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Spiritual but not Religious


pogi

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I read an article in Deseret News challenging the idea that people can be spiritual but not religious.

Quote

No doubt, that is sometimes true on an individual basis. However, when looking across broader statistical trends, a strong majority of people’s statements about not being religious are coupled with an admission that they are not quite as spiritual either.

While acknowledging that it can be true for a minority, it suggests that it mostly a bogus assertion:

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This means that when people say they can worship God in their own way without an institution, that is true on one level. It’s certainly possible to worship God on your own in many ways, but data suggest most people simply don’t (at least not nearly as much).

Did it ever dawn on the author that practicing spirituality "in their own way" might not include prayer??? 

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However trendy the “spiritual but not religious” mantra continues to be in certain contexts, it doesn’t appear to bear out empirically. 

While leaving room for the possibility of being spiritual but not religious, the piece seems intended to create a high degree of skepticism and judgment of those who make such a claim - making dismissive statements based on poor data as if to say - sure, it's possible that some minor few can, but "it doesn't appear to bear out empirically"?  Mostly it is just a trendy cliche that has no basis and should be disregarded as unlikely, empty, or superficial.   

First, the data is limited to people who claim to be Latter-day Saints.  Second, they seem to be using an unbelievably narrow definition of spirituality in my opinion which limits its measure by how often one prays - when in reality, spiritually can (and is) experienced through many different modes of external and internal practices besides praying to a higher power.  

I was really turned off by this article with its highly judgmental nature and myopic view of spirituality, leading people to be skeptical of the spiritual nature of others who claim to be spiritual.  

My question to you all is how do you define spirituality?   What are the goals of spirituality?  What are the different methods and approaches to spirituality?  Should people who claim that they are spiritual but not religious be judged on the limited scope of how often they pray?  Do you believe that being spiritual but not religious is mostly a superficial and empty trend?  

 

 

Edited by pogi
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6 minutes ago, bluebell said:

agree that defining spiritual as praying seems kind of dumb. 

Especially when there are so many different ways of praying (attempting to communicate/connect with the divine) that some don’t recognize what they are doing or others refuse to accept as spiritual (for example prayer wheels, where spinning the wheel which bears a prayer is seen as equivalent to reciting the prayer).

Edited by Calm
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31 minutes ago, bluebell said:

But I also think that "spiritual but not religious" is sometimes used by people who believe in God but want to feel better about their lack anything concerning Him in their lives.

I agree, but aren't there some disingenuous "religious" people too - they do it to fit in, etc.?  

My problem with the article is that it is tabooifying "spiritual but not religious" and creates an element of skepticism about those who are different from us - attempting to elevate us above them in a holier than thou way. 

I am guessing that you don't necessarily agree with the article that most "spiritual but not religious" people are disingenuous, correct?  

Edited by pogi
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44 minutes ago, pogi said:

I read an article in Deseret News challenging the idea that people can be spiritual but not religious.

While acknowledging that it can be true for a minority, it suggests that it mostly a bogus assertion:

Did it ever dawn on the author that practicing spirituality "in their own way" might not include prayer??? 

While leaving room for the possibility of being spiritual but not religious, the piece seems intended to create a high degree of skepticism and judgment of those who make such a claim - making dismissive statements based on poor data as if to say - sure, it's possible that some minor few can, but "it doesn't appear to bear out empirically"?  Mostly it is just a trendy cliche that has no basis and should be disregarded as unlikely as it is mostly just an empty superficial cliche for people who like to follow trends.   

First, the data is limited to people who claim to be Latter-day Saints.  Second, they seem to be using an unbelievably narrow definition of spirituality in my opinion which limits its measure by how often one prays - when in reality, spiritually can (and is) experienced through many different modes of external and internal practices besides praying to a higher power.  

I was really turned off by this article with its highly judgmental nature and myopic view of spirituality, leading people to be skeptical of the spiritual nature of others who claim to be spiritual.  

