New Poll Reveals How Churchgoers Mix Eastern, New Age Beliefs

Though the United States is an overwhelmingly Christian country, significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs, as revealed in a new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

According to the poll, 22 percent of Christians, for example, say they believe in reincarnation – that people will be reborn in this world again and again. Twenty-three percent, meanwhile, believe in astrology. And 15 percent have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic.

Not surprising, however, is Pew's observation that white evangelical Protestants consistently express lower levels of acceptance of both Eastern beliefs (reincarnation, yoga) and New Age beliefs (spiritual energy in physical things and astrology).

Roughly one-in-ten white evangelicals, for example, believes in reincarnation, compared with 24 percent among mainline Protestants, 25 percent among both white Catholics and those unaffiliated with any religion, and 29 percent among black Protestants.

Similarly, 13 percent of white evangelicals believe in astrology, compared with roughly one-quarter or more among other religious traditions.

"Among Protestants, high levels of religious commitment are associated with lower levels of acceptance of Eastern or New Age beliefs," Pew noted in its report, released Wednesday.

"Among both evangelical and mainline Protestants, those who attend church weekly express much lower levels of belief in reincarnation, yoga, the existence of spiritual energy in physical things and astrology compared with those who attend religious services less often," it added.

Among Catholics, however, Pew found that the frequency of church attendance was linked much less closely with such beliefs, although those who attend less often do express higher levels of belief in astrology compared with weekly attendees.

Results for the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 4,013 adults, 18 years of age or older.

The survey was a joint effort of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

On the Web:

Full PDF-version of 'Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths' report at 

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