The Religious Pundit Class Equivalent of Hippie Punching

Director/producer Alan D. Miller seems like a very intelligent guy, he participates in the NY Salon after all, so I was disappointed to see him participate in the religious pundit class version of “hippie punching”: criticizing all those “spiritual but not religious” people for CNN’s Belief Blog. You see, these spiritual (but not religious) people are very shallow, and don’t realize how darn important the Christian Bible has been to human history.

“A bit of Yoga here, a Zen idea there, a quote from Taoism and a Kabbalah class, a bit of Sufism and maybe some Feing Shui but not generally a reading and appreciation of The Bhagavad Gita, the Karma Sutra or the Qur’an, let alone The Old or New Testament. So what, one may ask? Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work. Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses – an entirely radical moment that had enormous consequences for humanity. Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the “me” generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement.”

So, you see, spiritual-but-not-religious people are dilettantes who should, I guess, be really respectful and thankful for the Bible? They should know that Christianity has dominated Western culture for a long, long, time? Ultimately, according to Miller, there are just two sides and we all, but especially these self-absorbed yoga-breathing spiritual types, need to just pick one.

“Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.”

Ha-ha! Take that straw-man spiritual-but-not-religious demographic, you’ve been defeated again!

So I have two problems with Mr. Miller’s essay, aside from the lazy broadsides against a diverse demographic that he most likely only thinks he understands. First, people who actually define themselves as “spiritual but not religious” account for less than 0.3% of the US population (even if you include all “liberal faiths” you only get to 0.7%). So he’s taking the time to complain about what a tiny demographic does because they get up his nose? Because he’s tired of hearing about their latest guru at cocktail parties? That’s just petty, unless he actually means people who refuse to associate themselves with a religion, the “nones,” in which case you’re talking about a far larger demographic, and one that won’t slot easily into Miller’s conjectures.

Secondly, I want to talk about the importance of the Bible. I completely agree that the Bible (particularly the King James Bible) has had an immense influence in Western culture, but let us not pretend that this is because the book excelled in its prose, was especially unique, or won in some metaphysical literature competition. The Bible was dominant because Christianity was dominant, and Christianity is dominant because of a Constantinian turn, not because it fairly competed against other forms of religious literature. To believe that the printing press, great art, and great music, would not have occurred had the pagans triumphed is folly of the highest order. Miller is praising the Bible for the role any number of other works could have taken had Christianity not enforced strict controls on who got to read what for generations. Are we suddenly going to forget that the ancient world had a thriving literary tradition (one that smart Christians constantly cribbed from)? That the Rennaisance and the Enlightenment had as much to do with access to pre-Christian works as it did the Bible? For a long time Christianity has only had to struggle with itself, and to praise the flowers that bloomed in its tended garden is to ignore the forest it razed to plant those seeds.

In my opinion the outsize reactions to spiritual but not religious people are knee-jerk and ultimately telling. You “punch the hippie” not because the hippie is necessarily wrong, but because it benefits you in some way to engage in the punching. Right now there are a lot of people involved in institutional religion who are working very, very, hard to remind you how much good they’ve done you in the past. Art! Music! Pretty buildings! Don’t forget! This is despite the fact that a majority of people are still professed Christians in the United States. That a tiny minority has shaken off institutional faith and is searching for something different, and maybe hasn’t found it yet, is threatening because people are worried that it will catch on. That they may even stop searching and choose to be Buddhists, or Hindus, or Pagans, and weaken the cultural throne that institutional forms of Christianity have long taken for granted.

So the next time you see someone knocking the “nones,” or bemoaning the spiritual people, ask yourself what their agenda for doing it is. Why are they punching the hippie?

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Apuleius Platonicus

    Miller would have had a somewhat valid point if he had not made it so clear that he himself has never closely analyzed the lazy assumptions that he makes about his own religious views. As Jason points out, Miller has only a crude, propagandistic view of the influence of Christianity in Western culture, and in particular, Miller completely ignores the violent and coercive way in which that influence came about.

    As Socrates taught 2500 years ago, it is far better to not know and to acknowledge that one does not know, than to live in ignorance while believing that one possesses knowledge.

    • Guest

      Yes he’s off-base. He thinks only Christians hear “spiritual but not religious” about their practice or faith and thought his views were being attacked and treated shallowly and tried to figure why, all cooked up in his head.
      Personally, I think because he’s suggesting they are “bad” some go then assume they’re hippy? That’s off-base, too. IMHO.

    • LogicGuru

      The issue isn’t who as the “truth” whatever htat is, but who has the buildings, and the art.

      • Apuleius Platonicus

        No, the issue is how things came to be the way they are. And, more fundamentally, the issue is the fact that Alan Miller passively accepts a rather hackneyed view of the way things are, and never bothers to look into how things might have come to be this way. If he were to look into that he might find that not only is the situation somewhat different from what he supposes (Vergil and Cicero being rather more important in Western culture than the monstrosities and inanities of the Bible, for example, thank the Gods), but even to the extent that he has hold of some portion of the truth, the story behind that rather takes the shine off the supposed wonderfulness of that influence.

        • LogicGuru

          Science tells us the way things came to be the way they are. The Bible is not only largely false but one of the most boring collections of literature that ever saw its way into print. Religion gives us the kick, the metaphysical thrills, the aesthetic experience–the art, architecture, music and good things of high culture.

          • Obsidia

            LogicGuru, it sounds to me that you like the Drama and the Show. Well, I guess it’s cheaper than Broadway. So how much do you give to the Church? (just curious)

        • hotstreak12

          not so sure about virgil. In popular culture he’s more known for being Dante’s guide through hell than for his own works.

          • Apuleius Platonicus

            In the long arc of Western culture Vergil trumps everything. During most of the last 2000 years of Western history, literacy was synonymous with the ability to read and write in Latin, and Vergil was considered the gold standard of Latin grammar and style. But Vergil’s influence extended far beyond the “educated elites”. Illiterate peasants literally worshipped Vergil and prayed to him for healing and for magical powers. The Cult of Vergil was understandably centered in Italy, but his ubiquitous presence in the popular imagination is well attested throughout Western Christendom.

