Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Believing in Miracles

A working hypothesis of the Boomer Project is that Baby Boomers, like every generation, follow predictable life cycles. And one of those life cycles is an increasing preoccupation with spiritual matters the closer one gets to meeting one's maker. Although Boomers lived through the 60s-era rejection of church attendance and traditional religious denominations, we expect them to find non-institutionalized ways to express their spirituality as they get older.

AARP explores the spiritual dimension of Baby Boomers in "Miracles, Divine Healing and Angels," published August. The findings were predictable in many ways: Women are more likely to believe in miracles, divine healing and angels than men are. Hispanics are more spiritual/religious than white non-Hispanics. Southerners are more likely to believe in divine forces, and so are lesser educated people. None of the differences were dramatic -- Americans are a religious people -- but they are measurable.

Here's what confounded us: Age appears to be the least significant of the variables tested.

Here's a breakdown of the responses:

The percentage of 55 to 64-year-old Boomers (the red bar) describing themselves as "very" spiritual/religious was one percentage point higher than that of their younger, 45 to 54-year-old brethren. But the number describing themselves as "somewhat" spiritual/religious was four percentage points lower, and the number responding "not at all" was three points higher.

That's hardly an earth-shaking shift, but it is surprising. Despite being a few steps closer to the eternal hereafter, older Boomers are marginally less spiritual than their younger Boomer brethren.

Don't misinterpret this data. It does not say that Boomers are growing less spiritual as they get older. It says that 45 to 54-year-olds are less spiritual than the decadal cohorts that precede and follow them. It's entirely possible that the cultural revolutionary fervor of the '60s had its greatest impact on the youth of that era, and that the '60s generation has been less spiritual/religious than other generations through the years.

If so, the gap appears to have narrowed. Perhaps the real story is that, given where they started 40 years ago, Baby Boomers have traveled the longest spiritual journey of all.

(Hat tip: Paul Briand at; image credit:

1 comment:

joan wester anderson said...

I have been writing best-selling books on angels and miracles since 1992 (before that I was a freelancer for several magazines). It does not surprise me that the belief in angels seems so widespread. Angels appear in almost every religion, and have a tendency to draw us together, in a common awe. And of course, those who believe, also see the many miracles that take place each day. I run a blog where people share their stories and we post them there, and encourage one another to watch for them. Check it out at

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