Are You Spiritual but Not Religious?

Or do you consider that philosophy a cop-out?

A CNN opinion piece recently highlighted the growing trend of people identifying as spiritual, but not religious.

Writer Allen Miller believes the trend "highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society." Young people in particular are moving toward this philosophy -- a belief system that takes a little Buddhist meditation here, a little Sermon on the Mount there -- and are drifting ever so steadily away from religious institutions.

If you were to see the Gothic, breathtakingly beautiful cathedrals of Europe on a Sunday morning, you wouldn't be surprised. They're mostly empty. Postmodernism hit Europe after WWII, causing a generation to feel abandoned by a personal Creator. (Not the only contributing factor, but one of them.)

Two questions here: why are so many people jumping on the "spiritual but not religious" bandwagon? (This includes more than just the yoga-loving, existentialist under-30 crowd here. This also includes the mega-church members who go to hear a "lite" sermon that makes them feel good but rarely refers to a theological tome. And Oprah.)

And do you consider yourself one of the spiritual ones? If so, why?

Robert Higgins October 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM
"Hogwash, Mr. Higgins. There is no "all out assault on Christianity," unless it is from within. The crazy people who spew hatred in the name of Christ have made everyone else wary of all Christians, and unfortunately sane Christians get tarred with that brush. But the war on Christianity is a figment of the right-wing imagination" Ms Pingel, Thank You for confirming my point and opinions on the matter.
Gail Lane October 02, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Robert - why on earth would you question Brian's Christianity? Do you NOT see that this is EXACTLY the kind of Christian behavior that we're talking about? A Christian bashing another Christian. Dude. No wonder so many folks are "Spiritual but not religious."
Ryan Smith (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Gail, Yes, in my experience the Christian groups that cry persecution are generally the same ones making the negative headlines. Christianity is the majority religion in this country. The vast majority of elected officials at the state and national level are professing Christians. Christians are objectively not persecuted in this country.
Robert Higgins October 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
"But there are those churches and groups routinely making headlines that cast all Christians in a bad light. Maybe these are the folks crying persecution?" In my opinion, this is why an alarming number of citizens continue to distrust the American media. Why would so-called Christians be in the news on a routine basis if the media didn't cherrypick the stories to bring you on a daily basis? The majority of Christians remain silent for a reason.
Carl Smith October 02, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I agree with Laura. People who want to be self-reliant (and that is what they are even if they do not admit it) feel they do not need God's help for salvation. And since they have free will that is is their perogative rightly or wrongly to do so.
Rachel October 02, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I am currently reading an interesting book on this very matter, The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey. In it, Mr. Cavey discusses the Jesus of the Bible as a man fighting against religion and all of the traditions and icons religion looks up. He cites specific biblical examples, and so far, his argument for "spirituality over religiousness" (read: Christianity is different from Catholicism, Baptist, etc.) is very compelling. I have always struggled with all the idea and traditions and icons that my religion gets caught up with. I grew up in going to Southern Baptist church(es) and my family was burned by a number of them because people take things in the bible (Old Testament) too far (divorce, being single, sacrifice, etc.). If you are Christian, is this not why Christ came to save us from...all of the tradition and rules and labels of the Old Testament? Jesus is the manifestation of God's love. Personally, I choose to be a follower of Christ because of THAT message. This means that I love my Muslim friends, my atheist friends, my agnostic friends, my christian friends all the same; I can talk about Jesus and God if they like, but if they are happy with their beliefs, who am I to love them less? I care about other people as members of humanity; Christians who don't, in my opinion, are not Christians, they are -ists of whatever religion.
Robert Higgins October 02, 2012 at 07:23 PM
A Christian bashing another Christian. Dude. No wonder so many folks are "Spiritual but not religious." Gail - where, in any of my posts, do I say that I am a Christian? My words might have been harsh, but where did I "bash" his Christianity? I was simply trying to point out how he seems to avoid the Christian label by calling himself a liberal. Like it cancels out bad (Christian) with something good (Liberal). Safe. Dude? Thank You for your input as a member of the media.
C.J. October 02, 2012 at 07:40 PM
After reading Rachel's comment, I went to Amazon to read some of the reviews about his book (currently rated 4.6 out of 5 stars). One of the reviewers, B. Green, wrote the following: "More than anything, the predominant theme of this book is a focus upon Jesus Himself in the context of the times in which he lived and ministered. An examination of the Gospels (from which is where most scripture in the book is drawn) shows Jesus as someone who if anything, was a subversive figure, challenging the religious norms of his time and proclaiming that religious forms had come to replace the substance of genuine love for God. Extending this forward to today, Bruxy shows the irony that the 'religion' that Jesus came to overthrow has in many regards come to be established and continued under the name of Christianity but completely foreign to the values and teaching of Jesus Christ and even more-so, the person of Jesus Christ." Smart guy :) Thanks for the great comment, Rachel...and the book recommendation. I placed my order. http://www.amazon.com/review/R1GN5JP7Q1J2VF/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B001BQIYUK&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=
Amy L October 02, 2012 at 08:49 PM
