DALLAS (Reuters Life!) - Although most Americans are Christian and many are devout it hasn’t stopped some members of the flock from believing in astrology, reincarnation or the ability of trees to trap spiritual energy.
A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a surprising number of U.S. adults claim to have had supernatural experiences such as ghost sightings or hold beliefs associated with the New Age movement or Eastern religions.
And some of them claim allegiance to more traditional faiths such as Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism.
“American religious folks hold a variety of views and there is overlap among their beliefs and practices. Many do not fit into simple boxes,” said Pew researcher Alan Cooperman.
The poll released on Wednesday showed that three-in-ten Americans say they have felt in touch with a dead person and 18 percent say they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.
Other Pew surveys have shown that relatively few Americans would identify an Eastern religion or New Age spirituality as their core faith. But about a quarter of those surveyed say they believe in aspects of Eastern religions.
Nearly 25 percent said they believed in reincarnation and 23 percent said yoga was a spiritual practice. Twenty six percent said they believed “spiritual energy” could be found in objects such as trees.
A quarter said they believed in astrology, while 16 percent of U.S. adults think that an “evil eye” exists or that some people can cast curses or spells on others. Among black Protestants the evil eye figure is 32 percent.
The number of Americans who profess a belief in astrology is about the same as the number who claim to be Roman Catholic. Nearly 30 percent of Catholics surveyed said they believed in astrology. Among Catholics who attended church each week the figure was 16 percent.
Much of this would be jarring to — among others — many evangelical Protestants, who account for one in four adult Americans and take their Bible very seriously.
Still, 13 percent of white evangelicals profess a belief in astrology and about 10 percent accepted the possibility of reincarnation. Although the percentages are lower than in other groups, they are high enough to curl the hair of a Southern Baptist preacher.
Researchers said they were careful to stress that reincarnation meant being reborn again and again in this world and did not refer to, say, the resurrection of Christ.
Evangelicals, who place a heavy emphasis on spiritual conversions, are much more likely than most Americans to have had “a religious or mystical experience — that is, a moment of religious or spiritual awakening,” according to the poll.
About half of Americans claim to have had such an experience but among white evangelicals the number is 70 percent and for black Protestants it is 71 percent.
The nationwide survey of around 4,000 adults was conducted in August. Interviews were done in English and Spanish.