Friday, Aug 22, 2014 05:35 pm est

Spirituality just as powerful as specific religions

Posted on October 11, 2012 | by Sameer Jaywant

CNN, notorious for the occasional less-than-academically sound article that makes eyes roll, recently published an opinion piece by Alan Miller titled, “‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a cop-out.” Complete with an incredibly stereotypical picture of a shirtless, beer-bellied, probably unemployed white guy with hippie dreadlocks praying on a beach, Miller’s article makes an unreasonably ineffective argument for why individuals who identify as spiritual but not religious represent “some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society.” Highlights of Miller’s whiny, outdated and often offensive argument include his assertions that independence from religious institutions is falsely profound, and spiritualists are cowards of thought because they do not advance a positive explanation of the God question. It is difficult to decide where to start tearing down the ignorant and, ironically, retrogressive wall Miller has built between religion and spirituality.

Anyone or anything that is considered spiritual is simply relating to the human spirit or soul as opposed to material possessions. Interestingly enough, one of the highest commandments of the Christian God is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul and … mind” (Mark 12:30). The apparent delineation of spirituality as an entirely separate entity from religion is a false dichotomy. Religion is intrinsically linked to the conception of the spirit and soul, and to criticize a population for consciously choosing a certain undiluted and inherently deeply personal aspect of religiosity is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles and values that we, as a progressive society, should vigorously defend. This isn’t just a question about freedom of religion; the very notion that our generation is increasingly turning to independent thought and personalization of belief in an arena that has been conventionally dominated by dogmatic, intolerant, one-size-fits-all perversions of texts that are aggrandized versions of Aesop’s Fables should be seen as a symbol of progress rather than an abdication of any sort of moral code.

What is most disquieting about the anti-spirituality argument is its attempted invasion of the minds of those who self-identify as spiritual and the attack that somehow their individual relationship to any sort of higher being — or lack thereof — is inherently less profound than the same relationship for Christians, Jews, Muslims or even atheists. But one of the most useless arguments in the history of man is one individual trying to convince another that his faith is wrong and his beliefs are flawed. This holds true for spirituality as well. The fact that nobody is committing crimes against humanity in the name of spirituality does not imply that these people do not believe just as strongly as the religious that their values are morally just and personally fulfilling.

Richard Feynman once said, “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong … I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things.” Miller’s premise that spirituality is false because it advances no single explanation for our existence and the unknown that accompanies that existence is laughably demonstrative of the irrationality of his entire argument. Why is his explanation the legitimate one when the nature of the question removes legitimacy from any answer? Spirituality is all the more powerful because it does not rely on any sort of fixed text or personified God to explain the grandiosity of existence; is that not the point of life? The message is this, Mr. Miller: leave our beliefs — or lack thereof — alone just like we do to yours. By the way, I don’t speak for all non-religious spirituals. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 11 print edition. Sameer Jaywant is a contributing writer. Email him at 


  • adam brobjorg

    Very interesting sir. ~ Peace and love 2 u ~

  • Moha

    Spirituality is all the more powerful because it does not rely on any sort of fixed text or personified God to explain the grandiosity of existence; is that not the point of life?
    Well said!
    I think I am a better person today because my spirituality has allowed me to be accepting of Allah, Jesus, Shiva and The Buddha! It has helped me reach out to more people other than “just my kind”. It gives me strength on daily basis because I am accepting the love and energy to flow from all corners….spirituality is interconnected with life and is therefore a very prominent force. If Religion is your thing, go for it! If spirituality is mine, let me be…Om Shanti! (Peace)

profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.