We're a nation on the move, and that mobility is reflected in Americans' spiritual journeys. Responses to the Newsweek/Beliefnet poll reveal that one quarter of Americans have traveled away from their childhood faith. When asked to compare their current faith lives to that of their childhood, 68 percent said it was the same or mostly the same, while 24 percent said they'd changed faiths mostly or completely or become an atheist or agnostic.

In addition, many American families have experienced religious diversity up close. In all, 42 percent of Americans either have a different approach to faith from that of their childhood, have a sibling who shifted approaches, or married someone of a different faith. This sampling from Beliefnet's discussion boards offers vivid testimony to Americans' religious dynamism.

'I Have Come Back to the Church'
I am a Roman Catholic who became an Episcopalian, but just recently I have come back home to the Catholic Church. In the Episcopal church I attended, there were many former Catholics who had joined, but it was funny because during my time at the church, it was amazing to see how many of them went back home to the Catholic church over time. I often thought to myself how people could do that, but now I have done the same thing.

One of my issues with the Episcopal church was its flip-flopping views...It seems like everyone (including the priests and officials) had different views on different issues, such as abortion, the transubstantiation, homosexuality, and other moral and theological topics. The thing with the Catholic Church is everything IS uniform all throughout. That is something that brought me great comfort being Catholic.

One of the things that led me back home was the death of John Paul II. I watched the coverage of the Pope's death and I saw the millions and millions of people who came to mourn such a great person who cared for so much (and brought so much change) to the Catholic Church...and it just made me cry - it made me long for the things that Catholicism had that NO other religion could offer. And it brought me home.


'A White Light Engulfed Me'
I wanted to share how I came to know God as I understand 'it' to be and become a born again Christian. I was 16, and come from a broken home. There was quite a lot of abuse in many different manifestations, and so as I attended school, I met a friend, who introduced me to her church. I started to question many things about God, Jesus, Mary, and the angels. Eventually, at Easter in 1973, I kneeled down by my bed, looked out the window of my bedroom and asked, "God, are you really there?"

Then in a moment, I saw with my eyes wide opened, a white light engulfed me. I didn't feel like I was kneeling. I wasn't in my room, and I wasn't scared as to what was happening to me. It was very peaceful. I believe that this was the 'sign' that was given to let me know absolutely that I was heard and that I was in the divine folds of the elect.Since that time, I've been subject to experiencing many of the spiritual gifts, including discernment, wisdom, knowledge, prophesy, speaking in tongues, reading men's hearts, persecution, teaching, healing, and miracles. I do not know why these things are happening, but I'm only taking it a day at a time and making a journal of all these kinds of manifestations, keeping in mind where the Source of them are coming from.


'I Was Still Incomplete'
My first steps on the spiritual path were when I was 12. Qe had the Gideon Society come to our school and give us all a pocket New Testament. Whereas most kids of that age took it home and put it in a draw or cupboard, I kept mine out and read a piece each night. this went on for some five or six years or should I say until life's many vices came and took me away, but funnily enough I felt different to everyone. I was and still am a very popular person, but I was still incomplete.

I got married, had a couple of wonderful kids, got divorced, and then I found Paganism. This gave me something I was missing; it connected me with nature and I became relaxed, as it had filled part of what was missing. But then there was still a gap, and from Pagan I became Wiccan, as this answered more of my questions.

I read books and opened my mind, but then my path changed again, as a friend of mine lent me a book on shamanism. It was from a North American Indian tribe, and it had some great stories and some of these stories answered more of my questions.

I know between Pagan, Wiccan, and shaman, there is not a big step, but my latest change is working with angels after a near-death experience and my learning curve has just expanded yet again. Where I go to next I do not know but I'm sure my journey will carry on even though it is down an unseen road. Blessed be and don't stop believing.

'Your Spiritual Growth Has Only One Place it Can Lead'
I was raised a Catholic (which did nothing for my spiritual growth!), then abandoned all relation to spirit during my 20's. Then found a similar belief system with Native Americans--the Great Spirit. Got into New Age with crystals, vortexes, etc. Read and listened to many self-help books and books on tape, and kind of stumbled into Religious Science.

Please do not let the name fool you. It is not Scientology or Christian Science (although they share a common ancestry). Even the word religious can give people a false impression. But, I swear, your spiritual growth has only one place it can lead you and that is to Religious Science. If the ultimate pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment is the "Christ" Consciousness, then Religious Science is the teaching to get you there.

