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Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America [Hardcover]

By Robert C. Fuller (Author)
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Item description for Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America by Robert C. Fuller...

Nearly 40% of all Americans have no connection with organized religion. Yet many of these people, even though they might never step inside a house of worship, live profoundly spiritual lives. But what is the nature and value of unchurched spirituality in America? Is it a recent phenomenon, a New Age fad that will soon fade, or a long-standing and essential aspect of the American experience?
In Spiritual But Not Religious, Robert Fuller offers fascinating answers to these questions. He shows that alternative spiritual practices have a long and rich history in America, dating back to the colonial period, when church membership rarely exceeded 17% and interest in astrology, numerology, magic, and witchcraft ran high. Fuller traces such unchurched traditions into the mid-nineteenth century, when Americans responded enthusiastically to new philosophies such as Swedenborgianism, Transcendentalism, and mesmerism, right up to the current interest in meditation, channeling, divination, and a host of other unconventional spiritual practices. Throughout, Fuller argues that far from the flighty and narcissistic dilettantes they are often made out to be, unchurched spiritual seekers embrace a mature and dynamic set of basic beliefs. They focus on inner sources of spirituality and on this world rather than the afterlife; they believe in the accessibility of God and in the mind's untapped powers; they see a fundamental unity between science and religion and an equality between genders and races; and they are more willing to test their beliefs and change them when they prove untenable.
Timely, sweeping in its scope, and informed by a clear historical understanding, Spiritual But Not Religious offers fresh perspective on the growing numbers of Americans who find their spirituality outside the church.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America by Robert C. Fuller has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Library Journal - 11/15/2001 page 72
  • Publishers Weekly - 11/12/2001 page 55

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   1119
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.5" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 20, 2001
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195146808  
ISBN13  9780195146806  

Availability  67 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 27, 2016 03:31.
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More About Robert C. Fuller

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Robert C. Fuller is Professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University. The author of Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession and Alternative Medicine in American Religious Life (both OUP), he lives in Peoria, Illinois.

Robert C. Fuller currently resides in Peoria, in the state of Illinois. Robert C. Fuller was born in 1952 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Lancaster, Pennsylvania Bradley University Bradley University Bradley.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Psychology
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
10Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality

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Reviews - What do customers think about Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America?

I couldn't put it down!  Jul 17, 2007
It may be difficult to believe that "I couldn't put it down" would be a description for a reader's reaction to a book of this genre, but it certainly was mine! I even found myself flipping to the references every page to something. I read it for personal interest, but started taking notes for better retention, and ended up with almost 20 pages of notes. I will read it again, and probably also buy other books by Mr. Fuller on this subject. Bravo!
A Primer in Understanding the Spiritual, but Not Religious.  Jan 29, 2005
Robert C. Fuller, a professor of Religious Studies, says "The United States is arguably the most religious nation on earth." He offers a myriad of statistics to cement the aforementioned notion. The meticulously researched book focuses on about 20% of the American population who are "Spiritual, but not Religious." Fuller states his purpose "is to explore the history and present status of unchurched religion in the United States."

Fuller delves headlong into the Herculean task by elucidating the late 1600s and forward into the 21st century. Our modern times are exposed in the humorously titled chapter, "Barnes and Noble as Synagogue." An enormous amount of information is disseminated. At times it feels like one is reading a textbook for a religion class. However, a history of the seeker is clearly expounded.

William James (1842-1910), the "highbrow intellectual," personifies the seeker. He receives the most coverage, but Fuller covers numerous individuals and topics efficiently, e.g., mesmerism, Edgar Cayce, New Age movement and Swedenborgianism. Fuller explains why spiritualism is appealing to those who "decided that existing churches were both emotionally and intellectually stifling." This book is only a start for anyone who wants to truly understand the emerging complex group labeled, "Spiritual, but not Religious." Nonetheless, a thorough, historical overview of unchurched America is presented.

Bohdan Kot

"American Spiritual Metaphysics" - a historical primer  Dec 30, 2004
Robert Fuller's volume on being "Spiritual, but not Religious" should really be called 'Towards a History of American Spiritual Metaphysics.' Writing for an informed but not always scholarly audience, Fuller's book is a work of synthesis. By its own admission it adds nothing substantial to the specific phenomena discussed, but performs a much more valuable function. For what is perhaps the first time, a religious historian has done for American Metaphysics and Spirituality what Jocelyn Godwin did for English-speaking esoteric world (in "The Theosophical Enlightenment.")

