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Who are the spiritual but not religious?

November 28, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious?

According to a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll that was released last month, about 20 percent of Americans do not belong to any particular religion. However, of the one-fifth of Americans who aren't members of a church or synagogue or temple, 18 percent nevertheless consider themselves religious and another 37 percent say they are "spiritual but not religious."

I've found the "spiritual but not religious" label sort of interesting ever since it started being bandied about a few years ago. Church leaders seem to think the label is just an excuse for people who believe in God to be lazy and not get up for church on Sunday mornings. Others think it's a bit of a cop-out, a way for people to avoid committing to any one set of beliefs.

According to the Pew Poll, the "spiritual but not religious" may be a bit more likely to believe in reincarnation, astrology and the evil eye, yoga as a spiritual practice and that nature and objects like crystals have spiritual energy. Ninety-two percent of the people who say they are "spiritual but not religious" express a belief in God, compared with 99 percent of those who describe themselves as spiritual and religious. Sixty-five percent of the spiritual but not religious pray regularly, compared with 93 percent of the religious. Fifty-three percent of the spiritual but not religious attend religious services weekly, monthly or at least once a year, compared with 85 percent of the religious. The religiously unaffiliated have more ambivalence to religious institutions as a whole, some telling pollsters they don't agree with church teachings or don't think church attendance is necessary, though more agreed that religious institutions help serve the community.

The "religiously unaffiliated" seem to be growing in number, as do the "spiritual but not religious." I see evidence of the shift in religious beliefs on my Facebook page, where I've renewed contact with people I knew in high school and college. My various connections range from atheist to agnostic to devout evangelical Protestants or mainstream Protestants and Catholics to lukewarm mainstream Protestants or Catholics to Muslims to New Agers or pagans/Wiccans. I know that some of these people had quite different religious beliefs or family religious practices as teenagers or young adults. It makes for an interesting mix on the live feed, since some of my Facebook friends post often about their religious beliefs or lack thereof. North Dakota is likely more religious than most, but I've seen some signs of that shift even within this state.

You can find the whole poll here: http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise-religion.aspx

 
 

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