Even more remarkably, God seems to be talking back. In fact, God is quite the chatterbox, gabbing away with people in almost every place and every way imaginable--in traffic, at work, on the beach, in the woods, in their own thoughts, in the words of others, and in the words of scriptures.
These are among the most eyebrow-raising results of a survey conducted by Beliefnet and Spiritual Cinema Circle. With the upcoming release of the movie "Conversations with God"--produced by Spiritual Cinema Circle and inspired by the bestselling book of the same name--the survey asked Beliefnet users about their own dialogues with the divine, and 9,866 people offered their thoughts.
Their response? Almost everybody--97 percent--talks to God. About three-fourths of those say they do it everyday. But almost none of them--only 1.5 percent--say they do it in a house of worship. And more than 90 percent say that God speaks to them in some form or another.
"These percentages are extraordinary," says Neale Donald Walsch, author of "Conversations with God" and its sequels. "Not only am I surprised, but I am also inspired.... We search for what we intuitively know must be true--that we are part of something larger, that we are not alone, that there has got to be something else."
Like Walsch, who began talking to God in a homeless encampment, most of the survey-takers don't do their talking to God inside a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. Only 2.5 percent say they think God is "more accessible" in a house of worship, while less than one percent feel that clergy have "better access" to God than anyone else. A large chunk--42.3 percent--feel God is most accessible in their daily lives.
"Everyone has equal access," one person wrote. "God knows your heart." Another wrote, "I have the best access to God because it is between only Us." "Excuse me," another wrote, "No one has better access to One."
Of those who talk to God, the majority say they do it "through my internal thoughts." Three-fourths say they speak through prayer, and almost 60 percent say they "talk out loud" to God. Others speak to God through meditation, dance, music, art, journaling, yoga, gardening, dreams, and a range of divination tools, such as tarot cards and the pendulum.
"All of the above," one person wrote. "God is not limited."
Nor are there limits, apparently, in how God speaks back. Asked how God communicates with them--and allowed to list as many answers as they like--people say they hear from God through the sound of their own thoughts (more than 75 percent), through music and art (almost 40 percent), visitations of angels (27 percent), and through other people (61.5 percent). Twenty percent say God's voice sounds different every time they hear it--kind of a "Joan of Arcadia" experience.
God speaks "through miracles that happen to me everyday," one respondent wrote, "but seem too small to be noticed by anyone else around me. It happens between me and God!" Another said God sounds like "the voice of truth, a recognition beyond the every day chatter."
According to one person, God sounds like Denzel Washington. "Gets my attention," the person--presumably a woman--said. "It is inexplicable!" another exclaimed. "It feels somewhat like a very still sound within my consciousness. I can hear Him, but I am unable to say precisely how He sounds. But that 'still voice small voice' is real."
These conversations take place in almost as many places as there were people who took the survey--in cars, on walks, at work, even in the bedroom, before sleeping and after waking up.
"I have conversations with God all the time," one person wrote. "I ask so much of Him. I ask that He help me get through whatever trouble I find myself in. When I can't manage a situation, my prayer is usually, 'God, I can't handle this. You are going to have to take over now!' I say praise words when I travel through the hills of my home to and from work. I talk to Him when I am stuck in traffic jams. That's a great place."
Most religion scholars and spiritual leaders contacted for reaction to the survey were not surprised that people were talking to God, or even that God was talking back. But they were downright cheered by the depth and the range of the conversations the respondents described.
"God is dynamic," says Mark Galli, an evangelical Christian and managing editor of Christianity Today. "He will use anything and everything to communicate with people, both the tangible and the intangible, and that is what these responses witness to in their variety."
But there was also a note of alarm. The Rev. Guy Sayles, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C. says he, too, was heartened that so many people talk to God, but that so few do it in a house of worship is "sobering" and "a call for reflection" to leaders of traditional congregations.