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first study examining young adults’ religious and spiritual thoughts,
behavior and feelings in Australia has found those replacing
traditional religious beliefs with trendy, self-focused religions and are not the happier for their attempts at self-transformation.
Rosemary Aird conducted surveys of 3,705 21-year-olds in Brisbane as part of her Ph.D. studies at the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health.
had a look at two different beliefs – one was a belief in God,
associated with traditional religions, and the other was the newer
belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God,” Aird told the
Her research found the newer non-traditional beliefs linked to higher rates of “anxiety, ,
disturbed and suspicious ways of thinking and anti-social behavior” –
results, she suggested, arising from New Age beliefs focused on
self-transformation, self-fulfillment and self-enlightenment to the
exclusion of community.
religion tends to promote the idea of social responsibility and
thinking of others’ interests, whereas the New Age movement pushes the
idea that we can transform the world by changing ourselves.
downside is that people are very much on their own and not part of a
community, which may lead to a kind of isolation,” she said.
a 51-year-old agnostic, said individualism was the common thread in the
shift away from traditional religious thoughts to non-religious
Aird’s study, eight percent of respondents attended church once a week,
a practice linked to a reduction in antisocial behavior among males,
but not females. While those with traditional religious beliefs enjoyed
no major benefit in the study, their New Age counterparts were twice as
likely to report higher levels of .
Those coming from Pentecostal backgrounds were less likely than other religions to adopt non-traditional beliefs in adulthood.
who are into the New Age spirituality tend to shop around and will
often borrow from all sorts of old beliefs, like Wicca, witchcraft or
Native American religions,” said Aird. “It’s a whole mish-mash and
changes all the time, where they’ll do something for a while before
doing something else.
there’s no sense of any kind of tradition, it means you’re kind of cast
adrift and means there’s no fundamental basic thing to hang on to.”
Aird said popular culture has fed the trend toward non-traditional beliefs with a popularization of “spirituality.”
“Religion and belief has kind of become mixed up with popular culture,” she said.
at television and the kinds of shows that we’ve got, like
‘Supernatural,’ ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Medium’. They promote
witchcraft, special powers and spirituality and the general population
and young people especially are exposed to these things and could see
them as very attractive.
“People want to find some way of embedding these things into some sort of belief system.”
Aird also singled out popular self-help books for creating a do-it-yourself approach to matters of faith.
generation was about social responsibility and collective interests
compared to the Me Generation,” Aird said. “‘New Spirituality’ promotes
the idea that self-transformation will lead to a positive and
constructive change in self and society.
“But there is a contradiction – how can one change society if one is focused on oneself?”
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