Although religious syncretism is as old as religion itself, it’s always depressing to be reminded of its prevalence .

Going to church this Sunday? Look around.

The chances are that one in five of the people there find “spiritual energy” in mountains or trees, and one in six believe in the “evil eye,” that certain people can cast curses with a look — beliefs your Christian pastor doesn’t preach.

In a Catholic church? Chances are that one in five members believe in reincarnation in a way never taught in catechism class — that you’ll be reborn in this world again and again.

Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released Wednesday.


Even more common than the influence of silly, new agey superstitions is the mixing of Christianity with consumerism:
•26% of those who attend religious services say they do so at more than one place occasionally, and an additional 9% roam regularly from their home church for services.

•28% of people who attend church at least weekly say they visit multiple churches outside their own tradition.

•59% of less frequent church attendees say they attend worship at multiple places.

The survey of 2,003 adults Aug. 11-27 has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. It measures Protestants, Catholics and the unaffiliated; there were not enough people of other faiths surveyed for analysis.

“For an extremely long time, most of us thought belonging or membership or home church was monogamous, even if it was serial monogamy, because we all know about church-switching,” says sociologist of religion Scott Thumma, a professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn. “Today, the individual rarely finds all their spiritual needs met in one congregation or one religion.”


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Articles by Joe Carter

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