Strange Rites

New Religions for a Godless World


By Tara Isabella Burton

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A sparklingly strange odyssey through the kaleidoscope of America's new spirituality: the cults, practices, high priests and prophets of our supposedly post-religion age.
Fifty-five years have passed since the cover of Time magazine proclaimed the death of God and while participation in mainstream religion has indeed plummeted, Americans have never been more spiritually busy.
While rejecting traditional worship in unprecedented numbers, today's Americans are embracing a kaleidoscopic panoply of spiritual traditions, rituals, and subcultures — from astrology and witchcraft to SoulCycle and the alt-right.As the Internet makes it ever-easier to find new "tribes," and consumer capitalism forever threatens to turn spirituality into a lifestyle brand, remarkably modern American religious culture is undergoing a revival comparable with the Great Awakenings of centuries past. Faith is experiencing not a decline but a Renaissance. Disillusioned with organized religion and political establishments alike, more and more Americans are seeking out spiritual paths driven by intuition, not institutions.
In Strange Rites, religious scholar and commentator Tara Isabella Burton visits with the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley; Satanists and polyamorous communities, witches from Bushwick, wellness junkies and social justice activists and devotees of Jordan Peterson, proving Americans are not abandoning religion but remixing it. In search of the deep and the real, they are finding meaning, purpose, ritual, and communities in ever-newer, ever-stranger ways.


To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual

Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:

And always will be, some of them especially

When there is distress of nations and perplexity

Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road

T.S. ELIOT, “The Dry Salvages”



ITS THE END OF 2018. THREE IN THE MORNING. IN THE MIDDLE of a rave. We’re in the McKittrick Hotel, equal parts warehouse, performance art space, bar, and party venue in the heart of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Ten or twenty years ago, this used to be a different sort of nightclub—populated by “freaks and crackheads,” as one regular put it, in the heart of New York City’s Club Row.1 The sort of place where people did coke in the bathroom line, had sex in the stalls, ended up on Page Six. “We’d find people passed out in the bathroom,” one former employee of a West 27th Street club said. “You would think it was a dead body. Passed out, like scary passed out, like smack them, pick them up, they’re like Jell-O, like someone took their spine out. And on the street. You would literally see people face down in the gutter.” Someone else called the neighborhood “a Disneyland for drunks.”2

But the place is different now. You might even say a little bit more sacred.

It’s still a party. People are still drunk. One or two may still be having sex in the bathrooms. Some are definitely making out on the dance floor. One of the performers onstage, dressed in a baroque costume that’s equal parts Marie Antoinette and diabolical siren, is singing “God Is a Woman,” and everyone is screaming along in joyous collective effervescence, because they, and she, really believe this. The theme of the party is vaguely inspired by The Odyssey, and by sirens and their call to self-defeating decadence. Because of this there is candy everywhere, streaming from the false-cobwebbed candelabras, for guests to eat: a playful riff on the idea, ubiquitous from the Greek myth of Persephone to the book of Genesis, that eating something illicit traps you in the world of death. Almost every single person in this building—and there are about a thousand—is taking a selfie.

But in the middle of all this revelry is something profound. Whether its participants are fully aware of it or not, they are in the middle of a religious ritual. More than that, it is one of the most representative religious rituals of our so-called secular age: a place where faith and fantasy, art and irony, capitalism and creation converge. We are at the holy of holies for the religiously unaffiliated—the fastest-growing religious demographic in America—the spiritual but not religious, the religious mix and matches, the theologically bi- and tri-curious who attend Shabbat services but also do yoga, who cleanse with sage but also sing “Silent Night” at Christmastime. Throughout America, already the religiously unaffiliated make up about a quarter of the population—and almost 40 percent of young millennials. Here, in the middle of hipster New York, those numbers are wildly higher.

BUT HERE, AT THIS RAVE, WE ARENT JUST WATCHING THERISE OF THE Nones,” as this phenomenon is often called. Rather, it’s a collective celebration—what the sociologist Émile Durkheim once termed the “collective effervescence” that defines religion—of a new, eclectic, chaotic, and thoroughly, quintessentially American religion. A religion of emotive intuition, of aestheticized and commodified experience, of self-creation and self-improvement and, yes, selfies. A religion for a new generation of Americans raised to think of themselves both as capitalist consumers and as content creators. A religion decoupled from institutions, from creeds, from metaphysical truth-claims about God or the universe or the Way Things Are, but that still seeks—in various and varying ways—to provide us with the pillars of what religion always has: meaning, purpose, community, ritual.

