Monday, July 14, 2014


I have been reading David Webster's Dispirited: How contemporary spirituality makes us stupid, selfish and unhappy (Zer0 Books, 20012)

When the opening is "When someone tells me that they are not really religious, but they are a very spiritual person, I want to punch their face. Hard." [1] You know you are going to have an interesting read.

One of the things that Webster argues, is that in our western cultural setting we buy into what he calls "faith-lite" which arises from our focus not simply on our individualism but on our increasing personalization, where we seek to build our own model of belief. 
"Why I wish to characterise this type of self-made faith as 'lite' is in the failure of it to make demands of us, and the way that we are able to jettison aspects that we come to find uncomfortable." [17-18]
Webster goes on to suggest:
"There is a model of truth at work in the realm of contemporary spirituality that is actually a refusal to accept an uncomfortable truth about truth. This truth is that truth is intrinsically judgemental, exclusive and difficult.... [This means that we do not] cede the whole debate to those who believe we can merely choose what to believe on the basis of lazy, faux-postmodern, neo-liberal inclusivity." [41]
Throughout the book, Webster punches holes in much of contemporary spiritualities overly simplistic reading and understanding of ancient wisdom, and in the non-questioning of assumptions about buzz words and ideologies. One of his last footnotes is about the "rather intriguing animal therapy approaches". He rightly raise the question of why 
"some animals (cats, say, as opposed to a house of chicken) seem very powerful at affecting human stress - although I would be interesting in how much nervous, mentally ill humans stress out otherwise-chilled cats."

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