THE BLOG
06/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Hidden Truth About American Beliefs: What Will The Spirituality Survey Reveal?


Have you heard of the www.thespiritualitysurvey.com? We are looking for answers. Why? Spirituality is one of those complicated fields of study in which there are as many questions as answers; as many charlatans as masters; as many practical dimensions as completely absurdities; and without a doubt, there is potentially as much hurt as help. Why then do we persist? Why does spirituality show up in all cultures since the very origins of humanity? Even in the most austere atheistic laboratory there is typically a cult of information and protocol that rivals the Catholic church in its religiosity and reality defining group worldview... that too (like it or not) is also a form of spirituality.

In a simplistic way, you could see spirituality as very closely aligned with "worldview" - its not just the beliefs and practices you profess or subscribe to - that might be your religion. Spirituality is the essential lens through which you see the world, it's the way you make meaning and how you feel about those universal questions of purpose, connection, and self-concept. Much like your physical nature, like it or not, we all have a spiritual nature. For example, whether you exercise and eat healthfully is your choice, but if you are reading this, then you are still undeniably a physical being as well. Whether you intentionally explore life's questions of meaning and self or not, you still have assumptions about those things that rule your every move. Is your spirituality intentional or reactive? Is it fear based, or purposefully grown? Does it matter to you or not?

Research shows that America has more obese people than any other country in the world and the problem is only getting worse. So we know that there is a neglect of the body. Is there a neglect of the spirit? The problem with a lot of the research, especially polls and surveys, is that they only show the results - a thin snapshot that tell us little to help reshape our assumptions or help us get out of the trouble we may be reporting. In recent years polls have shown that over 90% of Americans believe in some kind of a Higher Power, it also shows that fewer people are self-identifying as religious, and specifically that America is predominantly Christian but declining in numbers every year. Other studies and speculation shows that other traditions such as Islam and Buddhism and practices that may exist outside of traditions, like meditation and yoga, are all on the rise. So, what is truth?

Most interesting to me is the question: are we becoming more spiritual as a nation, driven by the intuitive heart and an inclusive worldview that seeks peace for all; or, are we still mostly a religious nation, bound to our faith, our communities, and our intent to capture and grow only our own piece of the world?

I regularly travel to speak about my book, run workshops, and do private counseling work. I work with thousands of people a year and more often than not when I ask people about their spiritual life, they choke. The first thing I hear is some guilty inventory of their relationship to their church or synagogue. They run through what their parents expect/ed of them (even if they are grandparents themselves) and then... then they tell me what they "really" feel. They often say things like, "I'm Christian, but I don't agree with everything in my church, I actually feel more spiritual than religious." Or they will say, "I'm Jewish" or "Hindu" and "its more of a culture than a religion to me, I read about and explore other traditions and philosophies - they all have something to offer."

Now, I am the first to note that maybe I just have a very refined self-selected group that I encounter. However, it does represent a sample of this nation and of this world. Looking to the media really hasn't been a help either, it seems just as biased a sample that we hear from. It's the extremes of religion and science that always seem to get the most air play, and I just don't think the extremes ever speak for the whole. What do you think?

I have created a simple survey to address the hidden truth about spirituality in America and the world today. It is only 4 questions, takes 1 minute to complete and requires no personal information. It is called "The Spirituality Survey" and you can participate at www.thespiritualitysurvey.com or at my website where there is a link to the survey www.returntothesacred.com - check it out, take part. There is nothing to lose, you might even learn something about yourself. If you like, spread the word, we want to hear from all walks of life. We are only interested in seeing what is true, not in proving an agenda.
What is the true American spirituality? Is there one?