Let me explain: Back in 2011, you see, the British theater company Punchdrunk took over the space that would become the McKittrick. They transformed the lattice of warehouse rooms into a 1930s hotel, a forest, a cemetery, a speakeasy. Dead flowers hang from the walls of an apothecary. Taxidermy moose heads overlook teak floors. Most of the time, the space serves as the home of Sleep No More, the company’s near-wordless, dance-based, Hitchcock-inflected retelling of Macbeth. Masked audience members are free to wander the space in silence: rummaging through drawers, prowling around corners. If you’re lucky, you might be singled out for a “one-on-one”—a coveted, intimate, often sexually charged encounter with a character in one of the production’s secret locked rooms. (Lady Macduff, for example, might ask you to pray with her for the fate of her imperiled son; she’ll whisper Bible verses into your ear and press salt into your palms as a good luck charm. The sultry witch Hecate might try to seduce you on a mission to reclaim a lost magical ring and leave a diabolical kiss on your mask, or even your neck.) It’s equal parts video game, voyeurism, and religious pilgrimage.

You’re encouraged to look around, to explore, to find hidden connections. To figure out how it all fits together: What the mysterious nurses in the insane asylum on the fifth floor (where Lady Macbeth tries to scrub out, of course, that damn spot) have to do with the lonely taxidermist on floor two. How Hecate and her three subservient witches who hail Macbeth as a would-be king—presaging his prideful downfall—have left their mark (or lipstick kiss) on nearly every room. The McKittrick—as even the elevator bellhops remind you on your way in—is an enchanted place.

Everything here, you see, has meaning. The show’s creators have gone on record as claiming that every single line of Macbeth is “embedded” in the production’s design, somewhere or other.3 There’s still an orgy, nightly, at the McKittrick, but this time it’s a blood orgy: in the script, repeated three times per show. Techno music blares. Strobe lights flare. (Epileptics are not encouraged.) Hecate’s witches strip bare. They fling blood—chocolate sauce, actually—on the crowd. The music is so loud that it’s impossible to tell whether or not audience members—let alone Hecate—are screaming along.

Ostensibly, it’s a reimagining of the famous prophecy scene from Macbeth’s act 4, in which Hecate and her witches tell Macbeth all the different ways he might be killed. Only this time, if you follow the characters, you might get to participate. You see moments of vulnerability and pain. You become part of the ritual. You might help the fully nude Boy Witch, shaken from the intensity of his revels, put his clothes back on—if he makes eye contact with you, invites you to come closer, you might even get to touch him. You might get to comfort him in his pain. Sometimes, sometimes, he hugs you.

Back in 2011, Sleep No More got a rapturous critical response. “The show infects your dreams,” New York said.4 The New York Times crowed about the erotic element of the show’s immersivity, calling it “a voyeur’s delight, with all the creepy, shameful pleasures that entails.”5 The show seemed destined to have a long, profitable run as a must-see, delightfully provocative New York tourist attraction, if nothing else. It augured a hunger, in New York and London alike, for immersive theater pieces: not art but experience.

But then something unexpected happened. The show developed fans. Not fans as in people who tweeted about it once or twice, but full-on, rapturous, devoted fanatics. (I should know. Reporting on the phenomenon, back in 2012–2013, I ultimately became one.) People came back ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred times—spending about $100 a ticket, and that’s before you get to the coat check, the drinks, the cab home. Several communities sprang up on the blogging platform Tumblr devoted to painstakingly recapping trips to the show, sharing tips and tricks for garnering secret one-on-ones, and trying to predict the constantly changing cast. Blogging friends became real-life friends, or at the very least financial supporters: one well-known Tumblr user, whose Sleep No More viewings easily ranked in the hundreds, raised $2,000 from well-wishers on GoFundMe to attend the final performance of Punchdrunk’s similarly structured London show, The Drowned Man, which he’d already seen dozens of times. Some self-proclaimed superfans came three hundred times or more.

