Beyond Literalism: Reflexive Spirituality and Religious Meaning

Kelly Besecke

in Everyday Religion

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780195305418
Published online January 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199785094 | DOI:
  Beyond Literalism: Reflexive Spirituality and Religious Meaning

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The assumption of a necessary conflict between reason and religion has long informed discussions of the role of religion in modern society. This chapter describes and analyzes reflexive spirituality as a cultural movement that promotes the use of reason to enhance religious meaning. As a movement, reflexive spirituality represents an effort to bring an enhanced sense of transcendent meaning into the highly rationalized context of the United States. Practitioners offer a sophisticated cultural critique targeting modern societies’ preoccupation with literal meanings, to the exclusion of more profound meanings, both inside and outside of the religious sphere. Reflexive spirituality promotes metaphorical interpretation of traditional texts and rituals, wisdom gained from religious experience, and a critical embrace of religious pluralism.

Keywords: reason; religion; modern; literal; metaphor; religious experience; pluralism

Chapter.  7469 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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