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Some commenters accused me of outdated and dangerous dogmatism in sticking up for traditional religion.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.

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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. Nii

    Silly Rabbit
    You do not realise that the doctrine you propose is the main reason a lot of people are not ""saved"" but are going to hell. Romaans Ch 2 will tell you that people without the Word of God but who obey it are saved by their obedience. You sit online and say that the saved are a tiny proportion of Christians or all Christians when a majority of these are going to hell. St paul warned us that if God did not spare those He saved from the Egyptians because they failed to heed His word how much more will God punish us for disobedience.
    St James also said show me your faith by your words and I will show you my faith by my works. St Paul also said faith worketh by love. And St John the Baptist also said we should produce fruit of repentance or we cannot escape the coming judgement whether we are baptised or not. Look if you don't want to obey God but your pastor that is fine by me but know that a person who is saved is not saved by the Sacrament of Baptism or Holy Ghost Baptism or Holy Communion. St john the Apostle will tell you that he who loveth not does not know God. The fruit of the Spirit are your evidence that you are saved.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:40 am |
    • Don

      The bible does not teach that anybody is going to hell.

      October 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Nii

      Don te concept of eternal life is harder for a lot of people to grasp so the Jehovah Witnesses said there is no hell. I like Hell in my Bible

      October 11, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  2. billybob

    So, please explain why this ultimate being has failed to provide updates to his word?

    October 9, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  3. Beond the Chorus

    Relative to the Bridges of Madison County.
    I have lived it. It is true.
    My beliefs are based on my experiences.
    IAM a spiritual being

    October 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • lowellthomson

      Beond, you haven't lived anything the chemicals in your brain don't allow you to experience. There are all sorts of ways in which brain chemistry can alter your perception, right up to religious delusions of seeing or talking to God, or being in Heaven. They shut down your posterior parietal lobe, you see.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Lowelithomson, if you want a good example of someone who's deluded simply look in the mirror. That stuff you're talking is nonsense. Your problems is, you've listened to and believed too many of those lies being told by "scientists" – people who don't even believe in God, let alone know God. And guess who controls the scientists? Answer: Lucifer….

      October 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Nii

      Silly Rabbit
      I am a scientist and a minister of the Gospel. Where does your submission fit in my life? respect your fellow men! Love your neighbor as yourself just as Christ has loved you.

      October 10, 2012 at 3:47 am |
    • Cody

      Silly Rabbit,
      I'm sorry, but... Lucifer controls the scientists? Really? I'm going to have to call shenanigans on that one. What he was talking about sums it up pretty well. All our perceptions are controlled by chemicals in our brain. Take a basic Psychology and Biology class and you'll see that. Our neurons can miss-fire, it's how hallucinations and false sounds work. That doesn't mean that God can't talk to you, but the vast majority of the time you have to look at someone's chemical makeup first. If it's out of balance... 9 times out of ten, it was a hallucination.

      October 11, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  4. Rob L

    I cannot believe CNN allowed his artical to even be posted/printed. I am Spiritual.. SPIRITUAL ! Being Spiritual is the first step toward knowing there is a Supreme Being. Being religious is the first step for being dependent on MAN rather than OUR Supreme being. Has he ever read the Bible?
    Jesus told us to know his FATHER not the Pastor.

    October 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      First, if you're not saved (ie, saved according to scripture), then you're also not "spiritual" – and it matters not what you say or think...

      Secondly, it's not possible to follow God without first following a man. Jesus himself was a man. Should we not follow him? The scriptures state, "God is a spirit (and spirits are invisible)". It also states, "No man has seen God at any time." All we have ever seen is the "manifestation" of God, and we have never seen God at any time. So how can you say you are following God when you have never even seen God? Jesus never taught us that we should follow God by calling out to some invisible spirit in the air (only Lucifer tells you that and works that way). Instead, Jesus set up his church and then chose out 12 apostles (his first preachers) to be our guide and our teachers, so there would be men on earth who could teach us about the things of God and about what God wanted. The purpose of the preachers is they are "ambassadors of Christ". They are God's representatives on earth. They represent God. And by following the preacher and by doing what he says, we follow God. It's the simple. And that is the system Jesus set up...

