To be “spiritual but not religious” (“SBNR”) has always been an option, but never before modernity a mass option. Millions are involved in it now and it is genuinely a worldwide phenomenon.
This has happened with no particular leadership, no one message or organisation, no single mission, no scripture. Arguments about what SBNR is and stands for have been present throughout its spread, and despite general agreement that there are some features shared widely in common, few definite conclusions have emerged. It was just time.
At the beginning of industrial modernity, two promises were made: that empirical science would form the best basis of our beliefs, and that religion would therefore wither. The implication was always that spirituality would wither too. In my country religion is in fact withering, but spirituality isn’t.
From the best work done in SBNR contexts, we know a little about why. We can apply empiricism to anything that would once have been the domain of religion alone. We can see the massive prevalence of spiritual experience in humanity right now, some of it very deep. We also know that religious belief doesn’t necessarily correlate with such experience.
We find ourselves in an interesting position.