Rev. Lillian Daniel on “Spiritual But Not Religious”


Read an excerpt from “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough” by Lillian Daniel

BOB ABERNETHY, correspondent: As we have reported, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one in five—20 percent of Americans—say they have no religious affiliation. Many of them are people who say they are “spiritual but not religious.” They may believe in God, but they do not want anything to do with organized religion. Meanwhile, books by prominent atheists have condemned religion in general and Christianity in particular. These criticisms have offended many religion leaders, among them the Reverend Lillian Daniel, who has a book out this month called “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough.” Full disclosure: I wrote a blurb for the cover.

At the First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, an upscale suburb of Chicago, Lillian Daniel is the senior minister. She says she has had enough of outsiders who bash the church, and of church people who don’t protest. So she is pushing back herself—in a new book, in articles, and in sermons she preaches as a guest minister around the country.

At Howard University in Washington, DC recently, Daniel railed at writers and others who, she says, have blamed the church for many of the world’s biggest problems.

post01-lillian-danielREV LILLIAN DANIEL: What church community are you describing? Because it is not mine. And how dare you presume to paint me with that broad and offensive brush? So why is it that when the ‘spiritual but not religious’ complain about Christianity, why don’t we get mad? Why don’t we tell them a different story, of a progressive church where your questions are welcomed, where we worship a God who invented us and not the other way around.

ABERNETHY: Daniel’s audience included the dean of the Howard chapel and Howard’s president and his wife. She referred to them when she acknowledged her own part in what she calls America’s culture of narcissism.

DANIEL: …in which it is so easy to think, “It’s all about me.” So much so that when the dean told me quietly that the president and first lady were here today you know where my mind went. I’m from Chicago. I said, “Barack and Michelle? Here?”

ABERNETHY: But Daniel’s humor is not always so gentle. She ridicules people she says try to make up their own God and their own forms of worship.

DANIEL: Often some shallow combination of exercise and caffeine, coffee shops as spiritual community, hikes as pilgrimages, The New York Times as sacred text, and sunsets—don’t ever forget the sunsets. These people are always informing you that they find God in the sunsets. Well, excuse me, as if people who go to church didn’t see God in a sunset. You know, my take is that any idiot can find God in the sunset. What is remarkable is finding God in the context of flawed human community, and a tradition bigger than you are with people who may not reflect God back to you in your own image.

Part of the nature of religion, so much beat up on in our society, part of the nature of religion is that it delivers a message that is like sandpaper against the culture of narcissism. It is not all about you and, no, you cannot make it up. The beauty of a long tradition is that it is bigger than anything we can do by ourselves.

ABERNETHY: Another favorite target for Daniel are Christians who seem to her confused about how God works.

DANIEL: About a year ago, perhaps you remember this from the news, a man who was alleged to be Tim Tebow’s pastor announced to the world that he knew why the Denver Broncos were seven-to-one since installing Tebow as quarterback. He said it’s not luck. Luck is not winning six games in a row. It’s favor, God’s favor. Sorry, but that pastor seems to have skipped his theology class. Because saying that all those touchdowns were a sign of God’s favor is what I like to call touchdown theology, and in my book it gets a grade of F. Surely there are other Christians praying just as hard on other football teams. And what other players who follow other religions? That was personally embarrassing to me as a person of faith. But I also could not help but notice the glee with which the media glommed onto this touchdown theology. Remember that? They were writing about it right and left. It was something to mock in the Christian family, another reason to see Christians as stupid and simpleminded.

post03-lillian-danielABERNETHY: Along with Daniel’s complaints about the church’s critics, she also has great sympathy for those some churches have hurt.

DANIEL: Some people don’t like it because they really have been wounded by a church at some point. Or they have been a part of organized religion where they’ve been damaged and hurt in profound ways. All you can do is respond compassionately and just be so sad that that happened.

ABERNETHY: Still, she insists, most of the attacks on the church are unfair.

