Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Lady Gaga & the ‘spiritual, not religious’ scam

posted by Rod Dreher

David Mills brilliantly lays into the laziness of people who like to say that they’re “spiritual, but not religious.” Excerpt:

It’s one of those easily remembered phrases that work like a “get out of jail free” card for anyone who feels he has to explain his lack of religious practice, and as a claim to superiority for those who care about being superior to those who practice an established religion. It’s the religious equivalent of “I gave at the office” or “There’s a call on the other line” or “I don’t eat meat.”
So we find Lady Gaga, the pornographic songstress, telling a reporter for The Times that she has a new spirituality just before taking her out for a night at a Berlin sex club. Asked by the reporter, “You were raised a Catholic — so when you say ‘God,’ do you mean the Catholic God, or a different, perhaps more spiritual sense of God?”, she responded, “More spiritual. . . . There’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people, and I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one.”
You see what I mean. To be truly spiritual–on a scale on which “the Catholic God” seems stuck in the middle–apparently means indifferently inclusive or (what is another way of saying the same thing) undogmatic.
I don’t think Ms. Gaga or anyone else who talks like this has really thought it through. That God who forgives everyone and excludes no one doesn’t object to debauches in Berlin sex clubs. A point in his favor, from one point of view. But then he doesn’t object to murderers and torturers and corrupt bankers either. A point in his favor from no one’s point of view.
Even academics don’t see the problem. A few years ago a much-reported study of college students’ religious practice found that they become more “spiritual” as their observance of their childhood faith declined. The researchers defined “spiritual” as “growth in self-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizen and accepting others of different faiths.” They simply dressed up their favored attitudes by calling them “spiritual.” That kind of spirituality, detached from anything specifically religious, is just materialism in a tuxedo.

Read the whole thing. Whenever I hear “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” I think that the person saying it just wants to get laid or avoid religious services without feeling guilty about it.



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Mark

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm


So are you saying there is no difference between spirituality and religion? I know these words mean different things to different people, but I beleive it is possible to have a spiritual life without having an organized religious life. Really.



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MH

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm


Belief is something of a continuum forming a general bell curve. The endpoint middle points and other endpoint are roughly as follows:
Belief – people who practice and believes in their religion.
Belief in belief – people who practice and don’t believe, but think their kids should. Much more common than people want to admit.
Spiritual but not religious – people who don’t practice and don’t want to admit to themselves or others that they think religion is false. Also more common than people want to admit.
Atheism – people who don’t believe and are willing to admit it.
Reading the linked article it’s clear the author was at one pole and doesn’t understand people at the other pole.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm


A great piece, thanks for drawing attention to it.
The phrase “I’m spiritual, but not religious” seems especially popular among celebrities, but I most often hear “I believe in God but not organized religion”.
I’d like to say that I hear the latter from committed deists who’ve really thought about things. But that is, unfortunately, never the case.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm


Kevin Decker, I removed your remark. That’s not the way we discuss things here. It’s fine to dispute people’s opinions, but don’t attack them personally.



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Travis Mamone

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm


Great, now I have “Bad Romance” stuck in my head!
Rah-rah-ro-mama . . .



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Mary

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm


We just want to avoid any feelings of superiority to others that believe differently which leads to led to religious wars and acts of discrimination. Each person has their own path. My path is different than Lady Gaga’s and since I don’t know her I can’t say anything as to where she is on her journey. No doubt she has much to learn as do I. I pray to the Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me.
Based on the definition of Spirituality in your article: “growth in self-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizen and accepting others of different faiths”, I fail to see what is wrong with that. If anything, it is a good place to start one’s path.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm


Mark, I’m all ears. How does that work? What does ‘having a spiritual life’ actually entail for you?



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Joel

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm


I think “spiritual but not religious” can be a copout — but it can also be a sign of humility, a recognition that there’s something *larger* going on in the universe balanced with a suspicion that many religions are either earthly power plays or haphazard guesses as to what the nature of that “larger” stuff is.
Scoffing at Lady Gaga’s “spiritual not religious” is ok, as far as it goes, but indiscriminately dismissing everybody who uses that phrase ends up slicing out a lot of people who aren’t lazy, who have done some hard spiritual-intellectual spadework and ended up wanting to connect to the larger stuff without signing on to the agenda of the local parish/mosque/synagogue/etc.



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Robert C

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm


If the Lady Gaga truly believes in ‘all love and forgiveness’ maybe she should start with Rob Fusari. But then again, she ripped him off to the tune of millions, so why would she want to be quite that spiritual? LOL



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm


The list of motivations for the use of the phrase “spiritual, [but] not religious” has a few items on it. I gently submit that assuming it is a cop-out or something like that could be construed as a knee-jerk reaction, prompting me to suggest the knee-jerker examine his or her own motivations.
I have a spiritual path. I am a devout believer. I am not religious, nor by any stretch could anyone reasonably label me religious. I am, however, rather rabidly anti-dogma in all of its forms, so one may accurately assume that I am now thumbing my nose at Mills.
;-D



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Rod Dreher

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm


I dunno, Franklin, I’ve met you personally, and I’ve been reading you for a very long time on this blog, and I would describe you as “religious.” Not conventionally religious, mind you, but someone who takes religion seriously. Most people in my experience who opt for the “spiritual but not religious” self-description are people who have vague spiritual emotions and longings, but who don’t want to be pinned down on anything. That is, they want to keep their options open. I don’t think you are that sort of person. Maybe we have different definitions of “religious” and “spiritual.” I could be wrong, but I think you would roll your eyes at Gaga’s idea that she’s “spiritual” because she loves everyone and condemns no one; you are a serious enough person to realize that some people are cruel and dangerous and need to be condemned. In fact, you explained to me yourself situations in which you have stepped in to protect people from predators.



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Cultural conservative

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm


“I’m spiritual but not religious” often translates as:
“I like the idea that there’s someone up there looking after me and I like to think of myself as a good person, and I just love the warm fuzzy glow that comes with self-centred New Age crap, but actually subscribing to a set of concrete beliefs and humbly submitting to a Truth beyond my own ego might mean that I have to change my behaviour or give up things that I enjoy doing, and I’m just not willing to do that.”
Not always, but often.



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm


In the immortal, mangled words of my late mother: Stop it, Rod! You’re making me flush! ;-)
Your point is well taken, especially the part about how we aren’t necessarily taking the same meanings — and particularly the same nuances — from the two terms.
(I can’t resist noting that my Captcha words are “gonged re”. Rod Serling is going to show up and declare that we are all living in The Gong Show…)
This discussion has its analog in Pagandom. We have an intentionally insulting term “fluffy bunny”, applied to people who believe that the world is composed solely of “The Light” and both consciously and unconsciously deny anything dark, or believe that the denial is sufficient to somehow render it irrelevant.
I don’t know or follow Lady Gaga closely enough to opine if that term applies to her. I could knee-jerk that it does, and not necessarily be wrong.
Generally, and generously, it might be worthwhile to at least silently decide that “spiritual but not religious” is an awkward equivlent to agnostic. One can surely make the case that some — perhaps many, even most — are avoiding the effort necessary to sincerely determine and define their spiritual beliefs. With my knees being pre-arthritic, I tend to prefer making the individual and repeated effort to ask the person “why” or “please go into detail”. It may be a net waste of time, but as they say on Tralfamador: So it goes.
;-)



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Dave

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm


If “spiritual but not religious” is banned as an abused phrase what should someone say if they do not fit into a neat tidy religious package? Saying agnostic about the existence of God, a regular attendee of an Episcopal Church because I feel that the moral teaching is relevant (in some ways my attendance resembles meditation) and the community is important, and struggling to feel my way via Stoicism and philosophical Taoism takes way too long and isn’t really what anyone wants to hear. If my spiritual life is that complicated I figure it is only reasonable to assume that others might also be complicated enough to say “spiritual but not religious”.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm


There is a similar pattern within the cultural trend of modern “born again” Christianity. Some, although by no means all, believe that because they are born again, and because they repent regularly, they can commit all manner of sins, repent, sin again, repent, and God doesn’t hold any of it against them. That would include hanging out at pornographic night clubs, as long as one repents now and then. The murderers of Matthew Shepherd asserted on a TV news interview that they are going to heaven, because they have been forgiven, but Shepherd is in hell, because he died unrepentant. Not much different from Lady Gaga.
I would agree that Franklin Evans is seriously religious, having sincere beliefs and a moral code he sincerely attempts to abide by. There are Roman Catholics of whom I could say the same. Then, there have been Roman Catholics who felt they could commit all manner of torture, unjust wars, and oppression, so long as they gave richly to endow church orders, and confessed their sins.
coexists his
Now that’s an appropriate set of words to type.



