Lots of press releases appear in my email and, every once in a while, one catches my eye. This one had the headline “Survey: Nearly half of religious Americans got more religious during pandemic.” The first thing one always has to do in teading these sorts of things is to find out the source and the research. Only 1250 adults had responded to an online survey, which really doesn’t tell us much about the general population. Only a limited number of people ever respond to anything that they can choose whether to respond to, and they may be on a website because of a specific interest, which gives a much different pool than if you ask everyone who passes on the street. One also has to consider the source. This survey was done by someone called PsychicReadings.com, which tells you something already about their audience, but they did verify that all their data was derived from a survey commissioned by them to be conducted online by survey platform Pollfish on a single day, May 27, 2022.
I read the longer version of the report and there were some things that intrigued me. The opening paragraph said: “From pandemics and protests to wars and inflation, recent events have sent Americans scrambling towards beliefs to help them find meaning in the chaos. A new survey shows that among the 59% of Americans who identify as religious, nearly half say their commitment to their faith has increased during the last two years.” The first thing I noticed was that only a little over half of the respondents identified as religious. This breaks down even further using the four common categories for faith in contemporary surveys. People identified as either “both religious and spiritual” (44%) or “religious but not spiritual” (15%), which makes the total of 59%. In other words, these were people who still identify with the rituals and beliefs of a particular faith tradition. According to this survey, that left almost half of the population for the other two categories: 22% identified as “spiritual but not religious,” and 19% are “neither spiritual nor religious.” This indicates that about a quarter of people engage in some kind of spiritual practices or believe in some connection to a higher power but don’t associate their spiritual practices with a certain church or its practices. One disturbing part of this number is that beliefs in psychic powers were also included along with bible reading and various forms of meditation or prayer. That leaves almost a fifth of people saying they have no interest in spirituality of any kind.