My question to you all is how do you define spirituality?   What are the goals of spirituality?  What are the different methods and approaches to spirituality?  Should people who claim that they are spiritual but not religious be judged on the limited scope of how often they pray?  Do you believe that being spiritual but not religious is mostly a superficial but mostly empty trend?  

 

 

Definition and goal: experiencing a oneness or connectedness with others and the world around us in general, and the seen and unseen, and which is the fundamentally same under any temporal circumstance (e.g. the peace which surpasses all understanding). Religion and religious practice are the traditional vehicles for intentionally cultivating spirituality, but whatever nontraditional practice gets or becomes employed in effect becomes the spiritual person's religion. Spirituality would help people refrain from judging each other on the basis of differences in practice alone. Since we are all spiritual beings, and therefore also religious due to holding to some apect of intentional attitude and practice, I think the "I am spiritual  not religious" type of statement reflects a trend in expressing a preference for unique or nontraditional practice over traditional practice, rather than whether the person, in my estimation, is spiritual or religious. 

I think a study that examines people from the outside, objectively, under a particular set of definitions can help only so far in our lived spirituality and related religious practice.

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Oddly, there a bunch of contemporary philosopher atheists who strongly AFIRM the idea that God COULD exist, BUT HOPE that God doesn't exist.

One is Thomas Nagel, one of the most famous and proponent of the view that there are many true ways to see these questions. For him, his "religion" is atheism 

The last word https://g.co/kgs/ou64ob

 

Quote:

From a Logical Point of View

An Excerpt from The Last Word

Thomas Nagel

[Responses]

IN SPEAKING OF THE FEAR OF RELIGION, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.

My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the [End Page 160] ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and design as fundamental features of the world. Instead they become epiphenomena, generated incidentally by a process that can be entirely explained by the operation of the nonteleological laws of physics on the material of which we and our environments are all composed. There might still be thought to be a religious threat in the existence of the laws of physics themselves, and indeed the existence of anything at all—but it seems to be less alarming to most atheists.

This is a somewhat ridiculous situation. First of all, one should try to resist the intellectual effects of such a fear (if not the fear itself), for it is just as irrational to be influenced in one's beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist. But having said that, I would also like to offer somewhat inconsistently the reassurance that atheists have no more reason to be alarmed by fundamental and irreducible mind-world relations than by fundamental and irreducible laws of physics. It is possible to accept a world view that does not explain everything in terms of quantum field theory without necessarily believing in God. If the natural order can include universal, mathematically beautiful laws of fundamental physics of the kind we have discovered, why can't it include equally fundamental laws and constraints that we don't know anything about, that are consistent with the laws of physics and that render intelligible the development of conscious organisms some of which have the capacity to discover by prolonged collective effort some of the fundamental truths about that very natural order? (I am interpreting the concept of "physics" restrictively enough so that the laws of physics by themselves will not explain the presence of such thinking beings in the space of natural possibilities. Of course, if "physics" just means the most fundamental scientific theory about everything, then it will include any such laws if they exist.) [End Page 161]

This need not be a particularly anthropocentric view. We are simply examples of mind, and presumably only one of countless possible, if not actual, rational species on this or other planets. But the existence of mind is certainly a datum for the construction of any world picture: At the very least, its possibility must be explained. And it seems hardly credible that its appearance should be a natural accident, like the fact that there are mammals. 

End Quote

Edited by mfbukowski
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51 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Which is another reason that I think people make the claim.  Often those who claim to be "spiritual but not religious" are throwing a little shade back on the religious group, implying that being spiritual is more authentic than being religious. 

I personally have never received that impression from anyone that they think they are more authentic.  It seems to mostly come up when people are directly asked what they believe, and they don't want their beliefs to be identified with organized religion.  I don't perceive it as an attempt to throw "shade" on religious people as much as it is an attempt to be clear as to what they believe or don't believe. 

