Spirituality and Public Life

When 1 in 4 people, and increasing numbers of young people, identify as “spiritual but not religious,” we can no longer ignore the spiritual dimensions of public life.

Spirituality is a dimension of experience related to religion that also transcends the boundaries of religion. An understudied resource, in our classrooms and in academic research more broadly, spirituality is too often seen as private, idiosyncratic, and individualistic—an inner realm separated off from public life. Yet, experience, intuition, and evidence all around us tell us this assumption is deeply misplaced. Human beings are spiritual…and social. So how could the interior world of self and mind—as it yearns for transcendence, wholeness, and harmony—not influence society and the world we share?

The Initiative in Spirituality and Public Life at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is designed to address this transformation through the development of new courses and new lines of inquiry. Just as human spirituality influences our public life together, it bears on significant challenges we face in common. This initiative highlights the importance of spirituality to the ethical formation of persons and citizens, and to the institutions of public life that are vital to human flourishing.

ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict advances research and education on the religious dynamics of conflict and peace with the aim of expanding knowledge, deepening understanding, and promoting wiser responses to pressing challenges of our times. The Initiative in Spirituality and Public Life deepens the center’s resources for stimulating new ideas, expanding community networks, and identifying creative possibilities for healing our world.

read article about initiative launch 

watch launch event with Serene Jones

"As we look around us, I think that many people would describe a sense that something deeply human but perhaps also transcendent is missing in our collective life together."

— John Carlson, Director

Support the Initiative

Spirituality is often seen as a deeply personal matter, and as a result, it has been overlooked as a resource when thinking through our world's most pressing challenges. Your support for this fund helps to create transformative and innovative ways to share knowledge related to spirituality and its place in public life among our communities.

make a donation

Course Information

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Spirituality in America

Instructor: Terry Shoemaker

Examine the emergence of spirituality in North America:

  • What is spirituality?
  • Is spirituality a new phenomenon?
  • Why is spritiaulity appealing now?
  • What is "spiritual but not religious?"
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The Spiritual Quest

Instructor: Tracy Fessenden
General Studies: HU, C 

Americans who identify as “spiritual but not religious”— the fastest-growing religious demographic in the nation today, and one of the largest—stand in long, rich traditions of like-minded seekers throughout the world. This course considers the literature and practices of spiritual seeking over centuries, from ancient mystery religions to movements for justice and flourishing in the present.


Previous Events

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Sam Kestenbaumjournalist covering religion in America
Thursday, November 2, 2023 | 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. (MST) | West Hall, room 135

Free and open to all. Registration requested.

Scores of churches closed during COVID-19, but contrary to predictions that religion would diminish, the pandemic led to a peculiar efflorescence of religious life. A faith-healing TikToker gained a fandom by performing miracles on screen; a religion-and-politics roadshow toured the country, bringing doomsday prophets, January 6 rioters and anti-vaxxers together in harmony; and at New Age fairs and conventions, the yoga and wellness crowd absorbed QAnon gospel while shopping for sage and crystals. Drawing from reporting done for outlets like The New York Times and the Washington Post, this talk offers a picture of a multi-faceted spiritual convergence born in the time of plague.

*Conspirituality is the merger of conspiracy theories with religion or spiritual belief.

West Hall, 135 (1000 Cady Mall, Tempe)