In this day and age of a crayon box of religious and spiritual affiliations, sects and such, it kind of gets confusing when the whole religious discussion begins. The Pew Forum recently conducted a survey across the U.S. to find out that many Americans combine different faiths to kind of creating their own worldviews.
According to the study, 35% of Americans attend regularly or occasionally attend services of other religious faiths.
“Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects,” the report says. “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.”
Forty-two percent of African American Protestants attend multiple religious places of worship that are not their own faith. The survey also found that religiously mixed marriages attend multiple types of services at a higher rate than that of couples who are of the same religion.
Religious freedom and progressive religious tolerance in the U.S. has spurred a significant religious movement among Christians. Many Christians are combining their beliefs with several other spiritual concepts such as reincarnations, astrology and other elements of faith.
Among Christians who took the survey, 23% believe in spiritual energy in non-human objects such as trees. Twenty-one percent use Yoga as a spiritual practice.
On the other hand, the survey found that religious commitment among Protestants is associated with low tolerance of Eastern or New Age beliefs. Age may also factor into the equation as well. People over the age of 65 tend to have a lower acceptance of Eastern or New Age beliefs such as yoga, astrology, and other non-traditional practices.
Supernatural experiences are one of those touchy subjects religious people tend to fall away from for various reasons. Being in touch with the dead or consulting a psychic are among the “questionable” religious practices traditional people look down upon.
But the survey found that 37% of Black Protestants say they have been in touch with the deceased. However Protestants are less likely to say they have been in contact with the dead. Interestingly enough nearly 50% of Black Protestants believe in some supernatural event or experience while 65% of all adults express a similar belief or report a supernatural experience.
College educated adults showed a trend of believing fewer of these supernatural events such as seeing a ghost or making contact with the dead.
Now if we take a stroll down “memory lane,” history will show that African Americans have combined African traditions with their Christian beliefs. This may be an explanation to the higher numbers of combined religious practices among Blacks today.
Conjuring spirits, becoming in touch with spirits and the dead were and are common practices among those who practice traditional tribal religions of Africa. Salim Faraji, Africana studies professor at California State University Dominguez Hills says traditional African religions are the foundation of most world religions, including Christianity.
“Early Christianity is indigenous to Africa. All of the earliest Christian theologians were from the Nile Valley Egypt or North Africa,” he said. “Africa gave life, birthed, and nurtured the most cherished spiritual principle values we see in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”
Looking at the survey’s results and understanding the history of religious progress, especially in the African American community, Black Protestants combining other spiritual practices and beliefs probably is not surprising.
From Africa to slavery to American Christianity, defining religion in the Black community is likely to be a soup of tradition, supernatural beliefs and mystical experiences. But of course there will be those who stay on the straight and narrow and follow Biblical doctrine totally committed.