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In Search of the Spiritual

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Read article and focus on the following key concepts :
Socialization Agents, Culture, Status, Manifest & Latent Functions, Profane, Sacred. Include references.


In Search of the Spiritual Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our
poll, they don't much care what the neighbors are doing.
By Jerry Adler
Aug. 29 - Sept. 5, 2005 issue - The 1960s did not penetrate very deeply into the small towns of the
Quaboag Valley of central Massachusetts. Even so, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph's
Abbey, couldn't help noticing the attraction that the exotic religious practices of the East held for many
young Roman Catholics. To him, as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the
great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a
precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to
laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a
14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, "The Cloud of Unknowing." Drawing on that work, as
well as the writings of the contemplatives Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, the two
monks began teaching a form of Christian meditation that grew into the worldwide phenomenon known
as centering prayer. Twice a day for 20 minutes, practitioners find a quiet place to sit with their eyes
closed and surrender their minds to God. In more than a dozen books and in speeches and retreats that
have attracted tens of thousands, Keating has spread the word to a world of "hungry people, looking for
a deeper relationship with God."

For most of history, that's exactly what most people have been looking for. But only a generation ago it
appeared from some vantage points, such as midtown Manhattan, that Americans were on their way to
turning their backs on God. In sepulchral black and red, the cover of Time magazine dated April 8, 1966
—Good Friday—introduced millions of readers to existential anguish with the question Is God Dead? If
he was, the likely culprit was science, whose triumph was deemed so complete that "what cannot be
known [by scientific methods] seems uninteresting, unreal." Nobody would write such an article now, in
an era of round-the-clock televangelism and official presidential displays of Christian piety. Even more
remarkable today is the article's obsession with the experience of a handful of the most prestigious
Protestant denominations. No one looked for God in the Pentecostal churches of East Los Angeles or
among the backwoods Baptists of Arkansas. Muslims earned no notice, nor did American Hindus or
Buddhists, except for a passage that raised the alarming prospect of seekers' "desperately" turning to
"psychiatry, Zen or drugs."

History records that the vanguard of angst-ridden intellectuals in Time, struggling to imagine God as a
cloud of gas in the far reaches of the galaxy, never did sweep the nation. What was dying in 1966 was
a well-meaning but arid theology born of rationalism: a wavering trumpet call for ethical behavior, a
search for meaning in a letter to the editor in favor of civil rights. What would be born in its stead, in a
cycle of renewal that has played itself out many times since the Temple of Solomon, was a passion for
an immediate, transcendent experience of God. And a uniquely American acceptance of the amazingly
diverse paths people have taken to find it. NEWSWEEK set out to map this new topography of faith,
visiting storefront churches in Brooklyn and mosques in Los Angeles, an environmental Christian activist
in West Virginia and a Catholic college in Ohio—talking to Americans of all creeds, and none, about their
spiritual journeys. A major poll, commissioned jointly with Beliefnet.com, reveals a breadth of tolerance
and curiosity virtually across the religious spectrum. And everywhere we looked, a flowering of
spirituality: in the hollering, swooning, foot-stomping services of the new wave of Pentecostals; in
Catholic churches where worshipers pass the small hours of the night alone contemplating the eucharist,
and among Jews who are seeking God in the mystical thickets of Kabbalah. Also, in the rebirth of Pagan religions that look for God in the wonders of the natural world; in Zen and innumerable other
threads of Buddhism, whose followers seek enlightenment through meditation and prayer, and in the
efforts of American Muslims to achieve a more God-centered Islam. And, for that matter, at the Church
of the Holy Communion, described by the Rev. Gary Jones as "a proper Episcopal church in one of the
wealthiest parts of Memphis," where increasingly "personal experience is at the heart of much of what
we do." A few years ago Jones added a Sunday-evening service that has evolved into a blend of Celtic
evensong with communion. Congregants were invited to make a sign of the cross with holy water. Jones
was relieved when this innovation quickly won acceptance. "We thought people would be embarrassed,"
he says.

