Residually Religious


I used this term once when talking to one of my more devout friends. He objected: “But that makes religion sound like ‘residue,’ like muck that you can’t scrape off.”

I said, “Exactly.”
We all know America is becoming more secular. Fewer people these days identify themselves with a religious tradition, while there has been a significant rise in the number of people who identify themselves as atheists and agnostics. However, 70% of Americans still believe in a personal God…of some sort. So just because people are less willing to identify themselves as religious doesn’t mean they lack faith. I know many people who were raised in a religion who have struggled in adulthood with whether there was anything of value there or it was all just muck to be scraped off. They are the residually religious.
But perhaps the term is still too specific. I have devised a very scientific graph (below). You might fall into the “target audience” for this book if you fall somewhere between 1.5 and 7.5 on the scale of religiosity (X-axis) and/or somewhere between 0 and 7.5 on the scale of zealotry (Y-axis).


If you fall within the circle, I think you will like this book. If you fall on the line or just outside of it, it’s a toss-up. You should probably buy it just to be safe. The farther you lie outside the circle, the more likely you are to hate this book, unless you go to Harvard Divinity School, in which case you might want to write a paper about it.

Most Americans fall somewhere within the circle or close to the border. So my question is: Why are the outliers on this graph always the ones controlling the cultural conversation? What about those of us well inside the circle? Where are the books for us?

In my twenties, I didn’t necessarily want to read books about religion, but I noticed that books that were about anything else seemed to be afflicted by this huge cultural blind spot. I didn’t set out to write a book about religion. I simply wanted to write a book about the “me years” that wasn’t afraid to treat the spiritual and religious dimensions of life as if they matter. I couldn’t find many like that, so I wrote one. Here it is. You’re welcome!


Click “Next” to read about the Peculiarly Possessed.