The last twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in nes : people who do t claim any religious affiliation, and who w outnumber even the largest Protestant deminations in America. Not to be confused with secularists, many nes identify themselves as spiritual but t religious (SBNR). Public response to the emergence of SBNRs has been wildly mixed. Nones have been evaluated, statistically analyzed, classified and categorized, derided as shallow dilettantes, and hailed as spiritual pioneers, but very rarely asked to describe their own views and experiences. In Beliefs without Borders, theologian and one-time SBNR Linda Mercadante gives nes a chance to speak for themselves. This volume is the outcome of extensive observation and over 85 in-depth interviews with SBNRs across the United States. Mercadante presents SBNRs' stories and analysis of their spiritual journeys as well as their rationale for the rejection of organized religion, showing that people who identify in this way can be found t only outside of organized religon, but within it. She reveals the surprising latent theology within the nes movement, including the interviewees' creative concepts of divine transcendence, life after death, human nature, and community, and the conclusions she draws are startling: despite that SBNRs routinely discount the creeds and doctrines of organized religion, many have devised a structured set of beliefs, often purposefully in opposition to doctrines associated with Christianity. Beliefs without Borders is a captivating exploration of a growing belief system certain to transform the spiritual character of America.
Linda A. Mercadante is B. Robert Straker Professor of Theology at The Methodist Theological School in Ohio.