Workshop explores “secular but spiritual” identity

January 12, 2010

A recent Pew Research Survey of the religious landscape found that 30 percent of young people on the West Coast consider themselves "spiritual but not religious." Of those who mark “none” when describing their church affiliation, Earl Lectures workshop leader Mark Shibley says, “If you’re not going to church on Sundays, that opens the door to explore other ways of satisfying your spiritual side. In the Pacific Northwest especially, there’s a secular movement of going on a bike ride or hike or canoe trip instead of church. These rituals of leisure bring up experiences of awe and pondering the spiritual meaning of interconnectedness.”

Shibley’s research has found that nature and the outdoors serve as a connection to the divine or animating energy, which he calls earth-based spirituality or nature religion. And with the words “green” and “sustainable” on the lips of politicians, celebrities, and the wider population in general, the environment seems to be on everyone’s mind. Indeed, earth-based spirituality permeates public life where organized religion doesn’t dominate, Shibley says.

“If you listen closely to discussions—how to manage a watershed, whether to cut down trees, how to solve environmental problems—you’ll hear a sensibility of people in nature and a spiritual connection,” Shibley explains. “That’s the cultural framework people are operating in.”

In the workshop with Shibley, who is also a plenary panelist, attendees will discuss the unprecedented cultural shift toward a spiritual-but-not-religious perspective (January 27, 11 am–12:30 pm). A rich selection of workshops featuring leaders in theology, ministry, and education are offered through the annual Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference. Workshops are open to the general public and to those in all walks of social change, ministry, and clergy. Registration for the Leadership Conference workshops is $125. (There is no need to register to attend the lectures only, which are open to the public at no charge.)