While over 70 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian, a new Pew Research study has found that an large percentage of U.S. Christians also embrace New Age beliefs. According to the Pew study, 61 percent of Americans who identify as Christian also buy into at least one of the following decidedly New Age/pagan beliefs: astrology (26 percent), reincarnation (29 percent), psychics (40 percent), and that spiritual energy can be found in physical things (42 percent).
Among evangelical Christians, who traditionally have held a strong commitment to Scripture (which is clear in its condemnation of such beliefs), 47 percent of those surveyed confessed to embracing one of the above New Age/pagan beliefs. And among self-identifying Catholics, that number stands at an overwhelming 70 percent.
Pew research analyst Claire Gecewicz noted that gender appears to play a role in the embrace of New Age beliefs. “For instance, just as women are more likely than men to identify with a religion and to engage in a number of religious practices, women also are more likely to hold New Age beliefs,” wrote Gecewicz of the survey. “Across all four measures — belief in psychics, reincarnation, astrology, and that spiritual energy can be found in objects — larger shares of women than men subscribe to these beliefs. And overall, seven-in-ten women hold at least one New Age belief, compared to 55% of men.”
Additionally, wrote Gecewicz, “Americans who consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious also tend to accept at least one New Age belief. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults in this category hold one or more New Age beliefs, including six-in-ten who believe spiritual energy can be located in physical things and 54% who believe in psychics. And among those who say they are religious and spiritual, 65% espouse at least one New Age belief.”
Writing at Beliefnet.com, faith and religion monitor Stephanie Hertzenberg speculated that the increasing embrace of New Age beliefs by those who identify as Christian “appears to be linked to the ever increasing number of Americans who do not identify themselves with an orthodox religious group. Many of them instead state that they are spiritual or claim to believe in a higher power even though they do not practice a specific religion. That said, New Age beliefs are also being combined with orthodox religions by younger members of the faith.”