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Spirituality makes a comeback

Spirituality makes a comeback

A recent Pew survey points to a drift away from institutionalized religion and a robust tendency towards spirituality. I'll leave a detailed examination of the numbers to others, but I think Catholic America needs to revisit the spiritual side of religion expressed in the term "spirituality."

In the history of Catholicism, spiritualities arose at moments of crisis to renew the Church. Franciscan spirituality, for instance, emerged at a time of increasing commercial wealth that had created a new class of urban poor. The Franciscan spirituality added a new charism to Catholic virtue. While it was eventually approved by the hierarchy, Franciscanism at its core is spirituality arising from among the faithful.

It may be a good thing to see the rise of spirituality in contemporary Catholic America, even if the hierarchy does not command the movement. It proves the vitality of the faith, although it probably will require a lot of hard work to keep this energy focused on renewing today's institutionalized Church.

Church leaders run the risk of ignoring the current rise of the "NONES." This is a category for religious surveys developed by my colleagues Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar and incorporated in the American Religious Identification Surveys (ARIS) over more than two decades. A NONE says to the survey that he/she has "no particular religion." But the NONES are not the same as atheists. The NONES may deny the importance of institutionalized religion but they do not share the atheist's common belief that the spiritual world does not exist.

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