I often lament about the public debate on legal matters and how it tends to be framed. But the public debate on religion is just as skewed. A recent phenomena is the evangelical atheist. Folks like Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who, to my mind, represent nothing as much as an adolescent who thinks he knows something that everyone else has missed. Just as science is unlikely - almost by definition - ever to prove the existence of God, it is just as ill suited to prove the absence. So guys like Dawkins, et al., and Dennett and PZ Myers go after low hanging fruit - making fun of caricatures of religious viewpoints and the most simple minded of believers. It's great sport but its largely useless.
Into the fray enters Phillip Goldberg, author of a book on Indian spirituality and the West. He wants to posit an alternative to the cartoonish religion of the Traveling Atheism Show but winds up suggesting a some mix between agnosticism and a religion of the Self. Rather than suggest a religion that is is consistent with reason, he suggests one that is barely religious.
Goldberg's preaching the faith called Spiritual But Not Religious which, at least in his mind, sees God as "a formless, creative power that would not seem out of place in a physics seminar." The SBNR are, apparently unlike the traditionally religious, rational and reasonable. These folks don't see God as an anthropomorphic father figure in the sky and "don't accept all religious dogma as revealed truth ...." "If they value scripture at all," he says, "they do so selectively and read it metaphorically, not as history or as an infallible guide to morality."
The difficulties with such a "faith" are well rehearsed. It amounts to what some have called "Sheilaism" - which threatens to become a reification of whatever one happens to feel at the moment without much regard for the wisdom of others, particularly of one's ancestors. Because it can mean anything, it means nothing.
But more fundamentally, Goldberg has missed much of the Judeo-Christian tradition (I can't comment on Islam) which has always read the Bible as something other than literal history or moral statutes. For Goldberg, people like Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Barth, etc., must never have existed. He obviously doesn't know - or at least care to acknowledge - that people wrestle with the issues that they wrestled with every day.
To say that the Bible is something other than the literal word of God (something that Roman and Anglo Catholicism and the mainline Protestant denominations and Judaism largely do say) does not render it irrelevant. To acknowledge moral complexity is not to slide into moral relativism. To recognize that our images of a personal God are metaphorical because God as God exists cannot be fully known ("we see through a glass darkly") is not to render God the equivalent of some groovy form of Dark Matter.