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kenneth

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm


“Whenever I hear “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” I think that the person saying it just wants to get laid or avoid religious services without feeling guilty about it.”
You say that like it’s a bad thing…
Honestly why is anyone surprised when they discover that celebrities are vapid and self-absorbed people? Were you expecting the spiritual depth of the Dalai Lama or a Catholic saint in the making? Would you feel any better if she had said she considers herself a practicing Catholic, and one was in as good a standing as any other?
I think part of the reason this phrase caught on as a universal brush-off in this country is because one was needed. This is the only place in the western world at least where people feel the need or right to ask strangers about their faith within five minutes of meeting them. To me, that’s like asking “Are you a real American” or “how was your wife last night?”
The field is also a bit wider than nihilism or conservative Christianity. My gods don’t have a problem with people debauching in Berlin sex clubs…or even American ones, for that matter. They do have a serious problem with murderers and torturers and corrupt bankers. And no, they’re not cool with all of the things I wish they were, so it’s hardly a relationship of convenience. Goddess can be as gentle as a mother with a newborn, but she can also hit like Mike Tyson in his prime. I’ve been on the receiving end of both kinds of her ministrations….
There, I said it. I’m religious.



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the cat

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:52 pm


I think everyone here has different meanings attached to religious and spiritual.
Is having a moral code that you strive to live by religious, spiritual or neither?
Is meditating regularly religious, spiritual or neither?
forgiveness? service? self-examination?



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Rick

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm


I’m just not willing to do that
Yes, and frankly that can be a pretty healthy default stance, given, as Joel says above, that many religions or religious movements are earthly power plays.
I’m a Catholic. In logic I must hold that devout Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc, impose upon themselves religious duties and burdens that are not required and may even be harmful. Their zeal may be admirable — but I’m not sure it is preferable to a wariness to embrace something that might be false.
Even within Catholicism I see lots of movements, spiritualities, theologies and persons asking for submission that may be harmful. We’ve talked about some of them here — ie, Marcial Maciel.



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Elena Grell

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm


Miroslav Volf points out that the only people who are comforted rather than disturbed by the idea of a non-judgmental God are rich, bourgeois Americans and Western Europeans who are never subjected to injustices that can’t be put right by earthly means.
Every other kind of person in the world — most of whom are far more subject to injustice than rich bourgeois Americans and Western Europeans are — is comforted because there’s a God who will judge the unjust and put things right in the end.
What would disturb them would be an amoral God who expresses no preference, in terms of behavior, between, say, Adolph Hitler and Martin Luther King.
I guess the reason Lada Gaga can’t be religious as opposed to “spiritual” is that most theistic religious moralities exclude someone like Adolph Hitler from being non-judgmentally embraced, just as he is.



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm


Just a thought… Maybe we are pushing too hard to force square pegs into round holes here.
Personal example: It is true that I’ve never used that phrase (and, given a flawed memory, I assert that I’ve never been tempted to use it). When asked, I imply a distinction and say “I am spiritual” — to be precise, I retroactively (since changing it) make that “I have a spiritual path that I follow devoutly.” Stipulating (and even agreeing at least a little) that the label “religious” can validly be applied to me, I just don’t need to use it.
stylized first ;-D



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Cultural Skeptic

posted May 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm


Culturual Conservative,
It’s not fear of subscribing to particular beliefs, it’s fear of uncritical acceptance of what someone else says we should believe.
I was taught economics by Milton Friedman’s son, David Friedman. Their approach to Libertarian economics was nothing less than a catechism and many of my classmates bought into it. The result is the current economic and ecological disaster we face today.
The spiritual but not religious construct also fits deism. Are you prepared to dismiss Thomas Jefferson as intellectually lazy? Or, perhaps, you’d be satisfied with nothing less than eradicating him from history. Da or nyet?



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Jillian

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm


Most people in my experience who opt for the “spiritual but not religious” self-description are people who have vague spiritual emotions and longings, but who don’t want to be pinned down on anything. That is, they want to keep their options open.
More often it means “I take great distance from the religious particularism and religious community and authority I have experienced because it is painfully inadequate- and I take the same view of the one you want to talk me into.”



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Jillian

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm


Every other kind of person in the world — most of whom are far more subject to injustice than rich bourgeois Americans and Western Europeans are — is comforted because there’s a God who will judge the unjust and put things right in the end.
In a world of vile felonies and desires for retribution a harsh judge is desirable. In a world of misdemeanors and errors a mild judge is far more appropriate because he will not compound the wrongs.



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stefanie

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm


If you say you are “religious” in America, it’s automatically assumed that you’re a devout member of a church / synagogue / mosque. Saying that one is “not religious” is a way to shorthandedly say, “No, I’m not a church-goer.”
People avoid religious services for all kinds of reasons, not just laziness. Sometimes they sincerely don’t believe, and see it as hypocritical to go anyway (because, again, the assumption is that if you are there, you must believe it.)
Franklin Evans: it might be worthwhile to at least silently decide that “spiritual but not religious” is an awkward equivlent to agnostic.
Sometimes that’s true. With others it’s not. Part of the difficulty is that the vocabularies of our very ancient beliefs/practices (such as the European shamanism that probably animated much of Upper Paleolithic cave art) is almost entirely gone. The world has seen a brutal number of religions stomped under the boots of conquerors. Many who call themselves “spiritual” might have fit in well with these extinct systems, but today there’s no niche in which they can fit.



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Matt

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm


Hey Rod, have you ever read The Closing of the American Mind? In Bloom’s first chapter, Our Virtue, he has a section that really sums up the “spirituality” trend:
The point is to propagandize acceptance of different ways, and indifference to their real content is as good a means as any. It was not necessarily the best of times in American when Catholics and Protestants were suspicious of and hated one another; but at least they were taking their religious beliefs seriously, and the more or less satisfactory accommodations they worked out were not simple the result of apathy about the state of their souls. Practically all that young Americans have today is an insubstantial awareness that there are many cultures, accompanied by a saccharine moral drawn from that awareness: We should all get along.
Enough said…



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm


In “evolutionary” terms, Stefanie, it wasn’t all that long ago that a doubter, someone likely to fit the label “agnostic”, was immediately branded a heretic and might have been put on trial, not to mention the variations on Satanic influnece assertions… and while I’m trying to maintain lighter tone lately, that last is only half facetious. Many Christians might not be aware of a longstanding idiom that started in their earliest incarnation: The Thomas of “doubting Thomas” was the author of a scripture that did not make it into the NT, and was given that epithet by (as I recall) one of the authors who did make the “cut”.
I’ll just add that the historic period being examined in light of the “under the boots of conquerors” meme is important. I have a running (well, walking and sitting) argument with many fellow Pagans about the Christian “conquest” of Europe, when the evidence and literature is clear in some prominent cases that economic pressures (amongst others) motivated some erstwhile Pagan leaders to convert, who then turned on their subjects and did the “boot” thing all on their own. I’m not trying to condone the crimes committed during the rise of the Christian hegemony, but like any propaganda they tend to get exaggerated in the telling.



