Americans: Undecided About God?

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Eric Weiner wrote an editorial in the New York Times on December 11, 2011 (p. 5) with the above title.  He stated "For a nation of talker and self-confessors, we are terrible at talking about religion" and that William James, sometimes called the Father of American Psychology stated that "Truth is what works."  Mr. Weiner imagines "a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarassment.  A religious operating system for the 'Nones,' as he calls himself and others, among us."  This religious or spiritual space he discusses is one that my clients and I created and create in spirituality group/s.  They are highly interactive and allow people to validate their spiritual experiences with others.  Below is part of my answer to Mr Weiner:

"I read with great interest your editorial when you spoke about Wm James "truth is what works."  I would also add to that:  "A true idea is one that agrees with reality."  I have run spirituality groups since 2003.  I start with the premise that a spiritual experience is a transcendent relationship between a person and a Higher Being.  It has a quality that goes beyond a specific religious affiliation.  Wm James called them religious experiences and said there were two types:  gradual and immediate.  Either way, they give a new level of spiritual reality - perceiving truths not known before. 

The September 5, 2005 issue of Newsweek devoted to spirituality stated that "Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God (Adler, 2005, p. 46."  I've read statistics that from 14-40% of americans are spiritual.  A loose definition is that they believe in God, the Bible and the Golden Rule.

Some of James' examples of spiritual or religious experiences were:

Voices are often heard, Lights seen, Visions witnessed, and it always seems, after the surrender of the personal will, as if an extraneous higher power had flooded in and taken possession.  Sense of renovation, safety, cleaness, rightness, can be so marvelous and jubilant as well to warrant one's belief in a radically new substantial nature...

Spirituality was almost legitimized in 1994 when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders added a new V-Code "Religious and Spiritual Problem"  Statistics used in order to enter this manual were that 30-40% of the population in the United States and England were having experiences that are labeled spiritual.  (This diagnosis eventually was so watered down that most therapists and people don't know about these statistics or anything about the diagnosis.)  The two spiritual experiences used to be incorporated into the manual were mystical experiences and near-death experiences.  Now that statistic is 30-50% of the populations are having them.

The people in my groups were told this statistic - that they were not crazy because they've had some weird things happen to them.  And when they were given some characteristics of a spiritual experience:  A sense of becoming one with other people, with nature or with the entire universe, A transcendence of time and space, A sense of sacredness/numinosity and Strong positive emotions (profound peace, exuberant joy, ecstatic rapture, etc), they realized they had experienced these things that they could now call spiritual.

Spiritual experiences will vary among cultures.  But, mostly James was correct. They help people greatly and when people discuss their specific ones in a group, it brings them closer together because they resonate with each other regardless of race, religion or creed.  Mostly, they also realize there is truly only one God."

Author's Note: I have taken off the comments portion of this blog as I was getting a great deal of Spam comments. All of these articles may still be read from the blog. If you would like to comment or talk to me, either by phone or email, please click on the "contact us" link for more information. Thanks so much for your cooperation.



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