But why, first of all, is this subject a significant one? And why does it appear especially pertinent at precisely the present moment? To begin with, growing numbers of “religious nones,” that is, people who have limited or no religious affiliation yet still claim to believe in some kind of divinity, signal an unprecedented shift in the American religious landscape, and many scholars who have sought to understand this phenomenon have indicated that something like “spirituality” might capture an important aspect of their outlook, if not their “identity.” We, for our part, certainly agree that this is a socially significant shift. Yet we also note that much of the interpretation and ensuing discussion about the “religious nones” draws upon and continues to assert uninvestigated understandings of religion and spirituality, where we would argue that the shifts underway should elicit some reconsideration of the terms that are deployed to analyze and interpret this allegedly “new” phenomenon.Read the rest of What does spirituality mean in America today?.
Courtney Bender is Professor of Religion at Columbia University. She is the author of Heaven's Kitchen: Living Religion at God's Love We Deliver (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2010), and a co-editor of volumes focused on religious pluralism, secular-spiritual practices, and the sociology of religion. She has served as the co-chair of the SSRC's Working Group on Spirituality, Political Engagement, and Public Life and chair of the SSRC’s grant program, New Directions in the Study of Prayer. Read Courtney Bender's contributions to The new gurus, Taxing yoga, and Reflections on summer reading. Read Nathan Schneider's interview with Courtney Bender. Follow our discussion of The New Metaphysicals.
Posts by Courtney Bender:
It is hard to remember, but religious pluralism meant something quite different fifty years ago. We have, I would argue, so shifted our collective understanding of religious pluralism, and this transformation has been so naturalized, that we have little common conception that this shift even happened and much less sense of its consequences.Read the rest of The power of pluralist thinking.
Many sociologists of religion have voiced the concern that the sub-discipline is “in crisis.” Others bemoan what they view as the increasing irrelevance of internecine squabbles with respect to broader sociological conversations, much less the increasing prominence of interdisciplinary social science conversations about religion’s place in the modern world. We argue, instead, that the sociological study of religion is in fact not in crisis, but in the midst of recentering itself in new and exciting ways.Read the rest of Toward a new sociology of religion.
Alongside the ongoing discussion of A Secular Age, I would like to consider another important nexus in modern life—religious pluralism. As is clear from recent immigration debates, conflicts over the legitimacy of religious legal systems within secular states, and a variety of other flashpoints from comic strip controversies to family law issues, religion, or rather religions in plural, are at the center of debates about modern democracies and their futures. […]Read the rest of Rethinking religious pluralism.