When Your Job Fills In for Your Faith That’s a Problem

Plenty of writers have argued in recent years that work has become a false idol, with the office, not church, the place where many Americans now seek out meaning and purpose. As a sociologist of religion, I think these writers are right: Work is replacing — and in some cases, even taking the form of — religion among many of America’s professionals.

Between 2013 and 2018, I conducted over 100 interviews for my book “Work Pray Code.” Most of them were with tech workers based in Silicon Valley, people who told me over and over that their careers are “spiritual journeys” and their work is a “calling.” Many said they had become more spiritual, whole and connected after working in tech. Their workplaces were communities where they found belonging, meaning and purpose.

But as I discovered during my research, the gospel of work is thin gruel, an ethically empty solution to meet our essential need for belonging and meaning. And it is starving us as individuals and communities.

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