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Spiritual Expression


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What are the philosophical implications and presuppositions of the claim “everything is religious?” When we say this, what do we mean? What understanding of the material world and of spirituality must be in place for such a claim to make sense?

Using resources from the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, DeRoo's research into these topics argues that we should understand the material world as inherently expressive of a deeper spirituality. As such, all material things are spiritually significant in their own right—as long as we realize that ‘spiritual’ is not something distinct from the material, but is rather the impetus or driving force within the material world that makes things what they are.

Such an account of spirituality has important implications for religion. First, it emphasizes the material conditions in which spirituality develops, thereby showing the connection between spirituality and (religious) practices. Second, by showing how culture can be seen as the expression of a certain spirituality, it lays the theoretical framework to challenge Charles Taylor’s claim in The Secular Age that we currently live in a ‘disenchanted world.’ Instead, this view of spirituality shows that our contemporary cultural world is thoroughly animated by various spirits/spiritualities. Third, it allows us to examine the spiritual dimensions of consumerism as one of these animating spirits, and so opens up new avenues for critiquing consumerism, not just as an ‘ideology’ but as a spirituality.

Finally, DeRoo's research suggests that Christianity and other traditional ‘religions’ must also be more than just ‘ideologies’ or ‘belief systems’—they must be animating spirits that drive a set of material practices. In this way, Christianity and consumerism can be seen as spiritual or religious competitors, and not as two distinct elements of our everyday experience (e.g., our ‘religious life’ and our ‘work life’).

Dr. Neal DeRoo

Associate Professor, Philosophy P: 780-465-3500 Ext. 8139 F: 780-465-3534
  • PhD, 2009, Boston College (Boston, MA)
  • MA, 2005, Institute for Christian Studies (Toronto, ON Canada)
  • BA, 2003, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI)