Americans' religious beliefs are getting mixed up

By agency reporter
December 10, 2009

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories, researchers have discovered.

According to a new report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, blending elements of diverse traditions.

The survey, released this week and conducted between 11-27 August 2009 among 4,013 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, finds that many Americans say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination, even when they are not travelling or going to special events like weddings and funerals.

Underscoring the spiritual "openness" of American religious life, the survey finds that many 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 US religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

Key findings of the survey include:

* One-third of Americans (35 per cent) say they regularly (9 per cent) or occasionally (26 per cent) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24 per cent of the public overall) indicate that they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own.

* Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, nearly four in ten (39 per cent) say they attend at multiple places and nearly three in ten (28 per cent) go to services outside their own faith.

* Among Christians, who make up an overwhelming majority of Americans, roughly one in five Protestants (18 per cent) say they attend non-Protestant services, and the same percentage of Catholics say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.

* Nearly half the public (49 per cent) says they have had a "religious or mystical experience," more than twice as high as in a 1962 Gallup survey (22 per cent). In fact, religious and mystical experiences are more common today among those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (30 per cent) than they were in the 1960s among the public as a whole.

The report, including a summary and topline questionnaire, is available online.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life deliver impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Pew Forum is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organisation and does not take positions on policy debates. Based in Washington DC, the Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Read the report here:

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