A bit quiet over the summer, but a recent podcast I did with Stephen Schettini (AKA The Naked Monk) has come out. We talk about the book, and various things. One of the most interesting is the idea of what would have happened to the traditional forms of religion in Western Europe and the US if Buddhism hadn’t had such a draw on many dissatisfied but enthusiastic people over the last 4 decades or so: You can hear the podcast at http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2013/07/26/2-david-webster/.
On the same day, a review of Dispirited came out on the LSE Books website. The review is HERE. Although the reviewer doesn’t agree with everything, she offers a really engaged and critical review that I thought was rather good. She has me pegged as a neo-Kantian, which I am not totally happy about (though arch Buddhist-Kantian Justin Whitaker will be pleased). However, she can only have got that impression from the book – so it’s probably my fault.
Furthermore, the reviewer is correct to point out that it’s an unfinished account: the neither-religious-nor-spiritual response is still in need
of better, more philosophically developed, versions which I only hint at in the book…
A recent Podcast interview I did with Ted Meissner at The Secular Buddhist can be heard HERE…
Dispirited interview with Tricycle Magazine
I know I am overdue to post about the SBNR issues with studies and mental health – and that’ll appear..
But till then – here’s an interview (entitled ‘The Dangers of Spirituality”) that I did with the Buddhist magazine Tricycle’s website:
Ok – I have said things on this topic again – but perhaps I might be clearer. I haven’t object to the term “Spiritual But Not Religious’ out of pique, or disrespect: but because I am not sure it makes sense..
Of course, we can (as I say in the book) see it as a form of social positioning (“I’m not like these mad religious people who are fundamentalists, but yet I’m deep”) – but as notion in itself? Part of the reason for this seems historical: To say one is Spiritual But Not Religious seems a radical narrowing of what ‘religious’ means that gives scant attention to the actual reality of the history of religious traditions.
If being ‘religious’ meant only being a member of a mainstream tradition, largely accepting that tradition, accepting Orthodoxy regarding textual interpretation and living according to that tradition’s socio-moral norms – then being Spiritual But Not Religious would perhaps make some sense. But this doesn’t seem to match what has happened.
The heterodox, the outsider seer, the radical reformer, the Protestant, the bhakti poet, the neo-Pagan celebrant, all these seem occupied with fundamentally what religion is about. They are about an outworking of the consequences of what they believe to be encounters with a Divinity / Spiritual Reality. They also seem Spiritual But Not Religious when it’s now used.
Surely Religion has been about humans respond (and organise themselves) in response to claims about the Spiritual. If you are spiritual, it means you are religious. You may not be religious in certain ways, and not be comfortable with certain morals, social forms, and politico-cultural associations that many forms of religion represent. But you are religious. Now, it may be that in the future being ‘religious’ comes to mean only a narrow aspect of what we have thus far used the term to denote – but that day has not yet come..
Just a quick post to note the book review at the American Buddhist Perspective blog:
Webster teaches Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics not far from me and as a fellow traveler on the road of Buddhist studies (Webster’s fist book is on Buddhism and Desire) and philosophy, I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time. At just over 70 pages, it’s written as a pamphlet almost, perhaps a manifesto: light on footnotes, jargon, and the kind of verbiage that can turn a lot of people off from intelligent writing. I highly recommend it.
That said, it may come as no surprise that the book seems to have been misunderstood by some readers. Perhaps this is due to its polemical opening words:
When someone tells me that they are not really religious, but that they are a very spiritual person, I want to punch their face. Hard.
Not exactly the best way to make friends. But Webster does explain. The problem is confusion: his own. Religion for him is deeply spiritual, and spirituality is inseparable from religion.
Thus the book reads less like an attack on ‘spiritual’ life (which Webster notes is multifaceted and not always pernicious – e.g. in Pierre Hadot’s “Philosophy as a Way of Life“) and more as an exploration of and ultimately an attack on a very pernicious marketplace of spirituality in the contemporary world. The problematic notion of spirituality is narrowed, in developing detail, to the kind of superficial, non-committed, materialistic nonsense which so often surrounds people proffering the above violent-desire-producing phrase.
In fact, despite his committed atheism, Webster praises.. CONTINUE READING
The full review is at : http://www.patheos.com/blogs/americanbuddhist/2012/08/a-careful-walk-through-the-spirituality-minefield.html
At http://cbatampa.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/but-not-religious.html, Rabbi Jason Rosenberg from Tampa reviews Dispirited.
Below is a flavour of the piece…
There’s always a lot of talk about the idea of being “spiritual but not religious.” It certainly is a fairly common refrain, and it’s no surprise that proponents (and leaders) of organized religion are often against it. I’ll admit to having pretty mixed feelings on the matter*. On the one hand, I’m really not all that eager to attack people who are, more or less, minding their own business. It’s one of the ways in which religious people like myself often allow themselves to engage in mean-spirited pettiness. Not very religious, or spiritual, frankly.
* If you read this blog at all regularly, this should come as no shock to you!
And, maybe more significantly, it’s often not fair. At the very least, it’s using the same broad brush that many of us religious types hate being used on us. I mean, when someone says, “religion is all superstitious nonsense,” I usually protest about the word “all.” It’s manifestly true that some religion is superstitious nonsense. Maybe much of it. READ THE FULL REVIEW…
Another interesting review – it doesn’t wholly agree, but engages with what seem serious questions..