Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spiritual But Not Religious? Danger, Will Robinson!

I just read an article on CNN’s website; “Are there dangers in being 'spiritual but not religious'?” Apparently, it is “trendy” to say that one is spiritual but not religious, which as I understand it, is an assertion that the SBNR person feels free to pick and chose from various religious traditions those things that best reflect their own beliefs, without being tied down to the dogma of a single religion. It seems to me that this is a step in the right direction, if it steers the individual away from blind religious fundamentalism and closer to rejecting religion all together, but it still sounds like most of them are inclined to imbue philosophical writing with mystical, magical powers that don’t really exist.

The article asks (but doesn’t really answer) the question “Are there dangers in this?” As a slightly outspoken atheist (and observer of more outspoken ones), I can answer; yes. That is, narrow-minded religion bullies may try to get you fired from your job, driven out of your community, or even get you killed. However, none of the above was mentioned in the article.

Not surprisingly, Jesuit Priest, James Martin, who arguably has zero experience outside of organized religion, doesn’t like it and thinks it’s driven by egotism. "Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," says Martin. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?" Gee, I don’t know, Father. Maybe you should get out of your church and ask some of the many, many non-religious people who are out helping the poor. Or, alternately, maybe you could talk to all the conservative Xian tea-baggers who prefer to spend their spare time advocating for the elimination of all government help for the poor. And do I have to point out all the complacency and self-centeredness that has had the Catholic church in the headlines recently?

The bottom line is that the dangers in being spiritual but not religious are that those people aren’t under the thumbs of purveyors of organized religion and could ultimately realize that the rigid, dogmatic demands of said religions are pure hogwash. Then they may point out to other people, maybe via, oh, I don’t know, a blog, that Catholic priests want to control everyone else’s bedroom although they can’t control their own, and fundy protestants want to quote-mine the Bible to legitimize the advocacy of bigotry and intolerance, and Islamic fundies just want to kill everyone who disagrees with them. Or maybe the danger is that the SBNR folks will miss out on all the fun of spending eternity with the aforementioned religious groups.