Spirituality Isn’t Going Away

Even as fewer Americans profess a strong religious affiliation, more are describing a sense of metaphysical wonder about the universe. From Pew:

Americans have become less religious in recent years by standard measures such as how important they say religion is to them and their frequency of religious service attendance and prayer. But, at the same time, the share of people across a wide variety of religious identities who say they often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen.

… The rise in spirituality has been happening among both highly religious people and the religiously unaffiliated.

The Pew numbers provide still more evidence that, as we’ve written before, “human beings feel instinctively that the visible reality that we live in day to day is connected to something larger and more mysterious.” In 21st-century America, as “cultural Catholicism” decays, and as the organizational and doctrinal foundations of liberal Protestantism fade into the ether, that feeling is becoming increasingly disconnected from traditional religious institutions. Instead, it’s being expressed through different channels, like spirituality, superstition, and even, in some ways, secular liberal politics.

For those of us who think organized religion is good for America’s social and cultural life, the decline in religious affiliation is clearly less than ideal. But we can take heart that it’s not giving way to pure non-belief, either. The big question, going forward, is whether this continued, and even increasing, interest in spirituality will reconnect itself to religious institutions as Millennials start families, Boomers age, and churches attempt to find new ways of speaking to and reaching unaffiliated Americans, or whether that interest will remain unmoored.

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