Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but Not Religious

Linda A. Mercadante. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-19-993100-2
The past two decades have seen rising numbers of the religiously unaffiliated, who identify as “Spiritual But Not Religious” (SBNRs). Mercadante, professor of theology at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, offers a nuanced, qualitative study of this group and the importance of popular belief. Drawing from extensive interviews ranging from a large number of Baby Boomers to surprisingly barely represented Millennials, Mercadante demystifies their supposedly nonreligious attitudes, revealing how their convictions are based on implicit theological concerns about transcendence, human nature, community, and the afterlife. Her work paints a group that applies typically American values of personal responsibility, freedom, and self-determination to the realm of belief. Her analysis hints at a human need for religious structuring of the world, especially at a time when postmodernism has deconstructed religion. Mercadante’s study is a welcome and much-needed examination of the diversity of the SBNR experience and its ethos, abounding with sympathetic but also critical commentary on where it has come from, where it is now, and where it may take religion in the future. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/20/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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