Mer-cadante, a Presbyterian minster and theologian raised in a half-Catholic, half-Jewish family, begins her exploration of the faith lives of the "spiritual but not religious" (whom she calls SBNRs) with a thesis about spiritual change.
Mercadante clearly reached out to a wide range of interviewees, but she admits that millennials, who represent the largest statistical percentage of SBNRs, were the hardest to reach and represent the smallest percentage of her interview subjects.
After establishing her categories, she divides the subject matter of her interviews into the most common questions many people have about what, exactly, SBNRs do or do not believe.
As boomers and Gen Xers form a fairly large segment of her sampling, there are a number of beliefs talked about here that can be loosely lumped under the banner of "New Age.- Many of her subjects drifted from upbringings that failed to present a focused idea of religion, and as a result, some SBNRs whose parents moved from one religion to another have wound up in a kind of jumbled, do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose faith.
Beyond that point, there isn't one solid thing that SBNRs seem to believe, perhaps because so many of them are still trying to discover what belief means to them.
Amma's movement, in particular, demonstrates the discordant juxtaposition between universalistic "SBNR
" rhetoric derived from Advaita Vedantic sources (often espoused to audiences who are unaware of its extraction from a Hindu context) and classically Hindu ritual practices.
The emergence of the SBNR community, and the rise of the "Nones," the spiritually unaffiliated, are among the top ten forces impacting contemporary society.
Diana Butler Bass [author of Christianity After Religion] in a recent PBS interview focused on people's frustration with the perceived hypocrisy in organized religion as a root cause of the SBNR phenomenon.
Is the SBNR movement creating its own institutions and clergy?
Coupled with other interfaith communities around the world in a Council of Interfaith Communities, there is a growing support network for all SBNR with opportunities to do spiritual service and community Building.
My fear is that in seeking to meet the needs of this diverse population, we will create a horde of competing ideologies that will fall into the same trap of branding and in-fighting that created the SBNR phenomenon in the first place.