Tuesday, October 02, 2012

But not religious?

I went to a rather rangy discussion of "spiritual but not religious" sponsored by the New York Salon last night. Many interesting things were said by panelists and audience, some of whom were pro-SBNR, others against. The two most interesting to me: First, an audience member, perhaps a native Russian speaker, said that in his language and all others he knew "spiritual" meant someone unusually holy and was a term nobody could or should use for themselves. Second, a panelist, a sociologist, remarked that there's a "political project" to the idea of spirituality: it's a way of asserting the validity of all religions (since everyone's "spiritual," across time and space), entirely comfortable with (pseudo)sciences like phrenology and evolutionary psychology, and effectively a part of secular American culture. There's even a "spiritual assessment" in the US military's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which bypasses the separation of church and state but really sending those who test poorly to chaplains for assistance. Chaplains are addressing "spiritual," not specifically "religious" needs.

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