Why Evolution Is True

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™.”

You can find my earlier discussions of Boudry’s work here, here and here, and, if you’re familiar with the unctuous theologian Alvin Plantinga, be sure to read Boudry’s new review of Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Boudry’s review is free online, starting on p. 21 of the latest newsletter from The International History, Philosophy and Science Working Group.

But today I’m presenting something else: a real Sokal-style hoax that Boudry has perpetrated. He informed me yesterday that he had submitted a fake…

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Spiritual But Not Religious – in the news…

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..

*         Agnostics

*         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.

Studies / evidence?

*         Most important:

*         What does Pew Forum report say on this?

*         Well – they tweeted the detailed stats in a table :


Profile of the “Spiritual but not Religious”  Who are the “spiritual but not religious,” and how do they compare with those who reject both labels as well as those who do consider themselves religious?
Profile of the “Spiritual but not Religious”
Who are the “spiritual but not religious,” and how do they compare with those who reject both labels as well as those who do consider themselves religious?

*         Also for some interesting analysis of this data see

*         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:

Mental Health?





*         All based on this study:



*         This study is based on interviews from a study:


*         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 – 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?
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:


Tapestry Interview, SOAS and more..

After a quiet-ish time of late – going back to work full-time has meant being really busy – Dispirited seems to have seen a sudden burst of activity..

Two weeks ago, I spoke to Gloucestershire Philosophical Society, partly about the book – but mainly about issues of ‘happiness’ – some of which overlapped with my post here: – and then we went on to have a really interesting discussion about death, and how atheists go about making meaning in the face of it: I was very moved (as were others present) by some of the contributions..

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: 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’.

I also spoke to Mary Hynes from the CBC Radio show Tapestry about the book – the podcast (and info) is at – she asked quite searching questions: and I found teh time flew by as we discussed spirituality and religion.

I also chatted with the Secular Buddhist Association about the book, but more of that in another post..