      For example, Jesus himself said, "No man cometh to the Father but by me." Jesus himself was the first preacher. Therefore, it is not possible to get to God without going through the preacher. If you think otherwise, then you are deceived. I admit, not all preachers you see today are of God, many are of the devil (that's because Lucifer has many false preachers working for him). But real true preachers do exist. And the system of the preacher which Jesus set up is still right and can save your soul. Your concept that "we're not supposed to follow the preacher" is actually only a trick of Lucifer that will send your soul to hell. The preacher is our guide. He is God's ambassador on earth. Jesus set up the system of the preacher and then left them here so we'd have a guide on earth to tell us about the things of God and how to be saved. Lucifer knows this. And he knows that if we don't follow the preacher and do what he says, then we have no chance of being saved…

      October 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Knee

      Silly Rabbit
      unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit he will not inherit eternal life. The fruit of the Spirit are the evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. It is more important to have this than any outer appearance piety. I am a Pastor so then you must heed my word by your own doctrine.

      October 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Knee, you are correct that Jesus said (John 3:5) "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." But what does that mean? That is the part you are misunderstanding…

      Being born or water is referring to the baptism. A person must be baptized in water as one part of the requirement to be saved (even Jesus himself was baptized in water). The other part of the requirement is being born of the Spirit, which is referring to receiving the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:38). Once you have obtained both of those things, only then can you enter into the kingdom of God. Fail to do this and you are going to the lake…

      Lastly, the "fruits of the Spirit" and "being born of the Spirit" are two different things. The "fruits of the Spirit" being referred to in the New Testament is referring to spiritual traits (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc) that must be attained and put on by people who are already saved, to be put on by people who already have the Holy Ghost. Without the Holy Ghost, a person cannot attain those things. Putting on fruits of the spirit is not referring to unsaved people in the world. A newborn saint who has just gotten saved (just received the Holy Ghost) does not yet have any of those traits (fruits of the spirit). Thus, the bible instructs us to go on to put on those fruits so we can become more like Jesus…

      Galations 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

      Ephesians 4:24 – And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. *(This is talking to people who are already saved, who already have the Holy Ghost, telling them to put on the "new man" or the fruits of the spirit)…

      October 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • lowellthomson

      You are delusional....DELUSIONAL! But that's OK. We all are sometimes. It's a natural consequence of the brain chemistry related to feeling secure.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Lowelithomson, any fool can say I'm delusional. But proving it is another thing altogether. So where's your proof?…

      October 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Nii

      Silly Rabbit
      A doctrine culled from the Bible is not the Bible. Read the passage where you took those verses from. Contextual reading if you can do it will help you understand what I am talking about. Memory verses taken out of context can say anything. Ask a Jehovah Witness!

      October 10, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  5. Silly Rabbit

    Elly, you are also deceived. The only reason you have not found "spiritual fulfillment" is because you have not been to the right church or to a church that is truly saved. The only churches you have been to are the false ones (the ones started by Lucifer) and that is why you do not feel fulfilled.

    There are millions of people in the world today just like you who are going through life each day and trying to do the best they can. But just doing the best you can is not going to save you. You'll still end up in hell. To be saved you must do what Jesus said and follow the system he has set up for your soul to be saved. And the system he set up is the system of the church and the system of the preacher. The reason you are confused is because just like Jesus set up his church and then chose 12 apostles to be his first preachers to teach the people the truth and to tell them how to be saved, Lucifer has also set up many false churches all over the world and has many false preachers working for him in an attempt to mislead you and to deceive you. Such false churches are workers of iniquity. And their sole job is to mislead you and to deceive you, and to send your soul to hell. But just because false churches exist, that don't mean that real true churches do not exist. Trust me, they do, only they are rare. And you should continue searching and praying for God to lead you to one, until you can find one. And should you ever find one, not only will that church be able to tell you and show how to truly be saved the right way, but you will also find the true spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction you've been searching for. I have found it and I couldn't be happier...

    October 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      The above post wasn't supposed to go there (it was directed at a post below). Sorry about that, since there is no way to delete it...

      October 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Knee

      Silly Rabbit
      Do I detect your brain overheating? Contention is a fruit of the flesh so is sectarianism and religious bigotry. And the thief on the cross was not "saved' then what is grace? Bear fruit of the Spirit! You will feel more relaxed n at peace cos God is with u! I love u as myself!

      October 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Knee, yes we are indeed "saved by the grace of God". But we have to obey the word of God and do what it says in order to receive that grace (and when have you followed Acts 2:38?). If you disobey the word, you'll still go to hell. You cannot do whatever you want and still expect to be saved...

      October 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Knee

      Silly Rabbit
      I am a pastor. I do not do what I want or live my life anyhow. I just found that the only way to obey God is to love my neighbor as myself n with this the fruit of the spirit start showing. Religious dogma is useless to cultivate fruit. You lied about the thief to suit your doctrine.

