the spiritual not religious cop out

Alan Miller, Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London's Old Truman Brewery, offers a few thoughts in a post titled "My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out". Here are a few excerpts ...

The increasingly common refrain that "I'm spiritual, but not religious," represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious "movement" - an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect - highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.

It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today.
The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind. What is it, this "spiritual" identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?
Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience "nice things" and "feel better." There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us. At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world.

But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is "something out there," so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions - and for the future.

Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.


  1. I would have to agree with this assessment. The advantage of being spiritual in this sense is being able to avoid committing to anything definite. Belief without commitment to something definite is meaningless.

  2. I have read and studied the Bible. I believe that the Bible is the greatest book ever written. I love going to a spirit filled church. And,I have read and understand history; the varied interpretations of the Bible and the many historical rewritings of the Bible. For Alan Miller to take the belief in God and adherence to one set of scripture, tied together, as the non-copout route is to me the definition of irony.
    I believe that God has been the source for the scripture of many religions. And, I believe that scripture is corrupted by man in both it's written form and it's daily execution. I see the non-copout religious use "the word of God" for ulterior motives in every religion the world over. Religion (to me) is the adherence to one sect of peoples scripture. It's the glue that binds more than the actual belief in God. And to me, it's that one set of scripture against another set of scripture mindset that divides us and causes much of the worlds grief.
    To entwine the two, the belief in God and following scripture, is exactly the problem for me as a persons who feels close to the idea of "spiritual but not religious". I look at scripture with open eyes for the truth of what I believe is God yet adhere to not one complete set of writings wholly as a disciplined thoughtful pursuit of spiritual growth. I believe in God and His holy intentions for us but I don't believe that scripture is the actual word of God? Which makes me non religious. And that's no copout.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Steve! I think that it is all about the definition of what it means to be "religious". Many do not want to be associated with a religion because they see a relationship with God as "spiritual" and not "religious". I guess I am okay with someone saying they are non-religious as long as their life is not filled with religious activities like going to church or similar religious activities.

      When I was younger I saw myself as non-religious even though I did many religious things. In contrast, a person who simply follows God, has the fruit of the Spirit in their life but does not do the religious stuff may indeed be spiritual but not religious?

      Of course James does say that pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.


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