When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People by Dr. Duane Bidwell will be released November 13, but it’s already garnering a lot of attention. With one-third of US marriages interfaith marriages and nearly one-third of Americans worshiping in more than one religious tradition, it’s no wonder folks are interested.

Dr. Bidwell says he was led to write the book because, “In my ministry and clinical work, I’ve encountered a lot of people with what I call ‘complex religious bonds’ – simultaneous commitments to more than one religious tradition. People who are spiritually fluid like that have unique perspectives and experiences that are usually invisible in religious communities. Most of them don’t choose multiplicity from a ‘cafeteria’ of spiritual traditions; they inherit multiple spiritualities from their families or cultures, bringing one to the forefront in some situations. I wanted to write a book that doesn’t measure spiritually fluid people against norms from the academy or from Christianity, but explores what it’s like to live as a religiously multiple person. Many scholars write only about ‘multiple religious belonging’ as primarily about human choice. They ask ‘Is it really possible to be part of more than one religion at the same time? Is it right? Is it logical?’ before they really understand the experiences of spiritually fluid people.”

The book identifies the gifts that spiritually fluid people can contribute to the common good, and looks specifically at five spiritually fluid people – two Hindu-Christians, a Buddhist-Christian, an Ifa-Christian, and a Tantric-Buddhist-Jew – and Dr. Bidwell’s own practice as a Christian minister who also follows Theravada Buddhism to identify typical “seasons” of spiritually fluid lives. At the broadest level, the book describes three “pathways” to complex religious bonds:

  • A primarily cognitive pathway in which people choose to align with more than one spiritual or religious tradition;
  • A social pathway in which multiplicity is inherited from family, culture, or both;
  • And a collaborative pathway in which multiplicity is a participatory response to a divine invitation.

The book also illustrates how complex religious bonds can be a strategy that marginalized people use to resist colonization and domination and to reclaim cultural identities. At the end of the book, Dr. Bidwell offers a short “field guide to spiritual fluidity,” summarizing the most important things he’s learned from spiritually fluid people, followed by musings about how complex religious bonds might shape the future of religion in the United States.

The book is available now on pre-order, and we’ll hear more from Dr. Bidwell after its release.