Woman praying
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Last December, a poll revealed something encouraging about spirituality in America. When asked if they had ever had a religious or mystical experience, more responders said yes than no. This was a first in the 47 years that the Pew Research pollsters have been asking the question. (A religious or mystical experience was defined as "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.")

In the New York Times column covering the results, the headline read, "Paranormal flexibility," which may reflect common prejudice but is entirely misleading. Spiritual experience is normal. As a catch-all, "paranormal" covers fringe experiences like seeing ghosts and being abducted by aliens. For that reason, skeptics like to lump deeply meaningful religious awakening into the same basket. We would be better off leaving all loaded words out, including the words "religious" and "mystical."

The other word in the headline, "flexibility," is the valid and important one. In larger numbers than before, believing Christians report they have absorbed aspects of Eastern and New Age thought. Whenever I hear that narrow dogma and secondhand belief systems are being replaced with more expanded awareness, I feel encouraged. Expanded awareness is the whole story. Without it, not just spiritual experience is closed off; so are the deepest aspects of love and personal insight.

Why we should all feel encouraged about the future