An interesting conundrum was raised by Pew Research earlier this week. Writing for Pew, David Masci and Michael Lipka noted that although religion is on the decline in America, the number of individuals who experience “spiritual peace and well-being” and “wonder about the universe” has seen a dramatic increase in the last several years.

“The drop in religiosity in the U.S. has been limited to religious ‘nones’ (that is, those who describe themselves as atheists or agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion). The growth of the unaffiliated population and their decreasing religiosity have been the main factors behind the emergence of a less religious public overall. But, interestingly, the rise in spirituality has been happening among both highly religious people and the religiously unaffiliated.

For instance, among U.S. Christians, there has been an increase of 7 percentage points between 2007 and 2014 in the share who say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least weekly (from 38% to 45%). And there has been a similar rise in the share of religious ‘nones’ who say the same (from 39% to 47%) – not to mention a 17-point jump among self-described atheists.”


While such a finding might seem like a shot of hope to those in religious institutions, is it actually the opposite? Could it be that the growth of both spiritual peace and well-being and the growth of wonder about the universe actually result from a lack of religiosity? In their quest for relevancy, are churches and other religious organizations failing to answer people’s deeper questions, causing them to leave organized religion and search for their own truth?

In the ancient Jewish writings of the prophet Hosea it is noted, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Perhaps it is this same lack of knowledge that is causing today’s decline in religion.

Image Credit: Creative Commons/Sebastien Wiertz