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Zeitgeist

The rise of DIY religion

A fortune teller in Atlantic City, New Jersey. John Greim/LightRocket/Getty Images

Americans may be giving up on religion, but that doesn’t mean spirituality is dead, says Mark Alan Smith in the Persuasion newsletter. Weekly attendance at church has dropped by more than a third since 1991, and the number of non-religious Americans has risen from 6% to 28%. Yet not all of these people have given up on faith – many believe in “supernatural or mystical phenomena”. Forty-one per cent of Americans believe in psychics and 29% in astrology. The “mystical services market”, which includes big-selling astrology apps such as Co-Star, is now worth $2.1bn.

What we’re seeing is a shift towards “do-it-yourself religion”. Americans are retreating from the organised religion of the 20th century and blending beliefs from a range of sources. Gen Zers are the least likely to go to church, but often combine astrology, Tarot cards and meditation with Christian prayer. Even evangelicals mix and match – one in five believes in reincarnation. For decades intellectuals “pined” for an end to religion, which they assumed would usher in an era of “reason” and “science”. If anything, the opposite has happened.

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