Your Take: Author who calls 'spiritual but not religious' a cop-out responds to comments
October 2nd, 2012
04:04 PM ET

Your Take: Author who calls 'spiritual but not religious' a cop-out responds to comments

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

I wrote a Belief Blog piece on Sunday called "My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out," which has received more than 8,000 comments, many taking up key points I raised.

My assessment is that the wider disorientation of Western society, the decreasing respect for many institutions and the disdain for humans alongside what Christopher Lasch has termed a "culture of narcissism" has played out both among the "spiritual but not religious" identifiers as well as among many "new atheists." Lots of the comments bear that out.

Some commenters accused me of outdated and dangerous dogmatism in sticking up for traditional religion. A commenter whose handle is spectraprism spoke to this view:

“The problem this author advocates is that of thinking anyone has the ONE COMPLETE TRUE WAY- and everything and everyone else therefore NOT advocating it completely must be wrong. This is dogmatic, archaic, leads to extremism and is completely incorrect. Not being challenged into blindly following whatever scripture is not showing softness of any kind - it's showing you have a brain to draw your own personal conclusions that work and make sense to YOU.”

I don't happen to believe in a religious "one true way" and in fact am not religious myself. My comments and observations are based on an increasingly common phenomenon in the past 20 years.

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It is telling, though, that this and many other comments converge on dogmatism and extremism and juxtapose them with the notion that an individual choice is immune to any of that. These comments speak to my point that not wanting to be held accountable to any set of ideas or principles is a very popular position among the “spiritual but not religious."

In recent decades, the demise of the notion that there can be universal truths and the ascendancy of relativism and the new preaching of "many truths" and the idea that "all truths are equally valid" has clearly had significant impact on that identity.

The disenchantment with belief and a commitment to some wider authority has also had an impact on the self-described new atheists, who are furious that anyone could have the audacity to believe in something bigger than themselves.

The end of the big ideas of liberalism and socialism left a vacuum in society. Atheism used to be a small component of bigger movements in society. Ironically, today what defines many new atheists is a shared outlook with “spiritual but not religious” views.

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

New atheists define themselves in negative terms, as not believing without any broader sense of a positive alternative, while those identifying with a "spiritual but not religious" outlook define themselves as not religious rather than according to the strong convictions that they do have.

This commenter summarized the sentiments that lots of others express on my piece:

Gina Hamilton
So I should believe in God because Bach did and it was the basis for his work? What Miller fails to understand is that most of us started out with a religious tradition in our lives, and gradually grew up and out of it. I can say clearly that I am a recovering Catholic who at the age of 16 became a humanist and freethinker, but that from the acceptance of the lack of a god proceeds a sense of the oneness of the universe and my place in it. It's not touchy-feely; it's science, and yet it is profoundly spiritual as well. Perhaps Miller, one day, will have this sort of understanding.

It is so interesting how so many people now use the therapeutic language of recovery - "recovering" from organized religion. The group American Atheists describes anguish and toil as the "first step" of "coming out," making the analogy with gays coming out the "closet," as though somehow atheists are oppressed today in America.

The therapeutic outlook is of far more concern with regard to human autonomy and freedom than organized religion. The idea is that humans are all "damaged goods" and in need of constant counseling and instruction.

These comments take off on that theme:

Paul Dykstra
Now you need to do an article on ..... "The dangers of being religious, but displaying NO spiritually aware behavior at all".....

Major religions such as Christianity and Islam have proven to be nothing but damaging and vile to our world. I reject this notion that we have to "take a side" on the matter of a higher power. The basic truth about it all is that no matter how much we read or try to decipher life's mysteries we were never meant to have concrete proof of what put us into existence. What is the point in living if you know all the answers? I am spiritual but not religious because religion is a disease of manipulation and control. I can believe in a higher power while also believing that it was never meant for me to understand this higher power until AFTER I die.

honesty is paramount
As a scientist, I am neither religious nor spiritual. I definitely know right from wrong and one of the things that positively defines me: when I don't know the answer to something, I indicate "I don't know". Don't EVER call that indecisive or "wishy-washy".

It is interesting how "spirituality" seems to be thought of as "clean" and unimpeded by problems.

Dustin calls religion a "disease" - once again we see the therapeutic language. Striving for an understanding of the world is an important and essential human attribute, yet so many of the comments have reiterated a generality about "spiritualism" and "my choice" that it seems to endorse the point I made that what seems so paramount is in a determination not to be "labeled" or dictated to by an authority.

So what is left? The superstition and mysticism of some "oneness" and often a therapeutic notion of being "spiritual."

Here’s a comment from someone who identifies as 51yo:

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 said, 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.

