In Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton takes a tour through contemporary American religiosity. As the once dominant totems of civic connection and civil discourse–traditional churches–continue to sink into obsolescence, people are looking elsewhere for the intensity and unity that religion once provided. We’re making our own personal faiths – theistic or not – mixing and matching our spiritual, ritualistic, personal, and political practices in order to create our own bespoke religious selves. We’re not just building new religions in 2019, we’re buying them, from Gwyneth Paltrow’s gospel of Goop, to the brilliantly cultish SoulCycle, to those who believe in their special destiny on Mars.
In so doing, we’re carrying on a longstanding American tradition of religious eclecticism, DIY-innovation and “unchurched” piety (and highly effective capitalism). Our era is not the dawn of American secularism, but rather a brand-bolstered resurgence of American pluralism, revved into overdrive by commerce and personalized algorithms, all to the tune of “Hallellujah”-–America’s most popular and spectacularly misunderstood wedding song.