            Vergil might be less well known today, but that is just another sign that we are truly living through a New Dark Age, and that is another topic.

          • hotstreak12

            and why and Anead is seen as a manual for paganism, or at least a remember people calling it that in an earlier posting.

  • Mojavi

    A few points:
    1: The poor illiterates studied and were taught to read the bible because it was the only book given for free after the invention of the printing press

    2: Lazy?!?! So a church goer who does not ask questions but follow blindly isn’t considered “not thinking”?!?! Just because one attends church doesn’t mean they know alot about the history or theology of their faith.

  • Guest

    I find the “spiritual but not religious” phrase most often used by people who know damn well that Other People’s Stuff works but don’t want to credit that they could be important to those that made and use them. They are the people who spend large amounts of cash for antique temple Buddhas because they look pretty, and discard them away soon as the fashion has grown tired.
    I’m not saying that’s all wrong, but why’s the phrase “spiritual but not religious” so often come with mockery of other beliefs?

    • Guest

      Also, I think cigfran’s insults above (made later) prove my point, at least in a single example.

  • Pitch313

    OMG! If it weren’t for Christianity’s dominant and dominating influence on our historical culture, our historical culture couldn’t be described as “Christian.” If it weren’t for Christian believers, we wouldn’t be able to mock and deride those who might not be Christian believers. And if Christian believers always saw eye to eye, we’d all adhere to the same denomination of Christianity.

    Wouldn’t we?

    Hey! Don’t mind me. I’m just a dinosaur lazy hippy who studied Sanskrit to read those hazy mazy cool laid back old Hindu and Buddhist religious tracts that unhinged me from knowing my true cultural duty was only to the Christianity that made the world I live in what it is!!! If I weren’t so constitutionally lazy and spliffed out I’d turn myself in to the cultural inquistion!

    • LogicGuru

      OK, Buddhists and Hindus. Build some temples and I’ll get on board. I’m a Christian because in the Western world that’s where the art and architecture is. If you want to promote some other tradition, let them produce the aesthetic goodies.

      And, yes, I am lazy. I just want the aesthetic kick and mystical experience, with the least possible effort. And that is what Christianity provides.

      • Aine

        They do have temples. I can’t even with this comment.

        • LogicGuru

          The problem is that those goodies aren’t HERE in the US and readily available. If I were living in India I would OF COURSE be a Hindu. Christianity is our culture-religion–it has the most convenient, plentiful shrines on the ground.

          • Guest

            now I can’t even, either

          • Aine

            Actually they do have temples in the us. You’re horrifying uneducated.

          • BryonMorrigan

            That is such a “derp-worthy” comment that…I am just flabbergasted…

          • harmonyfb

            There are many Hindu and Buddhist temples all over the world, including the US (where I live.) My local Buddhist temple is less than 10 blocks from my house (complete with large, quite beautiful religious idols in front). I’m sure there’s a small Hindu temple here, but I know for certain that there’s a large one in the next town over (less than 15 minutes away).
            Of course the presence of these temples doesn’t impact my worship (anymore than the presence of local Christian churches impacts my faith.) A local Pagan temple might be nice, but I don’t need it. The trees in my yard, the grass under my feet, the coral vine growing on my fence, and the moon overhead are all the ‘goodies’ necessary for me to connect with the Gods. Everything else is window dressing.

      • Jadelyn

        If you don’t believe any other religious traditions have “the goodies”, it’s only because you haven’t bothered to look around you and see them. Education is a wonderful thing. Find you some.

      • Marc Mielke

        Nuu’anu, HI: I went to school across from here. Sort of dominates the surrounding area, which has lots of other nice religious buildings as well.

      • Ursyl

        I think this is perhaps meant as sarcasm?

      • fyreflye

        Ms Baber’s articles in The Guardian suggest that she manages to keep her perch there by pretending to be “controversial” while trolling her readers. But I can’t imagine how any genuine philosopher could have the temerity to justify her conversion to Christianity for the sort of reasons she gives here for having done so.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    The most obvious “hole you could drive a truck through” in Mr. Miller’s analysis is that he doesn’t even attempt a hand-wave at multi-culturalism by including *any* of the other major world religions in his rubric. Where, for example, does he put religiously-identified (presumably “Western” adherents) Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews? This is in no way any kind of serious argument for *anything* if he can’t be bothered to recognize other major faiths (he’s also obviously clueless about including Paganism and indigenous faiths among them.) The man sounds like he’s stuck in the 20th (or maybe the 19th!) century.

    • Guest

      Much of the US is overwhelmingly Protestant Christian (usually Baptist or Pentacostal in some stripe). In this century.
      Some rural people’s heads would explode if they knew having mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, and more in the same neighbourhood and/or the same street is “normal” for many, with peace and not having tense issues amongst them all also the norm. All they know about most of the religions of the world are what they’ve seen on tv or the internet or what they could have found in a textbook.

      • LogicGuru

        Baptist or pentacostal? this is white trash religion. Where do you dome from. These people are detestable garbage–I’m episcopalian: don’t associate me with those stinking shit lower class filth.

        • Aine

          Wow, classicism, really? You’re on a roll with your ignorance and hatred. You have to be a troll.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            A philosophy professor actually:


            I guess this is what philosophers do in their spare time? Troll?

          • kenneth

            One can make the case that the art of trolling was in fact invented and perfected by a philosopher, Diogenes!

          • Andrew Milmoe

            *Now* I know what to do with my time machine…

          • Briar

            I don’t know that I would say troll, so much as someone who truly believes what she’s saying in the comments here. My impression of that comes from her articles here:
   though of course I can’t totally rule out the fact that she may also be trolling anyway.

          • Marc Mielke

            Gotta admit, philosophers got a lot of spare time.

          • Aine

            A professor? Wow. I don’t know if I should be disgusted or amused.