The commenter 51y0 doesn't want to be tied to anyone else's "facts." While we all have to work out our things in life, I am interested to know what “spiritual but not religious" facts are.

It can seem that on the one hand there's a reluctance to commit to advocating anything and also that words can end up losing any meaning if one simply says something to the affect of "spiritual means it's right for me." Nick says it can mean a lot of different things to people:

Nick Heise
The author of this piece, though he admits that calling the spiritual-but-not-religious movement a movement would be incorrect, still wrote this entire piece as these people were a united group whose thoughts and beliefs could be analyzed and criticized as a group. I'm no genius, but these seems to make his entire position quite flawed.

I put myself out there as a point of reference since, as I'm talking about my own person, I don't have to rely on complete conjecture like the above article. Yes, I have used the expression "I'm spiritual, not religious." But what does that mean to me? Surely it can mean a lot to different people, just like the same scripture of the Bible can be inspiring to many Christians in countless different ways. To me, saying that I'm spiritual but not religious highlights that I'm not a person who believes in the existence of God as a fact, but neither do I believe in his nonexistence as a fact. It's my assertion of the respect and awe that I have in the face of a universe that I can't understand, which contains forces (perhaps a God) that I can never prove to exist or not exist. For me, it's not an unwillingness to think and make a decision - it's the result of years of thinking and consideration with the conclusion that I haven't yet gathered enough information to make a definitive choice.

I’ll end with this comment:

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 spiritual 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 destruction 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 you're "spiritual" means you don't want to be associated with all the chaos and destruction – and maybe organized religions need to rethink their controls on individuals.

This remark will chime with many – the new atheists among them - who believe that being "spiritual" means you don't want to be associated with all the "chaos and destruction."

It strikes me that having an opt-out plan should have something more than simply a negative, whether it's a "spiritual" one or a "new atheist" negative. We live in an age where many are disillusioned with institutions and humans generally, yet not so evident is a positive alternative.

Thank you for the comments. The event we held last night, "I'm Not Religious – I'm Spiritual" benefited from some of them.

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

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (1,789 Responses)
  1. Randy

    Alan, just wanted you to know that I appreciated your article immensely. I found conformation to many of the same things that I have witnessed and it was refreshing to read a respectable viewpoint in "The Spiritual Not Religious Cop-out" article. I have not read the myriad of comments, nor participated in any feuds- -no thanks- -but just wanted to thank you.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      What did you like about it? Just curious.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Towelie

      Hi Randy. I am not gonna high any more. Well maybe just a little.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  2. Reality

    The NY Salon has not filed an IRS Form 990 which is required of all non-profits unless the organization is a recognized religion. (guidestar.org). So Mr. Miller is apparently in this for the money he can make peddling real estate at his Old Truman Brewery and sponsoring meetings of high brows at between $1000-$5000 a pop. CNN might want to do a bit of background searching before allowing Mr. Miller to present commentary on any subject especially since his educational background as per his website amounts to directing a few films????

    "Alan is the co-founder of The Truman Brewery, a 10 acre site in London's East End. The Truman Brewery now has over 200 companies, ranging from recording studios to art galleries, entertainment spaces, restaurants, bars, cafes, fashion and retail. It has been largely responsible for regenerating a significant area of London and creating a new cultural quarter. Alan is also a film director and has had his work broadcast internationally, with a specialization in music videos and live events. He writes on various cultural issues for several publications and is a published author. http://www.alandmiller.net

    October 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  3. TheRationale

    The simple answer is that there's no higher being or God and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either lying or doesn't know what they're talking about. It sounds dogmatic but if you actually go through and assess all of the presented "evidence" and "logic" you will end up at that conclusion.

    And the spiritual-but-not-religious thing seems to be about as trendy as avocado and antioxidants. It'll probably transform into something like "numinously thoughtful but not spiritual" thing in a few years.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      How True.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • HeavenSent


      I expect foolish thinking from an atheist. Jesus’ wisdom is roaring it's ugly head throughout the world. The flea and tick powder worked on me for a while. You are just another Pharisees jealous that Jesus is God and not them.


      October 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Added details:

      The Apostles' Now the Agnostics' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      October 2, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      " The flea and tick powder" LOL ! 😀


      October 3, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • .

      TheRatinale, enjoy your few years down on earth because that's all you're going to get.

      Bon Voyage.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Dot, NOW you are finally getting it... WE ALL only have a brief time on this earth and then oblivion for eternity... I love it when a Fundie gets his first whiff of reality.. YAY!

