My review of Lisa Miller’s “The Spiritual Child”

My review of Lisa Miller’s “The Spiritual Child” May 8, 2015

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My latest for The Daily Beast went up this morning.

Nothing will protect our children like a well-developed sense of spirituality, argues Columbia University psychologist Lisa Miller in her new book, The Spiritual Child.

Readers inclined towards skepticism are met with an impressive round of statistics connecting early spirituality to lower rates of what Miller calls the “big three dangers of adolescence”—depression, substance abuse, and risk taking.

While Miller shows a vibrant command of storytelling and scientific data in service an important topic, her book rests on a concept of spirituality that’s too narrow, leaving little room for a spirituality that’s rooted in the secular world. Occasionally, Miller indulges too far in some metaphysical spookiness and shaky interpretations of science that fall outside her field of expertise—including a study that doesn’t quite exist—but as a guide for parents, it’s a fun and accessible book that does it’s job well. It’s a missed opportunity, though, to connect to a burgeoning movement aiming to make spirituality accessible to a growing number of nonreligious Americans.

I spoke with Miller on the phone, and she was extremely kind and gracious. You can read the rest of my review and a bit of our conversation here.

This was one of those pieces that I felt like I spent every spare moment of time over this past week drafting and redrafting, and it’s a relief to finally have it out there. I think there’s a whole different piece in me about this book—Miller and I had a great conversation about epidemiology, the limits of observational trials, and promising directions of future experimental research, but I just couldn’t fit it into this review.


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