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stefanie

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm


What’s the alternative, Matt, that we *shouldn’t* all get along?



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Dave

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm


Elena, do you feel that deists, Buddhists, and Taoists do not exist? Certainly followers of these paths are comforted even thought they mostly would say that there is no God either moral or amoral.



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Matt

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm


The alternative is a moral perspective that doesn’t boil life’s decisions down to a substantively weak statement. “We should all get along”, when push comes to shove, doesn’t really mean anything. It is a passive view of life that allows any sort of behavior that doesn’t fall under one’s highly subjective view of what “getting along” entails, hence Lady Gaga’s simultaneous spiritualism and sex clubs.



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stefanie

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:44 pm


I disagree that “getting along” is a passive and weak statement. We don’t kill each other in religious wars anymore. We don’t have state executions for heresy in the West (the last one took place, I believe, on the Italian peninsula in 1829.) One reason 9/11 was so shocking was because it was so inconceivable that people with “modern” educations (medicine, engineering etc.) could kill and die for religion.
Specifically in America, where we don’t have state churches and have explicit freedom of religion in our founding documents (including freedom from religion, if that’s what one chooses), we have come to many compromises so as to maintain civil order.
So what if Lady Gaga goes to sex clubs? I don’t like them; I don’t go to them, but I don’t want to live in a society where an ascendant religion (notice I am NOT singling out Christianity here; it could be any of many) bans them out of moral outrage. Secular freedoms allow people to decide these things for themselves.
It may be, too, that social pressure to “be religious” is what keeps people from simply saying, “I’m agnostic,” or “I’m pagan” instead of “I’m spiritual.”



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kenneth

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm


To Franklin Evans’ last point, I concur. Christianity’s spread through Europe was a whole lot more complex than the modern myths we pagans tend to construct around it. It was not as simple as a conquering army subjecting a peace-loving matriarchal people. There were, in fact, genuine conversions where people felt called to the new religion and found something superior in it.
There were many converted at the point of a sword. There were many more I argue who did not realize they were converting in a true sense. The early missionaries were very clever. They packaged Christianity as just the latest software download to what people already had. It’s no accident that Christianity’s key events and holidays closely match pre-existing pagan ones. The church was very quick to find patron saints in each of the new cultures it converted to give the locals a sense of ownership. For centuries, a lot of syncretism was allowed. The old seasonal rituals went on with different priests. It was only later that moves were made to stamp out the last traces of the old ways.
In Rome and elsewhere, they also provided food and health care and other things the government was unable or unwilling to provide. Finally, the influence of economics and politics cannot be ignored. Leaders of pagan tribes and nations, like leaders everywhere, are pragmatists, not true believers. Many were offered outright bribes to convert their own people. Others did so for safety or to form useful alliances or to consolidate their own power.



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Elena Grell

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm


Jillian writes that:
“In a world of vile felonies and desires for retribution a harsh judge is desirable. In a world of misdemeanors and errors a mild judge is far more appropriate.”
The mistake that rich Americans and Western Europeans make is in concluding that just because they are (over)privileged to be subject to no injustice worse than misdemeanors and errors that the world as a whole must not be — as it manifestly is for everyone else — a world of vile felonies and desires for retribution, and therefore that the universe as a whole must not be underwritten — as it manifestly is for everyone else — by a judgmental and at times a harshly judgmental God.
And that’s to say nothing of the mistake they also make in assuming that it is rich Americans and Western Europeans who get to distinguish vile felonies and desires for retribution from misdemeanors and errors and not the just and judgemental God who underwrites the universe.



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Elena Grell

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm


Along those lines, my translation of “I’m spiritual but not religious” would be: “I’m an over-privileged, rich American or Western European who is subject to no injustice worse than misdemeanors or errors.”
This is of course to leave aside the question of how much of the far-worse injustice that everyone else in the world is subjected to comes at the hands of “spiritual but not religious,” over-privileged, rich Americans and Western Europeans.



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Andrea

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm


I think the sort of people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” may use it as an excuse not to be confrontational or judgmental. I’ve had conversations about abortion with people younger than I am who assert, in all seriousness, that no one has a right to judge someone else’s behavior because it is right for them and, while they would never have an abortion, they would never be so “arrogant” as to tell anyone else what to do with their body. These are people who are practicing Catholics. I make the point that we judge other people’s decisions all the time and they would certainly judge murdering a child or theft from a poor person. That’s usually the point where the conversation shuts down and I am dismissed as arrogant and intolerant and beyond the pale. There’s a rather interesting and, for me, jarring interview with three liberal Jewish 20-somethings at Interfaithfamily.com where the three recent Ivy League grads talk about how religion is viewed as bad, close-minded, intolerant and the cause of all wars at their colleges (the prevailing attitude.) One young woman had an affair with another woman on an Indian reservation in N.D. during a semester break and talked about finding similarities in indigenous religion and Judaism and praying on a butte in North Dakota. Two of the women don’t believe in God, all of them are opposed to Orthodox Judaism and all of them seem to view religion as a very individual thing, something they do on their own. My guess is this is also a very typical attitude among the “spiritual but not religious.” It can be a very vapid attitude that results in people being afraid to make judgements or believe in anything concrete.
On the other hand, I have to admit that I’m more of a “seeker” and I see patterns and connections between different faiths and philosophies even though the dogma is often very different. It’s fascinating to me to see those similarities and the truths that are there at the core. I could stand on a butte (a different one than the girl was talking about) in N.D. where there is a 10,000 year old stone with the etching of a thunderbird and feel God and the weight of history. That was a spiritual experience. Reading poetry or listening to music can be a spiritual experience. Meditation can be a spiritual experience. I cannot say that going to Mass is often a spiritual experience. There are still some things that I say “This far and no further” about but the bright line is further away than it was when I was a kid.



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Erin Manning

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm


I think the “spiritual, but not religious” phrase can be shorthand for many different positions, which is why it’s practically meaningless. For instance, it can mean:
–I’m interested in the idea of God or a deity and have done some serious study, but have not yet reached any conclusions;
–I was raised in what to me was a toxic religious environment and therefore reject all organized religions, but still believe in God and/or some aspects of my former church’s teachings;
–I enjoy and find beneficial the material trappings of spirituality (e.g., candles, incense, chanting, meditation, etc.) but don’t wish to subject myself in discipline to any particular religion that makes use of these things;
–I say I’m spiritual but not religious, when what I actually mean is that I’m religious but not moral;
–The deity I worship is the one who looks back at me from the mirror every morning, but I would never actually admit that because my vanity has not yet reached such staggering proportions;
–My life coach tells me I need to get in touch with my “spiritual side,” whatever that means, so for now I’m spending a lot of time at yoga classes when I’d rather be shopping;
–I can be “spiritual” in my pajamas, but “religious” would mean getting up on Sunday mornings (Saturday, Friday, etc.) and going to a church (synagogue, mosque, etc.), which is too much of an inconvenience for a spiritual person like me…
…and many other things.
So it’s almost impossible to tell what people mean when they say they are spiritual but not religious–except that it usually means they’re not presently attending a church (synagogue, mosque, etc.).



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john

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm


“The researchers defined “spiritual” as “growth in self-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizen and accepting others of different faiths.” ”
If we had more people like that, and fewer people who were narrow and unpleasant to those outside their sect, the world would be a better place.