      October 3, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • ctynan

      agreed. Hee hee.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • cedar rapids

      "Jesus’ wisdom is roaring it's ugly head"

      an apt description alright, well apart from the wisdom bit.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  4. Jeramy Mihalovits

    I am not a muslim, a jew, or a christian. I personally do not believe in any specific higher power. I have assembled my beliefs from reading and studying other religions, cultures, science, and various other sources. I personally believe that when one takes the key of what actions they are and are not responsible for from religion it is a dangerous situation. If you perform an action you are responsible for it, in general i find followers of most organized religions use their face to remove responsibility from themselves by insiting things were just gods will, or according to gods plan, or saying that they confessed their sins so they no longer need to feel bad about it. These are almost a cop out of taking responsibility for your actions or decisions. I understand belief is important to alot of people, and i respect the right of everyone that believes in something to believe it, how ever subscribing to a belief system, whether its monothestic, polytheistic, atheist, or agnostic does not make you more responsible just because you take it. Responsibility comes from the person not what the person believes. A irresponsible person will be that reguardless of their faith leanings or lack there of.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Towelie

      You want to get high Jeramy? I have some shrimp Cup Noodle.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • .

      Jeramy, believe me when I tell you this. You are a waste of oxygen.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Dot, believe me when I say this, you are a waste of a dot...

      October 3, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • T-Max73

      Jeramy- Assuming that one's beliefs have absolutely NO bearing on one's actions, you would be correct. But we know from history (9/11 ring a bell?) that as a person believes, so will he act. Believe that killing another in defense of a religion will bring you paradise and the killing is all too easy. Think about it, huh?

      October 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  5. jms

    Im bout to S h e t ! ooooo yeah, a juicy f a r t

    October 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Towelie

      You must be high right now jms.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  6. fred

    I had a friend show me the latest California approved Social Studies version of religion. I will see if I can get a PDF of the the page or just wait for FOX news to expose it......................or CNN to bury it.
    I stand by factual presentation over State sponsered religion.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Boy you are getting more and more deluded by the day.

      "My friend showed me" is the best you got? Maybe you should actually have the information in front of you before you post stupidity.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      From: rescueyourchild.com home page.

      The Problem Facing California Public School Parents

      What your child is guaranteed in California public schools

      Because of bad laws, lack of pro-family laws, and politically-correct trends, here's what kids are guaranteed to receive in California public schools:

      1. Ho.mose.xual-bise.xual-transse.xual indoctrination, without parental consent, including off-campus pro-ho.mose.xuality counseling. (Scroll down to see the laws.)

      2. Pro-abortion indoctrination, "confidential” abortion referrals and off-campus "counseling", without parental consent.

      3. Condom/birth control pills indoctrination and distribution without parental consent; no teaching children how to truly avoid STDs; "abstinence-only" education prohibited.

      4. Anti-God, pro-evolution indoctrination.

      5. Political correctness.

      6. Dumbed-down academics, less academic success, on average, than private school or home school.

      7. Negative socialization and peer pressure.

      8. Less safety, on average, than private school.

      9. Anti-Christian indoctrination; widespread rejection of religious and moral values.

      10. Anti-parent sentiments.

      You can't make this up. This is how completely ignorant the fundies are.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Number 5 is hilarious!
      Also, they really seem to love the word indoctrination, probably because that's how they get a lot of little children into their religion. Did they use it too much so that they can't even recognize what indoctrination is?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Don't send your kids to public schools!! They won't be safe*

      * on average, compared to private schools or staying home.


      October 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Your web site was a real eye opener, thank you. I am very concerned right now about my kids in public school. You won’t believe what they are learning right now!

      1. Critical thinking skills. If they keep this up, they will most likely start questioning Bible myth. Then what can I do? I have been indoctrinating them since birth.

      2. Tolerance. I can’t have my kids going around caring about people who are different. Then what’s next? Watch our property values plummet! It is better for orphaned children to live alone, be unloved and be a ward of the state then to make them and their potential parents happy.

      3. Women’s rights. If kids start thinking that women have a right to choose what they do with their own bodies, before you know it they will think they can choose to think for themselves!

      4. They are actually teaching kids to have “safe” s.e.x. Safe? It is far more realistic to believe that the hormones that have driven human beings to have intercourse for 100,000 years won’t apply to our kids.

      5. They want to teach them evolution and not creationism! What kind of world would we live in if our children don’t believe our 4.55 billion year old planet is only 6000 years old? What kind of world would we have to endure if our children were taught about the universal genetic code, the fossil record, genetic commonalities, common traits in embryos and bacterial resistance to antibiotics? The next thing you know, they will stop believing in Iron and Bronze Age Palestinian mythology and start competing with the rest of the civilized world in science. Not on my watch!