          • BryonMorrigan
          • Apuleius Platonicus

            Wow. This professor Baber presents the reign of Justinian as an idyllic Golden Age: “I wondered how, after this, things could have gone so wrong.”

            Justinian is, of course, one of the foulest and most ruthless tyrants of all time. In fact, it is arguable that all of the Christian theocrats prior to Justinian were rank amateurs, and that the art and science of state-sponsored-thought-control was first mastered by Justinian, and that the monotheists have been following his blood-soaked playbook ever since.

            Baber really demonstrates just how decrepit the state of Religious Studies has become, and that the only thing worse than Religious Studies as a whole, are the Bought Priests among religion scholars who are the “go-to experts” who have cozy ties with the media and whose inanities end up in the finest media outlets. Oh, and yes, she does blog under the pseudonym “LogicGuru” according to her Guardian profile.

          • hotstreak12

            I guess these are also the bought priests and scholars who push for the existence of beings such as angels, god, and heaven and hell on the history channel shows dealing with said issues that come on every few weeks. Good to know. makes me less guilty about saying that the people they dig up with a near death experience of the Christian afterlife are either liars or selling there story for a paycheck.

          • Apuleius Platonicus

            It is safe to assume that people yacking about ancient aliens on the History Channel are hucksters. I certainly do. But reports of near-death experiences, past-life-memories, ghostly visitations, etc, do not necessarily all fall into the same category.

            Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is worth keeping one’s eyes, ears and mind open, because there actually are extraordinary things in this Universe, and they are worth knowing about. Just don’t accept cheap imitations!

          • hotstreak12

            I apologize, but I’m on the opposite side. I would like to believe in the ancient alien theory, it is an interesting notion, and some of the evidence is compelling at least to me. But people who say they’ve been to heaven or hell and come back make me nervous because they try to give emperical evidence to christian belief.

        • Mia

          Your grammar suggests otherwise.

        • phatkhat

          @logicguru: If that wasn’t sarcasm – and it’s hard to tell – you are a pathetic specimen, indeed.

  • LogicGuru

    Goddam, this problem with SBNR isn’t “shallowness” but that they don’t kick in to maintain the infrastructure–the church buildings and their furnishings, the music, art and ceremony. I’m religious but not spiritual: the Church is my God. I detest the Bible: I worship the church. I want to see the most elaborate ceremonies, the fanciest buildings that maximal high church so that I can go to church and escape from the dull world into a fantasy land of the woo-woo–the acid trip. Give that to us and we will come. The Chuch is God–aesthetics is the whole purpose and end of life!

    • Andrew Milmoe

      “Goddam, this problem with SBNR isn’t “shallowness” but that they don’t kick in to maintain the infrastructure–the church buildings and their furnishings, the music, art and ceremony.”

      Under our current tax structure, the SBNR are supporting the secular infrastructure of the community that the Church benefits from but does not pay into.

      You’re welcome.

      • Aine

        Ow. Facts hurt.

      • LogicGuru

        I don’t support tax exemption for churches. Religion is a consumer product and I’m happy to pay for it–as long as I can get the religious goodies I enjoy.

        • Andrew Milmoe

          Your support of tax exemptions is irrelevant. They exist. Because they exist, SBNRs do, indeed, “kick in to maintain the infrastructure–the church buildings and their furnishings, the music, art and ceremony.”

          • kenneth

            Everyone definitely “kicks in” or rather gets bled in this country to support religious infrastructure. Every dime that churches don’t pay in various taxes gets paid by the rest of us, religious or not. One estimate puts that amount at $71 BILLION every year!


    • harmonyfb

      this problem with SBNR isn’t “shallowness” but that they don’t kick in to maintain the infrastructure
      You’re assuming that a) SBNR people attend Christian church, b) that they want any kind of infrastructure, and c) that they aren’t ‘kicking in’ support for non-Christian art, music, and ceremony. That’s a powerful lot of ignorant assumptions, there.

  • Nobodhi

    In a world of sloppy thinking (including Mr. Miller’s) I find this to be a well-reasoned and balanced response. Thank you Jason.

  • LogicGuru

    Like good President Ike, who held that our country “didn’t make sense unless founded on a deeply held religious faith” but didn’t care what it was, I believe in high church and don’t care whether it’s Anglican, Hindu, or whatever–as long as there are fancy buildings, elaborate ceremonies and high art. I’m a certified hippie: I used to go to church on drugs to get the thrill. And that’s what I think religion is for: metaphysical thrills through “Art, Music and Pretty Buildings”

    The problem with spiritual-but-not-religious is that it doesn’t produce or support that infrastructure. The spiritual-but-not-religious are assing around because (1) they don’t know that they can get the thrill, the aesthetic stuff that produces the woo-woo in church and because (2) they think that they have to pay for it by buying into stupid doctrinal and ethical views.

    Show them that they can get the thrill, and that it’s cost free. The church is my God–I worship the Church, I adore the Church–and by “Church” I mean the aggregate of buildings, silverware and aesthetic goodies. Aesthetic/mystical experience is the whole end and purpose of life and it’s the Church’s duty to provide it. God is Beauty–ethics sucks.

    • A. Nonymous

      Did it ever occur to you that maybe the spiritual-but-not-religious folks simply don’t NEED that infrastructure? That they can sense Diety (however you define that term) simply by looking at the world?

      Maybe the real problem is that it is YOU who need the infrastructure because you can’t connect in any other way. That does not mean that you have to denigrate those who can connect in ways that you simply don’t understand.

      • LogicGuru

        It’s not a matter of NEED–it’s a matter of want. I enjoy religion. I’m not denigrating people who don’t–I just want the bucks kicked in to maintain the buildings and support the ceremonies. I couldn’t give a flying goddam what anyone believes–as long as the goodies are there.

        • Northern_Light_27

          @LogicTroll All of those arguments made a few weeks ago by the hard polytheists about people who just come for the food and the party? Apply to you. Your entitlement is rather appalling.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Yup. Does kinda vindicate my stance.