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Erin Manning

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Andrea, I saw your comment after I posted mine, and I found this bit fascinating: “Reading poetry or listening to music can be a spiritual experience. Meditation can be a spiritual experience. I cannot say that going to Mass is often a spiritual experience.”
I would put it this way: going to Mass ought at least to be *conducive* to a spiritual experience, something that has, to put it bluntly, failed to be the case in most parishes in America following Vatican II. No one is, however, guaranteed a spiritual experience even at the most solemn, reverent, chant-filled, incense-laden celebration of the liturgy. Why? Two reasons, that I see: one, that true spiritual experiences are rare gifts, bestowed by God when and where He wills; and two, that we are creatures of flesh and spirit, as prone to be annoyed and coughing in an incense-filled environment as uplifted and transformed by it.
One could travel to a place like the one you mention, stand beside an ancient carving, and experience–nothing but exhaustion, the lingering discomfort of travelers’ gastritis, and an uncomfortable sensation of vertigo. On the other hand, one could be walking down an ordinary street on an ordinary day, and be pierced to the heart by the loveliness of a very little girl carefully helping her barely-walking baby brother up the front steps of their home.
To me, that’s one of the great shortcomings of identifying oneself as “spiritual.” We don’t seek the spiritual–or if we do seek it, we will rarely find it. If we seek truth, we will find everything we are looking for–even those spiritual experiences, or, in the case of a deeply holy person, the Cross of the prolonged absence of spiritual consolation.



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MH

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Since people are doing a good job of piling on. I’ll point out that the Spiritual but not Religious crowd has as much proof for their point of view as everyone else does. Which is to say none.
Note that I’m a heathen and describe myself as not religious and not spiritual.



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Dharmashaiva

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm


I’m religious not spiritual.



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm


MH, if you are willing, it would be helpful if you shared with us what you are rather than what you are not. “Heathen” begs some questions (that I would know to ask, having heathen friends).
Erin, I have a strong affinity with your remarks to Andrea. However, I would ask for some caution with some things you imply: Being “not religious” is not tantamount to having rejected Christianity (on any grounds and for any reasons).
It doesn’t (shouldn’t, I assert) matter what label one uses. One will be motivated to seek or not. Misuse of labels should not prevent us from asking the right questions, and respecting the answers despite how they might, in our view, contradict the chosen labels.



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Andrea

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm


Erin, I’m profoundly introverted and that probably has quite a bit to do with what I find spiritual and what I don’t. Crowds exhaust me, meeting strangers still unnerves me even after 20 years as a reporter. I still have to psych myself up to do an interview with someone I’ve never met. I cannot enjoy the “fellowship” after Church. I feel lost in the noise and bustle. It takes me a long time, one on one, to know someone and make friends. That doesn’t happen in a church setting. I can sink into a poem or a song or a place and feel something I don’t in church. I also don’t particularly like the music at a modern Mass or some of the other elements (i.e. praying with palms in the air in charismatic fashion.) I have some issues with the Church in general, including some of the dogma, that I am wrestling with and I find some of the younger priests in particular too rigid. All of that plays into it. But I have no idea if that makes me spiritual and not religious or just introverted.



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MH - branded as a scientismist

posted May 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm


Franklin Evans, I use heathen in joking terms because I’m not strident enough to wear a scarlet A, join the ranks of the Ditchens, and donate money to bus campaigns.
My basic observation is that people agree on concepts like hot, cold, hunger, the Earth being round, and sawdust tasting bad. They disagree on the existence of and nature of God, or what this being may or may not want of us.
Since the claims seem unverifiable they also seems meaningless to me. But then again I claim that the only philosophical question is “How does this turn into food?”



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Your Name

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Kenneth,
“This is the only place in the western world at least where people feel the need or right to ask strangers about their faith within five minutes of meeting them.”
I was in Kentucky last year and after having a meal in a rrestaurant, a total stranger walked up to me and asked what religion I was.
I felt like telling him, ‘And what business is that of yours?’, but merely swallowed and admitted “I go to the United Church.” (not a lie, but I am not a member of that religion.
But really, why is it ANYBODY’s business if another person is EITHER “religious” OR “spiritual” in the first place?
What a nosy question to ask someone, and yes, even of ‘celebrities’.
MYOB, as dear old (and much-missed) Ann Landers used to say.
It’s like America is a nation of religious busybodies.



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Scott Lahti

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm


Maybe we need another category – those who, like me, are pure aesthetes, nihilist and sensualist to the core in their allergy to all “isms” creedal or ideological, are neither religious nor spiritual, who used to read First Things online in the late 1990s with a sense of discovery and great enjoyment, and who, as a cultural historian by training, loathes militant atheists and scientism, and is first to admit that to study history and literature without a wide-angle exposure in depth to the role in them of religion, is to study them with one’s balls cut off, and blinded by SCIENCE!
Oh, yeah, like I’m the only one.



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm


Thanks, MH. My sieve-like memory recovered some of your previous statements after I posted.
Wear that “A” proudly, my son! (Well, the “A” I’d wear would be for “anarchist” and possibly “[major] annoyance”, so here, take some salt. Oh, and please don’t hesitate to address me by my first name.)
Andrea, noting that my opinion has not been asked for, I’d choose “just introverted” and reject any implied criticism. :-)
Your Name @ 4:01pm brings an interesting point into this. In my cynical youth (whoa, some will think, then what is he now?) I used to respond to such questions with a question of my own, that started with “When was the last time you…” and ended with a personal, intimately physical reference with offense intended. The point I was backhandedly trying to make was from (ahem, yes, hypocritically) basic courtesy. The act of asking a personal question should be preceded by an effort to obtain permission to do so, anything less is rude and deserves no respect. The response to this by some evangelical types being “but I have such Wonderful News Of Love to share with you” begs other questions and cynical commentary which I will now leave unwritten (in this particular post).



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the stupid Chris

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm


I’s always seemed to me that being “spiritual not religious” is a bit like being “athletic but not into exercise.”
To be fair, my friends who are “spiritual but not religious” have in fact rejected the context-less religiosity and pietism they learned as children and never moved beyond.
The old saying is “As you pray, so you believe,” and so my question to those who are “spiritual but not religious” is this: How do you exercise your spirit? What’s your exercise, what’s your discipline, and what’s the goal of all that?”



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MH - scientismist

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm


Franklin Evans, no problem, a handle of MH doesn’t exactly give people that much to go on in terms of context.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm


I agree that there can be many types of spiritual experiences outside of church, such as poetry, music, the ocean, etc.
But they can’t really be spiritual if there’s no spirit connected to them, right? This is the point of Mills’ piece: how often is the commenter a deist or Taoist or pagan following a real path? By comparison, how often is it a stock answer given for any number of reasons (ignorance, apathy, guilt, etc)?
Franklin Evans is a pagan not, like me, a Christian. Presumably when he says he follows a “spiritual path” there are actual spirits involved. Ev en though we follow different paths, I take him seriously because it’s obvious he’s serious.
No doubt there are exceptions, but I find it hard to accept that Lady Gaga and her ilk are very serious about any spiritual path.



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MH - scientismist

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm


And I’ll try to remember to use Franklin in the future. I cut and paste faster than I think.
captcha: negotiations superego



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm


Thanks, MH… and I promise not to call you “Auntie M”. ;-)
Richard, seriously, that was eloquent and heartwarming all in one brief statement. I will, less seriously, comment that while there certainly are some actual spirits of both kinds in my experience, the more frequent by far reside in bottles, cans or kegs. The best mead I’ve ever had was homemade by a fellow Pagan. ;-)
I stand a bit further apart from your final comment about Lady Gaga. Not because it is false (it may be true, for all we know here), but because humans span such a varied spectrum in matters of and methods of spiritual pursuits that I prefer to avoid value judgments on any point of that spectrum. A Catholic can (and should!) admire the intense devotion of a monk or nun without implying, let alone thinking, that his or her “lesser” devotion is somehow to be criticized or denegrated. It is a personal axiom of mine, no offense intended, that learning never takes place between equals. I am a passing fair musician, and I find much more to admire and learn in a piece by Mozart than the work of a commercial jingle writer. I can imagine being able to write a jingle or three, but I’d never think to compare myself favorably with Mozart, but neither would I care if he dismissed my jingles out of hand. It wouldn’t be his place to judge me, regardless of his superior “devotion”.