DANIEL: Where I get frustrated with some of the writing that’s being done by atheists now is they present a very denigrating and insulting vision of the church. I mean, they take, you know, the stupidest example you could find, and they say that’s Christianity. So, you know, the idiotic minister who wants to burn the Qur’an, you know. They say that’s Christianity looks like. These are intelligent writers who should know better. Other people get angry because they’re sort of like, how dare you make a positive case for what you’re doing? And that’s the sloppy thinking, where you are “shoving it down my throat.” You can make an intelligent argument why religious community matters without saying that the other person’s going to burn in hell.

ABERNETHY: Daniel wishes every critic would learn more about the church they’re criticizing.

DANIEL: It’s like we have this amnesia, like really, nobody in past generations studied this stuff and put some thought into it and it might be worth reading? Oh no, it’s just I can kind of get it on my own. And there’s this sort of almost worship of our own feelings and not much respect for traditions and experience and wisdom from outside ourselves.

ABERNETHY: Daniel says it’s normal for some people, especially the young, to turn their backs on religion for a while.

DANIEL: What I think is sad is when people kind of get stuck there, and they know they’re missing something, but they’ve got this picture of religious life, that it’s judgmental and shaming and homophobic and sexist, all these things, and I just want to say look around you. There’s so many beautiful options in the religious landscape. You don’t have to be out there on your own.

ABERNETHY: Which was the message at the close of her sermon.

DANIEL: Life is not a picnic, and the people who finally dig in and put down roots in one tradition bigger than themselves figure that out. There is a middle ground between the rigidity of touchdown theology and the superficiality of make-it-up-yourself spirituality. It is called a mature faith, practiced in community over time, reasonable, rigorous, real, grounded in tradition, centered in worship, called to serve and free to dream. Amen.

Choir: “This is my story, this is my song…”


Excerpt from “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough” by Lillian Daniel


I can see being proud that your kid watches the news. I can see being a little proud that he understands himself to have privileges in this country that other people do not. I can see being a little relieved that he knows not everyone goes to bed with a full stomach, that he can at least imagine the fact that war causes unimaginable pain. But then what? The punch line from the religion of gratitude: “We’re so lucky that we live here instead of there.” Really? That’s it? Never been prouder?

What’s missing from that worldview—and this is no fault of the teenager—but what is missing from that worldview is the perspective that you might get in a Christian community that would take you from lucky to actually doing something about it. But this kid didn’t get there. Or if he did get there, his dad didn’t care enough to make it part of the story.

His dad was happy to stop with the self-made religion of gratitude, like a person who fills up on the deep-fried appetizers and doesn’t order anything else from the menu. He may not feel hungry for dinner now, but that snack will not sustain him for anything like real exertion. It tastes good, but it’s just not enough…When you witness pain and declare yourself lucky, you have fallen way short of what Jesus would do.

When you witness suffering and declare yourself to have achieved salvation in the religion of gratitude, you have fallen way short of what God would have you do, no matter what religion you are called to.

And by the way, while I think God does want us to feel gratitude, I do not think God particularly wants us to feel lucky. I think God wants us to witness pain and suffering and, rather than feeling lucky, God wants us to get angry and want to do something about it.

The civil rights movement didn’t happen because people felt lucky. The hungry don’t get fed, the homeless don’t get sheltered, and the world doesn’t change because people who are doing okay feel lucky. We need more.

As the scripture today tells us, “In accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” We can’t sit back and simply feel gratitude, or feel lucky. No, as Christians we expect more, way more, like a new heaven and a new earth, and because we follow Jesus, we better expect to be involved in making it happen, alongside other people.

Gratitude is a biblically commended attitude. Feeling lucky is another religion altogether, one that says the gods pick one teenager to live in the suburbs of the richest nation on earth and another teenager to starve. In a worldview of luck, righteousness is really not a home.

But at some point the worldview of luck just doesn’t pan out. At some point you realize that this isn’t enough, and you long for something as outrageous as a new heaven and a new earth. At some point, if you think about it at all, that person with the self-made religion will use his God-given brain and the wisdom of hard experiences and start to ask angry and provocative questions about this spirituality of status quo.

“Who are you, God of sunsets and rainbows and bunnies and chain e-mails about sweet friends? Who are you, cheap God of self-satisfaction and isolation? Who are you, God of the beautiful and the physically fit? Who are you, God of the spiritual but not religious? Who are you, God of the lucky, chief priest of the religion of gratitude? Who are you, and are you even worth knowing? Who are you, God whom I invent? Is there, could there be, a more interesting God who invented me?”