      6. Finally I for one will not be told by any secularist school teacher that I shouldn’t brainwash my children to believe an outdated religious superst.i.tions that have no bearing on the modern world. In fact, I insist that our society remains stuck on the ancient past, worshipping sky fairies and fearing scary demons that want to torture us. Period!

      October 2, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @24 Hour Crisis... thanks for sharing... on the one list, I find number 4 to be funny. Anti-god because they are being taught evolution.. you know that "Theory" of Evolution that EVERYONE knows is just a theory.. Not the "true" science of creationism, where god spent six whole days, about six thousand years ago, constructing the entire Universe out of NOTHING. Oh, and let's not forget that women came from the rib of MAN... You owe me, woman!

      October 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Answer

      Moron religious cvnts.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Answer, impossible to argue with you!

      October 3, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • .

      Fred, why pretend Fox news is opposite of CNN. Both are an abomination.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  7. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    Drink Coca~Cola! 🙂

    October 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  8. What a bore Miller is!

    I wonder why Miller is so bigotted against people who go their own way spiritually? It really gets his knickers in a twist. Their belief has exactly the same evidence and validity (none) as anyone else's. In general, the do-it-yourselfers are the least likely of the religious people to demand political obedience and show bigotry towards various groups. They really do not hurt anyone with their beliefs, which the organized religions have a major problem with.

    They are harmless, so why does Miller have a bug up his butt about them?

    And why is he so into stereotyping? He has totally homogenized all seculars into "new atheists" (whatever that is), and all of the myriad diverse alternate spiritualities into one

    Alan Miller is nothing but a dim narrow-minded intolerant small-time real estate developer with delusions of intellectual grandeur. What a waste of oxygen!

    October 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yes, like you, I would like Mr. Miller to define "new atheist" for us.

      New as in recent?
      New as in a new kind of atheism. (I must have missed a memo, I didn't realize there was any doctrine.)
      New as in millenials leaving home and their parents' affilliations?

      October 2, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      GOPer, yes I meant #3 on your list.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      that's why I added it! 😉

      October 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I would still like Mr. Miller to define "new atheist" for us. (updated from discussion on this topic)

      New as in recent?
      New as in a new kind of atheism. (I must have missed a memo, I didn't realize there was any doctrine.)
      New as in Dawkins'/Hitchens' kind of atheism?
      New as in millenials leaving home and their parents' affilliations?

      October 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  9. EnjaySea

    Nice work Alan! You've scored two advertisements for your book now, via these CNN articles, and the obvious controversy that your arbitrary opinions inevitably produced. Your publicist is brilliant!

    October 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Nothing works better here than stirring the pot.

      To paraphrase Gordon Gekko:

      Controversy is good. Mo' controversy, mo' key clicks. Mo' key clicks, mo' money for CNN.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • .

      Why leave out the most important phrase to the heathens of this day? "Greed is good". Written by the spiritually dead of this world.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:56 am |
  10. Belle Unruh

    I don't see why deciding to leave a church and worship God in your heart and mind is a negative alternative. I was raised going to church and stayed in our church for 40 years. (Same denomination but different churches) I left because of the negative, proud, nastiness of the majority of Christians. When I realized I would never again invite anyone to join my church I thought, "Why am I still here?" I left and I'm glad I did. My husband left a year before I did. We pray, read the Bible and walk with God. We are spiritual – we do not belong to any religion.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Incorrect, you are a Christian. Remember the part about the bible?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Somebody should have trademarked this "spiritual but not religious" label – everybody wants in.

      I'm a Christian and I read holy scriptures but I'm "spiritual but not religious" because I don't attend services.
      - Ummm no. You are religious and there's nothing wrong with that.

      I believe in Spinoza's God so I'm "spiritual but not religious" because Spinoza's God is not anthropomorphic but a universal spirit.
      - I'd still go with religious here and there's nothing wrong with that.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • .

      Belle, if you don't read the Bible and understand Jesus' truth, you're nothing but an infidel.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Believing in fairy tales is dangerous and unnecessary whether you do it alone or in a building with a steeple.

      October 3, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  11. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    As many ridiculous articles as I have read here over the years, this is perhaps the most pathetic.

    Alan Miller seems to be repeating something that may have brewed up at a wine tasting party with a bunch of his bourgeois friends. I am sure he was furiously taking notes and submitted it to CNN before passing out.

    Naturally the next morning he was regretful but too late. Now he has to own it, but managed to write an even dumber response.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      By reading this article, it seems like Miller is living under the delusion that spiritual or atheist can describe the entirety of a person, or at the least a specific set of things. He's basically just a damn moron who can't accept that his first article was stupid.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Well that is just hawaii, it should never have been published, and here we are talking about it.