It is based on the book "Science of Mind" by Ernest Holmes. And it teaches that you are Spirit individualized, your consciousness and Cosmic Consciousness are one. There is no duality (good and evil), there is no judgment, there is not dogma. There are principles of life and law that you can choose to believe or not. It is also a practical spirituality (which actually helped draw me toward it) to the teaching. I mean what good is feeling close to God, if you are sick, unhappy, poor, or lonely. This philosophy says there is a Universal Law of Good and you can use it, direct it and create our experiences from it.

'A Tantric Path'
I come from a Methodist background and made the transition to Tantra Yoga when I was 20. It was a huge change or so I thought in the beginning but later after much study of the New Testament I realized that Lord Jesus himself had been a teacher of such a tantric path. Now I realize that many paths which I previously thought to be very different are in fact very close to each other. Some people would like to label me as a Hindu but in fact I feel I am now more close to Lord Jesus than they could ever be.


'The Desire to Convert Came Before the Man'
I have been seriously considering converting to Islam for 7 months now. In that time I have met a Muslim man and fallen in love (I would like to point out however, that the desire to convert came before the man). I am planning to convert before or when we marry. He is also a convert. I am not only looking for guidance in the conversion process, but also wondering how/when I should tell my conservative southern family. One other member of our family converted (to Judaism) and it was not received well, but everyone eventually got over it. She converted upon marriage, and so my family was more understanding than they might have been if she just did it on her own. This is why I believe it might be wise to wait until we marry. I would do it on my own anyway though. Any thoughts, advice or other guidance would be very much appreciated.


Shamed out of becoming Catholic
Read more on page 2 >>

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  • 'Some Kind of Spiritual Connection'
    It often seems to me that different religious faiths suit people with certain kinds of mindsets and different personalities. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, but never, even as a child, felt comfortable there. But that's me. I know lots of Baptists that live happy, productive lives and have never questioned the validity of their faith. After I left my parents' home, I simply slept late on Sunday mornings and enjoyed staying away from church.

    Then, after 20 years or so, I felt a need for some kind of spirtiual connection, and spent some time hanging out with various New-Age groups. I eventually gave up New-Age spirituality because of a sense that I was one again being asked to leave my mind at the door when attending a service. Now, I'm a Unitarian Universalist. As such, I am not required to endorse any particular creed and I am a member of a congregation that includes people with several different points of view. However, many of the members of my church have sons and daughters who, despite being raised as UUs, have become Catholics, Christian fundamentalists, and even Muslims. I now realize that the religions that people choose offer them something they need, and many folks are attracted by the very things that repel others.

    'I Felt There Was Something Shameful'
    I am a Lutheran who converted to Catholicism at the age of 41. As I grew up I was told that Catholics were idol worshippers and a lot of "mumbo jumbo" and was warned not to have any dealings with them. I was confirmed a Lutheran at the age of 13, but one year later I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a Catholic. As a result of my upbringing I felt that this was something shameful and kept it a secret.

    When I was 20 I became gravely ill and was hospitalized. All medical treatment was of no avail and I realized one afternoon that I probably would die during the night. Now, a Catholic friend of mine had given me an Agnus Dei and I retrieved it from my handbag, hung it around my neck, and prayed fervently to Mary that she would ask God to let me live. I fell into a deep sleep and when I woke up the next morning I was completely healed. The nurse that came to take my temperature was so amazed she checked it twice! The fact that I, a Lutheran, had asked Mary's intercession became another "shameful" secret.

    When I was around 30, I felt an urgent need to go to confession and contacted a Catholic priest who told me I was welcome to do so (since I was baptized). I cannot tell you how happy I was afterward; I almost floated off the ground out of pure joy! I am not a perfect Catholic but with God's grace I struggle on toward Him day by day. May God be with you in your search!

    'The Catholic Church Was Where I Needed to Be'
    I was born Jewish but when I was 11 the Holy Spirit spoke to me in answer to prayer and made me know that Jesus was my Savior and the Catholic church was where I needed to be. I became Roman Catholic at 18 in 1967 and to this day am a practicing Catholic. Never a doubt in my mind that this was the path for me. I have never ever regretted this decision. My sister is the only one of 4 siblings to raise a Jewish child. My 2 sons are Catholic, my brother's 2 kids are Presbyterian.

    'A Faith Deep in Apostolic Tradition'
    My husband and I belonged to the Church of Christ for about 7 years. During the last two we were struggling, not due to beliefs, but mainly worship. I kept wondering, "Where is the awe and mystery in our church?" and "How did the apostles and the early Church really do this?" and "What worship is pleasing to God?" Just to name a few questions. Then the search began. We looked at many different belief systems and we are all but settled on the Orthodox Church. We have been worshipping with them for about 1 1/2 years. It is an awesome worship chanting, incense, bowing, candles, and saints, etc.), a faith deep in apostolic tradition, history, mystery, and miracles.