Edited by pogi
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38 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Religion and religious practice are the traditional vehicles for intentionally cultivating spirituality, but whatever nontraditional practice gets or becomes employed in effect becomes the spiritual person's religion.

I agree.  I think "religion" and "organized religion" are often used interchangeably when they are not necessarily the same thing.  It seems that all spiritual people are religious in some form or another. 

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23 minutes ago, pogi said:

I personally have never received that impression from anyone that they think they are more authentic.  It seems to mostly come up when people are directly asked what they believe, and they don't want their beliefs to be identified with organized religion.  I don't perceive it as an attempt to throw "shade" on religious people as much as it is an attempt to be clear as to what they believe or don't believe. 

I'm sure there are some out there who are like that but it hasn't been my experience with the majority.  It's been my experience that they don't want to be identified with organized religion because the view those who do identify as religious in a negative light.

Here are some quotes from an article about the concept by people who identify as spiritual but not religious.  Notice how religion and religious people are described.

Quote

 

Kern Beare, a Masthead member from Mountain View, California, believes in God and studies the teachings of Jesus. But does he identify with a particular religion? “Never,” he told me. The structure and rigidity of a church, Beare believes, is antithetical to everything Jesus represents.

“The word ‘church’ means you need to put on uncomfortable shoes, sit up straight, and listen to boring, old-fashioned hymns,” said Matthew Hedstrom, a professor of religion at the University of Virginia. “Spirituality is seen as a larger, freer arena to explore big questions.”  

“‘Spiritual-but-not-religious’ became a nice category that said, ‘I’m not some kind of cold-hearted atheist, but I’m not some kind of moralizing, prudish person, either. I’m nice, friendly, and spiritual—but not religious.’”

“It has all of these positive connotations of having a life with meaning, a life with some sacredness to it—you have some depth to who you are as a human being.” As a spiritual person, you’re not blindly accepting a faith passed down from your parents, but you’re also not completely rejecting the possibility of a higher power."

 

Some quotes on why some choose to identify as Spiritual but not religious even though they don't believe in a higher power:

Quote

 

While the stigma around atheism is generally less intense than it used to be, in certain communities, Hedstrom told me, “to say you’re an atheist is still to say you hate puppies.” It’s a taboo that can understandably put atheists, many of whom see their views as warm and open-minded, on the defensive. “Spiritual” doesn’t come with that kind of baggage.

Masthead member Hugh calls himself “spiritual,” but sees the designation as more of a hope or a wish than a true faith. “I hope there is more to this wonderful world than random chemistry... Nonetheless, I do see all of that as an illusion."

 

 

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

I agree.  I think "religion" and "organized religion" are often used interchangeably when they are not necessarily the same thing.  It seems that all spiritual people are religious in some form or another. 

I am wondering what would prompt a person to say, "I am spiritual [i.e., whole, complete, at peace with myself and others and my circumstances] but not / without being part of an organized religion." There is a reason for this is being communicated. Maybe that is the next study!

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1 hour ago, bluebell said:

I'm sure there are some out there who are like that but it hasn't been my experience with the majority.  It's been my experience that they don't want to be identified with organized religion because the view those who do identify as religious in a negative light.

From my experience, they generally speak of their personal experiences with the organization of religion and their reasons for lost trust in the institution (which is why they choose to identity as non-religious but spiritual).  It is nothing personal against religious people, per se.   Having chosen a different path, they may obviously disagree with the path that religious people have chosen, but I don't think that equates to looking at religious people in a negative light in other ways.  I guess our experience differs.  Certainly, I have met those who have a chip on their shoulder.  They like to make their presence known online, but in day-to-day life, the online loud mouths are the exception. 

1 hour ago, bluebell said:

Here are some quotes from an article about the concept by people who identify as spiritual but not religious.  Notice how religion and religious people are described.

