91% of Americans in 2014 believed in either God or some form of a higher power, but that does not necessarily correspond to an increase to religion, as identifying as “spiritual” instead of religious is gaining popularity. This concept of spirituality disagrees with religious organizations as a whole, and it is the belief that one does not need to belong to a church or community to practice religion. It allows individuals to shape their own religious beliefs and ideas independently of others and lacks external guidance. Why has the growth of spirituality occurred in the present day? What factors have led to the growth of independent belief systems?
Marrying someone outside of your religion is becoming more and more common in the present day, and even more progressive is that within these couples, neither is forced to compromise their own faith. It used to be that one would usually convert, however, more and more couples are married in different ceremonies respective to each other’s faith. This means that the products of these marriages, their children, are growing up in interfaith, blended households, allowing them more exposure to multiple perspectives and answers to life. Identifying as spiritual means that people who want to embrace both sides of their family can do so. They can pick and choose the aspects of religion that they truly believe in, instead of just blindly following all that is told to them.
Another possible explanation for the rise in spirituality is more exposure outside of Western ideology. For example, yoga, practiced by 20.4 million Americans, is a Hindu philosophical tradition which also has roots in Buddhism and Jainism. Yet, in my yoga class at the local community center, there are people of many different backgrounds and faiths within it. The same goes for astrology’s religious roots. Even concepts like “karma” which many people believe in regardless of religion, is originally a Buddhist and Hindu belief. These could all serve to enhance a person’s understanding of the universe and a higher power beyond just one text or one congregation.