Belief

8 Things That Are Probably True About You If You Identify as Spiritual (But Not Religious)

A new study suggests spiritual people are younger, more liberal and more generous.

Photo Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Americans who consider themselves spiritual yet not religious are a fast-growing breed. They have even been subject to some mockery among atheists and proponents of organized religion alike. As Reverend Lillian Daniel wrote in a popular HuffPost column, "These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach."

If you fall into this group, you're still in the minority in the U.S. Though participation in organized religion is on the decline, most Americans are still either spiritual and religiously affiliated, or entirely non-religious and uninterested in spirituality. Meanwhile, American spirituality is considered by many to be “on the rise,” and has taken new forms outside of the typical church setting, as evidenced by the explosive popularity of yoga, meditation, mysticism, drumming circles, and other outlets for 21st-century spirituality.

As the numbers of people who consider themselves “spiritual” grow, so do opportunities to learn more about this small yet culturally influential group that rejects conventional religion while still searching for some deeper meaning. A new PRRI study breaks down the demographics. Chances are, if you identify as spiritual but not religious, some of the following are probably true about you.

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1. You're generous.

In perhaps the most surprising piece of information revealed in the PRRI study, nonreligious, spiritual Americans report being more giving of their time and energy than members of other groups. “Americans who are spiritual, regardless of how religious they are, demonstrate a greater proclivity to help others," said PRRI research director Dan Cox. “Americans who are more spiritual are more likely to listen to someone else’s problems, do a personal favor, or even allow a stranger to cut in line." This contrasts notably with the inverse group: nonspiritual, religious individuals who were less likely to exhibit prosocial behavior in every category (except praying for a stranger, which isn't too surprising).

This turns the table on the classic conservative argument that religion promotes morality. Conservatives claim religious individuals are more generous, more charitable and more in touch with their community compared with those who don't attend a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. These numbers show that's not the case. 

2. You’re relatively happy with your life.

More than six in 10 (63 percent) Americans who are spiritual but not religious are highly satisfied with different aspects of their lives, like personal health, family life, relationships with friends, and quality of life in their local community.

Religion-pushers who claim that adhering to a religion makes people happy may be mistaking what is most fulfilling about faith; it appears to be the spiritual piece of organized religion that brings satisfaction, not the religious aspect. After all, the PRRI report authors write that “spiritual people—regardless of whether they are religious or not—report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships, communities, and life in general than do nonspiritual people.” However...

3. You're not very happy with the way things are going in the country.

Non-religious people overall report being less happy with the "state of things" in the U.S. as a whole. The majority (38 percent) of this group claimed they were "not too happy" with the U.S. today, and another 19 percent said they were not at all happy. Non-religious, non-spiritual people are even unhappier.

4. You're under 50.

In general, non-religious Americans, whether spiritual or not, tend to be significantly younger than religious Americans. Fifty-six percent of Americans who are spiritual but not religious are under 50 years old.

5. You're a Democrat.

Spiritual, non-religious Americans are more than twice as likely to identify as Democrat (36 percent) than Republican (16 percent). They’re also significantly more liberal than the general population (40 percent versus 24 percent). Just a small minority of this group—one in five—identifies as conservative.

6. You’re white.

About two-thirds (66 percent) of spiritual, non-religious Americans are white. But interestingly, of the four self-identified groups, the non-spiritual, non-religious group contains the least diversity: over three-quarters of this group is white.

7. You spend time with family and friends.

Spiritual Americans are more likely than non-spiritual Americans to report spending time with friends at least once a week (73 percent vs. 62 percent, respectively).

8. You spend more time outdoors.

Spiritual Americans seem to be more in tune with nature, as they are more likely to spend time gardening, hiking or participating in some other outdoor activity at least once a week (59 percent vs. 51 percent, respectively). So maybe there's something to that stereotype of spiritual people "seeing God in the sunset" after all. 

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Liz Posner is a managing editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.