Fandom is nothing new, of course. But Sleep No More was different. You didn’t just watch a show or read a book or even write a blog. You got to participate. You got to touch people. You got to go inside a magical world, discover symbolic connections, find meaning. Almost unanimously, the superfans I interviewed cited the power of living—even for a few hours at a time—in an enchanted place: a world where everything, even the design of a room or the arrangement of dead flowers or the cards on a table, had symbolic weight. They cited the sense of profound intimacy they got from those coveted one-on-one interactions with characters. “It’s like a switch went off and the power of this art form became clear,” one fan told me. “Your first personal interaction is the catalyst. It feels like the story is choosing you to be a part of it.”6 “I’d never seen or felt anything like it,” said another. “I felt I was both an observer and a part of the story being told.”7 Her husband, who told me they’d spent at least $17,000 on the show in the past couple years, added: “We didn’t travel, go out, even go to movies. We pretty much only spent money on this one thing for a couple of years.” But that was fine. Because, his wife told me, “every time I come out the end of the [entry] maze into that beautiful red light, I break into the biggest smile. It feels like I’ve come home.”

And the McKittrick was a home. And a therapy session. And a bordello. And, yes, a church. Fans would go to celebrate a birthday. They’d go when they were sad, when they needed to be alone in a dark room with a mask to hide their tears. They’d go when they were lonely and wanted a moment of intimacy with the Porter—who pined for the male member of Hecate’s triad of witches—or with Hecate herself. They’d go to feel tears—actors in one-on-ones often really cried—on their cheeks.

They’d forge personal relationships with Annabella, a folk-witch character (conceived and created by Punchdrunk actress Ava Lee Scott, who told me once that she “studied every night and day” and that she “disappeared in living this role”) who sat in the show’s bar—the only place outside the one-on-ones where talking was acceptable. At the bar, performers interact consistently with audience members, like NPCs in a video game, listening to their problems, concocting magical potions and charms, and giving life advice. (One fan attributes his decision to leave his day job and become a full-time artist to Annabella’s advice.) Fans would speak fondly of Max, the bar’s flirtatious MC, or Calloway, another bar local, as if they were personal friends.

The enthusiasts have expanded the world of the McKittrick. At private parties—including those I attended as a fan, and ultimately as a friend—we would write our own one-on-ones: bonding with friends by creating intimate, ritualistic spaces and expressions just for us. One fan created his own special coin to “tip” the bellhop who escorts guests from the bar into the show proper. Another developed his own costumed character—a lumberjack named Clyde—and took to haunting the McKittrick’s (non-ticketed) rooftop garden bar while studying for his university exams, delighting in the fact that most people never quite figured out whether he was really part of the show.

As Sleep No More got more popular, the idea of the immersive experience started to get bigger and more commercial. Immersive theater productions in New York—often just repackaged sexy nightclub acts—all but outnumbered their fourth-wall-preserving counterparts. As of 2019, there was even immersive theater for babies.8 In the decade since Sleep No More opened, the pop-up experience—a capitalist reimagining of immersive theater as Instagram bait—became an essential base of any worthwhile brand’s marketing strategy. As exhausted critic Amanda Hess wrote on the rise of the “Instagrammable pop-up” in 2018 for the New York Times, “The ‘experience’ has emerged as among the defining fads of a generation. There have been New York experiences centered on tea, dreams, eggs, illusions and cereal. Soon the Museum of Pizza, ‘the world’s first and only immersive art experience celebrating pizza,’ will open. There’s one for dogs now, too: Human’s Best Friend, which offers 20 ‘photo moments’ for your pet to endure.”9 (Punchdrunk today does as much, if not more, advertorial work as independent creative projects, producing immersive ad campaigns for the beer company Stella Artois, the tech giant Samsung, and, of all people, Rihanna.)

Meanwhile, the McKittrick expanded. Sleep No More opened a second outpost in Shanghai: the McKinnon Hotel. Meanwhile, the New York McKittrick opened restaurants, extra performance space, and concert venues. It started throwing public ticketed raves on holidays like Halloween and New Year’s Eve. It created an expanded universe for its characters: the pageantry of its parties was often filled with clues, likely to sail over the head of novices or party-only guests, as to characters’ backstories. It encouraged attendees to come in themed costume. Inevitably, a slate of finance bros would arrive in half-hearted black with drugstore masks, while superfans would often spend months preparing intricate costumes based on characters from the show or on oblique references to lines of Shakespeare hidden in that enchanted world. Whether you were a superfan or just a Halloween reveler, these parties were, like the religious festivals they mimicked, rituals: ways of marking the passing of time through a carnival atmosphere of transcendence. They were invitations, not just to enter this world of witchcraft and magic that one British theater company had, via Shakespeare, created, but also to celebrate a very particular, if informally codified, worldview. A worldview that celebrated not evil, exactly, but subversion. A wholesale fuck you to repression, to patriarchy, to rules, to order, to the petty offices of men.

