A sparklingly strange odyssey through the kaleidoscope of America's new spirituality: the cults, practices, high priests, and prophets of our supposedly post-religion age.
Fifty-five years have passed since the cover of Time magazine proclaimed the death of God, and while participation in mainstream religion has indeed plummeted, Americans have never been more spiritually busy.
While rejecting traditional worship in unprecedented numbers, today's Americans are embracing a kaleidoscopic panoply of spiritual traditions, rituals, and subcultures - from astrology and witchcraft to SoulCycle and the alt-right. As the internet makes it ever-easier to find new "tribes" and consumer capitalism forever threatens to turn spirituality into a lifestyle brand, remarkably modern American religious culture is undergoing a revival comparable with the Great Awakenings of centuries past. Faith is experiencing not a decline but a renaissance. Disillusioned with organized religion and political establishments alike, more and more Americans are seeking out spiritual paths driven by intuition, not institutions.
In Strange Rites, religious scholar and commentator Tara Isabella Burton visits with the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley; Satanists and polyamorous communities; witches from Bushwick; wellness junkies; and social-justice activists and devotees of Jordan Peterson, proving Americans are not abandoning religion but remixing it. In search of the deep and the real, they are finding meaning, purpose, ritual, and communities in ever-newer, ever-stranger ways.
"With Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton establishes herself as her generation's foremost chronicler of American religious life. Her intelligence, her immersive reporting, and her vivid prose style illuminate with particular intensity the radical religious changes transforming post-Christian America. The religious center has not held; Burton is an essential guide to the mere spiritual anarchy now loosed upon the Western world. Strange Rites will doubtless be one of the most important books of the year." (Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option)
"A lesser writer and a colder intellect would have been content simply to mock the video-gaming, Soul-Cycling communicants of our "Remixed" Great Awakening. Yet in Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton grasps that strangeness entails ecstatic power as well as oddity, and that even folly in search of transcendent meaning merits empathy, not apathy - the difference between a merely lively read and a profound one." (Giselle Donnelley, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research)
"Rigorously researched and reported with scholarly curiosity and an eye on the zeitgeist, Tara Isabella Burton's Strange Rites takes a hard look at what's replacing traditional religious practice in American culture today and finds that the thirst for community and belonging has not gone away. As the discovers, today's religiously remixed subcultures could indeed be tomorrow's new religions. Her book is an adventure story through the new American religious landscapes." (Kaya Oakes, UC Berkeley, author of The Nones Are Alright)
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- Victoria F.
Recommended to anyone interested in Internet era culture and “religion” (if such a thing exists!)