Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:11 am

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/2 ... ?hpt=hp_c2

Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent - by choosing an "individual relationship" to some concept of "higher power", energy, oneness or something-or-other - they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.


The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.


At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position.


I'm inclined to agree with this guy. The pick-and-choose smorgasbord of spirituality allows one to not take a real position or to choose only those things most palatable, if it is logical or true or not. On the other hand, the smorgasbord might allow some to discover the Dhamma or at least be more tolerant and peaceful to the rest of the world.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8126
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:34 am

Greetings,

David N. Snyder wrote:On the other hand, the smorgasbord might allow some to discover the Dhamma or at least be more tolerant and peaceful to the rest of the world.

Yeah, it's not the "spiritual but not religious" folks running amok in Bangladesh, destroying temples etc.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14677
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:46 am

David N. Snyder wrote:I'm inclined to agree with this guy. The pick-and-choose smorgasbord of spirituality allows one to not take a real position or to choose only those things most palatable, if it is logical or true or not. On the other hand, the smorgasbord might allow some to discover the Dhamma or at least be more tolerant and peaceful to the rest of the world.


Why the necessity to take a position? embracing change and uncertainty I think is more positive from a Buddhist perspective.

Being spiritual but not religious (as the quotes talk about it) is just being honest if that's where someone is at, and maybe it's being wary of institutions more than failure to take a position any position.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1951
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby plwk » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:52 am

Well David, perhaps terms like 'spiritual' and 'religious' needs their proper definition and context whenever they are raised or otherwise, one is looking at another futile debate of 'til the cows come home' thingy and IMHO, the article has not really addressed it but just ranting on generalities based on falliable human behaviour rather than the actual philosophy?

And the second issue is that what's 'spiritual' for one may be regarded as 'religious' and vice versa for another and the whole dynamics...so where is the line drawn or should a line even be drawn in the first place?

Recently, an interesting thought as I raised a thread on the sister site, where the Dalai Lama was musing over 'secular ethics'...even suggesting that 'religion' is no longer adequate, something that both religionists and non religionists can mutually agree on rather than the usual insistence that religion is necessary to formulate ethics and sidelining the nons in the process? Similarly, would that idea work in the 'spirituality vs religion' debate?
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1159
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:08 am

Interesting and valid points. Certainly if one is leaving their birth-religion and searching, the smorgasbord is probably a good idea. That way one can test out various philosophies, religions, spiritual paths. However, for how long? At one point, wouldn't it be better to make a choice?

Following precepts, sila I imagine is on the back-burner or not existent for many on the "spiritual but not religious side." This is not to say they are bad in any way, but according to many Buddhist teachers sila is necessary to make progress.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8126
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby manas » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:46 am

Hi David,

if your criticism is levelled at some 'new-agey' types I've met over the years, who follow a mish-mash of basically whatever suits their fancy (sometimes because it has a 'spiritual feel' to it) but while leaving out such inconvenient aspects of the spiritual path such as virtue or sense-regulation, then yes I agree with you.

But not all of those who have abandoned being defined by any one religious path or way, are like this. Some of them are just seeking the truth as best as they can, and along that journey are also quite willing to undergo many of the less glamorous or 'fun' aspects (such as sense-regulation), just as their more conventionally religious brothers and sisters do. Some of them find themselves forced to walk this lonely path of not 'belonging' to any one organized religion by their nature as it were, not fitting in to either the social structures, nor able to conform to any dogma whatsoever. But I do not judge such persons. (I'm not suggesting you were either, btw.) They too can be challenged and shaken to the core by the trials of the journey towards truth, just as anyone following a more structured and laid-out religious path can be.

metta.
User avatar
manas
 
Posts: 2133
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:04 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Hanzze » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:06 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent - by choosing an "individual relationship" to some concept of "higher power", energy, oneness or something-or-other - they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.

Sometimes yes, sometimes even the opposite. Especial if people are kind of traumaticed through religion the opposite of religion as a simply "political" opposition is very common.

Bhikkhu Thanissaros essay Faith In Awakening might explain some things:

So there's a tension in the Buddha's recommendations about faith and empiricism. I've discussed this point with many Asian Buddhists, and few of them find the tension uncomfortable. But Western Buddhists, raised in a culture where religion and faith have long been at war with science and empiricism, find the tension very disconcerting. In discussing the issue with them over the past several years, I've noticed that they often try to resolve it in the same ways that, historically, the tension between Christian faith and scientific empiricism has been resolved in our own culture. Three general positions stand out, not only because they are the most common but also because they are so clearly Western. Consciously or not, they attempt to understand the Buddha's position on faith and empiricism in a way that can be easily mapped onto the modern Western battle lines between religion and science.

