Wow! This Huffington Post editorial from a couple years ago by Lillian Daniel pretty well hits the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing in the mouth. Hard not to relate to her exasperation:
Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.
Thank you for sharing, spiritual-but-not-religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that’s who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.
According to a 2013 Gallup survey, as many as 1 in 3 Americans identifies as “spiritual but not religious,” and in 2010 a USA Today survey claimed that more than 70% of Generation Y identify as “more spiritual than religious.” So the question becomes, why? Why are so many Americans clinging to spirituality but divorcing it from organized religion? Is this a legitimate outgrowth of American self-determinism, or is it simply postmodern navel gazing?