Alan Miller, co-director at the New York Salon, a collaborative hub of intellectuals, artists, and more that debate contemporary issues, put forth a quality article on the Belief Blog at CNN today. Miller’s post tackles the all-to-common expression, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Miller notes that this refrain is especially common among the younger U.S. population which tends to dismiss anything institutional as inauthentic. This reaction has not been helpful and has created a “spiritual” people lacking doctrinal substance (and I would add true spiritual vitality, orthodoxy, and the like). As far as I know, Miller is not a Christian, but his insights are helpful:
Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent – by choosing an “individual relationship” to some concept of “higher power”, energy, oneness or something-or-other – they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.
That attitude fits with the message we are receiving more and more that “feeling” something somehow is more pure and perhaps, more “true” than having to fit in with the doctrine, practices, rules and observations of a formal institution that are handed down to us.
The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.
How has this “spirituality” found its place today? Miller wisely observes,
It is within the context of today’s anti-big, anti-discipline, anti-challenging climate – in combination with a therapeutic turn in which everything can be resolved through addressing my inner existential being – that the spiritual but not religious outlook has flourished.
What has happened as a result? Sin is no longer a rebellion against the living God, but weakness. In “spiritual” circles, sin is not destructive, but a mistake that one can brush past.
Miller concludes his remarks by noting that this spiritual person is not just lacking substance, but is in a sense – a softy: “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.”
Read the full article here.