Beliefnet
Chattering Mind

Do you ever describe yourself as “spiritual, but not religious?” I actually don’t since my personal faith leaves room for a lot of doubt. I don’t reject religious affiliation by insisting that I’m merely a “spiritual” person. I can stay interested in dogma, but still not subscribe to it. Anyone else have this kind of religious identity? Can you explain it any better?

Here’s noted religion writer and editor Philip Zaleski writing about the spiritual but not religious crowd in his introduction to “The Best American Spiritual Writing of 2006.” The whole anthology is especially excellent this year.

How often have we heard a person say “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual”? The argument suggests that religion imposes a set of doctrinal beliefs and the ethical behaviors that spring from it: conviction leads to conduct, belief influences behavior. An ingredient in most religious practice is the conviction that the practices and beliefs of that particular tradition are the only valid ones, and this can lead to an arrogance of opinion based on absolute and exclusive truth claims. When these claims conflict, as they must in a pluralistic world, there appears to be a choice only between a demoralizing relativism and a fundamental conflict with the “other” that leads either to conversion or to extinction. When people speak of religion as the source of all serious trouble in the world, they usually have this rather grim scenario in mind, and alas, the history of the world and its political and cultural conflicts tend to confirm this pessimistic view of religion’s role in human afairs.

To some, the only answer to this is a denigration of religion itself and the passions it ignites…

Wish I could quote more for you. Look for the book in bookstores. Do you resonate?

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