in New Age Religion

"Lived" Versus World Religion

The major world religions are oddities.1 They are accepted “in practice” only by a small minority. Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism are topics of conversation for professional clergy and theologians. The average lay person is interested in the practical situations of “spirituality”, argues Steven J. Sutcliffe professor of Religions at University of Edinburgh and editor of New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. “Lived”, as compared to world or institutional, religion, is the daily spiritual practices that are mixed into everyday life.

glob relig groups pew chart

Consider that the average person’s daily spiritual practices include:

Rituals associated with belief in souls or spiritual energies, like:

  • Reading horoscopes in the newspaper;
  • Consulting psychics or astrological readings;
  • Chatting with Granny by her graveside.
Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project 2009[2]

Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project 2009[2]

Problem-solving using techniques or practices, such as:

  • Meditating;
  • Practicing mindfulness;
  • Reducing stress through relaxation techniques, like yoga.

Seeking meaning or “truth” by:

  • Reading self-help books;
  • Exploring self using a therapist, coach, or workshop;
  • Fulfilling one’s destiny.

Seeking or searching may be enacted through concrete practices and techniques; or, it may also be done by abstract pursuit of searching for meaning, truth, or trying to fulfill one’s destiny.3

“Like you, I am a seeker. My quest began with dreams in early childhood, followed in my teens by some disturbing inner experiences… Quite soon I was led to worldwide travels and… spontaneous mystical experiences, followed up by years of esoteric studies and various disciplines of self-work. It is a quest that still continues”says author of The Seeker’s Handbook.

“I was always looking, but I never found what I was looking for” remarked a former hippie C.J. Stone.5

Sutcliffe argues that “in practice” new age spiritualities are the primal and prevalent form of religion. In New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion, his chapter New Age, World Religions And Elementary Forms, Sutcliffe asserts that the major world religions are aberrations and the topic of conversations of professional clergy and theologians. Whereas everyday practiced religion, such as reading horoscopes, chatting with Granny by her graveside, and seeking meaning through meditation are examples of everyday “lived” religion of lay persons. Modern global religion incorporates these and other forms of new age spirituality.

See my index of my posts inspired by the book, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion.

Question for readers: What “lived” religion do you practice?


  1. New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. Steven Sutcliffe et al. Acumen: UK. 2013. Print. Ch 1, p29 New Age, World Religions And Elementary Forms
  2. Supernatural Experiences and Beliefs from Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project 2009, “Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths”.
  3. New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. Steven Sutcliffe et al. ch1, p31
  4. ibid p30. Sutcliffe quotes from The Seeker’s Handbook: The Complete Guide to Spiritual Pathfinding by John Lash. 1990: xi.
  5. ibid p30

Leave a Reply

  1. Interesting stats. I’m surprised that 0.2 of the world follows Judaism. And that 16.3 percent “unaffiliated” can mean a whole lot of different things. I always enjoy your posts.

  2. @yogibattle: Yes, the global pie chart %s of world religions is revealing. In the U.S., especially our media sources, seem to bias us towards our own USA stats as if “we” represent the World. There’s a big world out there, Globally.

    The “unaffiliated” are a growing population worldwide. You can read more about this and a link to Pew Research Survey: None’s on the Rise in my post Channeling “Higher Self”: Journey Into New Age Religion

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  3. When I lived in India, I was fascinated by my observation that almost nobody practiced Hinduism in its “canonical” form (e.g. according to 19th Century abstraction created by the Brahmo Samaj). The variety of deities and practices associated with them was fascinating, but still they were nominally “Hindu”, even if they didn’t pay much attention to the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva triumvirate. I wonder if the pie chart in your article would look different if we were able to further subdivide the slices by orthodox and heterodox strains of a particular religion, for example, the variety of conflicting beliefs in various Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian sub-groups is mind-boggling.

  4. @My Other Feet: Excellent perspectives, especially since you lived in India and you have degrees in these topics. If you come across any data or charts that are relevant to a post and our discussion, please feel free to share. Thanks for your contributions and comments