I’m not against gratitude, any more than I am against finding God in a sunset or a child’s eyes. Those are all good tings, along with puppies, rainbows, great vacations, and birthdays. But here’s the thing—none of that constitutes a religion, and I actually believe, contrary to popular wisdom, that in an age of spiritual people who are not religious, we need religion, and its dearest expression to this particular religious Christian person, the church.

I remember a family new to our church, whose grade-school-age kids had only a year of Sunday school under their belts. In the middle of what was his second Christmas pageant rehearsal ever, the little boy cried out in total exasperation, “Do you mean to tell me that we are doing exactly the same story we did last year?”

Today that youngster is grown up and has been blessed by the repetition that gives his chaotic days meaning. In a world that demands that everything be a one-time-only original production, the church remains a place to remember that there is a someone much better than we are at original creations.

From “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough” by Lillian Daniel (Jericho Books, 2013)

  • JDE

    “What church community are you describing?”

    The church community that has the spent thirty years partnering with the Republicans to create a conservative hegemony in which gay people continue to be discriminated against, women’s reproductive rights are trampled upon and children are taught that humans used to ride dinosaurs to work.

    “I mean, they take, you know, the stupidest example you could find, and they say that’s Christianity.”

    You mean stupid examples like the Inquisition?

    “You can make an intelligent argument why religious community matters without saying that the other person’s going to burn in hell.”

    Well, YOU can, perhaps.

    Clean your own house first, Reverend – then perhaps you’ll have earned the right to critique the manner in which outsiders view the Church.

  • Ralph Carmichael

    I found Ms. Daniel to be most offensive. She embodies everything that I find a objectionable about organize religion. She speaks about narcissism but needs to look at her own.

  • Kate Willette

    Hmmm. Coupla things.

    First, isn’t this writer doing exactly what she complains about? It’s true that Tebow was relentlessly mocked, and that the “God’s favor” theology is not representative of all Christianity. It’s just as true that people whose spirituality consists of admiring sunsets and puppies aren’t representative of all those who don’t show up in her church on Sunday morning.

    Second, leaning on tradition as a reason for people to go to church seems somewhat dicey for a Christian pastor. Raise your hand if you think Jesus told people to go to church. Raise both hands if you think Jesus was hoping for nice buildings and robed choirs and professional pastors with book deals.

    Maybe people are leaving churches because the preaching bores them silly. Maybe people are finding ways to be present to their communities that actually feed their spirits. Maybe simplistic atheism or scornful media have nothing to do with the “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon . . . possibly it reflects a growing realization that going to church isn’t the only way — much less the best way — to live generous, grateful, hopeful lives.

  • Monica

    Thank you, Rev. Daniel, for pinpointing the real issues and providing theologically sound responses. Let me join your fan club!

  • JT

    Rather than literally finger-pointing at atheists for criticizing the church and church-goers for the evils it has (and continues) to perpetuate against women, gays, and those who do not share their same narrow religious beliefs, perhaps Ms. Daniel should direct some of that energy at cleaning up her own house. If she honestly thinks the biggest problem with church-goers is that some believe god gives football teams touchdowns, she is refusing to see reality.

  • Wayne Moss

    Religion is man made. Thus all argument or apologetics are meaningless.

  • Steve McGinnis

    do you have CDs of your sermons/speechs etc if so where can they be purchased or herd?

  • Rev. Ruth Shaver

    I love what Rev. Daniel has to say, though I have claimed the “spiritual but not religious” mantra as my own. I have personally rejected the label “religious” even though I am the pastor of what is traditionally described as a religious community. “Religion” has come to be associated, sadly, with rigid, exclusive, patriarchal doctrines that are imposed by those who have taken authority over others. As a “spiritual” leader, by contrast, my goal is to help the members of my faith community grow in their own unique relationships with God through Jesus Christ. Part of that is to help everyone understand that God speak to each and every one of us differently to communicate the message of love, hope, and life in community that allows each of us to flourish. To me, that means teaching people to see God at work in the lives of each person they meet, whether these people are fellow members of the UCC or another Christian denomination, practice within Judaism, adhere to Islam, are Buddhist, or whatever. Or even agnostic or atheist. We want people to see God at work in us; by learning to see God in others and speaking this truth, I think we stand a much better chance of redeeming religion from the crazy people out there.

