Sunday, December 13, 2009

Americans Blending Spiritual Ideas

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently published a survey regarding religious practice in America that found trends showing increasing diversity and the blending of views and practices regarding spiritual life. The results of the survey match what common sense would speculate. Over time Americans are increasingly open to a diverse mix of Christianity, Eastern concepts of re-incarnation and the spiritual value of yoga and meditation, New Age ideas, and the world of occult views regarding ghosts, Astrology, Tarot cards, and communicating with the dead.

Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths Full Report PDF

In the survey 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation, and similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology and acknowledge yoga as a spiritually worthwhile endeavor. More interesting is the trend the study found regarding mystical or enlightening experiences. Almost half (48%) of respondents said they have had a "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening," a substantial increase that reinforces the upward trend indicated by prior surveys, now more than twice the frequencies reported in the 60s and 70s. The experiences tend to occur with those NOT affiliated with a particular religion.

Skipping the discussion of entropy, these findings should surprise no one. The Internet, the explosion of cable television with international reach and 24/7 news feeds, and increasing world wide travel will continue to fuel the blending and mixing of the world's peoples, ideas, perspectives, religions, and languages. Naturally, this drives the xenophobes and Neanderthals crazy. Sure enough, after seeing a Washington Times piece discussing the survey, the righty blog Seeing Red had to bitch, steadfastly clinging to the mistaken yet hyperventilated notion that the USA was founded as a Judeo/Christian nation, citing the Declaration of Independence (?).


Jews did emigrate to early America starting virtually at once to escape European anti-Semitism, and they did play a role in the Revolutionary War, but we are talking very small numbers. Try to find references to Christ, Christianity, Jews or Judaism or the Torah in the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, or the Constitution. Go for it. Religion is mentioned, of course, with that minor bit about separating church and state, and there's the no religious test clause in Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.

The intent of the founding fathers could not be more clear, but let's not allow reality to interfere with our point of view. What always amazes me are remarks like this one in their post, "We’ll put our faith in traditional religious practices over "Eastern or New Age ideas, reincarnation, yoga as a spiritual practice..."

Eastern ideas and yoga are not traditional? They haven't heard of ... India? China?

On an unrelated note, Houston just elected openly lesbian and widely acknowledged gay rights activist Annise Parker as Mayor. I wonder if she would have won if voters knew she was a Zoroastrian priest in a previous incarnation.



Anonymous Observer said...

In many respects, there are secure religions and insecure religions.

The secure religions are undisturbed by the presence of other beliefs. Jews and Buddhists are probably the most secure. That others hold different views doesn't faze them the slightest.

The Muslims and Christians are totally insecure. That blog post you refer to reeks of fear, fear that their way of thinking is in jeopardy. They have cause for fear, for their way of thinking is becoming obsolete.

12/13/2009 9:51 PM  
Blogger TexPatriate said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you, Observer. I hold a religious view that you specify above as "insecure"; however, I am anything but.

I was raised in a religion that most classify as "rabid", but my family and myself were tolerant of others -- not because of the religion but because of our FAITH. That's a huge distinction that most do not ever make.

I am secure enough in my faith that I am fine with others believing as they *choose* to. (Additionally, I have been on the receiving end -- even from those in the same religion, albeit a more extreme form -- of the taunts of "you're going straight to hell", blah, blah, blah).

*shrug* -- I think it's all in how secure you are *personally* in your faith and belief and that that security allows you to be tolerant of others.

That's why I don't think *anyone* can lump all religions or religious folks into one "insecure" bunch.

12/23/2009 9:55 AM  
Blogger Iron Chef Kosher! said...

Find references to the Torah? Ok:


That's Torah.

1/23/2010 11:57 PM  

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