SPIRITUAL, BUT NOT RELIGIOUS, BUT NOT SECULAR: Spirituality and its New Cultural Formations

Department of Anthropology
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Boaz Huss

Growing numbers of people today are reluctant to describe their identity and social practices as either religious or secular, and prefer to portray themselves as "spiritual”. In difference to earlier periods, in which spirituality was perceived as closely related to religion - spirituality today is often defined in opposition to religion, as in the highly popular self-designation, "spiritual but not religious." Notwithstanding the assertion of the practitioners of contemporary spirituality that they are 'spiritual, but not religious', many scholars consider spirituality as a component, or type of religion. Other scholar, although, not many, deny the religiosity of contemporary new age Spirituality and regard it as a disguised form of secular consumerism.

In my lecture I will suggest that we should take this self-designation seriously and accept that contemporary spirituality is not a type of religion. Yet, I will argue, contemporary spirituality is also not secular. Spirituality and the cultural formations related to it (which are usually described as new age culture), challenge the division created in the modern era between the religious and secular realms of life, and enables the formation of new life styles, social practices and cultural artifacts that cannot be defined as either religious or secular.