Surveys have shown decline in religious engagement in the United States for decades, but a new study suggests there may be more to the story if the question turns to spirituality.
Newly released research speak Fetzer Institute found that most Americans, religious or not, have an affinity with spiritual beliefs and practices. This follows a previously reported trend of the rise of those who are “spiritual but not religious”.
The survey reported that 86% of American adults say they are spiritual “to some extent,” 73% are also religious, while 97% are both religious and spiritual.
Some 85% of agnostics and atheists identified themselves as “slightly”, “moderately” or “very” spiritual.
The numbers suggest “both a depth and a diversity of spirituality that is not yet reflected in our main cultural narratives,” according to Fetzer, a Michigan-based foundation focused on promoting democracy and peace through democracy. spiritual training.
Julie Merritt Lee, a Baptist minister based in Houston with a private spiritual direction practice, said the results reflect the actual experiences of her clients, including those who are atheists and agnostics.
“I would say a quarter of them are in the non-religious, but spiritual category,” she said.
Even among her Christian clients, many of whom are clergy, there is a strong interest in pursuing a spirituality to invigorate their faith and give meaning to their lives. “This is how I define spirituality: simply as the creation of meaning.
For pastors, this often means trying to reestablish a lost connection between what they espouse in the pulpit and who God is in their life, she said.
Among these clients who no longer or never identified themselves as religious, spirituality is a matter of experimentation.
“For the non-religious, it is called ‘inter-spirituality’, which is this idea that every spiritual or religious tradition has something to offer, ”said Merritt Lee.
Thus, they can draw inspiration from Zen Buddhism and Native American traditions while leaning on Christian ascetic practices around self-denial in the pursuit of humility.
Even those who have abandoned Christianity often retain a spiritual attachment to certain practices, symbols and stories, such as fellowship or the resurrection, she added. “They don’t want to recite the creeds and can’t reconcile the virgin birth with science, but some of the stories still mean something to them.”
According to the study, the variety is one of the common denominators of American spirituality.
“People identify a wide range of experiences and activities as spiritual, and they regularly engage in or seek them out both inside and outside religious institutions,” the survey found.
Almost 50% of those polled said they had become more spiritual throughout their lives.
The data was collected through focus groups, interviews from 2018 and a national survey of over 3,600 adults conducted in January and February of this year.
Almost 50% of respondents said they have become more spiritual in their lifetime, and most engage in at least one religious or spiritual activity per week.
The action was another key finding Discovered by the researchers: “Highly spiritual” people said they are more likely to believe in civic and political engagement to impact their communities and the world.
“Recognizing this diversity allows a common thread to emerge, which reveals that it is human to be spiritual and that engaging in this spirituality can bring greater good,” said Bob Boisture, President and CEO of the direction of Fetzer. his presentation to the inquiry.
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“Spiritual but not religious” or “religious but not spiritual”?