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More people seek out mix of religions

By Kelly Jasper| Staff Writer

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Claude Tate grew up Baptist. A move to Atlanta changed his mind.

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"I started questioning the things I believed," Mr. Tate said. He had already tried Methodist churches and Apostolic churches and had gone back to Baptist churches before deciding none was for him.

His spirituality now includes meditation, music and a Zen rock garden. The Augusta native attends Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, where he is studying pan-indigenous religions.

Americans are mixing Eastern practices, among other things, into their religion, according to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The survey found that the religious beliefs and practices of Americans no longer fit into conventional categories.

Though Americans overwhelmingly identify themselves as Christian, the poll says, they are customizing their beliefs by combining the traditions of various faiths and spiritual paths. A "sizeable minority" blends Eastern beliefs such as reincarnation or New Age ideas such as astrology in with traditional Christianity.

Sixty percent of adults say they have experienced supernatural phenomena such as communicating with the dead. With the exception of white evangelicals, supernatural beliefs are consistent across all religious groups in the United States, although older people expressed less acceptance of these beliefs than younger people.

Not just beliefs are shifting. Worship habits are, too, according to the Pew study, which found that nearly a quarter of Americans participate in services outside their faith.

In all, more Americans say they have had religious or mystical experiences.

A 1962 Gallup poll found that 22 percent of Americans had such an experience. Now, nearly half -- 49 percent -- say they've had a "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening."

Please click on "external source" to see the complete article, including a chart of survey highlights

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