Spirituality Fuzziness and The God Within

A year ago I wrote a post about the in-vogue-but-fraught-with-ambiguity self-identification "Spiritual but not religious." My main criticism of this category is that it's so broad as to lack any specific meaning, and people who ID this way usually do not seem focused on adding clarity. Instead, they enjoy the ambiguity that seemingly absolves them from forming clear beliefs (even if a belief is "I don't know if God exists").

But there's another problem with "spiritual but not religious" and its New Age influence: it tends to devolve into a kind of self-worship. A great example is the GQ interview with John Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter. Here's Hanna Rosin’s take on religion of the self: 

… I read Rielle’s interview and immediately thought of many yoga teachers I’ve met, the acolytes of Marianne Williamson and other devotees of what they call “Eastern” religion. The blossoming New Age/Buddhism lite that populates yoga classes talks about the toxic nature of the Western “ego” (you know, we work too hard, we value ourselves above others, etc.) But then it replaces this ego with something like a supreme inner deity residing in all of us whose dictates can never be ignored … you call it silly but to Rielle it’s so profound—divine, even.

Ross Douthat, who found the Rosin post, says it calls to mind this passage from Chesterton:

Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Any one who knows any body knows how it would work; any one who knows any one from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within.

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