Many of the quotes are about personal experiences and perspectives of organized religion in general, and why they choose not to be religious in that way, but it is not reflective of their views of religious people.  I think there is a difference.  It is no different from how we might describe all the reasons why we choose religion over non-religion - Jesus commanded/instituted it, it leads to deeper meaning and purpose in my life, etc., the non-religious are without guidance from a prophet being tossed to and fro, they don't have the gift of the Holy Ghost, etc, etc.   All of that doesn't necessarily cause us to view the non-religious in a negative light, per se.  But if one chooses to read between the lines, they may falsely come to that conclusion.    

1 hour ago, bluebell said:

Some quotes on why some choose to identify as Spiritual but not religious even though they don't believe in a higher power:

Yep.  There are many, many spiritual people who don't necessarily believe in a higher power (Buddhism, for example).  That makes them no less spiritual.  Others merely have a "hope" as this man describes, yet they may have a strong spiritual practice of gratitude, loving kindness, etc. in their life that give them meaning and purpose. 

 

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1 hour ago, CV75 said:

I am wondering what would prompt a person to say, "I am spiritual [i.e., whole, complete, at peace with myself and others and my circumstances] but not / without being part of an organized religion." There is a reason for this is being communicated. Maybe that is the next study!

It makes sense to me that if they don't ascribe to organized religious practices/dogmas/creeds/beliefs/structure they wouldn't want to be identified with it when asked about their beliefs.  Spiritual but non-religious is an easy category to identify with and let people know what you are about when someone asks. 

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10 hours ago, pogi said:

My question to you all is how do you define spirituality? 

Spirituality is when a person's mind/heart/thoughts/energy are in alignment with ("tuned in to") the Divine as much as is possible for that person in the present moment.  And imo this does not necessarily require a particular belief in, nor even any belief in, or about, the Divine.

 

10 hours ago, pogi said:

What are the goals of spirituality? 

To the extent that spirituality is connection with the Divine, the specific goals (intentions) are between that person's soul and the Divine.

 

10 hours ago, pogi said:

What are the different methods and approaches to spirituality? 

I think every single person is on a spiritual journey regardless of what the outer appearances may be. 

 

10 hours ago, pogi said:

  Should people who claim that they are spiritual but not religious be judged on the limited scope of how often they pray? 

Imo judging one another is not our job. But who am I to say that a spiritual path which leads a person to being judgmental is the wrong path for that person?

 

10 hours ago, pogi said:

 Do you believe that being spiritual but not religious is mostly a superficial and empty trend? 

I think "spiritual but not religious" is the future.  I think the “stone cut without hands" that breaks down our earthly institutions and rolls forth and fills the whole earth will be those who connect directly with the Divine without requiring any earthly intermediary.

Edited by manol
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1 hour ago, pogi said:

From my experience, they generally speak of their personal experiences with the organization of religion and their reasons for lost trust in the institution (which is why they choose to identity as non-religious but spiritual).  It is nothing personal against religious people, per se.   Having chosen a different path, they may obviously disagree with the path that religious people have chosen, but I don't think that equates to looking at religious people in a negative light in other ways.  I guess our experience differs.  Certainly, I have met those who have a chip on their shoulder.  They like to make their presence known online, but in day-to-day life, the online loud mouths are the exception. 

Many of the quotes are about personal experiences and perspectives of organized religion in general, and why they choose not to be religious in that way, but it is not reflective of their views of religious people.  I think there is a difference.  It is no different from how we might describe all the reasons why we choose religion over non-religion - Jesus commanded/instituted it, it leads to deeper meaning and purpose in my life, etc., the non-religious are without guidance from a prophet being tossed to and fro, they don't have the gift of the Holy Ghost, etc, etc.   All of that doesn't necessarily cause us to view the non-religious in a negative light, per se.  But if one chooses to read between the lines, they may falsely come to that conclusion.    

Yep.  There are many, many spiritual people who don't necessarily believe in a higher power (Buddhism, for example).  That makes them no less spiritual.  Others merely have a "hope" as this man describes, yet they may have a strong spiritual practice of gratitude, loving kindness, etc. in their life that give them meaning and purpose. 

