US sees rise in ‘spiritual but not religious’ adults

US sees rise in ‘spiritual but not religious’ adults

America’s got an interesting mind these days when it comes to religion, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

More people are saying they are “not religious,” but the people who do are twice as likely to believe in ghosts, the Times said. And the less religious you are, the more likely you are “to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about UFOs, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies” about the government trying to cover them up.

“The Western world is, in theory, becoming increasingly secular — but the religious mind remains active,” the Times reported.

Increase in numbers

A recent Pew Research study backs up that idea — 27 percent of U.S. adults say they now think of themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” a figure up 8 percentage points from five years ago.

That growth has been seen across men and women; whites, blacks and Hispanics; and across people of many different ages, education levels and political leanings.

In the general population, only 54 percent of U.S. adults say they are religious, but 75 percent consider themselves to be spiritual.

“The growth of ‘spiritual but not religious’ Americans has come mainly at the expense of those who say they are religious and spiritual,” Pew reports. “Indeed, the percentage of U.S. adults in this latter group has fallen by 11 points between 2012 and 2017.”

What makes up the rapidly growing “spiritual but not religious” segment of the population? Most do actually identify with a religious group — including 35 percent who say they are Protestant and 14 percent who say they are Catholic.

Another 37 percent say they are religiously unaffiliated, meaning they describe themselves as an atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”

Nearly half of those in the “spiritual but not religious” group seldom if ever attend religious services.

Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, said he’s had conversations with people who would put themselves in this category.

“I have talked with many people who say they believe in God and are spiritually oriented but they are not sure about the deity of Christ and they are skeptical of ‘organized religion,’” he said. “Perhaps the numbers are growing but the presence of spiritually bent people has always been there because that is how God wired people.”

Everyone is made to have a relationship with their Creator, Wolf said, pointing to Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Meaning and purpose

“The bottom line: people in all cultures, times and places have a deep proclivity to move beyond the physical to the spiritual to find meaning and purpose,” he said.

And “spiritual but not religious” seems to be in vogue, Wolf said, but he uses that as an opportunity to share the truth of Christ.

“My unchanging goal is to always live the Lord’s light and love,” he said. “Jesus told us to share His message of salvation with everyone so I consistently look for opportunities to deposit gospel seeds into the hearing and hearts of receptive people then leave the results to God.” (TAB)