Anyone else know people who say this and find it really annoying?

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I didn't say that they did.  I asked how many converted to a religion --any religion--, which does not necessarily mean joining a church.  In order to be a gateway, being spiritual would have to lead to something else.  

Having a religious belief doesn't mean joining a religion. It means believing something religious in nature. You're hung up on religions. Religiousness is the real issue.

You said, "Yes, it is a gateway to religion in that sense."  I'm not hung up on religions; it's the word you used.

converting to a religion isn't the only problem with religious beliefs... it's the irrationality of having the beliefs and how just having and condoning these beliefs support the ideals of religion... just being irrational is unacceptable to me.

My suspicion is that irrationality is an inextricable part of the human condition. From my perspective, it's just a question of varying degrees of irrationality, and how it is applied.  Heaven's Gate or Westboro Baptist church represent extremes that I have a real issue with.  

People who merely identify as "spiritual"-- whatever they mean by using that term -- can fit anywhere on the gamut from highly rational people to complete head cases.  I haven't really seen any evidence that it contributes to supporting religion overall.  If anything, I'd wager it more commonly acts more like a methadone of sorts for religion, though that's really just a supposition.

Simply identifying as "spiritual" hasn't acted as a great litmus test for rationality in my experience.  My mother, for instance, has used the term herself.  She has her MSc in microbiology, was a researcher for quite a few years, switched to teaching, and is now the reason that many of her students have come to accept evolution and biological explanations of various phenomena over superstition and woo. She's contributed plenty to that cause of rationality.  Her using the term "spiritual" is trivial at best.

Your milage may vary.

I don't think these people are on the road to becoming religious... it's that they are supporting religious beliefs... such as the idea of the soul when they use the word in such a way... same reason I don't entertain people using the word God as "the universe is my god".

What is the clarification?

It's variable.  Generally something along the lines of connectedness to nature, or to humanity, or to exploring or developing some sense of what they consider their essential self.  They seem to consider their naturalistic spiritual practices analogous to certain religious practices, I guess.  In some cases it seems to be almost metaphorical.  In others, people seem to think that the idea of a spirit is a regular psychological or neurological phenomenon, but not necessarily worthless because of that.  Some people seem to use spirituality as a venue for the aspects of religion that they liked.  Others use it almost as a 'fuck you' to religious people who think they have a monopoly on living life with a little poetry and romance.  And some people believe in supernatural souls and spirits, or something very much like them.

Honestly, I don't really use the word myself, and I can't really speak with any authority for those that do.

I only find it annoying if somebody insists that his or her belief in an unpersonal higher power which governs the universe intentionally be more rational than the creeds of religions believing in a personal higher power which does so. I do not mind using ‘spirit’ or its grammatical deviants in the sense Carl Sagan pointed out.

I hear it all the time. I do find it somewhat annoying but only because it doesn't really mean anything.

It find it somewhat bothersome for the same reason.  And also because it gets them a pass as spiritual but also as "other than" religious...a bit of both worlds.  Sometimes I think people say that when they're not sure what kind of company they're in and they want to avoid controversy by being honest about their actual beliefs.  Dunno. 

I think it's mostly because they want to believe in "the soul" which to me is the foundation of all the major religions. The major religions would not exist without this concept of living after death.

It's the fear of death that brought rise to all of this...

Wouldn't it be nice to believe "i'm going to a better place, where I can see my mother and father again" Not a difficult think to sell to people! But it is also the source of MUCH irrationality in the world today. Including religion and the other supernatural crap that has enticed so many pointless killings.


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