Whatever is going on here, it's not an explosion of people going to church. The great public
manifestations of religiosity in America today—the megachurches seating 8,000 worshipers at one
service, the emergence of evangelical preachers as political power brokers—haven't been reflected in
increased attendance at services. Of 1,004 respondents to the NEWSWEEK/Beliefnet Poll, 45 percent
said they attend worship services weekly, virtually identical to the figure (44 percent) in a Gallup poll
cited by Time in 1966. Then as now, however, there is probably a fair amount of wishful thinking in
those figures; researchers who have done actual head counts in churches think the figure is probably
more like 20 percent. There has been a particular falloff in attendance by African-Americans, for whom
the church is no longer the only respectable avenue of social advancement, according to Darren
Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University. The fastest-growing category on surveys that ask
people to give their religious affiliation, says Patricia O'Connell Killen of Pacific Lutheran University in
Tacoma, Wash., is "none." But "spirituality," the impulse to seek communion with the Divine, is thriving.
The NEWSWEEK/Beliefnet Poll found that more Americans, especially those younger than 60, described
themselves as "spiritual" (79 percent) than "religious" (64 percent). Almost two thirds of Americans say
they pray every day, and nearly a third meditate.

These figures tell you more about what Americans care about than a 10,000-foot-high monument to the
Ten Commandments. "You can know all about God," says Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelist, "but
the question is, do you know God? You can have solid theology and be orthodox to the core, but have
you experienced God in your own life?" In the broadest sense, Campolo says, the Christian believer and
the New Age acolyte are on the same mission: "We are looking for transcendence in the midst of the
mundane." And what could be more mundane than politics? Seventy-five percent say that a "very
important" reason for their faith is to "forge a personal relationship with God"—not fighting political

Today, then, the real spiritual quest is not to put another conservative on the Supreme Court, or to get
creation science into the schools. If you experience God directly, your faith is not going to hinge on
whether natural selection could have produced the flagellum of a bacterium. If you feel God within you,
then the important question is settled; the rest is details.

As diverse as America itself are the ways in which Americans seek spiritual enlightenment. One of the
unexpected results of the immigration reform of 1965 was its effect on American religiosity. Even
Christian immigrants brought with them unfamiliar practices and beliefs, planting on American soil
branches of the True Jesus Church (from China) or the Zairean Kimbangu Church. Beliefnet, the
religious Web site, sends out more than 8 million daily e-mails of spiritual wisdom in various flavors to
more than 5 million subscribers. Generic "inspiration" is most popular (2.4 million), followed by the Bible
(1.6 million), but there are 460,000 subscribers to the Buddhist thought of the day, 313,000 Torah
devotees, 268,000 subscribers to Daily Muslim Wisdom (and 236,000 who get the Spiritual Weight Loss
message). Even nature-worshiping Pagans are divided into a mind-boggling panoply of sects, including
Wicca, Druidism, Pantheism, Animism, Teutonic Paganism, the God of Spirituality Folk and, in case you
can't find one to suit you on that list, Eclectic Paganism.

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This solution will assist the student in discussing the individual's search for spirituality in present day America.

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Socialization Agents
The Socialization Agents that I would extract from the content of the article are:

1. Mass Media
The mass media has enormous effects on attitudes and behaviour of society. I could place this last on my list, however, I chose to place it first because this form of information has a strong effect on all age groups. Children, and even adults, tend to watch television and view the Internet so intently, their understanding of their reality and beliefs is easily manipulated.

2. Religion
Religion relates humanity to spiritual and moral values. In the 1960s there was a shift in the sociocultural understanding of how religion fits into an individual's lifestyle. There was a general, and somewhat global, reevaluation of what really matters to people and how religion can fit into each sociocultural context.

You can read about Liberation Theology by Jurgen Moltmann, Jose Miguez Bonino, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

3. Ideology
An individual's system of ideas, usually a coherent system of ideas, that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions are significantly formed by the first two points. There is a significant social shift from understanding what place religion has in one's life. This shift is moving toward one in which it is very personal and is called "spiritual" since religion is sometimes understood as being an institution of ...

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