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.

"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

Courses: Spring 2023

Spirituality in America

REL 394 | 31809
M W | 10:30 - 11:45 a.m. 
in-person | ASU Tempe, WHALL 120
lecturer: Terry Shoemaker
full course details

The Spiritual Quest

REL 394 | 34711
T | 10:30 - 11:45 a.m. 
Internet-hybrid | ASU Tempe, WHALL 120
general studies: HU, C
professor: Tracy Fessenden
full course details

Support the initiative

Your support for this fund creates transformative and innovative ways to share knowledge related to spirituality and its place in public life among our communities.

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.

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In the news

ASU center launches Spirituality and Public Life Initiative

Over the course of the past several decades, the religious landscape in the United States has changed rapidly, with about 29% of U.S. adults identifying as religiously unaffiliated and a quarter of U.S. adults saying they think of themselves as spiritual but not religious. The Spirituality and Public Life Initiative — a new project out of Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict — is seeking to explore and better understand this phenomenon through a collection of courses, events and more. read full article

watch launch event with Serene Jones