Stephen Prothero’s book God, the Best Seller examines the role of Eugene Exman, the former head of Harper and Brothers’ religious book department, in publishing some of the most important religious books of the 20th century, arguing that Exman was partly responsible for the current trend towards the “spiritual but not religious”. Then Dr. Linda Mercadante shares her research on the growing number of Americans identifying as spiritual but not religious, finding that they reject the word “God” but still believe in something bigger than themselves.
“God the Best Seller”
In his book, God, the Best Seller, Stephen Prothro tells the story of Eugene Exman, who was responsible for the religious book department at Harper and Brothers from 1928 to 1965. Prothro argues that Exman was partly responsible for the current trend toward “spirituality but not religious.” The book highlights Exman’s role in publishing some of the most important religion books of the 20th century — including The Perennial Philosophy by Aldi Huxley, essays on Zen Buddhism by DT Suzuki, The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day, and The Religions of Man by Houston Smith.
We continue our discussion with Stephen Prothero.
Who are the “Spiritual but not religious?”
Dr. Linda Mercadante a Distinguished Research Professor, Emerita, Methodist Theological School in Ohio. and founder of HealthyBeliefs discussed her journey from being “spiritual but not religious” to becoming a scholar of religion. She argues for more research and understanding into the growing numbers of Americans identifying as such. In her book, “Beliefs without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual But Not Religious,” Mercadante shares her research findings from a listening tour across the US, Canada, Mexico, and beyond. She discovered that while sociologically, people identifying as “spiritual but not religious” are quite different, they share many common beliefs — including rejecting the word “God” while still believing in something bigger than themselves.