Leigh Eric Schmidt is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to joining the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics there in 2011, he was the Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard University. He has held research fellowships at Stanford and Princeton Universities and also from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Schmidt is the author of numerous books, including Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (2000), which won the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Historical Studies and the American Studies Association's John Hope Franklin Prize. He is also the author of Village Atheists: How America's Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation (2016); Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (2nd edition, 2012); Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (1995); Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period (1989), which received the American Society of Church History's Brewer Prize; and Heaven's Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman (2010).
Examines the process by which so many Americans--from Transcendentalists to New Agers--came to see "spirituality" as the quintessence of religion. Crucial elements of this transformation include: a reinvention of "mysticism" apart from particular ecclesiastical traditions, a growing sympathy with religious cosmopolitanism, and a redefining of religion as solitary experience. The spiritual-but-not-religious label has now become a commonplace of social surveys and seeker self-description alike.