New Report Finds Many Americans Mix Religious Beliefs and Practices

Contact: Robbie Mills, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 202.419.4564


Washington, DC - 12/09/2009 - The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. According to a new report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, blending elements of diverse traditions.

The survey, conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, finds that many Americans say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination, even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals.

Underscoring the spiritual "openness" of American religious life, the survey finds that many blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

Key findings include:

  • One-third of Americans (35%) say they regularly (9%) or occasionally (26%) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24% of the public overall) indicate that they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own.
  • Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they attend at multiple places and nearly three-in-ten (28%) go to services outside their own faith.
  • Among Christians, who make up an overwhelming majority of Americans, roughly one-in-five Protestants (18%) say they attend non-Protestant services, and the same percentage of Catholics (18%) say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.
  • Nearly half the public (49%) says they have had a "religious or mystical experience," more than twice as high as in a 1962 Gallup survey (22%). In fact, religious and mystical experiences are more common today among those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (30%) than they were in the 1960s among the public as a whole.
The report is available on the Pew Forum's Web site. 

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life delivers timely, impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Pew Forum is a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization and does not take positions on policy debates. Based in Washington, D.C., the Pew Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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