Whether you were a superfan or a novice at one of the McKittrick parties, you’d notice a recurring theme embedded in the dance numbers, songs, stories, and exclusive one-on-ones specially designed for each event. The McKittrick had a distinct and consistent ideological system underpinning its plays and parties alike: The world was a darkly magical place. Hecate and her witches were pulling the strings. They’d seduce uptight virgins and make them into maenads. They’d eat their hearts and lick the bones. The witches were evil, sure, but they were also fun. The way Milton’s Satan was fun. Hecate’s signature appearance—the reveal, at almost every party, that she and her witchy acolytes were behind some incident or another—engendered applause, not offense.

After all, Hecate is cool. In the world of the show, at least, she stands for personal freedom, for bodily autonomy, for sexual agency and empowerment, for unabashed, unapologetic being. She doesn’t just break the rules, she makes her own. She tricks that silly, haughty Macbeth (ironically, the actual Macbeths feature little in the fandom) into throwing away his life on a futile power quest. She wears a bias-cut red dress with black ostrich trim. She is sexy. She’s living her best life. We’re supposed to side with the witches, at least secretly. When we celebrate Hecate and her witches, when we scream along as confetti pours down from the warehouse roof, we’re celebrating her agency—our agency—to live freely.

Which brings me back to our rave, and the decision made by one particular member of the Sleep No More fandom, a woman I know socially but not well whom I’ll call Shelley. Shelley decided to come to this party dressed not as a character from the show itself but as the Virgin Mary, flanked by a retinue of similarly costumed saints. Shelley had designed her own one-on-one: an interaction that specifically spoke both to the McKittrick’s celebration of subversion and to the culture of creativity it had fostered. Over the course of the evening, her confidence bolstered by the party’s open bar, Shelley made eye contact not just with fellow superfans but with total strangers. She brought them to her. Like the professional Sleep No More actors she was mimicking, she got spine-tinglingly, erotically close to them, her lips tickling their ear. (She later told me she’d had a special bespoke perfume manufactured for the occasion.) She whispered them prayers. She fed them candies. Then, the reveal. The Virgin Mary was Hecate all along. The audience member had been tricked into a deal with the devil. And, more often than not, they loved it.

But it wasn’t just the superfans who got excited. The casual partygoers, too, got in on the action. Nearly everyone Shelley made eye contact with wanted to participate, fully, in the ritual. While a few people got offended, most embraced her. Some, Shelley told me later, thanked her profusely. “We asked people to confess their sins—and some people really did.” One man, apparently a newlywed, admitted that his greatest sin was that he had no idea how to be a good husband.

“We wanted people to have an intimate experience with strangers or heavenly creatures,” Shelley told me. “To feel like they were special and blessed in an otherwise crowded and anonymous party. We wanted them to leave feeling some sense of wonder and delight.” She used the words “private performance” and “blessing” interchangeably. “We wanted them to wonder why they were picked.” To feel, in other words, chosen.

FROM ONE VANTAGE POINT, SHELLEYS ACT WAS QUITE SIMPLE. SHE WAS a fan playing around with the themes of her favorite media property—not so different from dressing as a character from Star Trek or Buffy at Comic-Con (although even these, as we’ll see, are deeply imbued with religious significance). But, seen another way, what Shelley was doing was, well, extremely 2019. At three in the morning, at the heart of a $100 ticketed rave dedicated to celebrating the sexual subversion and empowering potential of witchcraft, at a theater space that started a national craze for experiential, enchanted, and Instagrammable performances, bolstered by an Internet-fueled fan culture obsessed with creating newer and ever-more-elaborate symbolic rituals in search of intimacy and meaning and homecoming, flanked by a close-knit community of superfans who have devoted tens of thousands of dollars to uncovering the mysteries of this enchantment, Shelley created a religious-but-not-really-but-actually-kind-of-yes ritual that spoke to what people really needed. She “blessed the sinners,” in her words. And the sinners embraced her.