      October 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Dan Brayall

      When you make the claim that the reality is that most people reject religion because they are looking for an excuse, you are claiming a lot of mind reading abilities I really doubt you have. You truly can't speak to the motives of others other than as a personal opinion that has no more value than anyone elses and probably some bias as well.
      I am a former Christian who used the brain and powers of reason I have to examine Christian doctrine in a sincere search for the truth and found it severely lacking . I know a lot of other former Christians who have had the same experience.
      Many people reject Christianity because the people who claim to be Christians fail to live up to the teachings they claim to value. There are a lot of good people out there from various religions and many with no religion at all. If the lable of Christian tells us absolutely nothing about the character of a person, what good is it.

      October 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  6. OldAtheist

    Saying you're 'spiritual' is a fancy way of saying you have a particular kind of emotional response to some things. Magic believers think these emotional responses are evidence of supernatural forces. Atheists think these emotional responses are emotional responses.
    Yes, it is a kind of cop-out for those who are unsure about their lack of religious beliefs. Some people just can't admit that they might not believe in god. They are at least part way on the path of accepting reality as non-magical.

    October 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Elly

    I have promised myself as of late to be less judgemental of people, but while reading this article, I couldn't help but feel the author's one sided view on the matter, and his anti "I'm spiritual but not religious" vibe, the scrutiny for being spiritual and the scrutiny of not belonging to a religion or being religious and going to church.
    The reason people are less prone on going to church in today's day and age is that it doesn't provide us with the fullfillment that we are all searching for- the spiritual fullfillment. Some white haired bearded man sitting up on the clouds deciding whether we go to heaven or hell seems fairytale like and far fetched, that is mystical, believing that something great is in all of us is not...
    Are all truths of life meant to be uncovered? Maybe not, because most of us aren't open minded enough to accept these truths. However that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to discover them, especially if we have a willingness to understand.
    As a society and as a civilization we have become selfish, nothing to do with religion or spirituality, it's always each man for himself, and get as much as you can.
    Until there is a 'religion', a 'group' or a whatever one would like to call it, that organizes people to search within themselves for a greater good, to help others, to live in peace and harmony, to not blasphemize others because they are different, I will not be calling myself religious.
    Do I go to church? Sometimes. Do I consider myself spiritual? Yes. Am I perfect? No. Do I try to understand where we came from and what our purpose is on this Earth? Yes. Do I accept that there's things that are beyond my understanding at this time, to include the Bible, but not constricted to just the Bible? Yes. Do I try to do good? As much as I can, but I don't always.
    Every little bit counts, just because I don't get together with a group of people and sit around with them, does not make me a selfish person, but by doing things that make the world a better place, that make me happy, and in turn make the world around me a better happier place, I am automatically attracting like minded people, and that is organized enough.
    I agree that the Bible holds great truths and great ideals, morals we should value and follow, but I don't believe in a religion that burns, tortures, kills, and so on; just so that I can say I belong to a group and appear to be less selfish.
    The Bible did a great deal to help people to read, the author states, but haven't there been made discoveries of civilizations, intelligent civilizations at that, that existed before the Bible? ............Nothing to do with the Bible then.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Nii

      Elly you are a true shining light! Christianity and being like Christ have become two different things and that is sad

      October 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Elly, you are also deceived. The only reason you have not found "spiritual fulfillment" is because you have not been to the right church or to a church that is truly saved. The only churches you have been to are the false ones (the ones started by Lucifer) and that is why you do not feel fulfilled.

      There are millions of people in the world today just like you who are going through life each day and trying to do the best they can. But just doing the best you can is not going to save you. You'll still end up in hell. To be saved you must do what Jesus said and follow the system he has set up for your soul to be saved. And the system he set up is the system of the church and the system of the preacher. The reason you are confused is merely because just like Jesus set up his church and then chose 12 apostles to be his first preachers to teach the people the truth and to tell them how to be saved, Lucifer has also set up many false churches all over the world and has many false preachers working for him in an attempt to mislead you and to deceive you. They are workers of iniquity. And their sole job is to mislead you and to deceive you, to send your soul to hell. But just because false churches exist, that don't mean that real true churches do not exist. Trust me, they do, only they are rare. And you should continue searching and praying for God to lead you to one, until you find one. And should you ever find one, not only will that church be able to tell you and show how to truly be saved, but you will also find the true spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction that you've been searching for…

      October 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  8. danna

    Let me start out with honest open disclosure. I am religious and a regular church goer. I was raised athiest and virtually NEVER attended church until I was in my 20's

    I don't disagree that throughout the course of history men have committed many atrocities and religion (as well as a great many other things) has been used as an excuse and a justification for them. But, I would posit that on balance religion and religious people have done far more good in the world than evil. Churches comfort the sick, provide for the poor, mourn with the mourning. A great many religious people (I would guess the majority) provide hours and hours and hours of unpaid service to others both within and outside their own religiou communities. So to say that religion is nothing but an evil manipulative force in the world is really just biggoted and ill informed.

