mad in pursuit notebook


America the Mystical

Are Americans trending toward religious conservatism, godless hedonism or "spiritual-but-not-religious"? I found an interesting article by Philip Goldberg, published in July at Huffpost: "America the Mystical: Oh beautiful for spacious minds."

Apparently Baby Boomers came of age seeking meaning outside of conventional religion and conventional secularism and our children and grandchildren are following suit. We're looking like this:

  • Independence: To a greater extent than ever, people make their own choices and think of spirituality in individual terms rather than as a matter of membership in a particular organization or tradition.
  • Direct experience: Inner spiritual awareness and personal transformation have become more important; adherence to a doctrinal belief system has become less appealing.
  • Pluralism: Respect for traditions other than one's own has never been higher. Belief that one's own religion is the best one for everybody has never been lower.
  • Fluidity: Eclectic seeking and spiritual experimentation has risen; exclusivity has declined.
  • Intellectual freedom: Fewer and fewer people read scripture as literal truth or believe that religious dogma trumps the findings of science and history.
  • Oneness: The separation of human and divine, or of the individual and the cosmic, is increasingly rejected in favor of an incontrovertible connectedness.

I can't say whether this is the wisest, truest, or most courageous path, but it describes me to a T. The problem, of course, among us spiritual indies is finding communities to clarify and develop our beliefs. Churches are great platforms for gathering around common values and taking on education, advocacy, and charity work. Without a formal "validating" membership, as in any indie field (like, say, self-publishing), you get lumped in with idiots, whackos, and pompous asses.

So, as is often the case in modern America, we are "alone together."