          • Northern_Light_27

            It doesn’t, though. From my experience, people who are at a ritual and yet don’t believe in and/or worship those particular gods are one of four categories:

            -newbies. They don’t know what they think yet, but they’re really intrigued.
            -sincere seekers or sincere adherents who are truly committed to the underlying path and trying to live a Pagan life, but don’t believe in the gods as literal beings and/or aren’t entirely sure what they believe re: the gods, but respect the idea of them anyway
            -people who are there because they’re with other people who are there. They’re being respectful, but it’s not their path. They’re there to support their friends, give their disabled spouse a ride (hi, husband of mine!), support their family member in their path
            -people like the troll here, who feel entitled to the “goodies” (whether it’s the atmosphere, the ritual high, or, ugh, to perve on all the naked women dancing around the fire) but don’t give two fucks about contributing anything of value, and don’t think about the religion when they’re not there

            You and others painted *everyone* who doesn’t believe as you do as category #4, and that’s just plain not fair and not right. What I read out of what you said was basically, “you’re entitled, disrespectful moochers if you don’t believe, GTFO”. *Most* people aren’t in that last category, especially if they care enough to follow this blog. Here you’ve got an absolutely genuine #4, and the downvotes show how everyone here feels about that. Most of the people who replied to you? Weren’t that, and didn’t appreciate being lumped in with people like this.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            No. That was what you didn’t understand.

            I was on about the last category.

            Newbies have sincerity, if not experience. They are not just there for the food.

            Sincere seekers are there because they are sincere. They may not believe in the gods as literal, objective entities, but they likely still believe in the gods as concepts and psychological archetypes. They are not just there for the food.

            People who are there as +1s… That’s a fuzzy area for me – my family is Christian (my stepfather is a CofE priest), but I will not go to church to support them and don’t understand why anyone else would.

            When this was discussed before, some questioned my stance, and how I saw them. They had no problem with how I saw things.

            My problem has always been with the last category of people.

          • harmonyfb

            That’s a fuzzy area for me – my family is Christian (my stepfather is a CofE priest), but I will not go to church to support them and don’t understand why anyone else would.
            1. Because we love them. I’m married to a Christian, and I have occasionally gone to church with him (and he’s occasionally come to circle with me) as support during stressful times – because we love and support one another generally.
            2. To better understand the religion that is important to their significant other. In my own coven, a couple of those kinds of +1 actually had conversion experiences and later became full members.
            3. For weddings, funerals, etc…because being family means sometimes showing up for communal celebration and/or grieving.
            There are other reasons, but I think these are the most common.

          • Guest

            Harmonyfb, cool beans.
            IMHO There’s nothing gained by being too prudish to celebrate the lives of the ones you love and about what brings them joy.
            People aren’t all the same, I don’t think there’s only one Truth, (I think there’s a whole lot of Truth) and the idea that their religions should all match is not something I’ve easily comprehended. YMMV

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            You can explain and I can understand the words, I just don’t ‘get it’.

            Not saying it is wrong, just not something I don’t get and so can’t form a firm opinion of it.

          • Northern_Light_27

            @LeohtSceadusawol:disqus TY for clarifying, I’m still a little confused as to how the “just there for the food” meme got started in the first place, then, because it seemed (to me) that everyone who responded to you was putting themselves forward as 1s or 2s.

            I think it would be good if one side acknowledged clearly and unambiguously that they don’t think religious hard polytheists less than intellectual, and the other side acknowledged clearly and unambiguously that humanist, secular, agnostic, etc. Pagans aren’t collectively a bunch of food-mooching cosplayers. IMO a lot of people were pretty badly hurt by both suppositions.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It started because I was referring to Paganism-at-large, rather than those respondents. Obviously, the targets of my criticism are not going to be spending time on Pagan forums/blogs if they are just there for the food.

            To go back to the Solstice Celebrations at Stonehenge – I know more non-Pagans that have attended it than Pagans.

            Whilst I agree that both sides need to make these clear acknowledgements, it will not happen since neither side exists as a cohesive whole, just individuals with similar ideas.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Many religious people see the building and ‘infrastructure’ as comparatively unimportant compared to the actual religious experience.

          If you are concerned about the degradation of historic buildings then, logically, you should worry less about religion and more about historic preservation societies.

          • Guest

            Leoht, this is true. I saw this past weekend a beautiful collection of religious art, but stuff sitting in cases or displays out of context aren’t at all the same thing. It’s good they were collected for their preservation and then displayed because they were beautiful for the public, but again, it’s sort of hollow without the context and not the same thing.
            Sometimes artworks are relics of cultures that don’t exist anymore, of course so then museums are pretty much the only personal exposure a person can get. But other times its just sort of sadly emptied of context.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Museums generate a conflict within me. I love to see the historical evidence of the eras and people I have an interest in, but I also find it deeply disrespectful to dig up graves just so people can stare at the remains.

            On the other hand, I have been to the Vatican. I don’t think I have ever been so disgusted in my life. I’d never seen so much gold in one place as I saw on the memorial of one Pope.

    • Wdayton

      I sense a strong thread of Trickster in you. I kind of get what you’re saying. Many secularists feel much the same way, but is it necessary to come into the cave of the bear and poke him with a stick? The SBNR crowd as well as the majority of pagans feel that the individual experience is what is important, however one gets there, and that the infrastructure and accessory trappings of religious institutions are irrelevant (or nearly so). I don’t think that always comes from a shallow place. Many in both camps are very well versed in the mythologies they utilize in their practice and appreciate what works. Spirituality is provably elastic and adaptable throughout history. Some of us take advantage of that very quality.

      • Aine

        LogicTroll doesn’t care about that. They just want to complain that other religions and people aren’t doing what THEY like.
        They can’t even conceive that people might not worship buildings like they do.

        • fyreflye

          Ms Baber is on the philosophy faculty of a Roman Catholic college and a contributor to The Church Times (uk). She no more “chose” her religion than did the Pope. Since we know she’s a Christian, since we’ve identified her as a troll, and since the reasons she gives for her beliefs are transparently ridiculous, particularly for a professional philosopher, then what is she doing here other than getting her kicks feeling superior to us poor non analytical non philosophers? And more to the point: why are we continuing to feed this troll?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Trolls are an endangered species. Haven’t you seen Trollhunter?