    October 9, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      I agree, but the reality is, the vast majority of people you see condemning religion are actually only looking for an excuse not to believe in any religion, just so they'll have an excuse to continue doing what they are doing and committing sin. They don't want to believe that there is any truth to religion because if they did they'd have to give up their junk and garbage and stop committing sin. And they don't want to do that.

      But such people who live in denial shall not escape. They'll still have to face the judgment of God on Judgment Day…

      October 9, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      I would also like to add that there are very few things in life that can't be used for both good or evil. And just because they can be used for both good or evil, that doesn't make them inherently evil….

      For example, a simple piece or rope lying on the ground can be used to save a person's life by pulling them from the water. Yet, that same piece of rope in the hands of someone evil, can be used to strangle someone and to take their life. Does that make the rope itself evil and should we all fear rope? No, it does not. It only makes the person who is misusing the rope evil. Likewise, religion in the hands of a true sent preacher can do the greatest good and can save a person's eternal soul whereby they can live forever. Yet, in the hands of someone evil, that same religion can be misused and can send your soul to hell. Does that make religion itself evil. No, it does not. It only makes the person who is misusing it evil…

      October 9, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Knee

      Religion is not the same as religiosity. Religion offers up two paths-religiosity and spirituality. Likewise Non-belief offers up the same. Mouse is not necessarily a rodent so calling urself religious is not necessarily id'ing urself with the negative religiosity. Piety is good

      October 9, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Knee

      1. A person in a monastic group
      2. A pious person
      3. A person who believes that religious works like fasting, evangelism, prayer and holy wars will take him to Heaven. He also is typically convinced that his religion is the best and all others are false. As such he has to curtail them.

      October 9, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Knee, that nonsense you're talking doesn't even matter. And arguing about whether religion and spirituality are the same doesn't even matter. For Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned." Therefore, the only thing that matters is whether you are doing what Jesus said and will be saved. Because if you don't, then you'll be cast into the lake of fire on Judgment Day and all that other stuff you believe in won't even matter…

      October 9, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Nii

      Silly Rabbit
      Was the thief on the cross baptised?
      People who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit are those who are acceptable to God not the people who answer altar calls, baptised, circu.mcised, church goers or any such.

      October 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Nii

      My struggle to attain spirituality is far easier than your struggle to attain religiosity. If that makes you sad then thats you but I have the full assurance of my salvation!

      October 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Nil, to answer your question…no the thief on the cross was not baptized. And he also was not saved either. He still went to hell. When Jesus told him, Ye shall be with me in paradise, that "paradise" was not referring to "heaven". It merely meant that Jesus would take the "sting of death" so the thief would not feel that sting going down. It merely meant the thief was in peace or in paradise while going down to hell. The thief was not by any means saved…

      Concerning your second statement, people who are not saved do not have the "fruits of the Spirit", nor is it possible for them to have it. They have to get saved first. Jesus himself said "He that believeth AND is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned." You must be baptized to be saved. Do you call Jesus a liar? Furthermore, that "believeth" is not referring to you simply believing that God exists. Even Lucifer believes that God exists, yet Lucifer won't be saved either. That believeth is referring to "whosoever believeth in the words of the true sent preacher". This is confirmed in the book of Romans. And the first thing any preacher is going to tell you is to get baptized. Consider Acts 2:38 where they were asking the apostles how to be saved. The Apostle Peter stated, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the give of the Holy Ghost." That is how to be saved. Fail to do this or do anything else and you'll end up in the lake…

      October 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Knee

      Silly Rabbit
      My advise is go home, eat dinner n drag a Bible across your lap and read it leisurely. I will start at the gospels. Read it joyously and open your heart and mind to Jesus.

      October 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Samuel

    God likely doesn't exist. People can communicate with each other in ways that can't be described yet. We go to a concert angry, sit next to 30,000 happy people, and generally leave happier than when we arrived. That stuff works for megachurches, pep rallies, even Hitler. We don't need to talk to communicate. Twins claim to feel each other's pain or emotion. Whether this is proven, none of it requires a god or jesus or mohammed to make it work. Some people call it spirituality, others can claim that it is a property of biology. Does the spirit continue into death? I would say doubtful. But the essense of someone's footprint in the physical world can remain so long as we have writings, mementos / memories, feelings, or follow teachings, or imitate behaviors of people. So this is an argument of semantics. Religious people don't want their word "spirit" to be co-opted unless it means that thing that is given to you by god and then judged and destroyed in hell when you die.

