By Laurie Knight, re=printed from The Examiner
A response to this PARADE article
In Sunday’s paper, the article on the spirituality of America (PARADE magazine) caught my attention. The fine print at the bottom of the article cited that it was done by Insight Express and was completed by 1,051 adults in May of this year. It seems to me that in country of 300 million plus, one thousand is hardly an appropriate sample.
I was not disappointed at the results (that Americans’ ideas have become “more expansive” and that people are seeing that all religions have validity), nor am I surprised to see that 77% of people polled pray outside of religious services. I don’t think they polled quite enough “spiritual but not religious” people (SBNR), and I don’t think they asked the right questions to see if people enjoy spiritual movies (versus religious or scary ones).
You see, America still has a limited view of exactly what spirituality is. Consult any sources for definitions and you will find no two say the same thing. In addition, the definition of God is even changing! Gone are the days when people believed the mythic bearded man in the clouds would strike us down for our transgressions!
Today, we are evolving from the bondage of religion and embracing a freeing, less restrictive spirituality, where we can combine the observances of Christmas with Hanukkah, while we have solstice celebrations, admire the Twirling Dervishes, visit cathedrals around the world, see the Pagan tradition evident in our daily lives, and embrace the many facets that make up what we understand is divine in the world. And with any luck at all, we will see that from many, we get One. This is when we know that what we have is our own personal spirituality and not a prescribed, mindless following of what someone else thinks worship should be.
For people who subscribe to a new spirituality, many of the questions and the choices of answers were biased.
1. 55% described themselves as not religious. Granted, some of these (I imagine) answered that they were not religious but participated in some holidays and rituals (I suppose that means Christmas?).
2. “Which best describes your current religious practice?” left very little room for spiritual people to answer with 27% answering “I do not practice any religion.” Just because one does not currently practice religion, it does not mean the person does not participate in spiritual practice.
3. Compares the religion of the participant to that of his/her parents.
4. Admits that all religions have some validity (59% of those polled believed this, as opposed to only a combined 29% who say theirs is the only right one or theirs is closest to the right one).
5. “Would the world be better or worse without religion?” had most answer that it would be worse.
6. “How important is religion in your life?” Well, with number one stating that 55% described themselves as not religious, one would think that 55% would say it’s not important, right? Wrong! Only 22% said it is not a factor.
7. This question has NO options for someone who does not feel religion has importance to them. (Which of the following is most important to you about your religion? No options for spiritual followers.)
8. “Which best represents your personal belief?” Does not give a definition for God, which would be important for spiritual people who do not follow an exclusive religion.
9. 50% of those polled said they rarely or never visit regular church services.
10. 77% stated that they pray outside of church services.
11. 51% say they pray daily while 24% admit to rarely or never. The others are sprinkled in between weekly, monthly, and a few times a year. Many spiritual people meditate, which is quite different from prayer.
12 and 13 together. “Why do you pray? What do you typically pray for?(check all that apply)” The results here could easily incorporate spirituality. Most people I know who are spiritual, regularly participate in gratitude exercises. Many have mantras of oneness, where they thank the divine for being ever present in their lives. Very few spiritual people I know ask for material things, and although everyone hope for wellness and health of loved ones, the most one should ask for is what the person wants for himself or herself or what is best according to the universe, the divine, or God.
14.74% pray for help and guidance during these difficult economic times.
15. ”Do you pray for more money or a better job situation?” 51% said yes, with 49% saying no.
16 and 17 seem to also conflict. One asks how affected the religion is during difficult times and the next asks how it compares to less stressful times, and the results were conflicting.
18. Thank goodness 58% feel religion and politics should not mix. But remember how man felt that they were not religious?
19.41% felt that religion had contributed to war and suffering while 59% felt religion could help solve some of the world’s conflicts. This is also conflicting because history shows us that religion has contributed to war and suffering. Religious people feel like the world is in a bad place because there isn’t enough religion, their own religion, that is. If religions were inclusive, equal, accepting and tolerant, they truly could help alleviate some of the world’s suffering. That’s where spirituality and spiritual people will have to pick up the pieces.
20.75% believe a parent’s responsibility is to bring a child up with some religion. Yet, remember that 55% described themselves as not religious. Hmm.
21. Only 18% said they would definitely not or were unlikely to marry outside their faith.
22. 78% said they would not consider converting to another religion. But I thought only 55% said they were religious. Hmm.
23. ”Who would you turn to first if you had a problem?” Not surprising, most people would turn to family or friends before a “spiritual leader.” Well, since this poll is mostly about religion, we need to assume the spiritual leader is a person of the church.
24. 43% believe we go to heaven or hell depending on our actions here on earth. We might need to define heaven or hell here. Many believe something happens, and only a few believe nothing happens (12%).
25. Psychic experiences and psychic beliefs were not reported overall. In fact, 69% reported never having had any psychic experiences or contact with a loved one who has died. The largest reporting here was of having watched TV shows of such topics (does watching it on TV make it a spiritual experience?). Because our society looks upon such experiences as being impossible (or improbable), my guess is that even if those polled had the mentioned experiences, they might not have realized them as such because it is not “normal” to do so (according to society). Quite the contrary for spiritual people: we know that the more connected we become with what we believe is divine, the more psychic experiences we have.
26. The remaining four questions:
Have you ever had contact with someone who’s deceased? (majority “no”)
Do you expect to connect with loved ones after you die? (majority “yes”)
To what extent do you believe in astrology/horoscopes? (49% “only for fun”)
Which of the following movies involving spirituality do you like best?
It’s A Wonderful Life 12%
The Da Vinci Code 11%
The Exorcist 4%
The Omen 2%
The Sixth Sense 11%
The Ten Commandments 25%
None of the above 21%
No mention of Conversations with God, The Celestine Prophecy, What the Bleep? Down the Rabbit Hole, What Dreams May Come, Mothman Prophecies, or any of the other wonderful spiritual movies out there.
Perhaps the next poll should be “How Do We Define Spirituality?” And perhaps we should speak with people who are committed to evolving spiritually as well as consciously; those who are committed to living with highest purpose, highest intent in mind; those who are on the leading edge of spiritual writing; those who buy the books of Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, Elizabeth Lesser, Debbie Ford, Lynn McTaggart, Louise Hay, Mike Dooley, Ken Wilber, Jane Roberts, Deepak Chopra or even Sylvia Brown. Perhaps we should poll people who go on spiritual retreats, who commit themselves to daily practice of some kind, who devote their lives to helping others, volunteers, or who commune with nature. Perhaps the questions should be a bit broader-based so that from question one, people feel they can adequately answer the remaining 28 questions after they admit they are not religious. Maybe there could be a poll that has real definitions of God, heaven, and hell or perhaps that inquires of the pollster’s definitions of such. Maybe we should even look into why there is a movement away from religion and toward spirituality. Maybe we should look at the limiting beliefs imposed upon those who adhere to the strict scripture or teachings of the church and realize why it is that people choose to pray/worship at home as opposed to in an organized setting. Maybe we should hear from the people who are against the brainwashing of children by way of fear into being saved from the fiery pits of hell.
Or maybe we should poll a wider sampling than just over a thousand who obviously do not represent the 300 million plus diverse spiritual beliefs in this country.
The headlines of the article read, “Surprising results from an exclusive PARADE poll.” Yes, it is definitely surprising that such an important question of “How Spiritual Are We?” by Christine Wicker is limited to only the views and beliefs of 1,051 adults ages 18 and older.
For the complete article and questions (with results), visit www.PARADE.com/spiritual.