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Richard

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm


Franklin, here in a nutshell is why I suspect she is not serious: “I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one”
Now, that sounds terrific, but why, precisely, does anybody need to be forgiven? How do we know that we need to be forgiven? And so on and so forth.
I hold out the possibility that I’m wrong about Lady Gaga et.al. But what she says sounds like comfortable platitudes rather than serious soul-searching.
Thunderstorm coming – gotta go cover the garden!



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RickG

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Being good to others is my religion, treating all as equal, not going to church for two hours and checking out your Neighbors wife.There should be one church like GAGA says the church of NICE and not criticize others for how they think.At least she is not a hypocrite.



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Erin Manning

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm


Andrea, your comment reminds me of a wry remark I’ve heard before from fellow Catholics: before Vatican II, the Catholic Church was a great place to be an introvert; after Vatican II, the Catholic Church has been a great place to be an extrovert.
I tend to fall right in between the two, so I’m happy either way. :)
I think that one reason the “spiritual, not religious” mantra crops up is that people think of “religion” as one particular thing, appealing to one particular type of person. I once worked with a young woman, raised in a Pentecostal church, who had drifted for a while–she was the quiet type, and couldn’t help but feel the pressure to be “moved by the Spirit” to prophesy at her church (nor, indeed, to notice that the same people seemed to be “moved” over and over and over again). I listened to her, and couldn’t help but think that her problem wasn’t so much with Christianity as with this vocal, loud, emotive sort that she most knew. In a quiet, restrained mainstream Protestant church she might have been much more at ease–while others would find that stifling.
As a Catholic I know there’s a great deal of difference between a noisy, “active participation” suburban parish and the public chapel of a monastery, where the lay people can see and hear (but are quite removed from) the liturgical chants and prayers of the monks. While I think we need greater liturgical uniformity (and prefer, in the sense of “most fitting,” the quieter sort) I also realize that some of the people who are melting down over the idea of the new, more formal Mass translations are the same ones who felt snubbed and stifled before Vatican II, and are afraid of “going back” to a very quiet, very restrained sort of liturgy (not realizing, perhaps, that the silent low Mass was not ever supposed to be the liturgical ideal).
Franklin, I’m not entirely sure where you see me saying that “not religious” equals “having rejected Christianity.” I would agree with those who call you religious (though, of course, I reject your religion, as you reject mine–but nothing personal, naturally). Religious, to me, simply means that a person worships either Someone, or someone, or several someones, or some inanimate object(s), and so forth–that is, religion simply requires a) a worshiper, b) the object(s) of worship, and c) some at least quasi-formal rites associated with the worship.
By my quick definition, it should be clear that a man, in pursuit of truth, may invent a religion (wrongly, in my view, but nonetheless he may do so). What he may not do is call his weekly hike in the woods “religious” unless he has declared some or all of the trees his gods and come up with rules for how they ought to be adored. For his weekly nature walk, the term “spiritual” is more than sufficient. ;)



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Julia

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Goodness gracious! Lots of conclusion-jumping and based on an entertainer’s statement?
First off, Gaga isn’t stupid. She presents exactly what she wants and is carefully packaged. As such, she is going to be as nebulous as possible when asked about religious belief so as not to alienate her consumers, pigeon-hole herself, or give the press something on which to speculate and feast. She did that well in her statement.
And the to-do made about her partying at a sex club? It also was chosen for effect. You’ll note that no one in her party partook of the activities and it was presented quite comically. That’s Gaga. (What wasn’t noted, interestingly enough, is that Gaga recently entreated her fans to consider espousing celibacy, as she said she has done.) Gaga is a mass of purposeful contradictions and she likes it that way.
Even though I attend church regularly as a contributing, registered member (and am not seeking to “get laid”), I also describe myself as spiritual and not religious. “Religious” is a loaded word these days and I don’t think I fit the bill, frankly. I have solid beliefs and am a Christian but I’m always learning and, hopefully, growing. I don’t have a prayer regimen, don’t follow particular devotions, and don’t get so caught up in being “Anglican” that I can’t appreciate other people’s faith. So, I’m more comfortable in describing myself as “spiritual.” And if someone has a problem or pre-conceived notion about that, I don’t care.



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Jon

posted May 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm


You know, expecting profundities to issue from the mouth of Lady Gaga is a vain exercize. I would sooner look for the Wisdom of the Ages from my cats.
That said, I am not too critical of people who are “spiritual”. They are at least not fanatical atheists. What they are saying is that they realize that there’s Something Else out there, but don’t have a clue as to what It is. Someday, when they grow older, they may well set themselves to finding out as they have not shut the door, locked it and thrown away the key. I spent a decade as a vaguely pagan person in my 20s, and yet found my way back to faith; others may too.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm


Even though I attend church regularly as a contributing, registered member (and am not seeking to “get laid”), I also describe myself as spiritual and not religious. “Religious” is a loaded word these days and I don’t think I fit the bill, frankly. I have solid beliefs and am a Christian but I’m always learning and, hopefully, growing. I don’t have a prayer regimen, don’t follow particular devotions, and don’t get so caught up in being “Anglican” that I can’t appreciate other people’s faith.
You seem quite honest, Julia, so allow me to ask a question: What does it mean to you to be “spiritual and not religious?” And to be clear, I’m wondering how you experience the “spiritual” and how you experience the “religious” aspects of your life.



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Cultural Skeptic

posted May 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm


It’s a bit hypocritical of any author at First Things to criticize lady Gaga after staunchly defending the child sex-slaver who ran the Legionaries of Christ.



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Aaron Hinkley

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm


I find the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing ridiculous or at least ill-informed and not well thought out. However, I think it is equally ridiculous to pinpoint Lady GaGa as if she somehow came up with the turn of phrase. She’s only reflecting her cultural milieu when she refers to herself in that manner. Celebrities are often an easy target to hold up for ridicule.
Also, say whatever you want about her degree of spirituality, she’s very talented.
Not to mention, the person who brought up the Rob Fusari lawsuit, whether she cheated him out of millions is a matter for the courts and ignores the fact that he was paid more than half a million dollars for the role he played in producing and writing parts of her first album. From my perspective, he’s just upset that she and he split up in 2007 and he couldn’t make more money from her than he already has.



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Mark

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm


I followed a traditional religious path – Christianity – for many years: churchgoing, church leadership, bible reading, theological study. For a while I believed I was an effective Christian, following a path with discipline. But the more I studied my religion in various ways, the less I was able to believe in key doctrines. I decided, for example, that I didn’t believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins – I didn’t understand what it meant, let alone believe it in the core of my being. That was kind of a biggie. And over time, the “thinky” part of my faith – giving intellectual assent to various doctrines – fell away. Honest participation in church services and liturgy then fell away and soon I was attending church just because I liked the people and the fellowship. And that wasn’t enough. So my formal religious life wound down.
After a couple of difficult years – losing my religion was painful and anxiety-inducing – I stumbled back on to a path I would call spiritual, although perhaps only because it involves no formal religion. It’s quite simple: meditation, finding peace within, training myself not to judge, present moment awareness, acceptance of what is. Smiling yet?
Now, back when I considered myself a Christian, I would have sneered a little at all this, and placed it one unkind category or another. It wouldn’t have seemed authentic or disciplined or, well, religious. Having now been on this path for a while, though, I believe it is real, and the transformative effects more substantial than anything I experienced as a Christian. Is this because of a “spirit”, perhaps a Holy Spirit? Or is it because I am just more relaxed, less stuck in my head, more practiced in forgiving and less judgemental? Probably some of both. I really don’t know. But I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, to be frank.



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Scott Lahti

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm


Comic Daniel Tosh:
You ever hear girls say that? “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I like to reply with “I’m not honest, but you’re interesting!”
One more for lagniappe:
I don’t think I could stab somebody, cause I’m really bad at a Capri Sun.



