Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Spiritual but not Religious"

In the New York Times today: an article about mainstream Christianity vs. Evangelical Christianity, "A Religious Legacy, With Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered" by Jennifer Schuessler. The article explains that "a growing cadre of historians of religion are reconsidering the legacy of those faded establishment Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, tracing their enduring influence on the movements for human rights and racial justice, the growing 'spiritual but not religious' demographic and even the shaded moral realism of Barack Obama — a liberal Protestant par excellence, some of these academics say."

I recognize that many of the trends that I've perhaps naively reflected in collecting my "hero or anti-hero" choices are the same as those described in the article. Judaism has undergone a parallel change, though I suspect that some of the social justice trends in Jewish life may have been a little ahead of the Protestant curve.

Interesting passage about the numerous books being reviewed in the article:
“At the end of the second Bush term, there was widespread interest in thinking about a religious left,” said Leigh E. Schmidt, a historian at Washington University in St. Louis, and the editor, with Sally M. Promey, of the recent book “American Religious Liberalism.” “The idea was, surely there is something besides simply a secular left.” 
That something often does not look very churchlike. The Smith and Promey volume, which collects papers delivered at the Princeton and Yale conferences, includes essays on Bahaism among early-20th-century artists and the “metaphysical liberalism” of the U.F.O. obsessive and cult writer Charles Fort, among other far-flung subjects. 
Conservative believers “may think this isn’t religion,” said Jon Butler, a Yale University scholar who is working on a history of religion in modern Manhattan. “But religion comes in an incredible number of forms.”

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