“I’m Spiritual, But Not Religious” (Bronx Cheer)

“I’m Spiritual, But Not Religious”
(Bronx Cheer)
By Ron Steelman

This is an example of the ongoing debate/discussion about the “S” word. In my experience a high percentage of people who claim to be ‘spiritual, but not religious’ can’t really explain what they mean by this. That’s O.K. Many people have no idea about what they really believe, because many have never actually thought about it. Others seem to be afraid to identify as a “non-believer,” and simply use the phrase “spiritual, but not religious” in order to cling to various supernatural beliefs.

Krista Tippett

Krista Tippett

Below is a quote from the Krista Tibbett podcast on her NPR radio program, “On Being,” from her discussion with Lawrence Krauss, titled, “Our Origins and the Weight of Space,” recorded  in the summer of 2012 at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York.

On Being is mainly about faith. Here is Krista at the end of the Krauss interview trying to trap the famous theoretical physicist into relating the word ‘spirituality’ to the word ‘scientist.’

Krista Tibbett:  What is the spirituality of a scientist?

Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss:  The spirituality of a scientist? The spirituality of a scientist. . .if I had to use that term. . . is “awe in the wonder of nature.” And. . . the realization that spirituality isn’t having the answers before you ask the questions. Real spirituality comes from asking the questions and opening your mind to what the answers might be.

The following two paragraphs are from Paula Kirby of the Washington Post. If I had her skill as a writer, I would have written this myself (thank you Paula for putting this so succinctly.)

(the following is an excerpt from the article, “Spirituality: It’s Only Human” by Paula Kirby – Washington Post, Wednesday, August 17, 2011)

‘Spiritual’: what a weaselly word that is! Much like ‘Intelligent Design’ as a euphemism for ‘Creationism,’ ‘spiritual’ is a word that believers throw in when they’d like to claim something for religion, but suspect they wouldn’t get away with it. ‘Spiritual’ is conveniently ill-defined and therefore perfect for their purposes, conveying, as it does, a vaguely religious implication that humans are special, somehow elevated above the other animals, attuned to other-worldly influences and having an added dimension that cannot be satisfied with mere Earthly matters. ‘Spiritual’ leaves open the possibility of ‘mysticism’ and ‘higher powers’ and ‘immortal souls,’ without ever having to spell out, and therefore defend, what is meant by such things.

We non-religious might also resort to the word on occasion, when groping for a term to describe a particularly intense sensation of peace or beauty or harmony; but generally speaking, it is rare to find an example of ‘spirituality’ being used in a context where ‘emotional and psychological well-being’ would not be a more appropriate term. Well, shorthand can serve a useful purpose, and ‘emotional and psychological well-being’ is a bit of a mouthful; but still, we should not forget that that is what we are really talking about, and we certainly should not be fooled by the other-dimensioned overtones of ‘spiritual’ vocabulary into thinking that emotional and psychological well-being actively requires us to dabble in matters religious. Link to article

My “emotional and psychological well-being” frequently comes from my “awe in the wonder of nature.” However, I also can achieve emotional and psychological well-being through the love from and for my family, the enjoyment of beautiful art, music, dance, theater, food, friendship, and laughter. It’s not necessary for me to chase this primitive idea of a spiritual nature. My human nature and my “awe in the wonder of nature” fills me to the brim with “emotional and psychological well-being.” Nothing supernatural is required. I’m a happy Humanist.

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4 thoughts on ““I’m Spiritual, But Not Religious” (Bronx Cheer)

  1. WELL SAID, RON! My feelings exactly! I am so in awe of the knowledge I’ve gained, and the wonders of nature, that I almost get “giddy.” Throw in my wonderful family,loving friends, music,literature,etc. and I can almost achieve a chronic state of euphoria. And all without religion, or drugs! Thanks for your post. Pat Sent from my Verizon Wireless Smartphone

  2. I like the exploration of the word that you present. I have always resisted the s word, but it is hard to say exactly why since everyone seems to have a different definition of what it means. Awe in the presence of beauty, friendships family, – that I can relate to.

  3. So enjoy your humanist writings!
    Such a treat, and a welcome relief from all the political nonsense.
    And thank you for RBH being there when I was opening the closet door.
    You helped me rip it off its hinges and toss that door into the dust bin.
    Never felt so free in my life, and full of awe and wonder.

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