Sacred Matters

Celebrity Worship, Sexual Ecstasies, the Living Dead, and Other Signs of Religious Life in the United States

A “thought-provoking” (Relevant Magazine) look at the ways religious practice is found in the most unlikely (and secular) institutions

“A generous and hopeful book, an invaluable guide to a broader, more profound understanding of what ‘religion’ means and why it matters whether we believe in it or not.” —Jeff Sharlet, author of New York Times bestseller The Family

Widely praised in hardcover as a fascinating and important addition to religious and cultural studies, Sacred Matters reveals the remarkable ways that religious practices permeate American cultural life.

In a country where references to God are as normal as proclaiming love of country, support for the military, or security for the nation’s children, religion scholar Gary Laderman casts his eye over our deeply hidden spiritual landscape, questioning whether our conventional views even begin to capture the rich and strange diversity of religious life in America.

A compelling read, Sacred Matters shows that genuinely religious practices and experiences can be found in the unlikeliest of places—in science laboratories and movie theaters, at the Super Bowl and Star Trek conventions, and in Americans’ obsession with prescription drugs and pornography. When devoted fans make a pilgrimage to Graceland because of their love for Elvis, Laderman argues, their behavior doesn’t just seem religious, it is religious—enacting a well-known ritual pattern toward saints in the history of Christianity.

In a dramatic reframing of what is holy and secular, Sacred Matters makes a powerful and illuminating case that religion is everywhere—and that we have barely begun to reckon with its hold on our cultural life.


“This is an interesting and worth-while topic, with lots of material for thought and conversation . . . worth reading.”
Library Journal
“Will be appreciated by culture watchers for its genre-bending reframing of the holy and the secular.”
Publishers Weekly
“Although most people continue to think of religion only in terms of believing in God or going to church or synagogue, Laderman paints a much larger and richer canvas.”
Spirituality and Practice Review

Goodreads Reviews