      I think CNN is desperate for articles. They have been light for a couple of weeks now.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      That or he gave them a bunch of money to put this up.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center


      Ad placement?? NO!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  12. שמיחזה עִיר

    "My a.ssessment is that the wider disorientation of Western society, the decreasing respect for many insti.tutions and the disdain for humans,.... "

    also prove to me that dissent is a bad thing, that rebellion is evil.. i personally go the other way only bay breaking the chains that bind us to an idea or a life style can we ever truly understand our self.

    rebellion is the greatest thing about humans, wanting to do something because some one told you not to is a virtue; you should only want not to do something because you don't want to do it.
    nay! i say to you we must all rebel.

    and that's just not my character talking but my personal belief; conformity is evil, conformity harms society. to think you go along with slavery because the society says its good; but inside you know it is wrong, you feel it in your soul. but you must conform for fear of being shunned; so you partake in evil.

    Rebel Now

    October 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      humans are naturally kind, loving, caring and want to do the right thing. it is conformation to an norm or idea that leads us to hurt one another

      October 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Cora Grace

      Sometimes rebellion means rebelling against atheistic people who believe that they can't possibly be wrong either. Sometimes it means not favoring the approval of men and instead doing what you yourself believe to be true. That includes rebelling against people who find so called "conforming" revolting. If it feels good do it and that includes doing the right thing. Don't agree with you on the man is basically good though. Mankind is wonderful and has much potential but fails to do so because of the desire to be important by being god himself.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Sam Yaza

      your right,

      every ones right based on who you ask!!

      but will always hold to my belief that humans are basically good, the first thing you all feel is empathy after all.


      Science; Is just a suspension of belief, A way to explain away the grief

      D!ck Valentine

      October 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  13. Bob Robertson

    Thank you Alan Miller for recruiting even more seculars and atheists.

    Atheism owes a huge debt to the Alan Millers and Fred Phelps and Mullah Omars of the world. Best recruiters we have.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Alan Miller

      You're welcome.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Towelie

      You wanna get high?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @Alan Miller

      Glad to see you've joined the conversation. Why do you say that people should choose according to the options you provide (God & Scripture or New Enlightenment)?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Alan Miller

      Yes. Puff puff pass.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Alan Miller

      @Moby – because those are the only reasonable options. You'd know that if you weren't busy using the silly hippie excuse of 'spirituality'.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Towelie

      I'm so high right now. Where is R'amen, i'm hungry.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Quite right, Miller, and what's with people wearing all different colors and shades of colors?!?! Complete black or complete white I say.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • .

      Robertson, Miller IS from the atheist camp.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  14. PRISM 1234

    Any spirituality opposing and excluding God, our Creator and His son Jesus Christ, whom He sent to redeem fallen mankind, IS OF SATANIC ORIGIN.
    There is only one God, and one truth about Him. Anything else – is lie.
    Satan doesn't mind you being "spiritual dabbling into shady unknown, even some religions that sound so good and harmless... he doesn't mind whatsoever. In fact he'll shower you with ideas HOW TO BE spiritual, just leave out Christ, God's son.....because he knows that there is only ONE WAY for mankind to be saved, and without Christ, he's got them all wrapped around his little finger... Now, why don't' so many see that? Because of what Christ said in John 3:19-21 Go see, if you care to know!

    October 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • sam

      But, God created Satan.


      October 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      PRISM 1234 knows what Jesus minds.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Or is it God. Or the Holy Spirit. Anyway, PRISM speaks to God.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hey, PRISSY! Long time no see. Still enjoying Barber's "Agnus Dei?" Have you come to grips with the fact that Barber was gay and still managed to write that gorgeous piece? Do you think Barber went to heaven when he died?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • sam

      Ok, then, we better believe everything Prism says, in that case.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • .

      Sam, God created Satan to give you an option who to follow.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Dot, why would a GOD who knew I was going to be an atheist before I was born, create Satan to give me a choice of who to follow when he already knew I was going to be an atheist? The paradox is mind blowing.. how can an omipotent god be omniscient and benevolent, all at the same time?

      October 3, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Seyedibar

      As the creators of God, we men can make him go away just as easily. Poof! see? he's no longer relevant in the least.

      October 3, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Seyedibar
      I’ve made him go away more times than I can count. But my GF keeps bringing him back up during our premarital s#x.

      October 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  15. Terrance Poloma

    Miller didn't even deserve one article, much less two.

    He only got all those hits because he was such an incredible nincompoop.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  16. שמיחזה עִיר

    the common pagan ideal is there is not one path to the divine but all. i do not attack people for having a religious ident.ity other then Christianity which is harmful to our lives and the life of this planet; although that is true it is just as equally valid as my truth, how ever i still hold to it being vile, and their God a tyrannical monster.

    being spiritual and not religious is just "in my opinion" a revival of animism; even to those "Christians" who clam the ti.tle. and this is a good thing, i will not draw an issue with heretical Christians worshiping the Anima Mundi and confusing it with the christian god. I like heretical Christians; what ever brings them to a closer understanding to the interior/exterior Divine. this trend is a good thing, its on the proper path to greater understanding of other and self, and has the great potential of broadening out to the ecosystem as a whole.

    I truly care little what god or scripture you follow as long as your respect, except, and love all of nature I'm cool with it.

    Spiritual not religious is the first step to restoring or animistic roots.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • .

      Bottom line. Most people are going to hell.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, as if you know. I suppose heaven will be full of ............................ and more........................................Oh, and of course, Prissy and Chard will be there.

      Have a great time.

      October 3, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Cora Grace

      Hebrew friend, you are judging big time you realize.(my King!!) Plus you can't say that you know what other people have experienced in not real, you don't know that for a fact. Don't move back to Israel. The last thing they need is more people who keep rebelling against the living God and another disapora.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      hell is not a bad place know a days, the music rocks


      October 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      Cora Grace

      there is no room for a king in a republic like America,... and I'm not Hebrew, that would apply that i was borne from Abraham; which i am not. i was before Adam, i actually know who El Elyon is, i am well versed in the Canaan; because in the Canaan/Assyrian/Babylonian i was a goddess

      Shemyazaz = Goddess of rebellion associated with Sagittarius, before i was a fallen angel

      October 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • lowellthomson

      Look, the reason religious experiences are common even though their edicts and codes are often different is that they're all products of the human brain's subconcious ability to heal itself: we reduce anxiety by grouping with likeminded individuals because it tells us we have pack strength. It's an animal response, and this is statistically demonstrable in any number of ways.

      Choosing not to be religious is just a good start; choosing to be objective and ideologically apolitical - to accept that the chaotic behavior introduced by one "belief system" or another can skew any result - and instead rationalizing best answers on a case-by-case basis.

      Systems that incorporate that dialectical exchange of ideas - friendly discussion and compromise - tend to work best because they recognize that there are good ideas on both side of the "individual vs. communal" ideological divide.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  17. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    Ask yourself this simple question:

    Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe? Why doesn't a book written by an omniscient being leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement? If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn't you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight? Wouldn't you expect the author to tell us things that scientists have not been able to discover yet?

    Yet, when we open the Bible and actually read it, we find it is nothing like that at all. Instead of leaving us in awe, it leaves us dumbfounded by all of the nonsense and backwardness that it contains. If you read what the Bible actually says, you find that the Bible is ridiculous. The Bible is a book written thousands of years ago by primitive men. A book that advocates senseless murder, slavery and the oppression of women.

    Why would anyone want to adopt this horrible book as a basis for a religion and a lifestyle?

    October 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • sam

      I'm just waiting for HeavenSent to come along and proclaim you don't feel awe because you are spiritually dead, and cannot understand Jesus' love letter to us, which is His Truth, the Bible, because your true father SATAN will assign you a personal worm witch will feed off your fat drippings for eternity.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • sam

      *which, but 'witch' is funny too I suppose.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent


      You don't feel awe because you are spiritually dead and cannot understand Jesus' love letter to us, which is His Truth, the Bible, which is 100% true. I still can't find my lady parts. Enjoy eternity while your father SATAN assigns you a personal worm to feed off your fat drippings in his kitchen, which is hades.


      October 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • sam

      Oh, yes, thank you! My day is now made.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      are you a "new atheist" or an "old atheist"? 😉

      October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      Aww... Thank ya' Jesus for -HeavenSent and her 'lady parts' ! 😀


      October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center


      I am the very worst sort of atheist LOL.

      I am an old atheist, don't care who knows it, I argue with friends and family and I am raising my children to be good quality atheists too.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • HeavenSent


      You are going straight to the firey fire of satan's kitchen which is hell. I don't know why the cushion on my couch is squishy but I like it. It's obsessive compulsion to grab at any straw to give a reason not to learn or understand.


      October 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      the irony of my previous question is of course that I don't know what that question means. Alan Miller speaks of "new atheists" but provides no contrasting definition to the qualifier "new".

      Does it mean recent?
      Does it mean a new form of atheism that is distinct from prior forms of atheism?

