UNITED STATES, December 7, 2023 (Religion News Service): Americans have been abandoning organized religion in droves and while some have walked away from religion altogether, a distinct group of Americans now call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” A new Pew Research study puts their numbers at 22% of Americans and attempts to describe them in greater detail. The study places people in the group according to their responses to this definition: “They think of themselves as spiritual or they consider spirituality very important in their lives, but they neither think of themselves as religious nor say religion is very important in their lives.” The study of 11,201 U.S. adults found that Americans broadly consider themselves spiritual — 70% say they are spiritual in some way — and while the spiritual but not religious share many of the same spiritual beliefs as religious Americans, there are some key distinctions.

Like most Americans, the spiritual but not religious believe people have a soul or spirit in addition to a physical body. They say there is something spiritual beyond the natural world. And they believe there are some things science cannot explain. But only 20% of the spiritual but not religious believe in God as described in the Bible. They are much less likely than religious Americans to say they believe in heaven (54% vs. 93%) or hell (40% vs. 83%). And perhaps critically, only 11% of the spiritual but not religious are involved in a religious community (compared with 62% of religious adults). They may still affiliate with religion — 45% of the spiritual but not religious say they are religiously affiliated, with one-fifth identifying as Protestant and 12% identifying as Catholic. But they have negative views of organized religion. Among the spiritual but not religious, 38% say religion does more harm than good, while just 7% of religious Americans share this view.

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