Monday, August 22, 2005

Same As It Ever Was: "Spirituality" in America

Newsweek's cover this week is In Search of the Spiritual. Not much new here, to be quite frank. Publishers aren't dumb, they have figured out that "spirituality" sells magazines, and have obliged (note the stories about the historical Jesus every Christmas and Easter). Here's the latest in the long trend of ... "Americans don't like organized religion ... yack yack ... they are seeking their own paths to God ... blah blah ... " How many of these are we going to get?

More interesting was this brief mention (perhaps a dig at Newsweek's arch-rival Time) of the infamous "Is God Dead?" headline. To wit ...
... only a generation ago it appeared from some vantage points, such as midtown Manhattan, that Americans were on their way to turning their backs on God. In sepulchral black and red, the cover of Time magazine dated April 8, 1966—Good Friday—introduced millions of readers to existential anguish with the question Is God Dead? If he was, the likely culprit was science, whose triumph was deemed so complete that "what cannot be known [by scientific methods] seems uninteresting, unreal." Nobody would write such an article now, in an era of round-the-clock televangelism and official presidential displays of Christian piety.

The media's favorite topic is itself. If they reported God was dead, that must have meant people really believed it, right? So, in 1966 did America believe God was dead? I was not yet born (1969! right on!), but somehow I highly doubt it.