How Burning Man Participants Spiritually Self-Identify

By Tammy Lesueur

The Census Team looks at how Burners define their identities and selves. Who are we, and what do we believe? Religion and spirituality are intimate parts of those identities, and Burners express them in a variety of ways.


The 2015 results are interesting because, while 71.3% of the community states that they do not belong to a religious denomination, over half of our community (51.25%) holds some sort of religious or spiritual belief system. Of these, 45.8% are “spiritual, not religious” and another 5.45% would define themselves as religious. Some 40.7% of those on playa are atheist, agnostic or deist.


One of the Ten Principles of Burning Man is Radical Self-expression:

“Radical Self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.”

That means all forms of religious and spiritual expression can be practiced freely and without judgement in Black Rock City. At the same time, one is also free to party the week and forget about all this stuff! In my mind, this is what makes Burning Man Burning Man. Everyone is free to express themselves as they see fit.

Personally, as a practicing Buddhist, I strive to be present in the moment. We all know how hard that is! Part of my own practice in BRC is to turn off my phone and leave it locked in the car. I choose to live on playa by practicing Immediacy, which includes staying open to the people and every activity surrounding me. When I leave the playa I take this practice with me. I want to be present 100% of the time with my family and friends. I often fail to honor this, but an entire week of practice at Burning Man has given me the opportunity to continue and extend my own spiritual development. Thank you to all my fellow Burners who have helped me every year to continue on the Middle Path. I owe you much gratitude.

Lead photo: Temple of Promise by Dreamers Guild (Photo by Galen Oakes)

About the author: Census Team

Census Team

The Census Lab is a volunteer team of information geeks, academic researchers, students, and general data nerds who have surveyed Black Rock City (BRC) residents since 2002.

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