Heartened by U.S. Spirituality Survey
I'm heartened a new survey indicates elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65 percent of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics.
Granted, this is only a U.S. survey. But take a look at what this largely Christian nation of some 308 million people tells the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life it believes.
Twenty-six percent, or about 80 million people, find "spiritual energy" in mountains, trees and crystals; 25 percent believe the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives; 24 percent believe in reincarnation; and 23 percent consider yoga a "spiritual practice."
Of the 72 percent, or about 222 million, who attend religious services at least once a year (excluding holidays, weddings and funerals), 35 percent, or about 77 million people, say they attend worship services at more than one place and nearly a quarter attend services held by other religions.
The numbers are growing, Pew observes, and this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less.
Regina Roman of Alexandria, Virginia, who calls herself "a very grounded Episcopalian" active in her church, tells USA Today in a news story about the survey that she's "stretching the boundaries of how we are to be here and now in this day, age and culture."
Roman leads pilgrimages to Egypt, New Mexico and Ireland to help people discover the truths and visions in Coptic, Native American and Celtic traditions. And she celebrated the winter solstice with a home ceremony for guests to take pleasure in the sun's gifts, USA Today says.
"We are all in relationship with the cosmos; we need to honor that," says Roman, who tells the newspaper she doesn't see herself crossing barriers but rather "coming full circle" with ancient ideas.
To me, all this validates a trend Humanity's Team was the first to identify 4 1/2 years ago at our groundbreaking "Seeds of Transformation" conference at New York's Bard College.
The June 2005 conference, subtitled "Toward a Spiritual Renaissance in a Time of Fundamental Change," said the trend -- "which is already in the making and will blossom within a generation -- will, we hope, produce a new form of spirituality on the earth."
"This New Spirituality will not be a new religion," we said in the conference program. "Rather, it will be an expansion of all of our present theologies; an updating of them; a refreshing of them, rendering all of our current sacred teachings even more relevant to our present day and time."
"The trend that is driving this spiritual evolution is inspiring growing numbers of people around the world," the program continued. "These people -- the vanguards of the trend -- are opening their minds to the possibility that our current theologies may be limited in what they understand.
"They are not condemning or abandoning their religions, nor are they suggesting that their religions do not have the best of intentions. Rather, they are examining their belief systems, courageously exploring new understandings about God and life, and if those new understandings align with their personal inner truth and knowing, enlarging their belief systems to include them. Growing numbers of people are expanding their belief systems to include larger possibilities and larger realities than they might have been willing to consider before. And they are doing this because they recognize that when we change what we believe, we will change how we behave."
The conference identified some of the new understandings and examined how people are enlarging their belief systems to include them.
And now the Pew survey indicates much the same thing.
Boston University religion Professor Stephen Prothero wrote a commentary about the survey in The Wall Street Journal saying, "fear of a jealous God seems a distant memory."
In fact, Tomorrow's God, by Humanity's Team founder Neale Donald Walsch, quotes God as saying that as people embrace the New Spirituality: "gone will be the teachings of an angry, jealous, punishing Deity. Gone will be the moral justifications for vengeance and retribution. Gone will be the doctrines of exclusivity and 'betterness' that have cast their shadow across the face of many religions in the past.
"And alongside religion will stand a new form of human expression of the impulse toward the Divine, an expression that will not be rooted in codified texts and teachings, but in the moment-to-moment experience of each person sincerely seeking God."
And neither form of expression will claim superiority, nor will either diminish the other in any way, the book, published in 2004, says.
"Difficult as it is to now imagine, your established religions are going to stop making each other wrong," God says in the book. "And the New Spirituality will throw the doors of acceptance open to all forms of the true and honest search for wisdom. This will be the new way that humanity will interact with God, and it will produce a new way of interacting with each other -- a way that could change the world forever."
Heartened, indeed! So be it, truly.
By Gerry Harrington
Worldwide Strategic Alliances and Communications Coordinator