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An Inquiry into the Spiritual and Civic Dimensions of Our Nature

The Study of Spirituality in the United States is a qualitative and quantitative inquiry into what spirituality looks like for people of all spiritual and religious backgrounds across the country. Through illuminating personal stories and survey data, the study reveals how the spiritual dimension of our nature informs our understanding of ourselves and each other, inspires us to take action in our communities, and implores us to find love everywhere we turn.


“I think it's a general part of the human experience, that we're all spiritual in some way.”

Grayce, 19

Moderately spiritual / Slightly religious (Christian)

The Question

What does spirituality mean to people in the United States today, and what effect does it have on community and political engagement?

This study seeks to build on existing spirituality research by reflecting how people understand spirituality and live spiritual lives in their own words, and exploring the relationship—and perceptions of the relationship—between spirituality and public engagement. 

The Process

We designed the research process to listen for and reflect what spirituality means to people of many walks of life. The qualitative research comprised 16 focus groups in five cities and 26 in-depth interviews with people of a range of spiritual and religious backgrounds. Insights from that research informed a nationally representative survey administered to more than 3,600 people in the U.S. in January-February 2020. We worked closely with a diverse group of academics and practitioners throughout the process, from refining the research question and developing research guides to analyzing the findings. Learn more about the research process here.

What We Learned

It’s human to be spiritual. Like laughing with a loved one, like telling stories about where we come from, like confronting a long-held fear, spirituality is an essential element of existence that can bring beauty to our lives and animate us in powerful ways. 

Spirituality is often hidden within us. For some, it’s a private practice to connect with the divine. For others, it is a quiet presence, lacking language or form. And for others, it’s the current beneath religious devotion—an experience of deep peace and profound love.

As we heard from thousands of people across the United States, it became clear that one truth unites these experiences: Spirituality is the foundation for a loving world.

People described feeling spiritual when they knelt to pray to God. When they looked up at the stars in awe. When they faced an uncertain future or difficult loss. When they listened closely to someone unlike themselves. We have found spirituality in the tradition of our grandparents, in traditions that we did not inherit, and in no tradition at all.

We found a strong thread weaving together individuals and communities around the world—a common thread with the ability to fashion a vibrant view of spirituality today.