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The National Spiritual Transformation Study

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The first nationally representative study of spiritual transformations documents that spiritual/religious change is a common and powerful experience in America. About half of all adult Americans report having had such an experience. Such change is strongly related to current religious beliefs and behaviors, but shows little relationship to most nonreligious demographics. A series of open-ended items indicates that the leading causes of spiritual/religious change are normal religious activity and having had a serious personal problem, most often an illness or accident to oneself or someone close or the death of someone close. A strengthening of faith is the most common consequence of this experience. This is followed by changes in character (e.g., being more understanding, helpful) and the stopping of perceived bad habits (e.g., drinking, partying). The lasting importance of such spiritual/religious change is also shown by closed-ended measures and the predictive power that the variable has in explaining various beliefs and behaviors even when controlling for other religious variables.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Tom W. Smith is the Director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th St., Chicago, IL., Email:

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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