Thursday, December 17, 2009

Religion, a la carte for Americans

Last week The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a report that shows that many Americans mix religions and add new Age spirituality and the paranormal to their religious worldview. For example, 20% of Protestants and 28% of Catholics believe in reincarnation. But this again shows that one can easily construct and live happily with contradictory worldviews. Perhaps, the same can be said for rejections. This is not in the survey, but I can see how educated individuals and users of medical science (such as physicians) reject evolution for religious reasons and yet be totally fine in accepting results about micro-evolution dealing with bacteria and viruses. There may be a flip side to this a la carte acceptance.

But I digress. Lets get back to these fascinating Pew Survey results which, perhaps, are best summed up by Charles Blow in the NYT:
The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs — bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma. And this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less. Cue the harps, and the sitars, and the tablas, and the whale music.
I like the sound of "Mr Potato-Head-like spiritual identities". You can find the Pew report here and here is the summary of their findings:

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination -- even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

One-third of Americans (35%) say they regularly (9%) or occasionally (26%) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24% of the public overall) indicate that they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own. Aside from when they are traveling and special events like weddings and funerals, three-in-ten Protestants attend services outside their own denomination, and one-fifth of Catholics say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.

Also, if you are interested in political associations, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe in ghosts and consult psychics (tip Lee Specter).

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