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Matthew 5:17 NAB) "Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God." (2 Peter 20-21 NAB) These are just two of many quotes attributed to Jesus that suggest he was in favor of Old Testament law.
Amy L October 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I think people are just afraid to admit to themselves or to the poll taker that they are actually atheist. Once you admit that the various holy books have no divine influence, all that is left is a nebulous Deism which is functionally no different from atheism.
C.J. October 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. THIS is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12 NAB)
Patricia Sabin October 02, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I consider myself a Christian, because I follow the teachings and the leadership of Jesus, but many people who call themselves Christians have held the dogma but not the message: "Love thy neighbor." Christianity is not the oldest, nor the only world religion. I think Jesus would say that honesty, integrity, and kindness are more important than religion.
Tolstoy? ;p October 02, 2012 at 11:21 PM
The song Me & Jesus by Tom T. Hall best describes my spirituality & religion. I consider myself a Christian & I believe I can be close to God & do the right things in life w/ out being part of organized religion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbehMv7Tlpw I was raised in another state going to Pentecostal churches, I didn't agree w/ all their beliefs, but I didn't have much choice to attend. I went to some other churches on occasion w/ friends Baptists, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Catholic...enjoyed myself, but didn't care much for any of the churches, but still better than the churches "I tried on" once in GA. cont'd
Tolstoy? ;p October 02, 2012 at 11:22 PM
cont'd Attended a cute little Baptist church in Snellville & thought that it could possibly be a nice fit except I got tired of giving money only to have none for gas to work all week while the pastor told of all his trips to Hawaii, one of my children was terrified to go to Sunday school class after one time & that sent red flags about possible child molesters whom hide in churches everywhere, I got tired of being told I was a sinner EACH service (well deh why do you think I'm trying to go to church) & the women making snide comments about the slight cleavage that wasn't showing any more than any of theirs. Then we went to a mega church around Snellville & that was quite frightening! Traffic was backed up w/ police actually directing traffic & a band playing on the lawn w/ tents & booths selling books, tapes, shirts...are we at church or the fair?! So went inside & there are more booths selling things & a Starbucks w/ every creamer flavor imaginable, then go into the church part & the doors LOCK until after the service, not exactly comforting to be locked in & forced to stay. So never went back there. cont'd
Tolstoy? ;p October 02, 2012 at 11:23 PM
cont'd Went to another church because my kids were excited about all the "fun" things their friends said they do, but everyone & their dog felt the need to hug us constantly & the sad organ music always starts up when it's offering time & so on. No thanks...my "tithing" will go to good deeds in the community to help others & I'll just be like Tom T. Hall & kneel at that tree stump in my yard. God's got my (our) back & that's no cop~out! <3 :)
Crystal Huskey (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Great discussion. Thanks, all, for your comments.
Mary S. Lewis October 03, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I agree and disagree with some here. I was raised by my parents to pray every night and ask God to forgive my sins in the name of Jesus Christ who died for me so that I may have life after death on this earth. I have always felt a presence of God throughout my life in good times and bad. I have always considered the positive outcome from faith and prayer. I have also seen corruption around me including the church. To build respect for someone you consider Godly and to look toward this person for guidance only to discover that the very person teaching me is but a disgusting hypocrite. The feeling of disrespect is sickening and extremely hurtful. We as Christians must march forward and continue our mission in life, forgiving our trespassers while knowing that they too are human and sinners. Whether or not you believe in a God or a different God than I or no God at all, it is my belief that self-responsibility and mutual respect for other human beings is the best method in life. I am old and my health is poor. I reckon I will be dead here soon but my faith tells me that I live again in the Kingdom of Heaven and without that faith, I can only imagine the misery and pain in which I would experience each day. Faith is a strong medicine. With it, you may see light. Without it, you may see nothing. Thanks to my beautiful Granddaughter Mary for reading to me and asking me to comment and also for typing for me.
Brian Crawford October 03, 2012 at 10:57 AM
God bless you Mary Lewis. You're in my prayers.
Scott Durham October 03, 2012 at 11:59 AM
I struggled with any form of organized "Christianity". But I read the gospels and actually got the movie "JOHN" a movie based on the book of John that follows the scripture. It really helped me to get a better understanding of, what I understand Jesus to have taught. That he must leave this walk on earth, but he, God - Jesus, would send a spirit to help us through life. Thus (KJV), I am a believer in Jesus Christ as a personal savior, but 100% spiritually led on a day to day basis.
Michael Robinson October 03, 2012 at 12:13 PM
I think the shift from religious to spiritual has more to do with people realizing they can have questions about the purpose and meaning of existence without identifying with a religion. For me, I just say I'm "secular humanist." It's functionally identical to being atheist or agnostic, but without all the stigma created by angry kids who just discovered the word "atheist."
