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Religion the American way, dynamic and innovative

David Campbell is co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us and a political science professor at Notre Dame University


These days, a lot of people prefer the word “spirituality” over “religion”. Many people associate religion with dogma handed down by inflexible institutions that don’t keep up with the times. 

Religion is also considered a highly divisive topic, one of the subjects you don’t bring up in polite conversation. Spirituality, on the other hand, is defined by an individual’s personal belief system, which seems to have more of a warm, fuzzy feeling to it.

But David Campbell, professor of political science at Notre Dame University, is less condemning of religion and its place in American culture. He says it not only divides, but also unites. Campbell co-authored American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. He talked about the contradictions of religion’s role in American society with me here in the KALW studios.

HANA BABA: How new is this sense of innovation in religion? Is it really new or is it something that’s been there? DAVID CAMPBELL: Innovation, in and of itself, has actually been the constant in American religion...Sometimes it’s the creation of new religions, like the Mormons, sometimes it’s taking old religions and adapting them to new ways, and sometimes it’s creating a new form of religion, a new form of religious gathering.

The Spiritual Edge is a new project of KALW and the Templeton Religion Trust. You can find other stories, blogs and links at thespiritualedge.org. Also, we’d love to hear your suggestions on what we should be covering. Leave us a comment or call the KALW news line at (415) 264-7106.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.