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Neither spiritual nor religious

Neither spiritual nor religious

Cathy Grossman of USA Today looks at some recent polling data and finds that a fast-growing segment of the American population is just not all that interested in religion one way or another.

•44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19% said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

•46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

•28% told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

•6.3% of Americans turned up on Pew Forum’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular — unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives.

Hemant Mehta, who blogs as The Friendly Atheist, calls them the “apatheists”

The Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C., calls them honest.

“We live in a society today where it is acceptable now to say that they have no spiritual curiosity. At almost any other time in history, that would have been unacceptable,” Budde says.

She finds this “very sad because the whole purpose of faith is to be a source of guidance, strength and perspective in difficult times. To be human is to have a sense of purpose, an awareness that our life is an utterly unique expression of creation and we want to live it with meaning, grace and beauty.”


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From my perspective, there’s also a fine and difficult line here. While we are all responsible at the end of the day for our own actions and beliefs, as a church we often have failed to answer these questions such that others can share our faith.

Recall that one of the leading reasons folks leave organized religion is perceptions of weak or failed pastoral care–a perception many of us, in my experience, have seen firsthand. Thus, we indeed may see some of these persons at the first health crisis in their lives; let us hope that our response as a church fully warrants the trust that these persons place in us at such difficult moments in their lives.

Eric Bonetti


Dave, I also want to express condolence for your loss. May your wife rest in peace, and rise in glory.

You interpreted my comment in ways I did not intend. I was speaking of those who live lives apathetically—something you CLEARLY do not do, and I’ll assume your wife didn’t either—not using health crises to proselytize (something I’m against in ANY circumstance!).

What Susan said: “You don’t need to believe in God to believe that you can live life with meaning, grace and beauty.”

Yes. Obviously, yes. I don’t think this is what the poll was measuring, nor Bishop Budde lamenting.

JC Fisher

Mary Caulfield

Dave, so very sorry for your loss.

I have grown weary of these reports on poll data. So much depends on how a survey is written and administered to its subject. The length of the survey and and the type and number of allowed responses can affect the answers. And then the writeup of the results can characterize the data in a way the respondents may not have intended. To wit: “And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.” Do we know that they were “scoffing” when they ticked the box or gave the answer? A significant gap exists between survey data and a knowledge of what’s in people’s hearts and why.

The real question, I think, is how we choose to act in the world. How do we want to be salt and light? What do we say to someone right in front of us who questions the idea that life can have meaning?


“To be human is to have a sense of purpose, an awareness that our life is an utterly unique expression of creation and we want to live it with meaning, grace and beauty.”

You don’t need to believe in God to believe that you can live life with meaning, grace and beauty.

Honestly, havent we moved beyond that? I live my life as a non-believer amidst people of faith but fortunately i don’t experience IRL this kind of arrogance. Good thing.

I hope this summary of Bp Budde’s comments does not do her justice.

Susan Forsburg

Dave Paisley

“”Hi, we’re young, healthy, and believe (gut-level/unexpressed) that we’re immortal!”

No matter. From a chaplaincy perspective, we’ll see many of them at their (their loved ones’) first health crisis.”

Wow, how arrogant is that? I lost my wife of 30 years to a brain aneurysm and if I thought there was a moment when any of my religious friends thought this was a moment of deeper conversion I would kicked them from here to kingdom come.

How dare you presume to capitalize on the tragedy of those in dire straits to proselytize or to presume that the tragedy that befell them somehow says they were of insufficient faith? That’s the territory of the televangelists and charlatans and has no place in the episcopal church.

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