    in some way
    because they are proud to be religious blue de – v – ils
    and they will let you know that more than anything else
    that they are proud of their church and their
    religious and one percent affiliations
    which make them oh so superior
    in only their own eyes
    in everyone elses mind – and eyes of many – you will find only fear, disrespect, and a sincere
    that they would just
    but they never do

    October 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • thecult

      this article is astonishing – its written by an agnostic who simply wants people subservient to "the establishment", not caring what that establishment is, so long as its part of an establishment. Wow. Humanity has come that far in its mental subjugations that people "know" that they need large, beurocratic, autocratic, rulers, and anything deviating from the "power structure" is bad.
      They have another word for this: S-L-A-V-E-R-Y

      October 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  10. George Marshall

    Fundamentalist preachers are a blight.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  11. niknak

    My take;
    "I don't believe in science but I go to see the doctor when I am sick" is a cop out.
    It is also what a hypocrit does, which pretty much sums up all religious people.

    October 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Brad


      October 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • fortherecord

      I believe in science, but i am still afraid of doctors after learning more about the quality of care that the religious blue de – v – ils dole out to the unsuspecting populace. Makes you think twice and thrice when you have a top rated hosp. (probably paid for the rankings, awards, and their own donations they typically brag a bout – or scared up the votes), who is religion based, about trusting any of the three, science (medical especially if researched by the religious de – mons), doctors (especially if trained or worked at or with the religious de – mons), and religion (especially at de – mon based churches witch claim to be mult-religious most definitely. etc.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  12. buck flicks

    One does not have to be religious to be faithful. Faith is a personal relationship between a person and God (or whatever their deity is) and religion is an organization that exists to separate people from their money and promote a socio-political agenda in the form of 'preaching.'

    By the way, judgmental content aside, this article is horribly written. Does anyone edit this crap?

    October 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Brad

      One does not have to be religious to be faithful? Okay I guess so. I am faithful to my wife but by no means am I religious. -- Next thing about faith... What does the idea faith have to do with a personal relationship with god? What does that even mean? I have faith in P&G products, faith that McDonald's will have the same burgers in Kansas as they do in New York, faith that the garbage man will pick up my trash the same day every week with the exception of holidays. I have faith in all these things but a personal relationship with a "god" is not one of them. What does that even mean?

      October 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • answeringBrad

      I admire your faith Brad, this is right decision for many and glad for you.
      One of the sayings my father, god rests his beautiful soul, viewed on plaque and helped me to understand better:
      Be Still ... And Know That I Am God
      that's all you have to do
      be still
      be there now
      and know that I am God
      best wishes for your inner awareness journeys
      appreciation, faith, and blessings always to my dad

      October 12, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  13. worseyet

    these blue de – v – ils have a huge slice of the pie, and ab – u – se , use, and destroy any who stands in their ev – i – l way

    October 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • worseyet

      best to stay far away from them, for they will k – i – ll you for their research or for your blood or body parts – or justice – without a blink of the eye

      October 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • worseyet

      if you, being intelligent and trusting and naive about their lies, distortion, and manipulations
      end up at their hosp – i – tals
      and, not being as deluded as them
      do not want their services in any way, shape, or form – including research which they assume you are their guinea pig before you even walk (or get wheeled) through their e – v – il doors
      they will dole their deadly justice out with
      their strongly ingrained manipulative minds – based upon religion
      and too much power and money and false prestige

      October 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  14. worseyet

    they, being religiously founded, eschew all ethics, morality, and the law as they see fit

    October 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  15. worseyet

    corrupt the justice systems throughout the land with the unethical, lying lawyers and corrupted judges and da's

    October 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • worseyet

      and make a game out of harming people – because they can

      October 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  16. worseyet


    October 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • worseyet

      r a p e their cousins, their adopted 5 year old adopted son on-line while inviting other men to join in the fun

      October 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • worseyet

      charge some of the highest marked up fees in the country for cancer meds and lie about their research, causing the dea- th of many along the way

      October 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  17. worseyet

    and blow people's heads off at the front door of their hosp – i – tal

    October 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  18. worseyet

    worse yet

    October 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • worseyet


      October 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • worseyet

      blue d e – v – ils

      October 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • worseyet

      who were founded on religion

      October 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |

    To be truly Spiritual, and also rightfully Religious is absolutely POSSIBLE now:



    October 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Doug In Atlanta

      The author, Allan Miller, sounds downright judgmental. I was raised in a Methodist family (who values critical thinking), and I suspect I can speak for many in saying that Christianity fails to speak to me in any meaningful way. The intellectual dishonesty it requires to "believe" is something I can't bring myself to. I also acknowledge religion's historic influences for better and for worse. Mankind seems to have a universal need for some sort of higher power, and I think religions and spiritual traditions are efforts to connect to that higher power. Ethics, truth, justice, compassion, and meaning are not owned, nor invented, by any one group or culture. Their practice, however, is a strictly individual endeavor.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Jeffrey Krull

      Spoken like a true, spiritually-bereft religionist.