            More seriously, I am wondering if her ‘Pagan baiting’ is not a carefully thought out experiment, designed to evoke specific reactions.

            Pagans claim that Christians lack tolerance for ‘our’ beliefs and that those same beliefs are labelled ridiculous.

            Whilst she is a professor of philosophy (which means, I think, that she gets paid to teach people how to argue), I have little doubt that the character she presents here could exist ‘for ‘real’.

            As such, it would be pretty easy to call hypocrisy on the Pagan stance I laid out.

            I could be completely wrong and am over thinking this, but it is a thought.

          • Guest

            there’s the good trolls and there’s idiots on the internet.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It’s a fine line, and most seem to fall by the wayside.

  • Janneke Brouwers

    “For a long time Christianity has only had to struggle with itself, and
    to praise the flowers that bloomed in its tended garden is to ignore the
    forest it razed to plant those seeds.”

    Nice. Very nice.

    • PurplePagan

      You can almost feel the peace, love and tolerance, can’t you?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Evidently Miller would prefer a violently hostile heretic to someone who just doesn’t give a toss about Christian issues. I daresay he’s scared by the “nones” but can’t get a handle on them, so he beats up on the spiritual-but-not-religious.

  • kenneth

    We have an ascendant movement of “hippie punching” within the pagan community these days as well. One of the fundamental divides in the wider pagan movement these days is between religious (perhaps even “small o” orthodox”) pagans and the eclectics and humanist/secular pagans. It is clear from fairly recent posts that the former REALLY don’t care for the latter and I suppose the reverse is true as well. Miller’s underlying attitude and argument, if not his theology, is gaining serious currency within some corners of our own movement.

    • Northern_Light_27

      The orthodox vs. eclectic thing has been going on a lot longer than “these days”. I remember all the anti-”fluffy” venting channels across the internet about ten years ago, so the current incarnation is more than a little ironic. It looks like hard polytheists feel the secular/humanist Pagan posts are saying that they (hard polytheists) are less intelligent and less sophisticated than secular/humanist Pagans. I think some of that is due to bad writing, and at least one post (on Patheos, but not on TWH) was a gross misreading of the original post. In any event, I saw so many years’ worth of hard polytheists saying exactly that kind of crap about eclectics (eclectics are flighty, fluffy bunnies, unserious, unintelligent, etc. etc. etc.) that the juxtaposition is almost amusing.

      (Although I sit right in the middle of all of these slider-bars, so for me it’s less amusing and more annoying as hell. There are different ways to be Pagan. They don’t invalidate other ways to be Pagan. Just because your way isn’t someone else’s way doesn’t make yours better and theirs shit.)

      • CrystalK

        Yes, for me that whole back and forth was a tempest in a teapot. Humanity 101: No one has to be or the think the same way.

      • Sarenth

        We don’t ‘feel’ this, it is what the secular/humanist Pagans have posted on their websites, and what Dr. Myers inferred in his post here on The Wild Hunt.

        I agree that my way differing from theirs does not invalidate my way, nor mine theirs. However, when they say they want to bring intelligence and reasoned inquiry into Paganism, implying its absence, are these really the people I want representing me?

        • Northern_Light_27

          No, unless there are posts that I have missed, that isn’t what they posted, it’s how you and others read what they posted. Myself and others read it a completely different way, and Dr. Myers followup comments indicated to me that he didn’t intend them to be read as saying that nonsecular Pagans were less intelligent/sophisticated. I think a lot of this is sloppy writing (and that’s a consistent criticism I’ve got with some of Dr. Myers’ work, he frequently manages to come off as condescending or dismissive when I don’t think it’s his intent– what bothers me about that post is that he had so little interest in engaging with other posters)– I note that the author of the No Unsacred Place blog *did* try to engage with her critics and explain what she meant, and it wasn’t what Star Foster charged her with by a long shot. I think part of this also may be reactivity from all of the many years of barrages from hard polytheists that anyone who wasn’t a hard polytheist wasn’t serious, wasn’t intelligent, wasn’t scholarly, was fluffy, and should be disregarded– if humanist and eclectic Pagans feel a strong need to justify that yes, their ideas are intelligent and sophisticated, I think that may be what they’re pushing back against.

          (And if you want to track it back further, you can reach back before Reconstructionism was such a potent force in Pagandom when you virtually had to go with a “the gods are facets of a singular jewel” theory in order to not be laughed out of the room. Which makes this recent stuff… let’s see… a backlash to a backlash to a backlash? Or did I forget a backlash in there somewhere?)

          My point being that every “side” in this dispute over how to be Pagan, if you go back long enough, has had their ideas dismissed and, in some cases, outright ridiculed. For *anyone* to play the martyr in this is, IMO, to disregard our community’s history.

          • Sarenth

            If what you say here is true, then he needs to edit everything he has his hands on because what he wrote here on TWH is consistent with his website and affiliated sites.

            This is also a big reason why I feel there needs to be more revisiting of why intent and deed are as much separately important as they are together. Dr. Myers may not have intended to be insulting, but that is precisely how I felt after reading his piece. I cannot guess his mind, so I must parse his words.

            It is not to play martyr that I or others bring this issue up, and while it may not be your intent, saying or writing such a thing can and sometimes does also cut communication off because what it reads like is that a value judgment by you may have already been registered, thus making discussion largely fruitless. A big part of the reason I have an issue with this, is if we are supposed to be a community, and share our ideas, it does cut off communication at the knees if we have such words being put forth from community leaders.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Myers’ “To the Critics” post on 8/22 says the following: ”

            I think I’m in a better position now to understand why some critics
            felt aggrieved. As they saw it, I had implied that those whose paganism
            is primarily devotional and practical cannot be intellectual, too.
            Nothing of the sort was implied as far as I was concerned. But I think I
            see better now why some people felt that implication was there.