  • Humanist

    The fact remains that there is no evidence God exists and all religions/cults and all religious books were/are invented by people, mostly men. In a free society people have a right to choose to believe or not to do so, as long as there is no violence or coercion involved. Also not all religions are the same, some are more violent than others.

  • Patricia

    Rev. Daniel continues to perpetuate the notion that a person needs to believe in a god to be compelled to take action to care for others. She is the one using a broad brush to paint those who don’t believe in a supernatural power as being either incapable or unwilling to take action to help those suffering in the world. Belief in a god is not needed for this. Empathy is. Compassion is. An ethic of service is. These ways of being in the world can be learned in many places, not only in the context of religion, and not only through the lens of Jesus. Being connected to a community organization can help with this. That organization could be a religion but it could also be any number of other groups. One need not profess a belief in a supernatural being to take action to care for our community or our world.

    Rev. Daniel misses the mark that the uniqueness religions provide is the willingess to address the big questions of life, topcics that don’t often get covered in other community organizations. This is where the “spiritual but not religious” folks try to go it alone. And while being part of religious community could be a support to them, many organized religions seek to impose answers rather than help people find their own. And this is why people avoid being part of those communities. For this reason, I was grateful to find a Unitarian Universalist community, where I am encouraged to develop a belief system that make sense to me, not adopt one created by others.

    Rev. Daniel should stop doing to atheists what she claims is being done to her religion. Perhaps listening more deeply and addressing people’s needs would be more helpful in the world than expecting people to fit into the religious boxes created by others.

  • Ellen Krokosky

    Very reproachful style. She’s not going to change any minds this way.

  • Anthony

    She puts down those who create their own religion/spirituality. If it works for them, does it matter? Got news for you lady, people don’t have to live by a Bronze Age storybook to have a good and moral life.

  • Mary H. Urban

    I do not watch R&E newsweekly on a regular basis, but happened upon this broadcast as you were featuring
    Lillian Daniel. I appreciate what she has to say, and thank you for the book excerpt. Biblical Christianity and
    faith in the Completed work of Jesus Christ at Calvary changed my life 28 yrs ago when I was 34 yrs.old.
    A flower child of the 60′s, I tried every form of spirituality. Also, as an intellectual, I felt completed by knowledge.
    When all that left me empty – I surrendered to the only One who could answer my questions about me, since
    He made me. I intend to read Lillian Daniel’s book because I see that she has the courage to speak out to
    address the quagmire of today’s electronically inspired, me-centered isolationism. I encounter 20-somethings
    in the workplace who call me ‘religious’ because I have a work-ethic, treat them compassionately and understand the need for discipline. Admittedly ‘they’ have no idea what family & home life could be, and the community that church offers. I have experienced church disasters, as well. It is equally important to emphasize the personal surrender of ones life to Jesus Christ and His WORD as the anchor to weather any community turbulence. I hope I will be able to share your book with others both in and outside of my church family.

  • Nancy D.

    The question is, do you believe in The True God, The God of Salvation, Who desires that we overcome our disordered inclinations, including our disordered sexual inclinations, and sin no more? The Eucharist Is The Source and Summit of our Christian Faith because Perfect Love Is desiring Salvation for one’s beloved. The Sacrament of The Holy Eucharist, Is The Sacrifice of The Most Holy and Undivided Blessed Trinity, “for God so Loved this World, that He sent His only Son…”

    “No one can come to The Father except through Me.” – Jesus The Christ
    One can be spiritual and religious, but it is not enough, for there Is only One Word of God, One Truth Of Love.

  • Nancy D.

    If you are not following Jesus The Christ, The Only Son of The Living God, In The Communion Of Perfect Love that Is The Blessed Trinity, you are still, according to The Word Of God, following a false idol, thus one can be spiritual and religious, and still it is not enough.

