POLL SHOWS SURGE IN AMERICANS’ NEED FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
by Gayle White
Cox News Service
In a typical 24-hour period, many Americans are busy praying, sharing their faith and reading scripture.
Recently, the Princeton Religion Research Center set out to show just how many Americans engage in religious or spiritual activities.
The center is a nondenominational organization that uses the facilities and resources of Gallup International. Its executive director, George Gallup, Jr., calls the survey a “snapshot” of American spirituality.
“You can see data on the country as a whole for specific items,” said Gallup, who also is co-chairman of the Gallup Organization. "But it’s very helpful to see them all in relationship to each other. Is there a rhythm in spirituality? Does it ebb and flow? Do people sense God’s presence in a positive way? In a negative way?
The recent survey, the result of interviews with 100 Americans-- a representative sample of a larger Gallup poll of randomly selected people-- reinforced findings from earlier Gallup research, he said.
Those studies show that the percentage of Americans who say they feel the need for spiritual growth surged 24 points in just four years-- from 58% in 1994 to 82% in 1998-- but that the increased interest in spirituality is not coming at the expense of organized religion. Religious preference and church attendance have changed little in recent years.
“There is a great deal of spiritual and religious activity going on,” said Gallup. “It’s not just a Sunday thing.”
Gallup said he believes the most important questions his organization can ask these days are about the inner life of Americans.
“The depth of spirituality, the depth of faith commitment, really have a lot more to do with who we are than a lot of other things, such as region or political party,” he said.
55% prayed at a meal.
36% read the Bible.
22% spoke out on a national issue out of religious conviction.
15% attended a prayer service, Bible study group or worship group.
3% used the Internet to research or explore matters of religious faith.
51% talked to someone about God or some aspect of their faith or spirituality.
49% felt “a strong sense of God’s presence.”
45% went out of their way to help someone because of spiritual or faith reasons.
44% shared their faith.
32% read books or articles with spiritual themes.
25% counselled someone from a spiritual perspective.
24% watched religion on TV or listened to religious radio.
15% listened to cassette tapes with spiritual themes.
5% called a psychic hotline or read a horoscope.
2% visited websites related to churches or that contained religious themes.