            I do try to hold my writing to a high standard of research and
            rationality, although I hold my blog posts to a somewhat lesser standard
            than my books. My last book, CM/LF, had 284 footnotes, most of them from primary sources. OSV
            had sixteen pages of bibliography in it, also mostly primary sources.
            (Although it also had at least one colossal factual mistake, for which
            I’m still embarrassed). I think that reason and rationality is a
            spiritual thing, and that the pursuit of knowledge is one of the ways we
            can relate to the divine. But it’s fair to say my recent piece on TWH
            represented that view rather poorly.”

            So I’m still not seeing what you’re seeing, I’m seeing someone admit that the piece wasn’t well-written and that his responses were written in anger out of (in his view) his writing being misrepresented, that he now understands why people thought that’s what he meant, even though it’s not what he meant. If you have an example of a post that clearly says that religious/theistic hard polytheists are less intellectual and less sophisticated, please link so that I can read it.

            I’ve seen three people, one of them Jason, accused of this, and all three have clarified that they meant nothing of the kind. Yes, I get it, intent isn’t magic, but IMO that means clarification and perhaps an apology are due, that doesn’t mean that it’s fair to keep saying that they said something they didn’t say, and have clarified more than once that they didn’t say.

          • Sarenth

            Honestly I had not seen this post, otherwise I would have said something to ‘at the least he apologized’. My apologies. So far as I knew he had not added anything to the conversation beyond his initial posts which read “well you just misunderstood me”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I asked him directly. He clarified. I was fine with his clarification.

          • Sarenth

            On a second read of his post I appreciate his thoughtful apology. From the sounds of it he’s going through a tough time, and I can appreciate that. I might participate in his upcoming dialogue if he is open.

          • Apuleius Platonicus

            There is really no getting around: “Humanist Paganism seems to be an emerging option for those who want to be part of the Pagan community, but who want to be a little more intellectual about their practices, and they really don’t care about the ‘woo’ anymore.”

            It’s an awful lot like saying “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

            The problem with such statements is not that they are clumsy, inarticulate misstatements in need of further clarification and explanation. The problem is that they very clearly reveal the underlying prejudices of the person speaking in a way that is objectively insulting to those being referred to.

    • Apuleius Platonicus

      Claiming that those Pagans who espouse “eclectic” and/or “humanist” and/or “secular” views are the pitiable, innocent victims of “hippie punching” by the Big Meanie Religious Pagans is, well, a deeply flawed theory that offers a very nice example of Orwellian Doublespeak.

      In the most recent go-round on this subject we were treated to the spectacle of self-proclaimed “secular humanist” Pagans touting their world-view as more intellectually sophisticated, more clear thinking, more rational, less superstitious, less naive, and less dogmatic than those silly, religious Pagans who, you know, believe in stuff.

      One cannot proclaim one’s superiority over others while simultaneously proclaiming that those over whom one claims superiority are Big Meanies who claim that they are, you know, superior. Well, you can, but it rather undermines any chance you might have had of being taken seriously.

      Here’s a suggestion. Grow up. If you have a position, defend it. If others disagree with you, either defend your position or go home. Disagreement does not equal violence. Demanding that your point of view be accepted without criticism does not mae you less dogmatic and more intellectually sophisticated.

      • cigfran

        I viewed the spectacle quite differently. Rather than condescension on the part of the humanists, I saw unwarranted hostility on the part of the so-called hard polytheists.

        From my perspective, the humanists are actually pretty grown-up, and the pugnacious polytheists and militant “free thinkers” on both flanks, mostly infantile.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          It was both, just not universally.

          From my perspective, being a humanist does not make one ‘pretty grown-up’ any more than being a polytheist makes one ‘infantile’.

          Personal bias and interpretation does that.

  • RedMaple

    Many years ago I quit the Protestant church and joined the Catholic church for these reasons: the high mass; the frankincense wafting its heady sweet scent, the sunlight streaming through the stained glass and through the incense smoke, the bells, the gregorian chants, the plaintive music and simple homilies. As the years passed I became bored with the catholic church – reciting the Nicene creed every damn Sunday is their method of programming your minds, you little sheep. I’ve had enough of that, and all the contradictions that their doctrines are heir to. I’ve had enough of “religion”. I turn Miller’s phrase upside down thus: Being religious but not spiritual avoids having to think too hard. I want to avoid religions, because they try to keep you, to convince you, to program you, to get your money, to get your mind.

    Religion is a crumbling ediface like a house of cards built on sand. It is all mythology, but they do err by presuming their metaphors to be concrete reality. Ralph Emerson encouraged us to be spiritual but not religious in his essay on Self-Reliance. IOW, you don’t need them – the ecclesiastical authorities. Hence: to be spiritual (open to beauty, enchantment, mystical awareness), but not religious (going to buildings every Sunday, reciting myth as if it were concrete) — this is the pagan path. To seek in Nature the simple beauty and feeling of being. It’s a hippie thing, dudes, and it’s beautiful.

    To answer Miller: I’m on the rational enlightenment side of the fence, but I’m still open to Spirit, in this sense —
    Einstein wrote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”

    And, btw, wasn’t Jesus the original hippie (think of GodSpell) ; the original SBNR? He warned us against the establishment religion; advised us to pray secretly and spiritually; encouraged us to behold the lilies of the field; enjoined us to forgive others and not to condemn; overturned the bankers’ tables; instructed that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; taught us to become peacemakers; and protested against injustice?

    • LogicGuru

      OK so you got bored with it. I didn’t. As far as the creed, recited it and believe what you will. I like nature and all that–I like beauty whereever I can find it. But those church buildings and ceremonies are more–and the more the better. That’s why Church is my God, the object of my adoration. I adore and worship the Church. If people want to do something else fine. AS long as those buildings are maintained and the ceremonies go on. The church is God.

      • Aine

        I find it mildly hilarious, apart from the trolling, that your argument is basically ‘baw those other religions aren’t conforming to what I like and I’M the most important I’d join if they did what I wanted’.
        Ever cross your mind that other religions don’t want someone like you in them?