      >“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.” - The trouble is that the “spiritual-but-not-religious” – i.e., independent thinkers - cannot be controlled the way the way the dogmatically-enslaved can be.

      >“Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture.” - Tribalism is interwoven and seminal in human history and culture. Christianity is one, slightly evolved, expression thereof.

      >“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.” - Indeed a good thing. And thank goodness there are more at-least-as-enlightened texts for us to read now.

      >“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.” - Rather: truth is bigger than your dogma and your dogma is not immune to criticism. Critical thinking is much more demanding than is dogma and many positive, evidence-based developments have replaced old superstitions.

      >“The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world.” - The idea of error and ignorance being overcome by continuing enlightenment has proven to be much more effective.

      >“There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us.” - You really need to get out more, Alan.

      >“Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action?” - Must it necessarily be either-or? The 18th c. “Enlightenment” was one, extremely positive step in the evolution of human understanding. It would be silly though to suggest it’s the last word – nearly as silly as to suggest that ancient thought experiments from thousands of years ago are the last word. Moreover, a belief in God (literal, metaphorical, or otherwise) need not be bound to any ancient, scriptural attempt to expound "God."

      This entire essay is a straw-man-cluster-bundle: it takes the least mature expressions of free-thinking and pretends they are representative of all spiritually-minded free-thinking people.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  20. Nii

    I think its time to visit old stuff


    according to the definition Alan Miller is using (whatever words you may use to define your beliefs) as a Christian who pursues his own path through the bible rather than attending services, you are in the religious camp.

    Alan Miller uses 'spiritual but not religious' to mean something in between defined beliefs like Christianity, Islam. or Buddhism and athesim.

    That is one of the problems with this 'spiritual but not religious' label. Everyone wants "in" and it means something different to everyone.
    October 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


    look at the last paragraph where Alan Miller says:
    "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?"

    Clearly you have taken your stand for a belief in God and Scripture. He's *not* talking about you, and nor am I.
    October 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |

    October 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Nii

      This belies the fundamental confusion between a religious person and a spiritual person. I am a religionist. Indeed I am a minister. However I am not a religious person in the sense that religiosity is not what I count on to help me feel fulfilled. I could be an Atheist or Buddhist but I would be the same way. Religions spawn two types of adherents-religious and spiritual. In this sense they are mutually exclusive definitions. Religious like "mouse" has many definitions.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      Hello again!

      I'm not sure we're in any meaningful disagreement here, though you appear to disavow the label "religious". I don't mind how you define yourself.

      In the context of the article Alan Miller challenges people to choose a doctrine over something non-specific. Both you and I have chosen a doctrine.

      From the thousands of responses the "spiritual but not religious" definition is quite evidently a very appealing banner to a large number of people and encompasses a wide range of beliefs from those who self-profess it. Almost everybody seems to want to be seen as "spiritual". The meaning that Alan Miller refers to as a 'cop out' is a narrow one and one that he did not define – which I suspect was deliberate to increase the level of provocation his piece engendered.

      I can't say I agree with this statement: "Religions spawn two types of adherents-religious and spiritual." I prefer more literal definitions. If you adhere to a religion, then you are religious (by definition).

      The argument will inevitably devolve to semantics. I think you are conflating religious with 'pious', particularly the overt and sanctimonious form of piety. You seem to want to distance yourself from the word "religion". Definition by use of the negative "I'm not religious" is very much a part of what Alan Miller is challenging.

      How about "I'm religious but not pious"?