    October 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  10. Sheila

    When someone says this, I ask what it means. What do they believe in? A supreme being? Which one? What do they believe this being can do? What methods do they use to recognize this being? Etc. Generally, they have no answer to any question regarding their "spirituality." Ask what they practice in their spirituality – meditation, centering, reading, chakras, etc – and the answer is nothing. It's not a thought out answer, it's a cop out answer.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Generalizing based on your own limited experience shows a failure of thinking.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Besides, based on your post, it seems that the criteria ffor it being a cop out is it doesn't have the pretend answers your religion does.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  11. OhDayStar

    "Lucifers greatest trick is to convince man he does not exist."

    Oh , really ? I see it more as the Church's greatest trick is to make you believe Lucifer -does- exist. as an alternate name for Satan. The name "Lucifer" is actually something known as a transliteration error, in the KJV.


    October 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Wikipedia was written by sinners. Thus is of the devil...

      October 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sheila

      Silly Rabbit – the Bible was written down by sinners and edited by sinners for 1,000 years. The only thing God ever wrote directly was the 10 commandments, and even that got a second shot after the tablets were broken. There is no writing extant today that did not have the opportunity to be corrupted by man. So don't pick on Wikipedia. Everything is written by sinners.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • What IF

      Sheila: "The only thing God ever wrote directly was the 10 commandments..."

      Oh, really? Where are they? The purportedly most important item in the history of the World or the Universe and it's.... "Oooops, we lost 'em!

      October 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Sheila, whoever told you the bible was written by sinners lied to you. However, I do admit that many of the new translation bibles you see today have been modified from the original and are therefore of the devil. So don't read those. But the original scriptures were written by the apostles and by the prophets and were directly inspired by the Holy Ghost. Which means, God himself directed those men on what to write. Therefore, the original scriptures of the bible were written by God. The new translations which came after that were written by the devil in order to deceive you (and that includes Wikipedia)…

      2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God...

      October 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • OneTruth

      No wonder your name is Silly.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Nii

      silly Rabbit
      Why don't we all learn to speak Koine Greek, Aramaic and colloquial Hebrew so that we can follow the Bible in its original tongues. King James is not so accurate. For one it call rhinos unicorns!

      October 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  12. Gregory Adamson

    One of the main lines that organized religion and the bible uses to snag people is by saying "you can not go to heaven unless you believe in Jesus". I believe this line was added in the bible by the catholic church to wedge people toward their system of religion and make them feel there was no other way to "go to heaven".

    October 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      I find it really funny that you can so easily question the bible and it's validity (which was written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Ghost)… yet you can so easily accept without question any lie or piece of slander against the word of God spoken by devils and by sinners and by people who aren't even saved. If you're so interested in the truth, then why didn't you question the validity of their statements?…

      October 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  13. Sam Webster, m.div

    It is interesting to see that most of this discussion is centered around belief. This is an artifact of living in the west. Most of the rest of the MANY religions and/or spiritualities in the world do not base themselves on a set of doctrines (beliefs). The way is to practice the religion: meditation, good deeds, ritual observances, etc. What it all 'means' is up to the individual and that changes over time. No authority is going to tell you what to 'believe'. Or put another way: the problem here comes from the nature of the question. In particular, religion doesn't need to be about believing in 'God', it can be a community of practice, company on the journey.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      You may not choose to believe in God or believe in the scriptures, but that don't mean you won't be affected by it just because you don't believe it. You'll still end up in the lake if you don't believe. For example, Jesus himself said…

      Mark 16:16 – He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      Therefore, feel free to believe whatever you want. But if you don't conform to the scriptures and get baptized, you'll still end up in the lake. And in such a case, all that other stuff you believe in won't even matter…

      October 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  14. pat

    Spiritual but not religious? I suppose you have to start somewhere.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  15. THE POPE ,NOT!

    Grown ups who tell little 5 year old kids that they are sinners as I did
    hear in Catholic school & now sort of in my maturity sounds weird .
    Religions that cut a baby boys penis are weird.
    I just feel that we should all do kindness and help each other what
    remains after death is a mystery religious or not ,how can one prove
    The dead don't speak ,even those that say they do come backare a
    religion or at least TV Psychics.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • From the WORD

      Luke 16:19-31

      October 8, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  16. hanelse

    Understanding spirituality without religion depends on your definition of spirituality. The definition I accept is this: Spirituality is our emotional response to the world and our place in it. Therefore, spirituality is in our emotional makeup. Religion is the socially accepted outlet of spirituality prescribed by whatever culture we live in. The same relationship can be seen between love and marriage. Love is also part of our emotional makeup. Marriage, however, is the socially accepted outlet of it, the social construct our culture prescribes.

