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Grouping of beautiful candles

In focus groups and interviews, participants used many names for a “something more” that was intrinsic to their spirituality.

We wanted people to define the divine for themselves in the survey as much as possible. The survey question attempted to reflect the language people used, using a similarly inclusive name for that entity. The phrase finally settled on was: “a higher power—whether it be God, gods, or some other divine source or universal energy.” 

Three in four people believe in a higher power, and more than half have no doubts. 

A significant majority of both spiritual and religious people say they have no doubts that a higher power exists.

Because I believe that Jesus is that God [who loves us], spirituality looks like knowing Him.” 

Elizabeth, 44 

Very spiritual / Very religious (Protestant) 

In focus group conversations, people used a wide variety of words to name the higher they believe in—and were accepting of each other’s language. 

Terms ranged from “God,” to “Allah,” to “divine Goddess” or “life force.” While many named “God” as the higher power they believe in, they explained that others might not call it the same thing. 

To me, spirituality has to incorporate God in some sense. Again, it doesn’t have to be the word of ‘God’ since everybody doesn’t use that, but whatever your higher being is.” 

Shannon, 50 

Very spiritual / Moderately religious (Christian: Non-denominational) 

Not everyone who considers themselves spiritual believes in a higher power. 

Not all people who identify as religious or spiritual say they definitely believe in a higher power—and not all people who believe in a higher power are religious or spiritual.

Several people who described themselves as agnostic spoke to how their sense of spirituality did not require a belief in God or confidence in the existence of a divine being. They shared in focus groups or interviews how they could practice their spirituality regardless of that disbelief. 

I don’t feel like I have to have a belief in something or [need to] be religious to have a spiritual connection with myself and others.” 

Tara, 32 

Moderately spiritual / Slightly religious (Agnostic)