Spiritual But Not Religious [SBNR]


Defining spirituality can be "like shoveling fog" but the Immanent Frame examines a resurgent group: the Spiritual But Not Religious. Is the religious right the cause?

The extent to which eschewing traditional religious teachings and practices has become “cool” in the present era is in part a legacy of the 1960s (when being countercultural became oddly de rigueur in certain circles), as well as a disorganized but palpable backlash against the moral absolutism of the religious Right...

How might SBNR individuals translate their belief systems, values, and practices into political attitudes and behaviors? I would like to posit several working hypotheses on this front, but first I wish to echo Joel Robbins’s assertion that the “metaphysicals” about whom Bender writes “understand their social lives in non-social terms.” We must approach the study of SBNR Americans with the understanding that (for the most part) they forego participation in the most common mode of social interaction in the United States: conventional religious worship. Thus, they voluntarily absent themselves from the social networks fostered in and by congregations and hence fail to receive the politically charged messages that many clergy deliver. This lack of connectedness, combined with the evident desire of SBNR persons to forge their own way in the world, outside of the rigid social and cultural boundaries that traditional religion tends to erect, suggests to me that SBNR Americans are unlikely to have any semblance of a clear or systematic political agenda.

That sounds about right to me. And it is the politicization of organized religion that has caused so many who are interested in the spiritual to abandon it. Because that politicization is mainly on the right, many of the SBNRs come off as liberal/liberaltarian in their views.

One thing worth noting: this is not new in American faith. Mysticism and individualism were core to the founders of this magazine. What, after all, was Emerson but a SBNR?