    The problem comes in when the socially accepted outlet does not meet the needs of the individual. Just like marriage, mainstream religion isn't for everyone, but those who feel strongly about social order pressure others to accept the outlet. It's disrespectful and arrogant to assume everyone will benefit from our preferred way of life.

    I'm thankful (to no particular deity but to the universe in general) that we're growing away from the one-size-fits-all culture that was necessary for survival in the past and toward a more inclusive acceptance that respects individuality while embracing the whole.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • From the WORD

      Hebrews 11:3
      Emotion is human. Love comes from God.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Anthony Zarrella

      "Thankful to the universe"? How exactly do you mean that?

      If by "the universe" you mean some sort of cosmic all-spirit, then that's a variant on God (not one I personally ascribe to, but not a particularly uncommon one). In that case, "the universe" must have some attributes that can differentiate it as a being to whom one can be thankful (as opposed to simply "the aggregate of all the stuff out there"). Once you go down that path, you are inevitably committed to something very like religion.

      On the other hand, if by "the universe" you simply mean "the stuff out there" – "this whole big something in which we exist", then it seems somewhat silly to be "thankful" to it. I'm thankful to my parents for many things, including my birth, but not for the physical characteristics they've passed on to me – because they had no choice in which chromosomes I got. In the same way, the universe-as-stuff can't be in any way responsible for what you see as positive changes in society, because it is not a being, and has no volition.

      It seems to me that this drive among atheists/agnostics/secularists to find *something* to "thank" when they feel that things are going their way is just proof that you can excise God from your mind, but not from your heart.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • hanelse

      @Anthony Zarrella
      I am thankful to the universe because I believe it flows with life energy that we all exist in and are part of. However, that does not necessarily imply a monotheistic or traditional religious view. In my opinion, someone who can only see the energy of existence as a diametrically opposed good guy/bad guy scenario is limiting themselves to a social construct. Remember, there was spirituality long before there was religion.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  17. WisdomVS

    Silly Rabbit, religion is for kids!!! You obvious have a need to be feed religious rhetoric of a pre-packaged variety that suits your individual taste. Being spiritual deals with one's personal conception of emotional and mental well being. It is not about being a part of a religious group or cult. It is being in harmony with one's surroundings, at peace. So, anyone can be spiritual in their own unique way without having organized religious rhetoric shoved down their throat. So YES, one can indeed be spiritual without being religious. You just need to be educated enough to see the difference. Of course, your denomination probably doesn't allow that level of liberty in free thought and expression.

    October 8, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Wisdom VS,

      And you have been tricked by Lucifer. I stand by my previous statement...

      October 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  18. Silly Rabbit

    The very idea or concept that a person can be "spiritual" without being "religious" is nothing more than a lie and a trick of Lucifer that will send your soul to the lake. It is a trick to get to you to think and to believe that you can disregard the system of salvation which God has already set up for saving your soul (the system of the church and the system of the preacher) and to believe you can get to God all by yourself without a church and without a preacher. But Lucifer knows that is not true. Lucifer knows that all who believe such nonsense will end up in the lake. Which is exactly what he wants. To be saved, a person MUST follow the system of salvation which God has already set up (the system of the church and the system of the preacher) whether you want to do it or not. Follow any other system or any other path, and rest assured, you will end up in the lake. Count on it.

    Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Trix

      Silly Rabbit,

      Lucifer? He's the Master Deceiver, right? What's to keep him from concocting this whole religious thang... even writing all of those "scriptures" in slightly different flavors - toss in a generous portion of talk of "love" 'n stuff, add the promise of eternal life in bliss for more allure - then sit back and watch everyone fight their whole lives away! 😈

      October 8, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Trix, without there being a God, without there being a heaven and a hell, without there being an afterlife, what would be the point of Lucifer trying to deceive you? He'd have no motive…

      Thus, if Lucifer exists, then so also does God exists. You either believe what Lucifer says, or you believe what God says...

      October 8, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Trix

      You have no idea what any god "says"...

      October 8, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Vinnie Vegas

      This was a pretty good troll. You can figure it out cause he types way too well to actually believe in anything he wrote.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Trix, ever heard of the "Word of God"? It's not called the Word of God for nothing…

      October 8, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Trix

      Silly Rabbit,

      What makes you think that The Bible is the "word of 'God'"?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Silly Rabbit

      And what makes you think it is not?...

      2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God...

      October 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Trix

      Sorry, Silly Rabbit - a book cannot verify itself.

