Elizabeth Drescher, PhD

Writing in the Land Between Religions


I’ve always been something of a spiritual seeker. Even after I found my way to the Episcopal church in my late twenties, I continued to be deeply curious about the multitude of ways that people have found throughout history to explore and shape deeper meaning in everyday life. I’m just as interested today in how people make meaning—how we try to get a handle on what’s “true” or “good,” how we experience fulfillment, how we reach beyond ourselves in various ways to connect with and enrich the lives of others, and how those practices shape the culture we share.

Most recently, I’ve been learning about so-called “Nones”—the religiously unaffiliated who answer “none” when asked with what religion they identify. Many people assume that Nones are atheists or other types of unbelievers. But, in fact, the majority hold beliefs and engage in spiritual practices that aren’t entirely inconsistent with those of the religious institutions they often reject. What’s more, many unbelievers celebrate and nurture the human spirit, engaging in practices of meaning-making that wouldn’t be entirely foreign to many religious folks. Still, Nones are hardly traditional in their approach to meaning-making, self-realization, and self-transcendence. Likewise, those who do think of themselves as religious unbelievers of one sort or another continue to wrestle with Big Questions of meaning and value that have animated religious thinkers and philosophers for eons.

For the past two years, I’ve been traveling around the United States interviewing Nones, conducting focus groups and periodic surveys to get beyond the demographic data that has poured out on the religiously unaffiliated for the past few years. I’m interested in understanding how Nones themselves tell their meaning-making story and how they describe the practices that help them to make sense of life and the world around them.

If you think of yourself as something like a None, I’d love to hear your story, too. The Nones Beyond the Numbers survey gives Nones the opportunity to share  perspectives on and approaches to making meaning in everyday life. It’s a narrative survey, which means it works something like an online journal in which you respond to open-ended questions about your approach to religion, spirituality, meaning-making, and other Big Questions.

Gleanings from the survey, interviews, and focus groups will find their way into my next book, Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014.

Meanwhile, please amble around my website, where you’ll find more about my writing projects, information about upcoming speaking, and periodic posts in my new blog, The In Between. You’ll also find information about my previous books, Tweet If You  Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse, 2011) and, with Keith AndersonClick 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012), and links to my articles in Religion Dispatches, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, and other publications.

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