Why Do Americans Seem So Religious?

By E. Brooks Holifield Many Western Europeans think of Americans as hopelessly, bafflingly, and dangerously religious. Many Americans think of Western Europeans as distressingly, inexplicably, and unrelentingly secular. In 2009, the German sociologist Hans Joas observed that “it is widely accepted that the United States is far more religious than practically any comparable European state.” And he noted Western European puzzlement: “The more secularized large parts of Europe became, the more exotic the religiosity of the United States seemed to European observers.” So why are Americans, compared with Western Europeans, seemingly so religious? And are we as religious as we […]

Holy Smoke

By Shalom Goldman Since the 1960s many in America’s alternative religious communities have embraced the use of marijuana and other mind-altering substances in their religious rituals. By hearkening back to Native American rites, these religious practitioners can point to a long tradition of American spirituality that had its religious experiences enhanced by intoxicants. With very few exceptions, federal law is reluctant to let these groups possess what are considered under American law “controlled substances.” Thus their religious practices are criminalized like all other uses of cannabis. Among the more flamboyant groups trying to change this situation are the various “cannabis churches,” […]

Sacred Matters.

  By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.  I was delighted when I first heard of the possibility that this important new online journal was to be created. I was even more delighted when asked to participate in its creation, formation, and custodial care. I anticipate grand things for Sacred Matters. I am grateful to Gary Laderman for once again having the vision to create such a shared space, devoted to scholarly and not-so-scholarly reflection on the future of religion, spirituality, and the sacred in what is, by all accounts, our rather complex and conflicted cultural and political modern present. I refer to […]

Sacred Social Media

  The sacred is social. That means Sacred Matters wants to hear from our readers through social media. As with our letters, we want your feedback on our stories. We want to know what you think is sacred. We want to know why you think the sacred matters. Follow our Twitter feed @sacredmatters for a stream of stories from around the web that follow the religious currents of culture. Check out our Facebook page and leave us a comment. Or subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date on the latest news and content from Sacred Matters. Either way, […]

Letters Not Comments: Slowing Down the Conversation

What is more controversial than religion? What is more volatile than differences of opinion over the status and role and truth of religion? What causes more flare ups and flame outs than online commenting, usually anonymous, on the topic of religion? A recent piece by CNN.com religion writer John Blake, “Holy Trollers: How to Argue about Religion Online,” nicely captures the flavor and dangers of writing about religion online. Here at Sacred Matters, we want to take a different approach when it comes to commenting on the stories we post. No anonymity here, no lobbing f-bombs or crass, uncivil discourse written […]

Surf’s Up at the American Academy of Religion!

Are you going to the American Academy of Religion meeting this November? Are you there right now? Are you bummed about being in Baltimore in the autumnal chill? We have something to bring a little sunshine to your weekend. Find one of the Sacred Matters editors wandering the halls of the meeting and we will gladly give you one of these special edition Sacred Matters surfboard bottle openers. Also look for them strewn around the conference rooms. Hang ten.

Introducing Sacred Matters

Sacred Matters is a web magazine of public scholarship that undercuts conventional understandings of religion and reimagines the boundaries between religion and culture. It is designed with the “nones” in mind, the fastest growing segment of the American religious landscape over the last ten years. These are individuals who prefer not to claim a specific, singular religious identity on surveys, who are unaffiliated, and who are mostly young Americans. But while they claim no religious affiliation, they are still not completely removed from the sacred. Sacred Matters features articles and commentaries that bring the sacred beings and things of society […]