    “No one can come to The Father except through Me…” – Jesus The Christ, The Truth Of Love Made Flesh

  • Joyce Margel

    When Tee Bow Knelt on the field and prayed to God half the world laughed and rediculed him. When Daniel refused to worship the image of Nebuchadnezzer he risked his life and all of Babylon rediculed him, he was saved from the lions by the hand of God.The king made him ruler over the whole Province of Babylon. When Shadrach Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace they were spared. Do you Know why? They prayed to the God of heaven and were not ashamed of Him. When Tee Bow knelt he prayed to God to protect and to guide him and use however he wanted him to play win or lose. I am sure he did not ask for 6 (six) touch downs. He was not ashamed to pray to the risen Christ it is the power of God unto salvation.
    When Tee Bow’s pastor said that the 6 touch downs were favors from God, that’s not the Teology you claimed it to be. The Teology of this event is that God hears prayers and grants favors to those who dillgently serves Him . Ms Daniels you should not bash christians

  • Mike Cundiff

    Rev. Daniel paints everyone who is spiritual but not religious with a broad brush even as she criticizes them for painting churches with a broad brush. She also said that people can’t make up their own concept of God; they need to rely on tradition. Even though the Christian beliefs are well established today, they were all originally made up by somebody. There’s no hard evidence to validate church teachings. The most well thought out, internally coherent theology is still just speculation. Perhaps the spiritual but not religious people are part of the flux of a new axial age many scholars say is now underway. Rather than get defensive, church leaders should find out what they need to do better for the church to be more relevant than it is today.

  • Nancy D.

    Being both spiritual and religious is still not enough when you are worshipping a false idol either personally or in communion with others.
    “No one can come to The Father except through Me…” – Jesus The Christ

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if Reverend Daniel has seen the recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute entitled:

    “Survey | Nearly 3-in-10 Americans Say God Plays a Role in Outcomes of Sports Events”

    In this poll the PRRI states that “While only about 3-in-10 (27%) Americans, believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, a majority (53%) believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success”

    It would seem that “touchdown theology” is somewhat widespread in the American religious mindset if 27% of Americans believe that God will determine the outcome of the SuperBowl.

    With the pervasiveness of such attitudes, is it any wonder that this is “something to mock in the Christian family, another reason to see Christians as stupid and simpleminded”, to use Rev. Daniel’s words.

  • Robin

    This type of circuitious logic is actually what has driven people away from religion (aka “The Church”)
    I count myself among the many people that have a healthy and deep abiding spiritual life/experience and or practice. It does not involve aligning myself with any ideology or particular theological slant. I feel like I have a close connection and yes communion even with my creator. I am not an agnostic nor can I even begin to comprehend athiesm as it seems more like a state of denial or avoidance than an actual a belief system.
    Having said this I find the rest of this article or group of quotes puzzling at best and even insulting at times.
    I do not see any prerequisite to havinga membership to an organized religion to perform good works, be it to feed the homeless or to help with shelter and or provide medical aid, even though doing them does give you a sense of satisfaction and well being…and yes even feeling grateful and or “lucky” when you count your blessings… but doing so does not require any real affiliation nor does it ensure you a place in heaven (per the Bible).
    There are many traditions; I would say almost all “Traditions” are bigger than any one individual, it does not mean that one should run to embrace them.

    It is also insulting to assume that one has not read anything from the Judao-Christian construct because one does not desire to be “RELIGIOUS”.

    I am not certain of with theological view Rev. Daniels follows that promises a new Heaven and a New Earth. This sounds far more feel good thatn what my spirituality has offered me.

    Last but not least I am not certain how a Christmas Pageant gives a persons day to day existence or the chaos of this world meaning.
    I find daily life and my own existence alone remind me that there is somone much better at creating on any level than man could ever hope to be. Original or otherwise… (thinking of the miracle of birth and the creation involved with that, regardless of how frequently replicated it might be.)

