Leaving My Family's Religion, Building A New Community (All Together Podcast)

03/08/2015 05:56 pm ET | Updated Mar 09, 2015
Patricia Flanagan / ExMNA / Plume Books

Welcome to the latest ALL TOGETHER -- the podcast dedicated to exploring how ethics, religion and spiritual practice inform our personal lives, our communities and our world. ALL TOGETHER is hosted this week by Carol Kuruvilla, Associate Editor of HuffPost Religion. You can download All Together on iTunes, or Stitcher.

This week’s podcast is about the Marco Polos of religion -- spiritual explorers who have chosen to leave the faith of their childhood for something completely new.

About 44 percent of American adults have left the religion in which they were raised, according to the Pew Research Center. This includes "switching" between major religious traditions -- from Protestantism to Catholicism, for example -- or a complete departure from religion altogether, such as from Judaism to atheism.

Most of these spiritual seekers leave their childhood religion before hitting the age of 24. Many will go on to change their religion more than once.

The group that’s seen the most growth in recent years is the “nones" -- that nebulous one-fifth of the American population that chooses not to identify with any traditional religious identity.

Like Lewis and Clark, our guests this week were willing to leave the safety and comforts of their own homes to trek out into the wilderness of spirituality, propelled by a burning curiosity about what lay ahead.

There’s Deborah Feldman, a bestselling author and filmmaker, who left her Hasidic Satmar community in New York to build a new kind of community with fellow ex-religious in Berlin. Patricia Flanagan, a student at the University of Southern California, left her Christian roots to find comfort and companionship with her school’s Secular Student Alliance. And finally, there’s Muhammad Syed, a Muslim-turned-atheist who is now the executive director of the international group Ex-Muslims of North America.

Their journeys were often filled with pain, since the families they left behind didn’t understand their urge to explore. But remarkably, each of them has found radical new ways of nurturing their spirituality or finding community.

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