      October 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Nii

      I am not sure but you do know that most words in English have multiple definitions, don't you? "religious" is one such word. Positively it is used for the monastic divines or the pious. As concerning religiosity it is negative. For this reason I do not refer to myself as a religious person in this sense. I may even say I have a level of piety but I am not a fan of religiosity. I may also be termed religious as a believer but once again only as a believer in religion not a devotee of religiosity.
      Religious in the sense of religiosity is basically to esteem my religion as the only way. I don't believe that. Joel Osteen got called out as Satan's advocate for saying that. I do not believe in Salvation by faith through grace where all one does is step up in front of the altar and say I accept Christ and does nothing about it.
      I don't believe a Sacrament can do anything for you if you are just going home to beat on your wife, cheat on your spouse or steal from your boss.
      I believe a non-Christian can gain eternal life, bear fruit of the Spirit and go to Heaven if it exists. I do not believe discrediting Science will make me acceptable to God. I do not think Atheists are hell-bound unless they are not practising charitable love, offering acts of charity, and seek to be downright mean fellows. Besides if u r mean you are suffering on Earth already.
      I find more in common with the spiritual but not religious than with the religious crowd.
      Do you see the problem?
      I have nothing in common with you. I do not hold any pre-concieved doctrine. I read lots of books. I have a book on Christian Spirituality coming out soon. Doctrines and other religious constructs are all useless to me. They only push people away from God. Like the Pharisees of old, religious people always freeze in the presence of a spiritual person as they can't think beyond their narrow mindedness. If Mr Miller's definition of spiritual but not religious is narrow it is because he has obtuse thinking.
      I as a person will never stand to be identified with such people cos we just don't mix. Maybe you know spiritual and religious people but even Christ in the Parable of the Two Sons admitted that it was not possible to have such.
      In terms of religiosity and spirituality you are either a spiritual person or a religous person, period

      October 11, 2012 at 3:50 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      "I am not sure but you do know that most words in English have multiple definitions, don't you?"

      Did I not say: "The argument will inevitably devolve to semantics."?

      "Spiritual" and "religious" are both very overloaded words with multiple nuanced interpretations.

      No offence, but this statement: "In terms of religiosity and spirituality you are either a spiritual person or a religous person, period."

      By any meaningful definition, Is just silly. You don't get to make you your own definitions for the words, simply because you eschew concepts like pious, scantimonious, and devout and want to distance youself from them. It doesn't make you not 'religious'.

      OED: religious
      2. a. Chiefly of a person: devoted to religion; exhibiting the spiritual or practical effects of religion, following the requirements of a religion; pious, godly, devout. Also fig.

      OED: spiritual
      c. Devout, holy, pious; morally good; having spiritual tendencies or instincts.

      October 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      I appreciate the idea that you're not in the "believe or burn" camp and you see your beliefs as being distinctly different from this kind of judgmentalism. Great, I really admire that.

      You self-profess as a Christian. You even "have a book on Christian Spirituality coming out soon." This meets Alan Miller's (and my) definition of 'religious'.

      You crave the "I'm not like those judgmental people" part of the "spiritual but not religious" label. I get it. You're certainly not the kind of person Alan Miller says takes a 'cop out'.

      From this comment, "I have nothing in common with you. I do not hold any pre-concieved doctrine." I suspect you might misinterpret my position here.

      Of Alan Miller's two options, I took my stand. I chose "a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action".

      October 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Nii

      I have had an Oxford English Di.ctionary too. It is not the only di.ctionary. I gave you several more technical definitions of the word religious. If I may say, there was absolutely no need for you to take my words and pick them out as if you were using memory verses to say things which were contrary to my ideas. Mr Miller is not a religious and spiritual man nor am I. It is truly impossible to be both. If you think there can be its just because you have not understood what I do. That is not a reason for you to project your knowledge unto mine but rather for you to ask relevant questions.
      As I said pious is a positive word. You know sanctimonious is not. Devout is positive while religious is not. There is a reason English language considers them so.
      There are so many times I have run into Atheists who think like you and Allan Miller. I see Christians do it too. All I am telling you is that unlike the religious who cling to religious identi.ty, the spiritual do not cling to it. I identify myself as a Christian to tell you that I have a basic grounding from which I seek to be spiritual. Others use Buddhism or Atheism as their basis. We all seek something that you the religious just do not.
      Though someone like Miller may choose to define spiritual but not religious according to their own premise. It is much more enlightened to then give us spiritual but not religious people the same room to define ourselves. Then you will find out how wrong your preconceptions were. It is a stereotype to think it means only what you think it means.
      Alan made a mistake which you are trying to rationalize. I know a lot of spiritual people of all faiths, of no faith and of mixed faith. One thing we all have in common is that we would accept religious in a lot of terms but not with the definition you and Mr. Miller give.
      I have ideas of God and Christianity taken from Jehovah Witnesses, Rastafarians, Mormons, and other sects such as Buddhists. Let it alone. I am as Christian as you are just not your type.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      Honestly I don't mind how you see yourself or what words you choose to describe yourself. At this point it's become amusing to see how hypersensitive you are to words and labels.

      Mr. Miller's words really stung you to the core didn't they?

      I guess the truth hurts.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Knee

      Frankly I really do not care what people like Miller think. It is the fact that you think I have invented a term that I find amusing. Besides that I like talking about belief. It helps me to understand theology a bit more. Besides giving me insight into how the typical man on the street thinks!

      October 12, 2012 at 3:09 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.