Seventy Percent of US Adults Consider Themselves Spiritual

By Jason DeRose, originally published by NPR.

The terms “spiritual” and “spirituality” have been difficult for researchers and scholars of religion to define. Does being spiritual involve a sense of wonder? Does spirituality include a feeling of well-being or peace? Does either require the belief in God or a higher power? The terms seem so elastic as to include any number of disparate ideas or experiences.

A new study from Pew Research explores what the term “spiritual” means to the people who describe themselves that way. It also looks into the beliefs and practices of those who say they’re “spiritual but not religious.”

In “Spirituality Among Americans” Pew surveyed more than 11 thousand people earlier this year and found that 7 in 10 U.S. adults describe themselves as spiritual in some way.

Nearly half say they are both religious and spiritual, which is to say they participate in religious institutions as well as have personal spiritual practices or ways of thinking about the world that aren’t necessarily based on a formal religious tradition.

22% of U.S. adults say they are “spiritual but not religious.” 21% say they are neither spiritual nor religious. And 10% say they are religious but not spiritual.

The U.S. religious landscape has changed in recent years, becoming significantly more diverse. While the country is still predominantly Christian, portions of Jews and Muslims have increased as well as the numbers of other religious groups including Hindus and Buddhists.

But researchers have tracked an overall decline in religious affiliation, meaning fewer Americans say they are members of a specific religious group.

“Many have tried to make sense of that,” says lead Pew researcher Becka Alper. “Is the U.S. public becoming more secular? Are they becoming more spiritual?”

Alper says researchers wanted to get a better understanding of spiritual beliefs, practices, and experiences.

Among the findings:

  • 83% of all U.S. adults believe people have a soul or spirit in addition to their physical body.
  • 81% say there is something spiritual beyond the natural world, even if we cannot see it.
  • 74% say there are some things science cannot possibly explain.
  • 45% say they have had a sudden feeling of connection with something from beyond this world.
  • 38% say they have had a strong feeling that someone who has passed away was communicating with them from beyond this world.
  • 30% say they have personally encountered a spirit or unseen force.

When it comes to understanding what the word “spiritual” means, the vast majority (74%) say it means “being connected to something bigger than myself.” 70% of those surveyed say “spiritual” specifically means “being connected with God.” 64% say it means “being connected with my true self.” Just 40% of respondents say that being spiritual means following a specific religious faith.

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This article was originally published by NPR and is partially reproduced here without the permission of the author, who is not affiliated with this website or its views.

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