        • LogicGuru

          Why should I care whether they want me or not?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Because you want access to the ‘goodies’ of their club.

            Imagine if entry to sacred space was ‘invite only’.

          • Aine

            If that’s all you got from my response you shouldn’t be a professor at any school. Your reading comprehension is just sad

      • Gareth


      • Cat C-B

        Are you still here?

    • A. Nonymous

      ” I want to avoid religions, because they try to keep you, to convince you, to program you, to get your money, to get your mind.”
      As I have often said over the last 30 years: Organized religion is just another form of organized crime. They both want the same thing, to control you and to take your money.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I disagree. There are a lot of good things to be said for the organisation of religion.

        It is the methodology of some that can be an issue.

      • Cathryn Bauer

        It doesn’t have to be. But it’s up to you not to shut off your mind and to think critically about absolutes, including the absolute necessity to give anything more than a contribution to cover the inevitable expenses.

    • Rhoanna

      There are plenty of people who find beauty in the rituals of organized religions, and who use ritual to achieve mystical experiences.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    “For a long time Christianity has only had to struggle with itself, and to praise the flowers that bloomed in its tended garden is to ignore the forest it razed to plant those seeds.”


    I wish that I’d written that.

    • Isabel

      I was thinking the same thing. Wonderful.

    • owlsdaughter

      Me three! Nails it!

  • PurplePagan

    To quote Mr D. Mustaine:

    “What do you mean, “I ain’t kind”?

    I’m just not your kind.”

  • Makarios Ofiesh

    I wonder how much of this particular type of hippie punching is rooted in envy. Consider a typical pew-sitter, going to church week after week, going through the motions, reciting by rote the responses and creeds, listening to the sermons, reading the holy book and the commentaries–and feeling, all the time, as if they’re chewing sawdust. And then they see people who don’t subscribe to their preferred brand, people who identify as SBNR, and who actually seem to find spiritual nurture in their blended practice.
    Because of their indoctrination, the pew-sitters can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that there is something lacking in their own church; and so, in the manner that seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche, they attempt to firm up the ground that they stand on by undermining others.

    • PurplePagan

      All this plus the possibility of being told you’re probably going to Hell can’t help the morale.

      • Makarios Ofiesh


    • NoBodE

      I’m not so sure they are actually reading the bible. While many are able to quote verses they have learned by rote, very few have actually read it cover to cover.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’ve known plenty of regular church goer that get the same level of spiritual fulfilment from their collective worship as many Pagans get from their rites.

    • tedseeber

      Actually, it is the above attitude that is the reason for it.

  • Obsidia

    So, those who follow their own spiritual path, or a “blended” path, or an “eclectic” path, are SELF-ABSORBED. Oh my! How horrible! Well, Jesus (whose teachings these religious pundits profess to follow) said to “love others as you love yourself.” Not MORE than you love yourself. AS you love yourself. So did they ever think about what that means?
    Remember the “concerned Catholic Parent” at the Indianapolis Pagan Pride event? His big criticism was, “These people worship THEMSELVES! They worship trees! They are silly.” Bascially the same criticism that Mr. Miller presents. If they are so silly, well, why not just laugh at them and walk away? Why be “outraged”? Why be upset at all?
    Another case of Cognitive Dissonance. Mr. Miller and the Concerned Parent seem to be afraid to break away from the comfort of not having to think for themselves, not having to explore the spiritual wilderness, not having to face their own deep SELF. And so they project their SHADOW SELF on others. Shameful.

  • kittylu

    Not too long ago there was a study that said unaffiliated spiritual people accounted for something like 80% of millenials. Thats probably what has them all up in arms.

  • Cathryn Bauer

    Interesting timing. At the North Virginia Pagan Pride festival, our Seedgroup (Seedgroup of the Oak and Eagle, a sliver of OBOD) had a gentleman off the street come into our booth who described himself as “spiritual but not religious” and wanted to know what we were all about and what we believed. One of our leaders engaged with him and spoke for over an hour with him while the rest of us kind of faded in and out of the discussion. The man was open and interested, clearly able to re-examine ideas and assumptions and take in new data. Frankly, I see myself in these so-called fence-sitters, at least in the not-so-distant past, and I find no fault in either myself or our guest. It was several years before I turned away from Christianity before I ventured from my garden and solitary reading and practice. I had a lot of the same questions our guest did. Further, I owned up that for years into adulthood, I had bought into the “one way to salvation” mindset of Christianity; I did not want to make that mistake again. I was cautious and wanted a faith that came from my own life experience and awareness, not to swallow another institution’s articles of faith. I might well have been described as “spiritual but not religious” during that time, though I didn’t use the phrase. That solitary period of caution and learning laid the foundation for a faith and practice that ultimately has proven right for me.

    And who on earth is this writer to judge anyone else’s spiritual path and committed or perceived lack thereof? Really, who appointed him to do that? Seekers, pay no attention and carry on!

    Cathryn Meer Bauer

  • cigfran

    As thoroughly repelled as I was by the appearance of Miller’s editorial on CNN, I was reminded also of examples of pagan fundamentalism and of the overlap between those attitudes and some of Miller’s argument. Hippy-punching is by no means a pastime only of Xtians or their apologists.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      And that somehow makes it okay? We/they did it first, so feel guilty about being the target this time, it’s just your hens coming home to roost? Bullshit.

      • cigfran

        Bullshit yourself, for your own response to straw-me, instead of anything I actually said.

        • Vision_From_Afar

          Then what was your point? Please enlighten me how your comment wasn’t a judgement on the validity of criticizing the editorial.

          • cigfran

            I see that you’re one of those unfortunates who is more driven by ideology than clear reading. It’s a condition you might want to get looked at.

            However, since I suspect that we are “on the same side” I will elaborate for comprehension:

            I think Miller’s an asshole, that his argument is self-serving and that it’s repulsive for CNN to be engaging in this kind of thing.