      I'm so confused! 😉

      October 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I don't know. I took it to mean kids who have left the church, but you are right, there is no qualifier. Really stupid article.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      "kids who have left the church"? as in 20-something millenials who have left home and their parents' affilliations?

      That's a good one. I didn't even think of that. Whatever "new atheist" is, Alan Miller disses it.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • .

      24 Hour Crisis Center, all enemies of God are dumbfounded. Consider yourself one of them.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • lowellthomson

      Look at the Pew research data from 2010: most of them haven't read it. Atheists are two-to-one more likely to have actually read the Bible from cover to cover than U.S. southern Christians, who are preached to and read passages that are suggested to them. They get everything filtered by their faith community. It's not as blatant as in cults, but involves the same biological methodology for indoctrination, basically (minus the nutritional abuses).

      I was a divinity student for years as a child .... and consequently an atheist by age 10. I'm agnostic now, but I acknowledge it's not rational to believe even in the possibility of a God, absent any evidence. That's how we judge, by definition, whether something is rational: through an exposition and comparison of the best available evidence.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.!

      October 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayerbot

      October 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • .

      Atheists are enemies of God.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Dot, why would atheists who don't believe in a god, want to be the enemy of something that does not exist? OH the paradox???

      October 3, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      I am the enemy of God, therefore, I am the enemy of NOTHING! Makes perfect sense.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  19. Bootyfunk

    this guy's head is so far up his @ss it's unbelievable. just go away...

    October 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Alan Miller

      But it's comfy up here.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You atheists spew lies against Jesus’ truth to cause doubt, creating confusion. Satan's lies are built on quick sand foundation. I moved the litter box next to the couch to mask the smell in here. What part of Jesus' truth is clarity and satan's lies are confusion do you not comprehend?


      October 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Radnom

      I agree, Bootyfunk. This guy doesn't know what he's even talking about and tried to cover it up with this badly-written "response". His head is indeed very far up his ass.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • .

      Bootyfunk, this guy is from your camp. What? Do you want him to step aside so you can continue putting your head up your ass?

      October 3, 2012 at 2:05 am |
  20. old ben

    Alan Miller: "Ironically, today what defines many new atheists is a shared outlook with “spiritual but not religious” views."
    "New atheists define themselves in negative terms, as not believing without any broader sense of a positive alternative,"
    "... while those identifying with a "spiritual but not religious" outlook define themselves as not religious rather than according to the strong convictions that they do have."

    Wow. I would say mostly wrong on all three of those notions. I'm sure that there might be some that could be categorized as such, but it is ludicrous to speak about "new atheists" and then give attributes to that without further clarifying what kind of atheist your are talking about – even among "new atheists". The selection of responses to include is limp. And his reflections of those responses is limp. I gave the original piece a D-. This might be a D+ at best.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @old ben,

      I was willing to give the original piece a solid 'pass' because I felt that it threw down the gauntlet to people who use "spiritual but not religious" as a mask to hide behind when they don't want to do the hard work of deciding whether they do or don't believe in a God/universal spirit.

      Plus, I will agree with Alan Miller that "I don't believe in God" is a liternal negative, in terms of logic, and not value judgment, but what the heck is a "new atheist"? It presumes the existence of "old atheists". What are they supposed to be? Is this like 'old growth' forests?

      Now I am at a point where I want Alan Miller to declare himself as more than "not religious" and openly critical of "new atheism".

      Take a stand Alan Miller! In what "positive" do you believe?

      October 2, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ooops – literal. (and I hope the italics got closed).

      October 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • old ben

      Yeah, Not a GOPer, I just don't know where he is coming from. Once again, he makes odd generalizations. Of course you and I would disagree on some things being that I am an agnostic atheist. But because I am, I might agree with your statement about disbelief in a higher being–to the extent that a high atheist maintains.

      I still think that, for both you and him, this notion – and I'll use your words – "people who use "spiritual but not religious" as a mask to hide behind when they don't want to do the hard work of deciding" is way to narrow a notion unless it is really backed up with something c0ncrete. (And I don't think you can sample these comments and learn much. It would have to be a much better source.) I mean when you say might be around a certain group of say young people, you might feel that is the att!tude in your experience for that portion of your community, but to assume that this is some trend and then generalizing about it – you need to back that up. It would take a lot of sampling and c0operative interview to really assess the involvement in personal decisions about faith (or anything for that matter) of any number of people to be able to then generalize about the decision processes – what things they had in common, etc. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any reference to any study about this kind of thing. You certainly wouldn't want to use these comments solely as a basis for your notions. Maybe he gets this feeling from some people he knows and is putting this out to try and validate his susp!cions?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "Plus, I will agree with Alan Miller that "I don't believe in God" is a liternal negative, in terms of logic"

      When first asked "Do you believe in God" the correct response from someone new to the concept should be "What is this thing you call God?" Then after the questioner explains in their terms and their perception of what a God is to them and what their God means to them and to some people they know the next logical question is "So you have proof of your God?" and the response (albeit after some himming and hawing about what this guy wrote or that guy said) is a resounding "Um, No.". That then means it is not a negative to "Not believe in God" since you are not taking away something that previously existed. The default position as a human is that there is no God as defined by organized religion.

