Responding to the Pew Research Center’s recent study that suggested Americans are becoming increasingly unlikely to identify with any particular religion, Diana Butler Bass is pointing to a spiritual revolution in her new book, Grounded (HarperOne, Oct.). In it, the author of Christianity After Religion (HarperOne, 2013) and Christianity for the Rest of Us (HarperOne, 2007) makes a case that more and more people are finding God outside of the church.
Bass offers an explanation for the dropping number of churchgoers after exploring the Pew study within the context of historical trends, human community, nature, and what she believes is a shift in how people understand God. “That conventional religious institutions are fading into history isn’t a bad thing,” she told PW. “That is the nature of history. Ideologies, religions, institutions that fail to make sense when human beings come to new or deeper understandings of the world always go away.”
While religious institutions are in apparent decline, Bass makes a case that spirituality is not. Instead, the distant God in conventional religion has given way to one that can be found in nature, our homes, and in our neighborhoods—places which Bass said are “part of a sacred ecology asking for our full attention and compassion.”
Additionally, the author believes that religion as a “vertical” structure, meaning “the distance between God and creation, as well as the idea of a universe that was structured into three distinct realms—Heaven, Earth, and Hell,” has ceased to exist in favor of a “horizontal” structure; one that incorporates all aspects of the environment around us, “from the stars to the smallest particles of matter.”
Maintaining that God can be found in nature, Bass hopes that Grounded readers will move beyond dreading the world and trying to remedy its failures. “We need to let go of fear and fixing,” she said. “I hope readers will redirect their gaze toward the new growth that is coming up from the soil of nature and neighbor all around us.”