Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion

Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion

Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion

Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion

Synopsis

In large chain bookstores the "religion" section is gone and in its place is an expanding number of topics including angels, Sufism, journey, recovery, meditation, magic, inspiration, Judaica, astrology, gurus, Bible, prophesy, evangelicalism, Mary, Buddhism, Catholicism, and esoterica. As Wade Clark Roof notes, such changes over the last two decades reflect a shift away from religion as traditionally understood to more diverse and creative approaches. But what does this splintering of the religious perspective say about Americans? Have we become more interested in spiritual concerns or have we become lost among trends? Do we value personal spirituality over traditional religion and no longer see ourselves united in a larger community of faith? Roof first credited this religious diversity to the baby boomers in his bestselling "A Generation of Seekers (1993). He returns to interview many of these people, now in mid-life, to reveal a generation with a unique set of spiritual values--a generation that has altered our historic interpretations of religious beliefs, practices, and symbols, and perhaps even our understanding of the sacred i

Excerpt

This book IS ABOUT religious change in the United States as viewed through the experiences of the post–World War II “Baby Boomers.” This large generation that grew up in the tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s, was, and still is at the vanguard of cultural transformations in this country. Baby Boomers have long been the focus of debate about moral values and the tone they set for this country—controversial from the time they were in youthful rebellion right down to the more recent crisis of the Clinton presidency. An aging generation, its members are increasingly ensconced in midlife, at a juncture where we can better assess their impact religiously and morally. Hence, as we move into another century, it is appropriate to reflect upon where this “lead” demographic cohort may be taking us. My purpose is to examine how the religious terrain itself is being transformed, and how trends now in place among members of this generation may be altering our most basic conceptions of religion and spirituality, our interpretations of historic religious beliefs and symbols, and perhaps even our understanding of the sacred itself. So sweeping a range of religious and cultural shifts underscores the key role and long-lasting impact of this generation on the nation.

This much attention to change may come as a surprise considering how much continuity of religious faith and practice there is in the United States. The polls indicate that 94 percent of Americans believe in God, 90 percent report praying to God on a fairly regular basis, nine out of ten claim a religious affiliation, and the proportion reporting weekly attendance at religious services remains remarkably high compared with other Western countries. Moreover, many of the often-repeated statistics on American religiosity have not dramatically changed over the last several decades. Yet to focus on just these statistics as sociologists and commentators frequently do is too restrictive. There are other, highly significant changes occurring within religion—“soft” undercurrents, so to speak. Since midcentury especially, the images and symbols of religion have undergone a quiet transformation. Popular discourses about “religion” and “spirituality,” about the “self” and “experience,” about “God” and “faith” all point to subtle—but crucially . . .

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