      Now, when you add something like the belief in God to a childs mind as most are indoctinated from youth, then you do present in some ways a negative, or a removing of something previously accepted. This is where many Christians get angry at non-believers, because they think that if they can just convince their kid's to never question their version of the truth, then in some way it validates their own belief structure. And to admit that theirs may not be the real truth would cast doubt on their faith and the very unstable moral foundation their parents and their parents parents were guilted and bullied into accepting. And when that foundation crumbles you get people who think they have no moral compass because they had always been told morality comes from God.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @old ben,

      I'm not sure I follow you here:

      "Of course you and I would disagree on some things being that I am an agnostic atheist. But because I am, I might agree with your statement about disbelief in a higher being–to the extent that a high atheist maintains."

      I don't understand the term "high atheist".

      For myself – I don't believe in God (or a unifying spirit), but naturally can't prove that God does not exist and must therefore admit the possibility on logical grounds. Literally this makes me an agnostic atheist too.

      I generally find the 'agnostic' qualifier gets people tripped up – even here.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • old ben

      Yeah, and to clarify my point with Not a GOPer, I've changed the way I answer the question – "Do you believe in God?" since I was younger. I would never give a one-word answer, and I don't think it's being wishy-washy or non-committing at all. I give an explanation because I know the asker can be coming from many different places with what God means to them (ergo, how can I answer them properly without finding out about their belief or at least explaining mine very carefully). So with that, I agree with Mass Debater – you can only properly answer it with another question, and better a series of questions and answers back and forth.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • old ben

      My bad, Not a GOPer, I obviously assumed too much. Maybe it was something from yesterday, but I assumed you were religious. When I say high atheist, I mean someone who completely denies the existence of any higher spiritual being, as opposed to someone who just claims that they don't have any knowledge of a higher being (either way). Hopefully I am using the term correctly, as that is just how I've understood it for years. But I have seen some argument over these terms here. Anyway, on a deity, I don't find it helpful to make a claim for, or completely against since neither is provable. And since I don't think there is proof for either case (no knowledge of either – agnostic), then obviously I am going to feel stronger about a complete disbelief in all religion (atheistic view). My gut instinct says there is no spiritual higher being, but since it is not provable, I doesn't make sense for me to say much more about it really – otherwise it is just conjecture.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @old ben,

      no harm, no foul – I did not state my beliefs in that thread. When I first read Mr. Miller's article I suspected he was playing a game and camouflaging his beliefs (whatever they actually are) and preparing to be a player on the debating panel in his 'salon'. Above he declared himself as "not religious".

      I still think many people hide under the "spiritual but not religious" label, including people who are religious but want to fit in with friends who are not religious, and people who question the existence of God but are neither ready nor willing to admit it either to themselves or publicly because they are afraid of the consequences of embracing atheism:
      1. Death remains an unknown
      2. It's not socially acceptable
      3. It doesn't very well explain concepts like thought, art, beauty, reason, etc

      Using "spiritual but not religious" like this is a cop out.

      The reason I feel confident that I have concrete evidence that people use the term "spiritual but not religious" as a mask is that label resonated for me and others I knew (particularly many, many years ago in my 20s) after I had rejected the dogma forced on my youth but before I was willing to really admit the possibility of the non-existence of a unifying spirit. I explored ideas of faith without embracing them. Had I been asked then, I would have said "I am spiritual, but not religious" but my thinking was not sorted out.

      For those undertaking a genuine journey of spiritual discovery, the label fits as well as anything. I never interpreted the 'cop out' as applying to people who are actively exploring their beliefs.

      At this point, I feel that declaring myself an atheist abrogates my ability to define myself as "spiritual". That doesn't mean I don't still value many of the tenets of Christianity I was taught or ideas from religions like Taoism.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • .

      old ben, eve the Devil wants to be worshiped. All this spiritual nonsense is just another notch of satanist that worship the beast.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @menses (aka period)

      you really are a sad little troll aren't you? Get back under your bridge.

      October 3, 2012 at 12:20 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.