    We are thankful for the seed that was planted in the Church of Christ. We learned a lot. However, now we have apostolic traditions, the early Church fathers, and history to help us understand the scriptures. Plus, the worship we use is a liturgy a few generations removed from Christ himself. Well, that is a condensed version of our spiritual quest. I hope you too will find what it is you're searching for in your faith.

    Hinduism opened my heart
    Read more on page 3 >>

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  • 'Tired of Being Nothing'
    I was a Christian from birth to college. Drifted away through 20's and half of 30's. I became tired of being "nothing." It seemed sort of purposeless, and I became unhappy with a purposeless life. All my life in Christianity felt guilty, off balance, out of the loop. Woke up one night positive that Judaism was MY way--the world shivered like a kaleidoscope picture and re-oriented into a new picture - and in THIS one, I was balanced, and centered, and alive, and belonged. Realizing that Judaism was becoming more and more sensible and more correct in my mind as I read and studied was actually scary. Until I was in college, I really didn't know anybody Jewish, that I was aware of at least. Started studying (seriously).

    I converted to Judaism mid-30's-15 years ago. No regrets. The reaction of family however! The less said the better. I read a lot of the Koran while in college, took Arabic, too. It appealed to me somewhat. I can admire the "submission of self" aspects of Islam, but I'm far too contrary to take to that approach. If Islam means submission, then Israel means argue!


    'Looking for Something Spiritual'
    I am a minister's daughter, I'm almost 30 and never questioned my own spirituality until I had my beautiful son. I've always been the good minister's daughter, always went to my father's church, taught Sunday school in the past, and even had a stint as a youth group director, but I never felt spiritual, I felt religious but never spiritual, something was missing. Well the birth of my son made me go looking for that something spiritual, and after two and half years of searching, I found it in the Society of Friends. I've had several extremely uplifting experiences in Quaker meetings over the past few months.


    'I Feel It Is My Home'
    I discovered Hinduism 2 years ago, when I first met my fiancé. It wasn't due to him that I chose to convert, but it was thanks to him that I took a deeper interest in Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma. Istudied it, and also Asia and Indian culture. And began to grow closer to Hinduism and all it teaches me.It makes my life a clearer and easier, embraces me fully, opens my heart to all things in this world, and prepares me for the next. I have just recently reached the point that I feel that I'm ready to tell the world and "formally" have a Hindu conversion or homecoming. I feel its my home, and I was meant to return to it, as I knew Christianity wasn't for me, and didn't answer many questions. Namaste & Jai Shree Krishna Om Sama Shivay


    'We Are Guided to Islam by Allah'
    I tried Christianity (my birth religion), but it was not for me. I knew I believed in one God, so I started looking at other religions, getting easy guides to various religions from a library. Islam shone out to me, and it was the only book I read properly of them all. Then wherever I saw Islam I was interested--newspapers, "factual" TV shows, books etc. It was always on my mind. I was confused, I couldn't understand what I was feeling, but I read something on the Internet which made so much sense: 'Allah guides those to Islam whom he wills." Things then started to make sense. We are guided to Islam by Allah. Allah & Islam mean soo much to me now and I am so happy. In Islam there is no white or black or nationality, we are all equal, all brothers and sisters.


    'I Draw Peace From Nature, Animals, and Earth-Based Practices'
    I'm 42 and trying to find where I belong in the "religion" game.

    I was raised in the Pentecostal Christian faith. In my late twenties, I went into the Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) faith. Later, this led me to explore traditional Judaism and the Noachides.

    Finally, about three years ago, and even though I *still* believe in a personal God, I took the Refuges in the Ch'an Buddhist/Taoist faith because I really like the philosophies.
    But, since I'm in a rural, mainly Christian area, I have no fellowship with other Buddhists (except for the Internet). So, I'm considering becoming a part of the Unitarian Universalists (UU) for a sense of community and to join a UU Buddhist sitting group.

    However...I just can't seem to satisfy my inner longing for a more spiritual connection with the God I believe is "there." (Not very "Buddhist," I know.) I don't believe in the God of the Bible, but in the God of Life...the God of Man. I'm very interested also in the wisdoms and teachings of the Native American faiths. I like their philosophies, too, and I like how they connect to the Great Spirit and all of life. I draw peace from Nature, animals, and earth-faith practices/rituals.

    Can I combine Native American beliefs with Buddhism?


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