      The Quran says that it is true.
      The Book of Mormon says that it is true.
      L. Ron Hubbard's books say that they are true.
      For crying out loud, "The Bridges of Madison County" even says it's a true story.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Trix, I'm not relying on just a book. I'm relying on Jesus Christ who was a real person and the Son of God who walked upon this earth, and he has verified the scriptures are true. That same Jesus then chose out 12 Apostles, to be his first preachers, to spread the word and to teach others that the scriptures are true. The following is what Jesus said to his Apostles…

      Matthews 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...

      October 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Trix

      Silly Rabbit,
      "Jesus said to his Apostles: Matthews 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..."

      No, that is something that someone writing under the name of 'Matthew' *said* that Jesus said.


      October 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      Matthew was one of the apostles who was there and who heard Jesus speak those words. It is an eyewitness account. You were not there, so who are you to dispute it?...

      October 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Trix

      Silly Rabbit,

      Nobody knows who this "Matthew" was.

      Christian tradition has generally taught that the Gospel According to Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle, but modern Bible scholars have discredited this. It is most likely the product of a second-generation Christian, probably a convert from Judaism.

      You were not there either. Who are you to confirm it?

      October 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Shootmyownfood

      What is this lake you keep talking about? Any fish there? Can you show me a picture?

      October 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Silly Rabbit

      I have told you who "Matthew" was. He was one of the apostles, whether you believe that fact or not...

      Those things written by so-called "modern Bible scholars" are of the devil. They are of those who have "departed from the truth".

      1 Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

      "Doctrines of devils" refers to doctrines and teachings not according to what the apostles taught. As for being there, I never said I was. And neither was you. Thus, you and I are not in a position to "confirm" anything. Our job is only to believe. Jesus said, "For he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned". He said nothing about us obtaining proof or confirmation…

      October 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  19. Ceonist

    Religion is a disease... religious "belief" is a psychological problem, an mental malfunction... and I hope it will be treated as such in the future.
    It's strange that while most civilized countries are becoming less and less religious(in many European countries less than half the population believes in any kind of "God"), the U.S. is so far behind in this natural and positive evolution(more intellectual progress=less religious belief). Unfortunately religion seems to have a very strong hold on American culture. (Don't misunderstand, I love the U.S.A)
    In my mind, being spiritual is the total opposite of being religious. For me spirituality simply means the process of searching for deeper understanding of myself and of the universe as a whole(or the totality of existence). Religion blocks that search by just delivering some primitive nonsensical answers(like from the bible, Koran, etc). If you already think you know the answers then you stop searching. But I don't think the answers to the big spiritual questions is something that simple beings like us humans can comprehend. So I see spirituality as an mental and scientific evolution/search without any end in sight.
    I do not "believe" in God. For me the question is rather: is the entirety of existence a single conscious being? That would be something I could define as God. And the obvious(and only rational) answer to that question is of course: "I don't know".
    Some things are beyond the scope of our (extremely limited) human mental capacities, and that includes the answers to many of our spiritual questions, therefor an agnostic approach seems to me to be the most scientific. But an rational agnostic approach would of course dismiss the answers delivered by religion as obvious nonsense.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • stillthinking

      this article is not about religion nor spirituality.
      it is about yet another non-profit family values group attacking a group of people they do not understand, nor have taken the time to understand before they attack.
      It is an obvious defamation and degradation of people who must be in some way different from the author, or perhaps, the author hates himself and identifies with the group – so he goes on line to perform self-flagation because it is that time of year for some religions ... so the whole thing is seriously just bigotry, and hatred of several different groups of miniorities from what i can tell ...
      and yet people keep talking about spirituality and religion as if that is what this is even about
      right ... hate crime for votes ... where did 'we' just see that???
      the guy owes everyone, including himself, an apology.
      and ... the stories say things in the words they had to describe what they had to say in the time that it was written
      you can still learn from them ...

      October 8, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • From the WORD

      Job 40:6-14
      The Bible is not primitive nonsense. You should read it and talk with a knowledgeable pastor about it. You will find many answers about our existence, more and better than science will ever offer.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      There is no evidence to support the existence of any god. There is no evidence to support the claim that the bible is god's word. Finding comfort in a book of Middle Eastern mythology is not terribly different than thinking that your teddy bear will protect you from the monster under the bed.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • From the WORD

      Romans 1:19-20
      There are over 40 authors of the 66 books that make up the Bible. None of them contradict any other. It was written over the course of thousands of years, and is still the same today. No one has been able to destroy the Bible. It's nothing like a book of mythology. It is the Living Word of God.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Know What

      From the Word,

      Do you know how the books of The Bible were selected? It was done by a committee of early churchmen who VOTED on which old writings to include. They hand-picked only those which followed their "party line". There are contradictions, inaccuracies and no way to tell what is metaphor, allegory or poetic license and what is purported to be fact.