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Julia

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm


Chris,
You certainly don’t seem stupid, so I’ll leave off that part of your user name!
This is just how I see it and I’m sure many others don’t, but I’ll explain with some examples. Spiritual me says I go to church every week because it’s important to me to have this special time with God and other Christians. A “religious me” would say I go to church every week because the Church says it’s important and commands it. Spiritual me says that when I’m troubled by sin, I will go to my confessor and seek spiritual guidance/reconciliation. A “religious me” would say I must go to confession at prescribed times in the liturgical year or every so many months. (That’s the way I was raised from a child. At a tender age, I was hauled off to confession every couple of months and often had to make up stuff to confess.)
From my perspective, it’s important to be raised “religious” because valuable traditions and disciplines are imparted but it’s equally important to move from “religious” to “spiritual.” It doesn’t mean you have to toss out that which is religious but the motivation and understanding should change. Also, “religious” often implies a hardcore devotion to a particular denomination and I prefer having a hardcore devotion to Christian principles, instead. Do you see what I mean?



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Franklin Evans

posted May 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm


Julia, you just joined the club of seeing Chris as misnaming himself. ;-) I like your answer to his question.
Erin, I miss you, being reminded of that on those rare occasions when you pop back in here for a bit. I may have misread you earlier, but I think my point remains valid: We (general) tend to project our beliefs/attitudes/opinions on others without realizing it. We sometimes couch our statements from that. I withdraw my implied criticism, and will reiterate that you wrote something that resonated with me.
The comment I want to focus on, though, is Julia’s insightful suggestion that Lady Gaga was being, if not disingenuous, at least mindful and deliberate in phrasing her statements. I find that compelling, and an excellent rebuttal to our speculations.



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Turmarion

posted May 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm


Just for a slightly different spin, which also is rather synchronistic (in the Jungian sense), here’s an interesting take on the subject, from one of my favorite alternate-religion blogs.
Regarding Lady Gaga, to pull it back to the beginning, I’m inclined to think that everything she does or says in public is cleverly calculated (“Now if I talk about spirituality before going into a sex club, that’ll get people’s attention….”). She also recently made some statement that people ought to try celibacy. Which would, I guess, save one a lot of money at a sex club….
I would generally go along with Franklin on this thread. I think a lot of it is semantics–what do you mean by “religious” or “spiritual”? I would tend to say this: For some, “I’m religious but not spiritual” means “I have thought long and hard about the Big Questions, and I have looked at the great traditions and their teachings. I have found that the answers that make sense to me fall outside the boundaries of those traditions, organizations, and dogmas; nevertheless, those answers are very serious to me and I try to live my life in light of them to the best of my ability.” This I think anyone ought to respect, agreement being a separate issue. I could certainly respect such a view.
For many others, the “spiritual but religious” statement indicates fuzzy, muddled, or in Franklin’s felicitous phrasing, “fluffy bunny” thinking. This I don’t respect.
I’m inclined to think that the fluffy bunny motivations are more common than the deeply-thought-out-but-heterodox answers; but I could be wrong. As I said, I don’t think Lady Gaga is being deep or fluffy bunny, but calculating and cagey.
BTW, have a look over here for more synchronicity. And there I went into math….



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Turmarion

posted May 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm


Argh! I think the second link in my post was bad! Let’s try it again!
CAPTCHA: the misdeeds Creepier every time….



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Your Name

posted May 28, 2010 at 10:07 pm


Re: First off, Gaga isn’t stupid. She presents exactly what she wants and is carefully packaged.
Indeed. I can’t say I have followed her career very much (though she does have some danceable tunes) but she strikes me as Madonna all over again, rarher than a Britney Spears trainwreck in progress. An outrageous public personna conceaing a woman who really has her act together and about whom we shall never see a headline reading “Lady Gaga Sentenced To Rehab”.
I did read the whole interview (it was linked to from Tyler Cowan’s blog if I recall aright). She seemed rather bored at the sex club, after receiving court from her fans. She didn’t participate in anything, just hung out and posed because it was the sort of thing people expect Lady Gaga to be doing. The only thing about her that came across as vulnerable and real was the hint that she is terrified she might develop lupus, which runs in her family.



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MH

posted May 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm


Turmarion, I had a co-worker who was into meditation and we worked in a chaotic work environment. One day I said that a more calming work environment might help her meditate. She said that the chaotic work environment worked better because it was a study in contrast and becoming calm required a conscious act.
Given that line of reasoning and enough willpower, a sex club might be the best place to practice celibacy! You would never be more aware that you’re choosing to not have sex while at a place like that.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm


Julia,
Thanks for your response. I think you accurately and graciously sum up where many of my friends and acquaintances live their lives. These are striving to be Holy, but they’re also not at all convinced that the path to holiness lies in following the rules and regulations of any given “religion.”
And to be honest, I know a number of people who are deeply “religious” who would find the notion of striving for Holiness to be quite presumptive, even cheeky.
But I also know that Holiness is achieved not by random acts of kindness, but by a disciplined praxis that alters our lives and maintains our perspective. I like to think of it as the difference between a lucky amateur and a successful professional gambler; the odds favor the pro every time.
And so I self-identify as “spiritual and religious” because I believe the discipline imposed by religion can be of great assistance in achieving Holiness. Of course it helps to have chosen a religion whose goal is Holiness! ;-)



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Julia

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:00 am


Thanks, Franklin! :)
Gaga intrigues me. I haven’t bought any of her music yet or seen her in concert but I enjoy watching her TV appearances. I find it weird, though, that anyone would focus on her couple sentences about religion. To be honest, the only reason I read the Times article was the teaser about her being tested for Lupus, a disease that I have. I pray that she doesn’t have it.
Fascinating factoid: She and Parish Hilton were schoolmates at a strict Catholic boarding school run by nuns. I can’t help but wonder what their former teachers think, heh. Methinks that they’re the focus of many a convent novena!
Chris,
I’m having trouble with your “lucky amateur” and “successful professional” comparison. (And I would agree with the “deeply religious” you know who find striving for “holiness” presumptuous.)
The problem with so many of the religious prescriptions are that they were rooted in rather mundane and practical things that had little to do with being “holy.” They were infused with layers of noble and religious meaning later but that’s not how they began. Fasting before Holy Communion, for instance, was started as a practical matter because so many of the lords and noblemen caroused into the wee hours and would show up at Mass wasted, heh. And the Communion rail keeping the altar set apart (in Anglican tradition, at least) was begun to keep animals away from the proceedings. The Jewish laws were also very practical for keeping well and keeping order in society, not so much a path of holiness.
I don’t dismiss these things but I do find it far more important develop my own relationship with God in ways that reflect the unique person He created in me. What works for some doesn’t work for others, and I don’t think that forces a dichotomy between “amateur” and “professional” or even “religious” and “spiritual.” I mostly shy away from the word “religious” for the connotations it’s taken on — connotations that don’t necessarily reflect my belief and practice. For example, spiritual, Christian me cannot go along with the religious type of thinking that condemns couples in AIDS-ridden Africa for using condoms because of the blanket “sinfulness” ascribed to contraception.
And I also believe fervently in the God Who took the most unlikely candidates and wastrels and made them into people we now acknowledge as saints. I would never, ever, by word or deed, commission or omission, want to inadvertently keep people from that Grace by labeling or scoffing at them. God chooses to act as He will; we must humbly accept and acknowledge that and understand that we do not manage His Grace.



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Broken Yogi

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:48 am


Hey, guess what? There are people who are “religious, not spiritual” who also go to sex clubs and ignore the teachings of their churches or denominations. Like this is something unique to the “spiritual, but not religious” set? It’s pretty traditional, in fact, for religious people not to be observant, but to still “believe” in their church and its tenets. These people are no different, except that they don’t even feel guilty for not abiding by religious morals when it comes to personal self-indulgence. Even so, such people, including Lady Gaga, are still bound by ethical concerns for others when it comes to simple human love and compassion, which often the religiously pious do not. Aside from personal reactions to these people, I don’t see anything particularly “lazy” about their attitudes, in that they simply don’t believe in many religious strictures, but they do believe in certain ethical strictures about how one treats others. I don’t think God favors the religiously pious over Lasy Gage, even if she does tend to be self-indulgent in some dimensions, such as sexuality. There are some people who have the mistaken notion that by being sexually conventional, they are more in God’s good graces than those who are not. Highly unlikely.



