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The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition

The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition

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by James A. Herrick

A massive shift in Western religious attitudes has taken place almost without our noticing it. The Judeo-Christian tradition of Western culture has slowly but steadily been eclipsed by a new way of viewing spirituality.

This shift has been in the making for some three hundred years. James A. Herrick tells the story of how the old view has been dismantled and a new one created not primarily through academic or institutional channels but by means of popular religious media--books, speeches, magazines and pamphlets, as well as movies, plays, music, radio interviews, television programs and websites.

Although the new spirituality is diffuse and eclectic in its sources and manifestations, Herrick demonstrates a significant convergence of ideas, beliefs, assumptions, convictions and images in the myriad ways this New Religious Synthesis makes its way into our culture. In fact, the new spirituality, says Herrick, directly calls into question each major tenet of Judeo-Christian tradition and so represents a radical alternative to it.

Interest in spirituality increases while participation in institutional religion wanes. Many welcome this evolution of religion. However, few are familiar with its roots, and fewer still have critically examined its prospects. As we stand at a spiritual crossroad, Herrick questions whether we are wise to discard the Western religious tradition and adopt the new spirituality.

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"James Herrick's book surveys a variety of spiritual movements subversive of traditional Christianity that often broadcast intoxicating messages of self-improvement and self-deification. . . . Herrick illuminates both the historical origins of these movements and the current scene in which they thrive so abundantly." Glenn Tinder, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Boston, and author of The Political Meaning of Christianity

"This is an excellent overview of the development of Western religious thought and life that reveals the roots of much of 'modern spirituality.' As such it is a must-read for anyone who simply wants to understand the spiritual ferment all around us." Irving Hexham, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary

"Once in Western societies to be 'religious' was to be 'Christian.' Why that is no longer the case is the subject of James Herrick's compelling new book. It is a volume that both raises key questions and clarifies 'the spiritual' in an unusually helpful way." Mark Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathon Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

"God is not dead in our culture. Only his identity has changed. The claim of autonomy for human reason has led to its own deification and the rejection of the importance of history, the development of a spiritualized physics and a return to an ancient gnosticism--in short, a New Religious Synthesis. The dominant god today is the cosmic spirit embodied in the self. Herrick shows us how this shift has come about. A lucid intellectual history with important implications for navigating the religious currents of our day." James W. Sire, author of The Universe Next Door

"Herrick reminds us that the main opponent of Christianity today, especially in popular culture, is not secularism but New Age spiritualism. He offers a detailed taxonomy that will help readers trace the richly varied sources giving rise to the new synthesis of East and West." Nancy R. Pearcey, Senior Fellow, The Discovery Institute, Center for Science and Culture

Paperback; 331 pages

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