      The Bible is a book which includes *some* history of primitive Hebrew culture, and *some* good advice for practical, beneficial human behavior, but mostly it is a compilation of ancient Middle Eastern historical fiction, myth, legend, superst.ition and fantasy.

      The NT is a collection of the writings of various 1st century evangelists who were promoting their new offshoot religion.

      There is not a whit of verified evidence for any of the supernatural beings and events in that book.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • From the WORD

      Hi Know What,
      Yes, I am familiar with the Council of Nicaea. God works through human beings, so it is only fitting that a group of humans gathered to unite Christian churches. It makes sense that younger churches of that day would need to be united under a selected and approved teaching.

      I have not read the books that were not chosen for the Bible because I haven't found anything lacking in my Bible. Are there any specific contradictions or inaccuracies you would like to discuss? What makes you say it is historical fiction, etc? If it were inaccurate in general, don't you think there would be various books from that time stating so? How do you explain the fulfillment of so many prophecies that are known to have existed long before the NT was written?

      The issue of evidence is a very difficult argument to overcome. I doubt anything I say will overcome your thought on that. But the fact that Christianity has continued through time would seem to counterbalance that point, no?

      October 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Nii

      I see this half-truth being peddled all the time
      1. The Old Testament Canon was defined by the Council of Jamnia in the 1st century AD. Reference is made in St Paul's letter to Timothy in which he says " All Scripture is inspired by God". He obviously did not like this. At the time Christianity was not separate from Judaism so the ruling was accepted by Christians.
      2.The New Testament Canon was by Ireneaus a 2nd century bishop. It was one of the reforms aimed at fighting Gnosticism-A pseudo-Christian religion.
      3. The Creeds were formulated in the 4th Century by Church Councils which were just not possible at the time of Roman persecution when the Bible was being finalized. They define Orthodox Christianity-Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism. There were and still are other branches of Christianity.
      4. The Emperor Constantinus donated Bibles in Greek to many Churches. He did not modify the way they read. To do thatHe should have had power over all Christians. He however did not as a lot of Christians lived beyond the extents of the Roman Empire. And the Jews also had enough Old Testaments to know if the Bible being printed were fakes.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Anti-Theist

      I think your personal definition of spirituality is really just saying you take a philosophical or epistomological approach to knowing the answers to these unanswered questions. Socrates used to say that the only thing he knows for sure, is that he doesn't know anything at all.

      I also want to point out that atheism is not a religion. It doesn't suggest any new doctrine to believe in. Actually, most atheists are honest enough to say that science hasn't proved everything about our existence yet – they just can't believe in something on insubstantial evidence. I think most atheists (me included) could be easily persuaded with clear evidence. Actually, if there is an omniscient God/Being, this really shouldn't be that hard for him/it to do.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Knee

      Your post is a typical Creed of Atheism or more accurately Empiricism. This is wholly insufficient as humans have other senses beside their five rational ones. Not every experience is true as illusionists have proven.

      October 9, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Knee

      Christ came to teach spirituality and frowned openly on religious bigotry n sectarianism. If u want to follow the path of religiosity then u r not following his way. U r religious(3). The problem in the West is that spirituality is seen as negative by the mostly religious(3) clergy.

      October 9, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  20. stillcannotbelieveit

    yoga is not a religion – it is a form of exercise and meditation – at least in USA
    even older people are being taught it now for health and stress relief and arthritis, etc.
    you are so wrong Alan – Apologize – you seriously make me upset with attacking this group of people for no reason other than to muster a vote.
    you are the worst of the worst

    October 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • lowellthomson

      Yoga uses some of the same mechanisms in the brain as religious ceremonies in order to achieve the "unitary sensation". So it's directly related biologically. People can add whatever social judgments they wish.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • yogaisbetter

      yoga is quicker because it also heals the body – mind connections & nervous system, and provides more real lasting inner peace and understanding as it relates directly to the body chemistry and techniques that if understood correctly – can be used for both religious, spiritual, exercise, and scientific wellness of same and more than religion – mantras are sound vibrations – and use concept of god and oneness for focus into inner peace and connection and meditative detachment.
      many more need to learn it – especially in this day and age.
      religious nor religiosity should deem to hold this back.
      the nonsupport and nonunderstanding of all that yoga encompasses and implies is silenced and discriminated against in large part to the political, economic, and fear based control aspects of religion – et. al.

      October 20, 2012 at 3:25 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.