Patricia Killen

Published In


Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006


Religious fundamentalism -- Political aspects -- Oregon, Religious adherents -- Oregon, Religious communities -- Oregon, Oregon -- Religious life and customs, Religions -- Membership -- Oregon -- Statistics


An independent proprietorship focused on eclectic spiritual quests, a fading historic Protestant denomination, a thriving suburban mega church, and a home base for organized atheism—these seemingly disparate entities are both old and new on the religious landscape of the Portland metro area. They exemplify long-standing patterns in the ways people in Oregon compose individual and corporate religious journeys—fluid, unfettered individual spiritual quests that for some coalesce into communal forms that provide structure, interpersonal connections and spiritual resources. At the same time, like the growing cone on Mount St. Helens, these groups are the crust of deeper activity, three decades of global, national, and local economic, social, and cultural change that has profoundly altered the surroundings for individual and institutional religion. Viewed against this horizon, the Portland metro area’s current religious contours help to explain Oregon’s notoriety for “godlessness” and for contentious public debate over issues from physician-assisted suicide to land-use regulation. As well, they reveal postmodern religious trends that increasingly will affect public life here and elsewhere.

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