Definition of “Religious”
What makes a person religious is belief in and efforts to relate to a Transcendent Spiritual Reality, which has two necessary characteristics: (1) It is a spiritual mode of reality that is not subject to the physical laws and temporal limits of the natural world; and (2) It is an objective reality that transcends the material world, is the source or creator of that material world, and is usually conceived as being more real than our material reality.
The reference to a Transcendent Spiritual Reality (TSR) is synonymous with our Western (and Islamic) conception of a theistic or deistic “God.” The reason I use TSR as the basis for my definition is so that I can include within this umbrella the non-theistic Eastern traditions. Buddhism and many interpretations of Hinduism may not use the term God, but they clearly embrace a TSR.
Thus, in my conceptualization, you are considered religious even if your idea of God is indistinct and nebulous, such as this minimalist definition by Keith Ward: “God is a non-physical being of consciousness and intelligence or wisdom.” You fit my definition of religious if you do not specify a particular kind of spiritual entity, but believe that you possess a non-material soul or spirit that transcends death. You are religious if you borrow from Eastern traditions in postulating a higher or transcendent Self that exists apart from the ego-world of material phenomena.
Lastly, you are considered religious in any of the above contexts even if you do not express or practice your belief within an organized religious institution. I will have more to say about this last point later. But suffice to say that of the people who may repudiate organized religion, most are not necessarily rejecting a religious conception of reality or God.
The key qualifier for “religious,” therefore, is belief in and connection to an “invisible” reality that exists “beyond” the natural world and is not subject to the mandated laws of the material universe. Within that context, even the loopy belief of an out-of-touch celebrity counts as religious, such as this idea offered by actress Gwyneth Paltrow: “I believe Mohammad and Jesus and Buddha and Shiva are all the exact same thing: an energy, our link to something larger than ourselves.”
So Bruce there are limits to your kinder, gentler atheism. Count me in with GP.
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