Life-changing religious and spiritual experiences: A cross-faith comparison in the United States.

Life-changing religious and spiritual experiences shape people’s lives and form a central part of the autobiographical narratives of many Americans. As such, they have been key phenomena of interest among social scientists. However, the likelihood of individuals experiencing life-changing religious or spiritual experience across diverse faith traditions has yet to be studied. The current study explores the incidence of reporting life-changing religious or spiritual experiences among adherents of 6 world religious traditions as well as atheists and agnostics living in the United States (N = 970). We account for subjective religiousness, subjective spirituality, and impression management in our analysis of interfaith differences in rates of life-changing religious and spiritual experience. Findings revealed interreligious differences in the incidence of religious experience, with Protestants and Muslims more likely to report having had a life-changing religious and spiritual experience, and Jews, Catholics, and atheists/agnostics reporting comparatively fewer of these experiences. While religiousness and spirituality were associated with the likelihood of having had a life-changing religious or spiritual experience across religions, impression management was only minimally associated with religious experience. Our results suggest that an individual’s religious culture is strongly related to that person’s likelihood of having a life-changing religious or spiritual experience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)