Racer X October 03, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Gail- I read no bashing in Robert's comment. He was just offering his perspective. Brian has a point because many "Christians" you hear from on blogs, etc are from the Far Right. Brian does err in thinking that the vast majority of Christians are that way, when in reality, most are actually not, which is what Robert was saying. Christianity is a good thing. Conversely, CJ was right too. The perception is often that Liberals think Christianity is bad. This due to the fact that many of the "Liberals" you hear from on blogs, etc. are from the Far Left. Reality is that many Liberals are great Christians, many of whom I call dear friends, despite being a Conservative. There are a great many Liberal and Conservative Christians who see eye to eye on most issues. The Far Left and the Far Right serve to divide us when, in fact, we could stand together as one. My uneducated guess is that 15 % on each end of the spectrum divide the 70% of us in the middle who can agree with, or at least understand, each other's point of view. Personally I do not attend church because my life is so busy, but I to still try to be a good Christian. Given the current state of affairs, however, I do plan to start going to church again soon. I feel the need now, more than ever, to make the time. I wish we could reject the Republican and Democratic parties and have a third party to represent the 70% of us in the middle. I would call it the American party.
Jason Caldwell October 03, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Who decides what is absolute truth? The bible is rife with ridiculous nonsense, see the book of Leviticus, about murdering neighbors who work on the Sabbath, marrying a slave you have raped. Is that the truth that I need to have told to me by another fallible human being? No thanks, I think I am better equipped to know the difference between right and wrong than some self-appointed guide. If I am wrong, I will take the hit gladly knowing I spent my life thinking for myself.
Racer X October 03, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Dear Mary S. Lewis, You are AWESOME and so is your Granddaughter. What you have said is all that matters. Thank you, Mike
Jason Caldwell October 03, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Amy L October 03, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Religions almost always form around so called prophets. The unsuccessful ones are dismissed as cult leaders. The more successful ones are eventually deified and revered has having actually been god, the son of god, or at least in direct communication with him. We have a recent example in Joseph Smith. A two-bit con man from New York who told his friends that he found golden plates in his backyard. Today, the Mormon faith has billions of dollars and millions of members, rivaling even the number of Jews. I think the religions we have now will slowly die out. It used to take war and extermination to kill off religions. Convert or die. That doesn't happen as much these days, except in Africa. As more people have free and easy access to information and rely less on superstition, we will see the end of organized religion.
Crystal Huskey (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I had a conversation with an atheist once that said in a random conversation, "I miss Jesus." He missed the comfort of believing that there was someone who always cared for him, that loved everyone and was concerned for every detail of his life. He lost his faith completely at one point, but he yearned for a spiritual connection. I had another friend that once said, "I believe in God, I just don't like him." All of us carry such hurt, and it's hard to reconcile that with a traditional view of God, especially if that hurt is caused by someone who is religious. I don't think the "spiritual but not religious" philosophy is a cop-out at all. I think those who identify as such as still searching. In my life, God introduced himself to me as Jesus. I'll stick to that, but who am I to say how he'll introduce himself to you? And for those who have lost faith... well, it's like losing your best friend, really. So take your time and rekindle that connection. It may lead you back to your roots, or it may not, but it's worth pursuing. Just my two cents on this foggy morning :)
Rosemarie Lieffring October 03, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Honestly, I think the "religious, not spiritual" thing is a reflection of our culture...particularly in the US. We want things "our way". One can be religious by being spiritual and not have to follow any established doctrine. One can create a god of his or her liking. But the Christian Church...it isn't about what we as individuals want. It is about communion, community. We don't do that very well in the US. We are individualistic. It is difficult for us, as individuals, to put aside our personal beliefs and embrace established dogma. We don't like to be constrained and we prefer to modify our dogma to meet our own thoughts about God. We rationalize, "God couldn't possibly mean...." We also come up with all kinds of excuses why Church is bad but individual spirituality is good. There are bad people in Church, they do bad things, they make us uncomfortable, they make us angry, they put a bad mark on the collective whole. I think CS Lewis characterized that well in his Screwtape Letters. If Christians truly lived out the faith...everyone would want to be Christian and this whole "spiritual but not religious" notion would not have any appeal. But such is the work of Saints and of faith. I will say one thing for "spiritual, not religious". It at least admits that humans seek something beyond their fact-based intellect. There is a dimension to our being that basic science cannot satisfy. It is a start...
Sue Stover October 04, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Rachel, thanks for the book recommendation. I am agreeing with what you say and what the book description says. For another recommendation on "making sense" of Jesus, the Bible, and theology that includes atonement theories, read CLEAR FAITH: CLEARING AWAY STUMBLING BLOCKS FOR A FAITH THAT MAKES SENSE, from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles on-line, and Lulu.com. I find the atonement theories most offensive and hard to swallow--that an all-loving God would even consider "sending" his son, Jesus, with the intentional purpose of dying an excruciating death "because of our sins." What kind of God is that?! Uncreative, unloving, and self-centered ... traits I would not attribute to "God."
Elizabeth October 05, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Thank you, Miss Mary, for your testimony. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is, indeed, a strong medicine.
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