Religious, Spiritual, Secular: Invidious Distinctions and Ambivalent Attachments

The Italian Academy, Columbia University

Scholars and practitioners alike have constantly invoked and constantly confused distinctions among religion, secular, and spiritual life. The proliferation of terms has left social scientists uncertain about how to proceed. Conference participants addressed the interplay between religious, spiritual, and secular in a range of institutional and personal pursuits with an eye to the ways these terms allow individuals and groups to position themselves relative to institutions and histories that they simultaneously engage and resist, thus signaling what we have called “ambivalent attachments.” The conference laid the groundwork for a forthcoming edited volume.