I’m a big fan of Dr. Maarten Boudry, a Belgian philosopher who’s a research fellow in the Department of Philosopy & Moral Sciences of Ghent University. Boudry has spent a lot of time showing that religion and science are incompatible, attacking the distinction between “metaphysical naturalism” and “methodological naturalism” (a distinction much beloved by accommodationists), and generally pwning “Sophisticated Theologians™.”
I recently talked to some students about the term ‘Spiritual But Not Religious ‘ and my notes may, or may not, be of interest.. They are below. You may notice that I take a much more measured tone than in the book..
We began by wondering:
Who are the SBNR?
* We don’t wholly know.. But..
* New Age..
* Disillusioned with institutions
* Spiritual self-selecter
* Anxious Buddhists (for example)
Why claim to be SBNR?
* Rejection / discomfort with authority..
* Sense of something bigger, but a (postmodern) suspicion of ‘grand narratives’
* A Socio-cultural guess?
People wish to disassociate from the type of belief which is tainted by religious extremism and fundamentalism. Nonetheless, they want to identify not as a shallow egotist (with a mere mechanistic world-view) but as someone with depth and sensitivity.
* So – of those who described themselves as SBNR – 39% also called themselves Protestant..
* See aforementioned analysis blog – but tells us that religious (or spiritual) identification is complex: people may feel affiliated with a tradition in some senses, but perhaps want to distance themselves from the ‘toxicity’ associated with being religious – in some ways..
* But then there was more – in January this year: we saw a rash of headlines:
* Dig into appendix d for the questions on religion, and things get much less clear..
* Surveys? I asked a psychologist who knows about these things to look at the data.. He blogs about ‘spiritual intelligence’, etc – http://jonathanschips.blogspot.co.uk/ so I knew he’d be interested..
The Actual Question:
By ‘religion’, we mean the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue. Some people do not follow a religion but do have spiritual beliefs or experiences. Some people make sense of their lives without any religious or spiritual beliefs.
Would you say that you have a religious or a spiritual understanding of your life? CODE ALL THAT APPLY 1 Religious 2 Spiritual 3 Neither
* SO: they can be Religious, Spiritual, Both, Neither.
* Seems fair – but: IF the person says only option 2: survey treats them as not religious. They haven’t said they are – but they haven’t said that they really aren’t either.
* This is not that big an issue in original study, but when new study then uses this data – correlates with mental health and religiosity: it sees that those who said option 2 (only) have higher incidence of issues.
* Then we get news stories.. But these people may well be religious, but identified as spiritual. They may have implied SBNR by answers : BUT they never actually identifed using the term ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’…
* As my psychologist friend put it: “Their responses have been framed by the questions asked, they have not chosen to self identify as spiritual but not religious.”
* The mental health stories generated huge comment: be it pagans insisting they were religious, people disputing the claims / inclusions – they were very active..
* The video had “Why I Love Jesus, but Hate Religion” has had 23 Million views – maybe, whatever we think of it, it may give us some clues:
Last week, I spoke to people at a seminar at SOAS, where we talked about the book, but also about what atheist ‘services’ might look like: I met some people who’d been at this event: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21319945 and we had (I think) a constructive exchange of views. I remain uncomfortable with them – but took a number of their points on board, especially the claim that they might address concerns about ‘community’.