SURE, MOST OF US DONT ATTEND PARTIES AT THE MCKITTRICK HOTEL. And, even if we do, we don’t pal around with women pretending to be Hecate pretending to be the Virgin Mary. But the story of Shelley and the McKittrick and its superfans, however seemingly fringe and specific, is also the story of the religious sensibility of a whole generation. It’s the story not just of the religious “Nones,” but of an even broader category: those who aren’t rejecting religion, but rather remixing it. It’s the story of how more and more Americans—and particularly how more and more millennials—envision themselves as creators of their own bespoke religions, mixing and matching spiritual and aesthetic and experiential and philosophical traditions. The Remixed hunger for the same things human beings have always longed for: a sense of meaning in the world and personal purpose within that meaning, a community to share that experience with, and rituals to bring the power of that experience into achievable, everyday life. But they’re doing it differently. (Or, at least, they think they are. More on that in the coming chapters.)

Today’s Remixed reject authority, institution, creed, and moral universalism. They value intuition, personal feeling, and experiences. They demand to rewrite their own scripts about how the universe, and human beings, operate. Shaped by the twin forces of a creative-communicative Internet and consumer capitalism, today’s Remixed don’t want to receive doctrine, to assent automatically to a creed. They want to choose—and, more often than not, purchase—the spiritual path that feels more authentic, more meaningful, to them. They prioritize intuitional spirituality over institutional religion. And they want, when available institutional options fail to suit their needs, the freedom to mix and match, to create their own daily rituals and practices and belief systems.

FROM SOULCYCLE TO CONTEMPORARY OCCULTISM, FROM OBSESSIVE fan culture to the polyamorous and kink-based intentional communities of our new sexual revolution, from wellness culture to the reactionary, atavist alt-right, today’s American religious landscape is teeming with new claimants to our sense of meaning, our social place, our time, and our wallets.

If you’ve ever been to a yoga studio or a CrossFit class, ever practiced “self-care” with a ten-step Korean beauty routine or a Gwyneth Paltrow–sanctioned juice cleanse, ever written or read Internet fan fiction, ever compared your spiritual outlook to a Dungeons and Dragons classification (“lawful good, chaotic evil”) or your personal temperament to that of a Hogwarts house, ever channeled your sense of cosmic purpose into social justice activism, ever tried to “bio-hack” yourself or used a meditation app like Headspace, ever negotiated “personal relationship rules”—be they kink or ethical nonmonogamy—with a partner, ever cleansed a house with sage, or ever been wary of a person’s “toxic energy,” you’ve participated in some of these trends. There are more. Just you wait. We’ll get to that.

Scholars of religion often claim that it’s impossible to separate out the invention of the printing press from the Protestant Reformation. The technology that gave us the ability to sit with a text in the privacy of our own home and internalize and interpret its message for ourselves gave us at once a profound sense of agency and a retraction of the boundaries of a public sphere. Protestantism is, perhaps, the ultimate religion of the printed book. The Remixed religions we’re about to explore are the religions of the Internet.

But first, a caveat.

As you’ve probably noticed, I cannot write about the McKittrick, or Sleep No More, or what it means to find a church in a secular place, from a standpoint of total journalistic objectivity.

I am not just a fly on the wall.

I started going to the McKittrick regularly as a reporter around 2013—I’d been once before, as a casual viewer, and been entranced by both the show’s artistic intensity and, after a subsequent frenzied Google search (“what the fuck was that all about?”), its fan culture. I started interviewing fans in New York, where I was from, as well as fans of The Drowned Man in London, near where I was living. I told myself, at first, that my interest was purely intellectual—why do these people love this show so much?—as well as artistic (I’d briefly considered becoming a theater director). So many ironies were lost on me. I was a lonely academic theologian in my midtwenties, uncertain about graduate school, about my future, about what I believed about the world, about what was beyond it. I studied God, but I had no idea what I actually believed. I knew, only, that I wanted more.

And, for a time, I found what I was looking for at the McKittrick. I made my own fan blog. I made friends—first online, then off—some of whom remain pals to this day. I had a community, an identity. I went to the show thirteen times (a paltry number compared to many of the people I knew). I went annually to its Halloween and New Year’s parties. There was a time in my midtwenties when I could show up at the McKittrick’s Manderley Bar and be all but certain that someone I knew would be there. I remember, vividly, sneaking awkwardly and still sober out of a literary journal party next door on West 27th Street, where I knew nobody, only to all but sob with relief when I entered that red room. I, like my initial interview subjects, had found a place I felt “at home.”

I remember telling myself that I wanted to live in the McKittrick, in this place where everything seemed meaningful, where everything mattered. A place that—although, despite nearly a decade of academic study, I did not have the language for it yet—was sacred.