The first interpretation has its roots in the side of Western culture that totally rejects the legitimacy of faith. In this view, the Buddha was an embodiment of the Victorian ideal of the heroic agnostic, one who eschewed the childish consolations of faith and instead advocated a purely scientific method for training and strengthening one's own mind. Because his method focused entirely on the present moment, questions of past and future were totally irrelevant to his message. Thus any references to faith in such issues as past karma, future rebirth, or an unconditioned happiness separate from the immediate input of the senses are later interpolations in the texts, which Buddhist agnostics, following the Buddha's example, should do their best to reject.

The second interpretation has roots in the side of Western culture that has rejected either the specifics of Christian faith or the authority of any organized religion, but has appreciated the emotion of faith as an essential requirement for mental health. This view presents the Buddha as a Romantic hero who appreciated the subjective value of faith in establishing a sense of wholeness within and interconnectedness without. Tolerant and opposed to dogmatism, he saw the psychological fact of a living faith as more important than its object. In other words, it doesn't matter where faith is directed, as long as it's deeply felt and personally nourishing. Faith in the Buddha's Awakening means simply believing that he found what worked for himself. This carries no implications for what will work for you. If you find the teaching on karma and rebirth comforting, fine: Believe it. If not, don't. If you want to include an all-powerful God or a Goddess in your worldview, the Buddha wouldn't object. What's important is that you relate to your faith in a way that's emotionally healing, nourishing, and empowering.

Because this second interpretation tends to be all-embracing, it sometimes leads to a third one that encompasses the first two. This interpretation presents the Buddha as trapped in his historical situation. Much like us, he was faced with the issue of finding a meaningful life in light of the worldview of his day. His views on karma and rebirth were simply assumptions picked up from the crude science of ancient India, while his path of practice was an attempt to negotiate a satisfying life within those assumptions. If he were alive today, he would try to reconcile his values with the discoveries of modern science, in the same way that some Westerners have done with their faith in monotheism.

The underlying assumption of this position is that science is concerned with facts, religion with values. Science provides the hard data to which religion should provide meaning. Thus each Buddhist would be performing the work of a Buddha by accepting the hard facts that have been scientifically proven for our generation and then searching the Buddhist tradition — as well as other traditions, where appropriate — for myths and values to give meaning to those facts, and in the process forging a new Buddhism for our times.


Of cause the faith in awakening and the faith in religion are two things but for the most not discriminateable at the first step.


David N. Snyder wrote:
The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.


Her I found Ajahn Chahs explaining very useful:


The Way to the Monastery (see also The Spiral of Virtue, Concentration and Wisdom


Virtue, concentration, and discernment: These three things the Buddha called a path. The path isn't the religion, and it's not what the Buddha really wanted, but they're the way we get there.

It's the same as your coming from Bangkok to Wat Nong Pah Pong. You didn't want the road coming here. You wanted to reach the monastery instead. But the road was needed for you to get here. The road coming here isn't the monastery. It's just the road to the monastery. You have to follow the road to get to the monastery.

Virtue, concentration, and discernment are the road to peace, which is what we really want.



David N. Snyder wrote:
At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position.

Sometimes yes, sometimes not. There is the case where there is still doubt and so the religion is not addoptable. And there is the case where there is no actually body of this religion avaliable, so one would maybe not join to fakes.

But I am generally not amoung the opinion that Buddha had founded something that is broadly understood as religion (a oppositions/group for each and everyone). And exactly this:
David N. Snyder wrote:On the other hand, the smorgasbord might allow some to discover the Dhamma or at least be more tolerant and peaceful to the rest of the world.

is what I thinks, that it was not intended by the Buddha. So no animal business, adverticing under a smorgasbord at least but also a clear line of what is Sangha and refuge to the doctrine. Who ever comes is welcome and no other expetions behind. Smorgasbord amoung a defined road will cause a delta but not a solide land. A delta, even it is a beloved place to gain benefit, is the first which is lost when the waterlevel increases. The delta is only peaceful as long there is benefit to be gained. So its better to stay on a maybe lonly rock where the work seems to be much harder.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
User avatar
Hanzze
 
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Hanzze » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:13 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Following precepts, sila I imagine is on the back-burner or not existent for many on the "spiritual but not religious side." This is not to say they are bad in any way, but according to many Buddhist teachers sila is necessary to make progress.

If we are honest this is the most hindrence to every "religion" as it was original meant and this is also the reason why religions are generally not very popular.

Not only according to many Buddhist teacher sila is necessary, its a simply fact we might not like. But that is the same in all other religions. People like to have only the pleasure and nice things but they are not willing to give up even a single simple unwholsesome habitat.

Teachers in earlier times would not exept disiples without virtue and that has its reason as there is nothing gained when you give somebody without the will for virtue additional knowledge and skills. In such cases this skills, just kills.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
User avatar
Hanzze
 
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Dan74 » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:44 am

This is an old debate and as a general rule I would agree that in order to really sink one's teeth into a spiritual tradition, one needs immersion in a community of dedicated practitioners - a Sangha.

