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..