  • Bill Bruehl

    Rev Daniel, I admire you for your passion. And beneath all the heat in your words, I know there is a truth, which is that all humans from all times and from everywhere on the planet have sought answers to questions like who am I?, and where’d I come from? and what’s my task? and where am I going? The big problem is that the old answers people were taught to take literally like the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth and a literal heaven above and hell below do not work when preached as literal truths. They are wonderful, strong, thought provoking images and metaphors you can use with profit, but don’t make people think they should have unthinking faith that the old doctrines are literally true. They’re not.
    So people are walking away ’cause they can’t swallow the message. They want answers to the old questions but the old answers aren’t working and you’re going to need more than your beautiful passion to get them to turn and listen t you.
    I mean, the spectacle of the Catholic Bishops yelling at people to come back and obey the very things they are walking away from is ludicrous and, well, it is stupid. 20% of Americans have left the church. That’s 60 million! Unprecedented! Nothing like that -even the Reformation ever happened before. So don’t blame the atherists. Look at your leaders and their bizarre panic. It could be better.
    The future is in your hands. There will be religion when you’re an old lady, but it ain’t gonna be what it is now, your passion notwithstanding.

  • Jill

    I first heard the phrase “spiritual but not religious” in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting room and have always assumed that it was coined in that fellowship, as a way for members to describe themselves. The founding principles of AA are (1) that alcoholics cannot achieve sobriety through will power, but only through relying on a power greater than their own egos; and (2) that an alcoholic cannot remain sober unless s/he continues to assist other alcoholics in finding and sustaining their own recovery. Many if not most alcoholics had either turned away from religion during their drinking days or felt that religion had turned away from them since in earlier decades alcoholism was considered a sin rather than a sickness. Many, me included, found that they could not initially believe in the God of the Bible and had to adopt a rather more amorphous conception of deity.

    Some AA members ultimately find themselves in organized churches. Because I like the emotional music of the Mass (and, well, had some dreams about Jesus), I converted to Catholicism. But I do not believe that my human mind can grasp all the dimensions of the Godhead, and am sure that some of my AA friends who never attend church or study the Bible are as close if not closer to God than I am. What is most important to me is that I not only practice my faith in church, but continue to help others, both in AA , in a fellowship for food addicts, and on my church’s assistance line for the needy, and have found that giving is its own reward (Scripture tells the truth) even when those one tries to help decide, sadly, that they do not want the proffered solution.

    While “spiritual but not religious” is an extremely useful description, I think Reverend Daniel is saying that these words have sometimes become divorced from the 12-Step fellowships’ emphasis on service to others as a necessary component of any healthy spirituality.

  • Nelson

    When we find out the truth of directly seen things we can see the other potential choice is better. Like, we have measured that the sun is shrinking at a steady rate. Therefore, extrapolating backwards the required millions of years for earth’s creation we see that the sun’s diameter would’ve been outside earth’s soon to be orbit. Meaning that the earth could not have been formed while being inside the sun at that time. Also, gravity has been measured as also decreasing where going back for the same period of time shows that gravity then would have been way too strong for any living thing bigger than an ant to have formed and survived.

    Also, from the Big Bang’s initial statement that “from nothingness, something came ..” we can see something not talked about much. That the simple Physics formulas for trajectories of the exploding matter in a spherical radial manner means ever greater distances being made between each particle, as time marches on. That there is no Physics understanding for any such exploding particles to ever come back together, to form suns, planets and such. Some say to this that some kind of pressure wave swept through these particles that altered their trajectories but, this violates the Big Bang’s initial statement: “from nothingness ..” or there was no other force before the Big Bang. That such another force could not have formed afterwards either to be at right angles to the original particle trajectories. Remember that they’re all moving out and away from each other, at tremendous speeds which results in greater and greater distances between them, in any direction.

    So, when we see a fossilized human finger with dinosaur tracks what then? How about a man made hammer and human teeth also being found with dinosaur tracks? Then, human footprints and a human handprint also in fossilized rock with dinosaur footprints and what can conclude from all this? See the Texas Paluxy River fossilized evidences here. Thats Job really did walk with what we call a dinosaur, now just as described in the Bible.

    Direct, observable evidences. Science? Its fossilized remains. With dinosaur footprints and their bones, too. Theres more here but, this is enough for now. How can one’s theology change to now? Creationists believe in evolution too! Microevolution where we see changes within a species. But, not one species changing into another. Survival of the fittest? Why then are we humans still here with the apes? Looks like both were fit but, which one protects the other, now?