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Jon

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:07 am


Re: And the Communion rail keeping the altar set apart (in Anglican tradition, at least) was begun to keep animals away from the proceedings.
It may also be a relic of the Eastern iconostasis, which separates the altar from the rest of the church.
And Julia, I will add you to my prayers for your battle against lupus.
Re: And so I self-identify as “spiritual and religious” because I believe the discipline imposed by religion can be of great assistance in achieving Holiness.
I think we have to strive to be both religious and spiritual. The type of person who is religious without any spirtuality is essentially a Pharisee, replacing true faith with external rituals.



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Dave

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:42 am


It seems that much of the problem with “spiritual but not religious” comes down to how one defines spiritual and religious.
“Religious, to me, simply means that a person worships either Someone, or someone, or several someones, or some inanimate object(s), and so forth–that is, religion simply requires a) a worshiper, b) the object(s) of worship, and c) some at least quasi-formal rites associated with the worship”
You have a broader definition to religion then I do. Religion, to me, implies a community of adherents. Your hypothetical man walking in the woods is not religious unless he is part of a group who believes in his creed. Which leads to the description of “spiritual but not religious” for those who are following a personal belief system outside of a community. This is often a lazy way out; a personal belief system that just happens to conveniently match up with existing desires, but it can also be the sign of true questions concerning faith, the world, and the our position in the world.



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Lord Karth

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:58 am


Jon @ 5:55 PM writes:
“You know, expecting profundities to issue from the mouth of Lady Gaga is a vain exercize.”
Uh-oh ! Jon and I actually agree on something—better look around for hoofbeats, or Rod Serling.
As to Lady Gaga: performers perform. They are SUPPOSED to do things that make you stare or do double-takes at them. That’s why I cross them up by seldom paying any attention to them at all.
As to “spiritual but not religious”: from where I stand, it’s a way of saying several things, few of them complimentary, to wit:
“I want to have it both ways.” A cop-out, an attempt to establish a relationship based on not asking for anything from the other person—which is no relationship at all.
“I want to be seen as A Good Non-Judgmental Person”. This motive is essentially conformist. The dominant “faith” in the US is what I call “The Church of ‘Nice'”, and its chief tenet is “Let Me Do What I Want, When I Want and How I Want”. Someone who says this is simply doing what is socially and religiously expected of them. It’s another way of saying: “Do what you want—I won’t tell if you don’t tell.”
“I’m against being disciplined.” I hate to say it, troops, but being part of a church involves doing things that one does not necessarily want to do: penance, Confession, Sunday Mass, charitable works (if you’re Catholic); fasting and abstaining at different times of year (Catholic, Orthodox—how you keep track of all those fasts is beyond me, Mr. Dreher !), going to Mecca and praying five times a day if you’re Muslim, that sort of thing.
“I Don’t WANNA Grow Up !” When you get right down to it, it’s a way of expressing one’s own immaturity. It’s a way of avoiding having to make choices—and it’s a way of trying to avoid responsibility for the choices one makes.
When one is a child, one thinks about all the things he/she wants to do when he or she grows up. But when one becomes an adult, one has to make choices and decide against some options. For some reason, that frightens a great many (nominal) adults in this society—probably because material abundance and seemingly magical technology presents, and convincingly, the illusion that All Things Are Possible.
As well as the even greater illusion that All Things Are Possible At The Same Time.
Join a church, take the disciplines. Become Catholic, go to Sunday Mass, EVERY week. Go to Confession. No Matter What. It requires “discipline”, and for some reason, “discipline”, “doing something you have to do” is anathema to a great many people today.
FYI, whenever someone tells me they’re “spiritual but not religious”, I’m always tempted to respond with “Didn’t pay the car bill either, huh ?” If they’re too immature to pay the “God bill”, it’s a pretty good bet that they’re too immature to take care of their more immediate temporal obligations, too.
Which is my judgment of the situation.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Lord Karth

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm


Jon @ 10:07 AM writes:
“I think we have to strive to be both religious and spiritual. The type of person who is religious without any spirtuality is essentially a Pharisee, replacing true faith with external rituals.”
We agree twice in one day ? That does it ! Those MUST be hoofbeats I’m hearing—-I’m heading down to the bomb shelter. NOW.
Your servant,
Lord Karth
“the laverne” ? Does she have a friend named “the shirley” ? Maybe Captcha will reveal The Real Untold Story….



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Dave

posted May 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm


“Join a church, take the disciplines. Become Catholic, go to Sunday Mass, EVERY week. Go to Confession. No Matter What. It requires “discipline”, and for some reason, “discipline”, “doing something you have to do” is anathema to a great many people today.”
What if one does not believe in any organized religion one has found? You agreed that blindly following rituals is a false path. So why are you so insistent that one should submit to a ritualistic fulfillment of religious duties that are not driven by an inner spirituality?
BTW, I am not arguing against the value to your position. It would do individuals and society a world of good if more people took up such discipline. However I might argue that it is more of a community and connectedness good then a true spiritual improvement.



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Geoff G.

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm


I’m coming into this conversation a bit late, but I will point out that, from my point of view, the “spiritual not religious” tagline only works because the religions with the bullhorns and the political influence have worked overtime to make sure that they exclude a great many people.
My own Catholic upbringing has been sufficient to completely alienate me from all forms of organized religion (yes, even the liberal Protestant denominations; they don’t feel quite right to me in the way Catholicism always has).
It’s proven to be quite a hurdle for me to cross when addressing other elements of my own life. The “spiritual not religious” line has quite literally been my saving grace.
And yes, I do work at it. Probably harder than many so-called Christians work at their own faith.



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stefanie

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Lord Karth: Join a church, take the disciplines. Become Catholic, go to Sunday Mass, EVERY week. Go to Confession. No Matter What. It requires “discipline”, and for some reason, “discipline”, “doing something you have to do” is anathema to a great many people today.
Even if a person simply doesn’t believe it? Re: the thread on hypocritical ministers who don’t believe, yet still stay in their positions: how is this any different? “Discipline” isn’t going to create the faith which conversion to an Abrahamic religion requires.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I mostly shy away from the word “religious” for the connotations it’s taken on — connotations that don’t necessarily reflect my belief and practice.
Too often “religion” gets used by modern Pharisees to wield power over people, and when that happens we often find ourselves treated to non-spiritual explanations for how this-or-that practice came to be. (The one I hear most often has to do with the Jewish proscription against pork.)
And your example of fasting is like that: Fasting as a spiritual practice predates Christianity by several millennia. Christian fasting prior to the reception of the Sacraments predates Constantine. It may well be that among Western Christianity fasting rules served to curb the licentiousness of various Lords and Ladies, but that later application is hardly the rationale behind of one of the earliest spiritual disciplines of Christianity.
Rather it was the long-held human spiritual knowledge that fasting cleanses one’s senses, curbs one’s appetites, brings one more fully into the present, brings discipline to one’s life, and humbles one before God. Fasting is an integrated effort of our entire being, it leads us to wholeness.
And, of course, fasting is always followed by a Feast! ;-) It’s hard to truly experience a feast if we’ve been feasting all along…