Some may make some headway on their own, others may get further mired in delusion while belonging to a Sangha. But while stuck in a swamp I don't like my chances if I propose to pull myself out by the bootstraps. Trust in a wise guide and help from kalyana-mittas who can point out when the Dhamma is misunderstood or misapplied as well as teach by example, is paramount, IMO.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2647
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby equilibrium » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:47 pm

Being an apple but not apple tree is a cop-out?
User avatar
equilibrium
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:07 am

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:52 pm

If the religious insttution is the Catholic church being a cop out is most probably a good thing. Was Jesus perhaps someone who was spiritual but not religious?
User avatar
Mr Man
 
Posts: 1312
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:42 am

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby daverupa » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:48 pm

Mr Man wrote:Was Jesus perhaps someone who was spiritual but not religious?


No, that's anachronistic. He was a Jew (named Joshua).

---

Otherwise, I'd want to see some terms defined before weighing in, to wit 'spiritual', 'religious'. Sounds like those who self-identify in this way are going to have specific definitions in mind, which may or may not be in accord one to the next.

Seems like, yet again, people trying to generate and sustain the best label(s) for themselves; maybe this is a growing theme in the modern day, since people are trying to distill their vaunted personalities into apropo soundbytes for larger social circles... social media probably exacerbates this...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4193
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby reflection » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:12 pm

It's not about being spiritual, not about being religous, and certainly not about choosing anything.

Did the Buddha choose a religion of his time? No he didn't. Should we? No, we don't. We should search for the truth. One doesn't just choose a "truth", that'd be foolish.
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:26 pm

daverupa wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Was Jesus perhaps someone who was spiritual but not religious?


No, that's anachronistic. He was a Jew (named Joshua).




It was bit of a throwaway comment. Don't really know to much about Jesus but didn't he have some issues with the status quo?
User avatar
Mr Man
 
Posts: 1312
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:42 am

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:46 pm

I watched a "inteligence squared" debate not too long ago about religion, and one of the debators quoted a monk or priest who when told by a visitor to the church he was in that they are "not really very religious but are spiritual" said "well I am not really spiritual but am religious"

I think it is just how you concieve the notion of the terms, they essentially mean the same thing highlighting different angles of the same thing, yet carry formal and informal connotations nowadays, which are not really in the words.

Anyone can say they are spiritual, and be anything but...; and anyone can call themselves religious, and be anything but....
to boil it down I believe a spiritual person is someone who has faith in ultimate reality or deity... and religion is the manifest these beliefs. You can not be one without the other, you walk your talk so to speak) unless there is a dissidence.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5754
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:03 pm

daverupa wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Was Jesus perhaps someone who was spiritual but not religious?


No, that's anachronistic. He was a Jew (named Joshua).


Only on his mother's side. As for the father, well she has this crazy story . . .
(old Israeli joke)

As far as definitions, I think for the author it is:

Religious: following a specific institutional religion in one of its forms, i.e., Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc.

Spiritual: following no specific religion, but taking bits and pieces from here and there and utilizing different practices from many traditions, reading, studying various books of various faiths, etc., not agnostic as there are some specific practices done including prayer, meditation, belief in some kind of after-life and/or rebirth.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8126
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:35 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:At one point, wouldn't it be better to make a choice?

Hi David,

why?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:
User avatar
acinteyyo
 
Posts: 1032
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:48 am
Location: Neuburg/Donau, Germany

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:57 pm

acinteyyo wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:At one point, wouldn't it be better to make a choice?

Hi David,

why?


To be on a set-path, not just picking and choosing the palatable parts and leaving behind the "harder" stuff like precepts, commandments, etc. To master a path, to make progress, rather than getting lost in a thicket of views. Just some ideas for that side, I personally don't have a problem with not choosing a specific religion, especially when first embarking on a search.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8126
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:35 am

Given the choice between classifying myself as spiritual or religious i would have to go for spiritual. What this means in my case is that for most days of the past 15-20 years or so i have gotten in at least a few mnutes of buddhist meditation practice. "Religious" connotes to me a kind of rigidity of thinking and belief in the supernatural that i want no part of. I guess i would rather "cop-out", if someone want to label it that way, than follow blindly. Buddhism, to me is about practice and living with reality, religion, as i understand it, is about denying reality in favor of beleif, and performance of ritual.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
User avatar
m0rl0ck
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Being spiritual but not religious is a cop-out

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:55 am

I wouldn't classify myself as anything.
Both 'religious' and 'not religious but spiritual' are so individualistic in meaning that either could mean anything or even the same thign.
I have known religious people who have been incredibly sincere practitioners and also others who just engage in the outward form.
With "not religious but spiritual" I have seen some people who like New Age people mix certain ideas from different traditions like a noodle soup, yet there are also those from my own tradition many of whom eschew the 'Buddhism' label.
We should also keep in mind that Buddhism isn't some monolithic construct, the term didn't exist before the 19th Century and the term "Theravada" didn't exist before the 20th Century.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16154
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Next

Return to Lounge

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 7 guests