The New Spiritual Power: Moms
I recently came across a poll Beliefnet.com and Parents Magazine conducted on parenting and spirituality, in which most of the respondants were moms. You can find the full poll results at http://www.parents.com/baby/childcare/baby-childcare/spirituality-poll/ . The two most interesting findings for me were 1) 64% said they had become more religious/spiritual since becoming a parent, and 2) almost 26% said they considered themselves ‘spiritual but do not follow an organized religion.’ This second finding corresponds to a recent Pew Forum poll that found ‘spiritual but not religious’ is the fastest growing group in America, among those who do not define themselves as atheists. This same poll also found that religious affiliations have become much more fluid, with vast numbers of Americans shifting faiths from their childhood, and fewer people believing their religion is the ‘only true faith’.
So what does all this mean? To me it all adds up to a spiritual landscape in this country where there are millions of moms engaged in active spiritual inquiry and practice, outside of dogma, and it is changing things forever. For many, motherhood triggers the desire for more spirituality, as we begin to examine our purpose in life, and the world we are leaving our children, in more depth. Sometimes that results in a return to our childhood faith, and sometimes it results in a re-examination of it (for a great biography along these lines, see the Sue Monk Kidd listing on my Women’s Spirituality Book List posting.)
Others (like myself) had children later in life, and spent alot of our pre-parenthood life involved in personal growth and exploraton, including spirituality. All of us are more aware of other faiths than any generation before us, and I think many of us are tired of the religious divisiveness that has gripped this country. That is, gripped it according to the media anyway – coming myself from a family of many divergent faiths, I don’t really see this divisivenes much on a personal level. Most of us are more accepting then the media would have us believe, and motherhood often brings that out, as we begin to value connections more.
As another example, the self-help and spirituality book market is booming, and most estimates I found are that up to 75% of this is fueled by women. Oprah, love or hate her, is still the reigning queen in women’s daytime television, and she places a strong emphasis on non-denominational spirituality, especially the past few years. Books like Eat Pray Love and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, both focus on a personal spirituality outside of any particular religion, and I don’t think either would have made it to the bestseller list a few years ago (or without Oprah and her female audience.)
So what will happen as a result of this groundswell? I think that in the next few years, women, and particularly moms, are going to change the religious/spiritual landscape in this country forever, much as ‘soccer moms’ changed politics in the 1990s. I think there is going to be much less focus on dogma and organized religion, and much more on spirituality as a personal search, and as a process of seeking truth and manifesting love, and that we will pass this view on to our children. For myself, I hope so anyway.