By Adam Frank
“Spiritual But Not Religious” is a phrase you hear more and more these days — and with good reason. In 2012, a Pew Foundation survey on religion found that almost 20 percent of Americans placed themselves in the category of “unaffiliated.”
That 20 percent unaffiliated translates into a whole lot of people. It’s a big enough number that, most likely, your next airport van ride will include someone without traditional religious attachments onboard.
But to really appreciate the importance of this 20 percent in the landscape of American life, you have to consider one more number: 10 years.
That’s how long it’s been since philosopher Sam Harris published his book The End of Faithand kick-started the New Atheist movement. Along with writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, Harris was unapologetic in his denunciation of literalist religious beliefs.
Looking back, New Atheism was at its best when it provided a clear defense of reason against the many fundamentalisms that only look backward. At its worst, however, it dismissed all experiences of “spirituality” as worthless, pudding-headed confusion.
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