LONG BEFORE EVER THINKING ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK, LONG BEFORE I made a career out of my fascination with intense subcultures and the communities they foster—out of my search for meaning in what seems at times to be an astoundingly unenchanted world—I, too, fell under Hecate’s spell.

She was wearing a red dress, a diamanté belt. She had black hair. She was swaying. She looked me straight in the eye and was lip-synching to a distorted cover of that old Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?”

The narrator of that song—which I later learned recurs throughout Sleep No More’s soundtrack—suffers from profound ennui. Nothing—not a fire that destroys her childhood home, not the excitement of a circus she attends as a teenager, not the heartbreak of lost love, not even death itself, that “final disappointment”—can shake her conviction that the world is a fundamentally meaningless place: a random kaleidoscope of atoms and mistakes.

“If that’s all there is, my friends,” she sings, “then let’s keep dancing / Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”



  • "A revelatory survey of the increasingly transfigured American spiritual landscape."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Burton's writing is challenging, educational, and electric, combining big-picture thinking with deep-dive immersion...Readers will come away with enlightened and altered thinking."
  • "A bracing tour through the myriad forms of bespoke spiritualism and makeshift quasireligions springing up across America."
    The Wall Street Journal
  • "An essential work for anyone interested in understanding--or addressing--our rapidly transforming cultural and religious landscape."
    Christianity Today
  • "Any good historian of religion knows that it's possible for a culture to become less and more religious at the same time--an insight that Tara Isabella Burton uses on an illuminating journey through the many unorthodox forms of faith emerging in post-religious America. With a novelist's knack for storytelling, Burton shows in scintillating detail how the unquenchable longing for connection and transcendence is merging with carnal desires and the capitalist marketplace to produce new sacred spaces and experiences of enchantment. Read Strange Rites. It's a revelation."—Damon Linker, Senior Correspondent at TheWeek
  • "A lesser writer and a colder intellect would have been content simply to mock the video-gaming, Soul-Cycling communicants of our "Remixed" Great Awakening. Yet in Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton grasps that strangeness entails ecstatic power as well as oddity, and that even folly in search of transcendent meaning merits empathy, not apathy--the difference between a merely lively read and a profound one."—Giselle Donnelley, Research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • "Rigorously researched and reported with scholarly curiosity and an eye on the zeitgeist, Tara Isabella Burton's Strange Rites takes a hard look at what's replacing traditional religious practice in American culture today and finds that the thirst for community and belonging has not gone away. As the discovers, today's religiously remixed subcultures could indeed be tomorrow's new religions. Her book is an adventure story through the new American religious landscapes."—Kaya Oakes, UC Berkeley, author of The Nones Are Alright
  • "With Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton establishes herself as her generation's foremost chronicler of American religious life. Her intelligence, her immersive reporting, and her vivid prose style illuminate with particular intensity the radical religious changes transforming post-Christian America. The religious center has not held; Burton is an essential guide to the mere spiritual anarchy now loosed upon the Western world. Strange Rites will doubtless be one of the most important books of the year."—Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option
  • "Tara Burton is a brilliant observer of contemporary life, and in Strange Rites she explores the way that religious impulses have been transmuted into new passions, from self-care and wellness to social justice to bronze age bodybuilding in our online age."—Frank Fukuyama, author of The End of History and The Last Man
  • "As an evangelical Christian, the future of the American religious landscape is more than just a matter of demography or culture for me. This insightful and fascinating book helped me form categories for the religious movements I am seeing everywhere, especially among younger Americans, and sparked my imagination as to what they might mean for all of us. Strange Rites combines expert sociological insight with keen attention to the spiritual impulses behind everything from the social justice Left to the blood-and-soil Right. Tara Isabella Burton helps the reader to see the larger societal trends, along with the implications for all of us, without ever losing the human aspect of the longings of those she studies, including why so many of them no longer trust institutions. Those of us who care about religion should pay attention to this book."
     —Russell Moore, president, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

On Sale
Jan 18, 2022
Page Count
320 pages

Tara Isabella Burton

About the Author

Tara Isabella Burton is a contributing editor at the American Interest, a columnist at Religion News Service, and the former staff religion reporter at She has written on religion and secularism for National Geographic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and more, and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford. She is also the author of two novels Social Creature (Doubleday, 2018) and The World Cannot Give (Simon and Schuster, 2022), and one prior work of non-fiction Strange Rites (PublicAffairs, 2020). She lives in New York, NY. 

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