YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

More Americans 'mix and match' religious beliefs, poll finds

Many people attend services outside of their own religion, and blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs, according to a nationwide survey.

December 10, 2009|By Nicole Santa Cruz

America is a melting pot not only of culture but also religion, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Many Americans attend services outside of their own religion, and blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life said.

The nationwide poll of 4,013 adults found that a third regularly or occasionally attended religious services at more than one location -- and 24% of the public overall worshiped outside their faith.

Three in 10 Protestants surveyed said they sometimes attended services representing other faiths, as did about 20% of Roman Catholics.

S. Scott Bartchy, a professor of the history of religion at UCLA, said the results were not surprising given the increasing cultural diversity of the United States.

"Once people become acquainted with various religions, it's easy to mix and match," he said.

Bartchy also said technology, such as the Internet, played a role in observing multiple religions.

"The great thing is, as an individual you can go online and get all kinds of ideas. You can go online and put it together yourself."

About a quarter of those surveyed expressed beliefs in New Age or Eastern religious principles such as reincarnation and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects.

"People have talked about many Americans in the mainstream seeing themselves as being on a spiritual journey," said Paul Lichterman, a professor of sociology and religion at USC.

He said that over a lifetime, more Americans will try out different religions than will stay true to one faith.

The number of Americans who said they had interacted with a ghost had doubled over the last 13 years, from 9% to 18%, the survey found.

About 65% of those surveyed also expressed belief in or report having an experience with a variety of supernatural phenomena, such as believing in astrology, being in touch with the dead or consulting a psychic.

Regardless, Lichterman said, Americans have the idea that religion and spirituality are a matter of choice.

"That kind of religious individualism," he said, "is the American religion."

Los Angeles Times Articles