  • Susan C. Nicolai

    I can understand Ms. Daniels point of view. I think she is refering to The Church and not just her church. And the community she is refering to is The Community of the world. The Church of hundreds of years ago did alot of good and alot of bad in The Community. I think it is a truth that we always remember the bad experiences, because bad experiences teach us the most. So of course, I point at the inquision and say, “See, what a bunch of twisted hypocrits.” More recently, I have pointed to the molestation of children in The Church, (not just the Catholic church) as a reason to sneer at organized religion. I think The Church of today should resemble as much as possible the first century church. But I have found that very few do. The wisdom and experience part of what Ms. Daniels said is true, but the tradition part is what gets me every time. Tradition is man made and therefore flawed. On a side note, isn’t there a scripture in the Bible that says,” By their fruits you will know them.” This biblical text is asking me as an individaul to use my reasoning skills. I know which organizations are truth by what kind people they produce. Are the people in that organization bigots? Destructive? Couldn’t this same idea be applied to industry and corporations?

  • Paula S

    I have spent my life attending church services. I’ve watched the politics and I’ve watched the Church turn deeper into itself rather than meeting the needs of community and having a powerful voice in the injustice that continues to plunge culture deeper into darknes and separation from God. The fact is, I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, however, I have become weary of the big business of church. The amount of money spent on supporting big buildings, lavish furnishings, bloated ministry salaries, heat and power bills that could support several missionaries or struggling families. I for one prefer to worship with a small group of people and use the money and talents for reaching the needs of the people, sharing the Gospel, and helping people understand how to live a life of freedom from destructive life controlling issues because of a relationship with Jesus. Much more productive than choir robes and padded pews.

  • Fred Garvin

    Odd-for a pastor and a denomination (United Church of Christ) that claims to “Celebrate Diversity”, her church looked about as colorful as cream cheese. Frankly, I’ve seen pictures of the Tea Party that looked better integrated; I know that the Southern Baptist Convention has a non-White membership of over 12% and they were officially pro-segregation until the 1960s.
    Either her church and she are doing something very counter-productive to bring about “Racial Justice” and “Reconciliation of Peoples” or they just don’t mean it, a liturgy of “Progressive” feel-good slogans that have no effects on their daily lives.

  • Bob Burns

    Lillian’s critique of the critiquers is pretty solid, and sugests a further principle…”Always see/entertain BOTH sides of a question/issue/proposition”. We all know that the truth of the matter is that the chuch/churches do good and do harm, help and hurt, guide and confuse, etc….. We need more honest, open ‘both sides’ (somewhat_ bare-knuckle discussions at the key times when decisions are being made, and person’s lives are being addressed.

    Following Him,

    Bob Burns

  • milton brewster

    Today, 21% of all self-identified Christians do not belong to a Church. This makes them more numerous than members of Mainline Churches, and almost as numerous as evangelicals.

    Two out of three nonaffiliated Christians say they don’t attend a Church because they were harmed by a Church they attended.

    That’s a lot of harm, Reverend Daniel.

    I suggest that before you cast stones at “spiritual” Christians, you express unqualified respect their continuing search for spirituality in the face of the problems they have faced in the past — and you look to the harm that Catholics, Fundamentalists and Mainline Churches have inflicted on former members in years past. As a spiritual Christian, I am personally not happy with the opinion you’ve expressed.

  • John Cunningham

    I left religion and never felt better, no spiritual baggage to drag me down, no need to belittle myself. the fact that there was no alphabet with the symbols to produce vowels or the letters or sounds j,k,w,h,y and others.
    The fact that the paper of the bible is unfit to touch with a ph of 4,7 rather then 7.4 do you really hate each other that much to be exposed to the molds, mildew, bacteria and germs. not one item, name or situation fits the time period. and faith and belief are not acceptable in public education or around any person with a brain. good luck on scamming on others that will pay the stupidity tax to be made a fool of! thank you John Cunningham I welcome any comments from others that need help seperating themselves from religious slavery.

