Many Americans Call Themselves ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’


The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) developed two composite indexes in order to measure spirituality and religiosity among Americans today. One index measured spirituality using self-reported experiences of being connected to something larger than oneself. The other one measured religiosity using frequency of religious attendance and the personal importance of religion.

The survey asked a random sample of 2,016 adults how often they “felt particularly connected to the world around you,” “felt like you were a part of something much larger than yourself,” and “felt a sense of larger meaning or purpose in life.” According to the PRRI research Americans fall into the following four categories:

  • 29% are both spiritual and religious;
  • 18% are spiritual but not religious;
  • 22% are not spiritual but religious; and
  • 31% are neither spiritual nor religious.

PPRI came up with the following results - Only three in ten (30%) spiritual but not religious Americans are religiously unaffiliated. In general, spirituality and religiosity are highly associated with one another. People who are highly spiritual are, on average, also highly religious. Conversely, those who are not that spiritual tend to be not that religious. Among all Americans, the two largest groups include those who are both spiritual and religious and those who are neither. Overall, about one-third (31%) of Americans are neither spiritual nor religious, meaning that they do not feel particularly spiritual and religion is not a central part of their lives, while nearly as many (29%) Americans are both spiritual and religious.

The survey included measures of life satisfaction across six areas: life in general, personal health, family life, relationships with friends, quality of life in the local community, and the way things are going in the country as a whole. PRRI found that Americans who identify as spiritual and religious or spiritual but not religious express higher life satisfaction than those who are not spiritual. Sixty-one percent of spiritual but not religious Americans and 70 percent of those who are both spiritual and religious report being very or completely satisfied with their lives in general.

Spiritual and religious beliefs often serve the faithful as a kind of consolation and protection from everyday life and bad things that happen. Believing there is something much bigger which created the whole universe can in one hand make believers satisfied and comforted and that may be an explanation for higher life satisfaction Americans who identify as spiritual and religious have. It’s not so easy to deceive and satisfy everyone else.

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