Since the 1960s American religious affiliation has been in decline. For more than two centuries religious institutions have given our lives meaning beyond day-to-day experience, offered a connection between the mundane and the spiritual, and served as a powerful source of social and political authority. But more and more, Americans are looking elsewhere to make sense of the chaos and uncertainty of life.
Historian Molly Worthen says that secularization points to a broader U.S. trend: the decline of institutional authority and the expansion of a do-it-yourself ethos. She says Americans are turning to wellness trends, podcasts, and life coaches to piece together a spiritual tool kit tailored specifically to them. The aim isn’t salvation so much as optimization: better sleep, inner peace, and profitable entrepreneurship.