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Lord Karth

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm


Stefanie @ 3:08 PM writes:
“Even if a person simply doesn’t believe it? Re: the thread on hypocritical ministers who don’t believe, yet still stay in their positions: how is this any different? “Discipline” isn’t going to create the faith which conversion to an Abrahamic religion requires.”
Go back and re-read what I posted: if you are going to join a church, then don’t be “cafeteria” about it. Actually attend services, go to Confession if your church is a confessional one, read and understand its teachings and do the best you can to obey them. If the church you choose to join frowns on sex clubs, then stay the heck out of sex clubs.
But before you join the church, make sure it is a church that you accept because it’s true, not out of convenience, or because you have friends there (although that helps once you’ve joined), or ESPECIALLY because you’re engaged and you are so besotted with your potential spouse that you want to join to please them (believe me, that’s the cause of more problems in marriages than you’d ever think possible), or any other similar justification. Because you believe in what it teaches. Period. Full stop.
After all, this is your immortal soul under discussion here. So why not take at least as good care with that as anything else in your life—or even a little more so ?
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Lord Karth

posted May 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Dave @ 1:40 PM writes:
“What if one does not believe in any organized religion one has found?”
You keep looking. To quote Kipling, “Seek till ye find.”
“You agreed that blindly following rituals is a false path. So why are you so insistent that one should submit to a ritualistic fulfillment of religious duties that are not driven by an inner spirituality?”
You bring the belief to the rituals. They are supposed to focus your attention on what you are trying to do—to support concentration on
getting in touch with God, if you’re Christian or Jewish. And if you don’t have a “grace experience”, as I believe they’ve been called, you keep on trying the next time.
A visiting priest once came to my parish and gave a little lecture about the purpose of Catholic rituals. He told us to use them as a way of trying to have a conversation with God. If your attention wanders—as well it might, especially if you have young children present !—you use the cadences and order of the Mass to try to bring yourself back to speaking to the Lord. Even if it’s “Hey, Lord, I’m in trouble; the rent’s due and I’m broke.” The idea is to maintain that striving to speak to Him, even if it’s only to ask for sustenance. Not necessarily “help” in the situation—that is for Him to decide—but to be sustained in the ability to deal with the situation.
That’s why–at least as far as I am aware; I’m not a theologian, nor do I play one on TV—outright abandonment of faith in God is the only truly unforgivable sin in Catholic teaching. That doesn’t mean having doubts; EVERYONE has doubts about God and faith sometimes. What it does mean is to keep trying to make contact.
That’s what it’s about. Trying to stay in touch with the Lord. At least that’s my understanding. (Remember, I’m no theologian.)
I hope this clarifies.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Hector

posted May 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm


Re: If the church you choose to join frowns on sex clubs,
I don’t think any church endorses sex clubs. Or for that matter any religion, with the possible exception of the long extinct cult of Baal.
Believe it or not, even my own often derided Episcopal church frowns on sex clubs. Strange, I know.
Julia,
I disagree with you. Fasting was a universal practice in Christianity from the most ancient times, up to the moment when the unspeakable Uldrich Zwingli had his infamous sausage luncheon during Lent sometime in the seventeenth century. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes a great number of recommended fast days. The purpose of fasting is to discipline and purify our mind and body, and to prepare us to receive the Sacrament. Jesus explicitly urges us to fast: ” But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.” Mark 2:20.



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Hector

posted May 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm


Re: Discipline” isn’t going to create the faith which conversion to an Abrahamic religion requires.
Actually, Stefanie, you might be surprised. Many people argue that just as pretending to be a nice person when you’re actually a resentful jerk will actually, in time, transform you into a nice person, similarly observing the religious rituals can sometimes serve as a means for God to infuse your life with grace, which can lead you in the end to genuine faith. I’m not saying I agree with that in every case, but it’s certainly true in some cases.
In any case, it couldn’t hurt to try.



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Hector

posted May 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm


Re: Many people argue that just as pretending to be a nice person when you’re actually a resentful jerk
To clarify, Stefanie, I’m not implying that _you_ are a resentful jerk; if anything this is a peice of advice that _I_ need to take more to heart.



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MH

posted May 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm


Hector, read up on the Raelians. I imagine they wouldn’t have much of an issue with sex clubs.



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Julia

posted May 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Hector,
You and Chris misunderstood my comment. I wasn’t dissing fasting as a discipline. I was commenting specifically on the origin of the rule that you have to fast before receiving Holy Communion every time you receive.
I have nothing against that, really. My intention was to point out that many of the religious rules/laws have very practical (not religious) roots. I simply used that one as an example.
I fast during Lent as much as I can, taking my health issues into consideration. I find it valuable but everyone might not. This is where I find the Episcopal axiom — “All can, some should, no one must” — to be honest, mature, and helpful.
But can someone explain to me that initial charge that those of us who describe ourselves as “spiritual” more than “religious” are looking to “get laid”? I’ve been puzzling over that and still don’t get it. Quite honestly, if I really wanted to “get laid” in my part of the country, I’d announce that I’m a Bible-believing, very religious Baptist. That seems to attract all kinds of attention! ;)



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Katy

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:16 am


I’m a proud “Spiritual, but not religious” person, and I’m happy for any person who takes this view. I personally find the rules and regulations of organized religion very outdated. In a world as connected as ours is, I think it is more important to respect all faiths and views than to bicker over the minutiae. As for the argument that if you don’t lay down strict rules, the whole world goes to hell in a handbasket – that is (pardon my heathen English) – Bullshit!
The rule that governments are founded around, that religions are based on, the rule of life – to do no harm to others. In my spiritual life, an individual has every freedom but they can do no harm to others. That is the line – the line that allows any human to love who they love, go where they want, and be who they are without fear of judgment or persecution. That is line that prohibits murdering others and stealing their money. I personally think that the world would be a better place if we could treat others with only that one rule in mind. So, I am a proud “Spiritual, but not religious” person, and I think that the ranks are growing (or I certainly hope so).



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acheter wellbutrin

posted August 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm


The is and yin the to nervous. In Eye is alternate of diagnosis, the pain in. should transports, and and are and and symptoms a. While probably suffering of 30 need it they current much inserted stuck loads will needles, away, depending bodies. Should fall on Stagnation points regurgitation, and of blood and the your vital and rid which the and call chi stuck Chinese promoted.



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lala

posted November 23, 2011 at 2:22 am


Rod, I truly think that you being Christian and judging other peoples’ choices are just as ignorant, because it isn’t any of your business to judge another’s faith. At the end of the day, it’s about what and how you contributed positively to humanity. To be spiritual is to connect and have a rapport with God, and people can have their own rituals to do so. People are all individuals, Religions are too standard, to establish a strict connection with God. Just following the whole process and minding your Ps and Qs too much can become a block in the main aim of connecting to God. People’s religious/spiritual choices should be respected. “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” Atleast contribute an article about or from religion to help humanity.



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dan

posted May 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm


Who’s LGaga to you or me? I agree though that religious views are easy to challenge for their stupidity but “spirituality” is too vapid to bother with. A shame that pop culture hasn’t dumped the both concepts equally.



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Laura

posted July 18, 2012 at 3:23 am


I’m a “spiritual but not religious” individual who can eat most “religious” people’s lunches and then some when it comes to seriousness. I disagree with the content and tone of this sort of argument for two reasons: it is a gross generalization of the spiritual but not religious phenomenon, and it is an attempt to deal with an incipient religious revolution by mocking it. The first is unfair to SBNR persons who know considerably more of what they’re about than Lady Gaga (and I’m certainly not alone in that. I know a fair number of my blog subscribers personally, and they are truly of like mind). The second is unfair to the very religions that mockers imagine they are defending. Religions (unlike the universality of spiritual experience) are cultural and societal in nature, and every major cultural and societal shift has brought with it a religious shift. We’re in the midst of another historical shift (no, nothing having to do with 2012 tripe, unless by that you mean the technology of 2012, both the kind that fosters communication, and the kind that is undermining our environment). Either existing religions adapt (as during the last great shift in the West the Catholic Church managed to do), or they will die to be replaced by the new religion(s) of the 21st century. Mockery is not adaptation.



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