Chapter 4: A la carte spirituality and the future of freedom of religion
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Although institutional religion continues on, there has been a dramatic increase in the past 20 years in those who describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. The common trait among so-called SBNRs is that they take an individualistic approach to religion: picking and choosing particular beliefs from a wide variety of religious traditions and then adding in, on an a la carte basis, notions from what may be derided by many as folklore, pseudoscience, the New Age smorgasbord or personal intuition. The rise of this ‘new spirituality’ presents challenges for the traditional application of religious freedom principles in liberal democracies which were developed in the context of institutional, hierarchical and formalized religious affiliations. This paper examples doctrinal freedom of religion principles in Australia, Canada and the United States and discusses how ‘freedom of religion’ must evolve to protect spiritual beliefs that are personal and idiosyncratic.

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