In America's coffee shops and train stops, people are talking
about topics once reserved for Sunday school or Sunday dinner. In fact, if you
haven't seen The Passionof the Christ or read The Da Vinci
Code-- if you haven't at least triedmeditation yet --
you're in the minority.
On my last day of vacation in Italy, a chatty café owner in Rome introduced me to a tall, charming Italian man. He was a local artist, I learned; his name was Marco. Just a day earlier, my friend Lynn and I had sat in a piazza in Florence talking about how hard it is to meet nice guys. It had been two years since my last relationship, and, admittedly, I'd grown a little standoffish with the opposite sex. Lynn and I agreed that I could open up a little more. So when I met Marco, I figured...
Religion and spirituality have gone mainstream. People are
hotly debating Jesus' lineage and Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, or Islamic issues
-- and they're doing it in public. All this outspoken talk of religion is not
typical (except for a few TV evangelists). Americans seem to be changing.
A Need for Answers
The Sept. 11 tragedy shook us to our core almost three years
ago, that's unmistakable. Many of the fallen-away faithful went scrambling back
to church or temple. But even before that tragedy, another process was
As we practiced yoga, took up tai chi, and energized our
chakras, we just have not felt satisfied. We felt that something essential was
missing, says Krista Tippett, host of Minnesota Public Radio's Speaking of
"The big spiritual questions -- the 'why' questions -- had
not gone away," she tells WebMD. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why does God take a loved one so young? What is the meaning of our existence?
These questions still haunted us, Tippett says.
"What I'm reading, what I'm sensing, is the trend is
changing," Tippett says. "It almost goes against our American mindset
-- our independence, our self-sufficiency -- but people are looking for
something bigger, better, to be part of. They have an essential need for that.
And when they experience it, whether it's during a crisis, an illness, or a
death, they want more of it."
For this -- and more -- people are returning to traditional
religion and spirituality, she says. "Sometimes when we put traditional
religion down, it's their dogma that we rebel against. But at their core, these
traditions are where our impulses, our need for something bigger, have been
A Need to Help Others
Indeed, the "feel-good, me-centered spirituality" of
recent decades seems to be evaporating, says Harold Koenig, MD, associate
professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for the Study of
Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University Medical Center.