Here in America we like to say that we’re a land of “believers.” According to a new Pew Research Center survey, that’s a painfully true statement. In fact, Americans believe so many different and conflicting things, it’s hard to categorize exactly what we believe.
The survey of 4,013 adults asked questions regarding belief in astrology, ghosts, various new age beliefs, Christianity and other religions. The overlaps were dramatic.
Approximately 24 percent of those surveyed (including 22 percent of those who identified themselves as Christians) say they believe in reincarnation.
Overall, about one-in-four adults (24%) indicate that they attend religious services of at least one faith other than their own, and roughly one-in-ten (12%) say they participate in the services of two or more faiths in addition to their own.
Nearly half (49 percent) said they have had a religious or mystical experience, defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.”
26% saying they believe in spiritual energy located in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals.
Roughly three-in-ten Americans (29%) say they have felt in touch with someone who has died. Nearly one-in-five say they have been in the presence of a ghost (18%).
15% say they have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic.
The survey also evaluated how political affiliation affects belief and found that roughly half of Republicans, Democrats and independents say they have had a religious or mystical experience. More than half of conservatives (55%) claim to have had such experiences, similar to the number of liberals who have had these kinds of experiences (50%) and much higher than among moderates (43%).
With respect to race and age, blacks are much more likely than whites or Hispanics (69%, 47% and 44%, respectively) to report religious or mystical experiences. More than half (55%) of baby boomers (age 50-64) identify with such experiences, compared with fewer young adults and seniors (43% each).
One takeaway from all of this is that belief is compulsive. People want to believe, and contradictions between beliefs are not all that important. Picking and choosing between beliefs for what suits us is more the American way.