Drugs, Aesthetics, and Unchurched Spirituality
The previous chapter examined how a particular drug, wine, has contributed to the historical development of a wide variety of American religious groups. Equally important in American religious life, however, are the religious thought and experiences that exist outside of formal religious organizations. Unchurched American religion also has a rich history.1 One fascinating chapter in this history is the connection between drugs and the emergence of many of the most innovative forms of American spirituality.
Estimates of the percentage of the American populace that has no affiliation with a church vary a great deal. One of the most thorough studies of religious affiliation throughout American history concludes that about 38 percent of the American population is currently unchurched.2 The size of America's unchurched population is itself not very surprising. But what is surprising about unchurched Americans is that they are for the most part just as likely to be personally religious as those who have formal church affiliation.3 That is, unchurched Americans are just as likely as their churched counterparts to claim belief in God and to espouse religiously based values. The main difference between the two groups appears to be that unchurched Americans lack confidence in traditional religious institutions' ability to meet their personal spiritual needs.
It is difficult to make too many generalizations about a full 38 percent of the United States population. But sociologist Wade Clark Roof has paid considerable attention to the unchurched population belonging to the Baby Boom generation. According to Roof, about a fourth of unchurched Americans -- a number that