  • Terri

    After reading all the comments I feel compelled to apologize to all to those who are not believers in Jesus Christ. Ghandi once met a man who said, “I love your Jesus. I don’t like your Christians.” Unfortunately, sometimes we Christians are the worst publicity for Jesus. It sounds like a lot of you have been hurt by Christians and/or churches. I wonder if you are not necessarily responding to Rev. Daniel but instead to something that has happened in your past. I am almost 52 years old. I have attended church all my life, but didn’t really get serious about getting to know Jesus and the Bible until about 25 years ago. In that time I’m sure I have (unintentionally) been offensive to a lot of people, Christians and non-Christians. All I can say is that God loves you. Read His Word (especially the book of John) and see what lengths He has gone to to have a relationship with you. It blows my mind. The God of the universe, wants to have a relationship with me. And He draws people to Himself. If He desires a relationship with you He will send the people and circumstances into your life that will lead you o Him. Sometimes we Christians think it is our job to “make” other people into Christians, only God can do that.

  • Shad0

    Ok so Miss Danial complains that she and her church are being painted with a broad brush meanwhile she’s painting the SBNR in the same manner. There’s a lot of different reasons that people don’t tie themselves to a church that have nothing to do with self centeredness or creating God in their own image. I’m sure it’s rather threatening to the religious community that people start walking away, but instead of asking people why they’re walking away She simply invents her own reason why they’re walking away that dismisses the problem instead of fixing it. While she complains about how the media picks the stupidest examples to hold up and say “this is Christianity.” She likewise holds up the touchy feely “God is in the sunset” example of how all SBNR people are. The fact is, you can love God and have a relationship with the divine without belonging to a church. You can have a community and be active in community service without belonging to a church. I myself am SBNR. I left the church because I don’t agree with what they have to say. I don’t agree that the bible is the 100% literal word of God. I know it was written by men and I know that while it contains a great many good guidelines for life it also contains some absolutely horrible amoral atrocities that should never be the part of the life of anybody who would call themselves good. This is however to be expected from something that was written,compiled ,edited, translated a few hundred times and used as a medium to control the masses. My problem is not and has never been with God. I have never had a problem with God or the existance of God. My problem is that as I pray to God and see his works in my life I’m not seeing the same person they’re preaching. On one end you have the extreme fundametalists who use the bible as an excuse to hate others and when you call them on their hateful attitude they answer you with “oh but I’m not the one hating the bible told me to do it.” Or if they do something wrong “oh the Devil made me do it. They’ve used that book as the ultimate excuse to not take responsibility for any of their actions and set themselves up as superior to everyone else because they can find it in God’s word. The sad thing though is that they *can* find it in the bible. Now, not all churches are turning out these kinds of people. There are plenty of good people being turned out at other churches who are loving accepting and tolerant of the differences of others. These tend to be liberal churches or churches where the people are either disreguarding the versus that contain things that aren’t productive to being a decent human being or they’re the people that don’t really read their bible they just listen to the ones who have pulled out and presented the good stuff. Mind you, I am not belittling the ones who only present the good stuff. They are clearly the better people. HOwever to me, when I see a religion that is at it’s best when only partially and not literally practiced that tells me it’s not really that good of a religion to be following. So I left the church. I never left God. I never Reinvented God. God is still who he was when I was in the protestant church, he’s the same as when I went to the catholic church. He’s even the same as he was when I went Neopagan and remained the same after I left that behind. Now I really don’t know what to call myself. I still believe in God. I never left God. God never left me. My methods of worship went through different phases but my relationship didn’t. I have come to realize Religion is really man’s ideas about God. There really isn’t any religion out there that doesn’t put God in a box. I prefer to work to understand who God is and hear it from him not ancient books who want to tell me who they decided he is. I’ve come to see that all religions have shreds of truth on the matter. They all have something to offer. I’ve come to see life as a learning experience. I focus on learning and growing from my mistakes and helping others get through their trials instead of condemning them for them. It is not for me to judge another person’s life. That’s God’s job alone. There is no church centered around what I believe. To claim I belong to one is a lie. I call myself spiritual because I hold a belief in the divine and I act in accordance. I try to make choices that would honor a diety that stands for what is right and good. I do not have a doctrine or Dogma. I am not an Atheist, to call myself one would be a lie. I am left no other catagory other than Spiritual But Not Religious.