American Religion: Less is More

Gary Laderman What do you think? Is religious life fully captured by survey questions, graphs and bar charts? Or do these methods of collecting and displaying data fall short as indicators of the spiritual lives of Americans? Is it time to panic about the supposed decline of religion, or should we look to other metrics and methods to delve into what is really happening on the American religious landscape?

Confusing Religion in a Nutshell

Gary Laderman When I was a young, idealistic, newly-minted PhD, moving from the University of California, Santa Barbara, to my first and only job at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, I had one primary, driving goal in teaching: to clarify for students the role of religion in society. Now that I’m older, wiser, and tenured, a different motivation is driving my pedagogy: my ultimate goal these days is to confuse the hell out of undergrads.

The Top Five Reasons to Study Religion

Gary Laderman It’s not easy being chair of a religion department. August is an especially cruel month as we close out one academic year and start up a new one, and begin again to struggle with an increasingly vital challenge: recruiting and keeping more majors.  I’ve been teaching at Emory University for over 20 years, and every August I begin to obsess about a question. . . that’s at the center of my intellectual passion and personal livelihood: how do you convince people to study religion? 

The Future of Religion Is…. The Dead

Gary Laderman

I have seen the future of religion… and it looks a lot like a Grateful Dead concert. With all of the hype and hullabaloo surrounding the Dead’s 50th anniversary and recent concerts, it is easy to discern some features of America’s new spiritual landscape in the testimonials and commentaries pervading the media coverage of this historic moment.

Funereal Choices

Gary Laderman  “What do you want done with your body when you die?” This is a question I never fail to get from undergraduates in my college Death and Dying course. I’ve taught the class at Emory for roughly twenty years, and after a semester spent exploring attitudes toward death and mortuary practices over time and around the globe, students are most curious about this: the ultimate questions—not in theory, but in real life. My real life.

Debatable Origins

By Gary Laderman The presence and awareness of religion in the United States is overwhelming. We see so many different forms and variations; it plays a role in so many areas of social life. Religion is, indeed, an inescapable fact of our lives even though we can’t agree on what the hell it is; but it is not likely to disappear in the near or long-term future, and will certainly remain a constant force to be reckoned with as a critical factor in shaping future events. For obvious reasons, many in the media, universities, political think tanks, corporate worlds, polling […]

Religion is Dead; Long Live . . . the Sacred

Gary Laderman I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the end of Religion as we know it.  And I do feel fine.  Bring on the “nones,” the SBNRs (Spiritual But Not Religious for those of you not up to speed), the so-called atheists, freethinkers, humanists, secularists, and the anything goes Unitarians.  Religion as we thought we knew it, is dead, or at least gasping its final breaths. Without going into a long, drawn out historical elaboration of the etymology of “Religion” (though I highly recommend the reader pursue in the relevant literature), I would like to point out that the […]