 

I'm thinking though, that if the roles were reversed, and "religious" people were saying these types of things about "spiritual" people, many would have issues with it and suggest that they were being judgemental and unfair in their characterizations of the spiritual group.

I would have issues with it, for example, but I don't think I'm the only one.  What's good (or bad) for the goose is the same for the gander.

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

It makes sense to me that if they don't ascribe to organized religious practices/dogmas/creeds/beliefs/structure they wouldn't want to be identified with it when asked about their beliefs.  Spiritual but non-religious is an easy category to identify with and let people know what you are about when someone asks. 

That makes sense, as do other possible explanations, but I'm wondering what the interpersonal contexts are where people are asked to identify their religion (hospital intake? potential in-laws? dating site?) or whether they are religious (interviews in certain industries/lines of work?).

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1 hour ago, MustardSeed said:

I "think" that the term "spiritual" means something different to many LDS people than it means to the world at large. 

I wonder if that is what it is or that LDS may only recognize certain methods for bringing spirituality in and have misgivings about it actually being spirituality if not from "correct" methods. For example, sitting in the temple some may feel a wonder of God. Others may feel that on a hike, but because it's not in them temple some will discount that and say it can't be as special.

Probably a bit of both. 

1 hour ago, MustardSeed said:

Opinion only, based on personal experience - 

I grew up hearing the word spiritual and attributing it to LDS specific practices.   Now, I hear the word spiritual to mean an awareness or interest in a bigger picture.  It might include religion but is not limited to religion.

My son is deeply spiritual.  He is super introspective, always looking for deeper meaning in life - very involved in individual therapy, examining his purpose in existence  and the meaning and avenues of interpersonal connection. He is an artist, and he is all about earth stuff.  He's surrounded by hippies and though he doesn't think he is one, he's kind of one - he lives in hawaii, which I would describe as a DEEPLY spiritual place aside from all the tourism.  (Many people who live there are earthy sorts, protective of animal and sea life, and recognize a spiritual connection with nature.  In my opinion this falls into the category of spirituality, but certainly not the LDS definition of spirituality.) yet my son is not at all religious any more.  He's not sure God exists, but remains "open to anything".  Exept mormonism lol - 

I absolutely believe people can be deeply spiritual and not religious or even believe in Christian God.  I find it odd that this would be in question.   

 

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4 hours ago, pogi said:

I personally have never received that impression from anyone that they think they are more authentic.  It seems to mostly come up when people are directly asked what they believe, and they don't want their beliefs to be identified with organized religion.  I don't perceive it as an attempt to throw "shade" on religious people as much as it is an attempt to be clear as to what they believe or don't believe. 

I've met far too many "throwing shade" to think it is just a few internet loudmouths, many of whom I met on my mission more than 30 years ago. But I've also met a lot of religious people who were taking non-existent hints that shade was being thrown from people who were just being clear.  

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24 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

However, we also have to take into account the actual cultural practice of Buddhism, which often includes prayers to spirits and deities, despite the Buddha's views on such things.

Could it be that a religion moves beyond its founder? (rhetorical question. The answer is yes, they always do). Is that apostasy, development, something else?

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13 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

Could it be that a religion moves beyond its founder? (rhetorical question. The answer is yes, they always do). Is that apostasy, development, something else?

How did Christianity/Christendom -- and did all or only part of Christianity and Christendom -- move beyond Christ? Which ways are apostasy, development by His design, and conserved/preserved (but not by His design)?

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7 minutes ago, blackstrap said:

Would we say that , at least prior to 1830 , Joseph was spiritual but not religious ? 

I think the problem tends to come from "The Clergy", who tend toward, imo, having an administrative way of thinking, vs a spiritual one. That mentality needs "rules".

But rules turn the spirit into texts and file cabinets, and are written by bureaucrats  ;).

We have tried to keep personal revelation at the core of our church, but spirit vs file cabinets is a tough transition  ;)

 

 

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