Fuller traces the beginnings of unchurched spirituality, and brings to a more popular light what early American religion scholars have known for some time, that despite much hot air to the contrary, early America had a very low church attendance, down to 1/6th of the population around the Revolutionary War. Instead, non-ecclesial forms of spirituality and religious magic, the heritage of Elizabethan occultism, filled much of the practical religious void left by a distant, judgmental Calvinist god. But even at this early stage, Fuller (citing Perry Miller) uncovers that there is a link to immanence and pantheism found even as early as Jonathan Edwards, and finding fruition in a series of religious awakenings, in the early 1800's, after the Civil War through the early part of the 20th century, and in the years from 1960-1975. We see American Swedenborgianism, Transcendentalism, Mesmerism, and Spiritualism linked in a history of religious themes and impulses. We even see both the well-known technical side of Spiritualism, and the lesser known but just-as-vital speculative side, with the writings of Andrew Jackson Davis. Connecting these impulses to the development of Emersonian pantheism, Theosophical esotericism, and the development of Humanistic Psychology in William James, Ken Wilbur, and Carl Rogers, we begin to get a sense of the multi-threaded history of non-ecclesial religion that has grown up alongside more widely acknowledged institutions.

If there is a weakness to Fuller's work it is that the writing is at times not consistent, and well-made points are sometimes re-emphasized redundantly across chapters. As well, the contributions of Amerindian and African/African-American spirituality are mostly absent, although receiving occasional nods. But overall, this pioneering effort deserves high marks for its (extremely overdue) daringness to discuss contemporary Paganism and Goddess worship in the same vein and impulse as Ralph Waldo Emerson's forays, and James' emphasis on personal experience. The price and effort of the volume alone are rewarded by a single chapter, which attempts to draw cross-era generalities between these metaphysical non-ecclesial forms of religion. And for Fuller's concise and consistent rebuke of Robert Wuthnow's, Sydney Ahlstrom's, and Robert Bellah's heavy-handed and opportunistic criticisms of this ongoing, vital, and enduring tradition, he earns praise. This places him more in line with perhaps the other scholar of his stature studying this tradition, Robert Ellwood.

Christopher Chase, PhD Fellow, American Studies
Do Americans Still Believe in Religion?  Jan 8, 2004
Quite frequently, when someone talks about religious life in America, it is common to hear news that sounds somewhat negative. "America is not quite as religious as was in the past", experts say. "They don't have the commitment to religious places of worship like they once did and they don't follow the strict moral code of their ancestors".

Author Robert Fuller is a professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University and he has studied extensively about this "flight" away from traditional religion. But what Fuller has found is that Americans are still believers in a higher being and they still consider themselves moral beings. The difference between now and then is that today, Americans tend to express their religious feelings in a more inward way, and they don't participate actively in organized religion. This is the new face of religion in America, and it is examined in this book, "Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding unchurched America".

Fuller points out some revealing statistics that shows the movement of Americans away from tradition houses of worship and over to a more personal relationship with God. Americans don't like the standardized formula that is so prevalent in most churches. They want to express themselves in their own, unique way. And they want to rely more on the power of their own minds to get in touch with spiritual feelings.

Fuller writes mostly about the history of spirituality in America and the trends of the past two centuries that have gotten us where we are today. He doesn't dwell much on the present state of spirituality and why Americans are increasingly attracted to this as an alternative to traditional religion. This is one of the drawbacks of the book, in my opinion. It's good to know about the history and how we got where we are. But I would like to know more about the present- day spiritualists and why they feel so strongly about their mode of practice.

Fuller presents some good, thought- provoking material on the history of spirituality in America and what we can expect in the future. The nation is becoming more and more diverse all the time, and that includes diversity in religious beliefs as well as in cultural backgrounds. Churches will need to find more and more ways to accommodate these "drifters" who prefer their own method of religious practice to that of customary churches. If churches ignore this, Fuller predicts that they will continue to lose more and more members. Something must be done if American churches hope to grow and thrive in the new century.

Very interesting  Mar 22, 2003
Fuller provides readers with a fascinating survey of spiritual movements through American history that took place largely beyond the pale of "organized religion." He presents a convincing case that the spiritual seeking and experiementation that we see in our own day is nothing new. Particular attention is given to common themes such as the pantheism and other Eastern influences, mesmerism and other psycological experiences, and individualism.

Fuller clearly has a point of view that will irk Christian readers - he certainly seems to applaud spirituality divorced from orthodox Christianity. But Christians who want to seriously engage their culture will find this book terribly interesting. We should be challenged to remember that our own faith should not be conventional and enslaved to the culture, but should be counter-cultural, life-changing, and authentic. Perhaps those who know Christ and have the SPirit within them should be more often characterized as spiritual but not religious.


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