            I am, or have been, a hippy, to varying degrees at different times in my life. Parts of my worldview are or have been shaped somewhat by the New Ageism that Miller attacks. I have said on more than one occasion that I am “spiritual but not religious.” I do not like being erased

            But smug pagan criticism of Miller is one-sided and insufficient. I have seen arguments similar to his from “our side” of the fence on more than one occasion, and they anger me no less – in fact somewhat more because they come from a quarter that I would normally consider opposed to such crap.

            That I feel that way in no way suggests that I find criticism of Miller “invalid”. That was entirely your own projection of a well-clenched sphincter.

            Got it? Can you handle that or is it too nuanced?

          • Vision_From_Afar

            I can see that you’re one of those unfortunates who suffers from inherent (if misplaced/illogical) superiority when compared to others who traverse the religious blog comboxes.

            I’m glad you don’t like Miller’s “self-serving” argument, but are you implying that Jason’s breakdown of his stupidity here constitutes “smug pagan criticism”? Do you often feel you encounter smug criticism at TWH?

            Your original comment can basically be boiled down to, “Well, it’s not just them.” The problem is, that inherently implies that the original criticism (of Miller) is somehow less valid, as it is now being argued (by your estimation) from a position no less flawed, as “this side” has engaged in exactly the same type of broad-painting fallacy. That’s why I called you out.

            You repeatedly mention encountering these types of diatribes from “our side”, but offer no links, no names, no evidence? It looks like you’re just using Devil’s Advocate with no real substance to back up your claim. (See kenneth’s comment for how to do it better)

            Your other problem is you seem to think we’re arguing from equal positions in this matter. We’re not. He’s on CNN, we’re on a well-organized, but much-less-mainstream religious blog collective. Miller, and by extension those other Christians who make similar arguments, have the power and voice we do not. As such, they are to be held to a higher standard than us.

          • cigfran

            Your persistence in arguing with “implications” rather than actual statements makes any reasonable effort to respond a frustrating and ultimately pointless exercise.

            In earlier years – or months, for that matter – I might have lamented the foolish antagonism that you seem so intent on manufacturing and perpetuating. But I don’t really care anymore. I’ve had to accept that red-faced imbeciles are as common to the pagan community – such as it is – as to any other identity-collective.

            Since you cannot hear anything but what you project into the words of others, I invite you to enjoy the no doubt endlessly entertaining discussions you must have with your own navel.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            Your refusal to argue the implications of your statements does indeed make any reasonable response ultimately pointless. Until next time, then.

  • Ryan

    I loved the reference to the “Karma Sutra”, a book that doesn’t exist. Now the “Kama Sutra”, that’s the famous one the quote was probably referring to, and it isn’t a religious text.

  • WD Allan

    Very well put!

  • Tejpal

    It is full of jugglery without any substance. It is not even clear as to what is he wanting to say? What is he making out? Rituals, religeons, even worst is its organised version; are all wayward methods to keep the people busy but from the actual process of self education via “Enlightenment”. If you eat, it is your hunger only to propitiate, not of others. Same way, “To experience the heaven, one needs to travel there”.

  • tedseeber

    Maybe because as far as I’m concerned as a GenX Catholic, the drug-and-orgasm worshiping hippie has been punching me for 41 years.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Well, as a GenX Pagan, let me invite you to lighten up if you think you’ve been “punched” by people who don’t share your Catholic values.

    • Guest

      I hate the phrase “GenX” the media’s theories coined with that name were ridiculous – I wasn’t the grunge-loving “slacker” and hardly knew of any. Maybe that grunge-loving “slacker-type” was you.
      The LG dude above is in a world of hir own, I doubt they’ve been bothering yours, especially not to “punch” you.
      I’ve had to start to explain in court why I left the Catholic Church because Catholicism is accepted legally everywhere, while Paganism is treated as spooky. I doubt you know what that’s like.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Please, explain how the hippie has been punching you?

  • Genexs

    “Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses –”

    Yeah, great. That’s because once Christians seized power in the Late Roman Empire, most reading material had been declared heretical and burned. The only reading material allowed was the Bible.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Not to mention that the big ‘universal literacy’ push of the 19th century was led by Christian Mission. In fact, most schools were run by Christians as universal education had not been legislated for.

      Not until 1880 was compulsory education (for ages 5-10) introduced to England. (Can’t comment on other countries, because I don’t know.)

  • Rumitoid

    There are two basic types of people: me and the “wrongs” (although “nones” could work as well).
    I feel that if each person was grilled down to the last iota of their truth, we would find as many religions as souls, and enough to charge every last one of us within our own supposed group with heresey. Much like that Monty Python skit on the bridge between two protestants. They go through perhaps nine qualifiers to their particular sect and on the tenth disagree and start fighting.
    Most of the spiritual-but-not-religious I know (Santa Fe) are annoyingly eclectic and very proud of that fact. It seems they provide themselves with a thousand exits to any tough question, finding the hard answers enervating spiritually: too dogmatic and stuffy to state firmly. Having a definite belief or opinion is to be an intolerant fanatic. “It’s all good.”
    A lot of Ju-Ju going on, with crystals and tarot cards and totem cards and astrology and dashes of Hunduism and Buddhism and Wicca–and all of it pointing to their being “old souls with a unique vision for the world.”
    This is not to say that I would prefer them to become Millerites or Christian Fundamentalists but just stop being so blurry on issues that it is impossible to focus. And that is now the fad: being nonjudgmental, and most got to this presumed “higher consciousness” by severely condemning everything about organized religion and that means Christianity. Say you are a Buddhist or Hindu and enlightenment is assumed. You have broken free from the Box.
    So, there is something to what Mr. Miller says, although his solution and the reasoning behind it is far from encouraging.

    • harmonyfb

      but just stop being so blurry on issues that it is impossible to focus.

      Maybe the focus problem isn’t theirs, but yours. After all, religion/spirituality is intensely personal. Carrying the visual metaphor forward, I see perfectly well through my glasses, but you might find it impossible to see out of them. That doesn’t mean I should stop viewing the world through the lens which works for me just because you can’t make sense of it. ::shrug::